Members of the committee, good morning.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we come together on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
It is my pleasure to be here to discuss the 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B) and the 2020-21 main estimates for the Department of Indigenous Services.
From Indigenous Services Canada, I'm joined by Sony Perron, associate deputy minister, Philippe Thompson, chief finance, results and delivery officer, Valerie Gideon, senior assistant deputy minister of the first nations and Inuit health branch, and Joanne Wilkinson, assistant deputy minister for child and family services reform.
Since its creation in 2017, our department has focused on closing socio-economic gaps and working with partners to improve access to services for first nations, Inuit and Métis. The department works in collaboration with partners to improve well-being in indigenous communities across Canada and to support indigenous peoples in assuming control of the delivery of services in their communities at the pace and in the ways they choose, of course.
Over time, it is our goal that indigenous peoples will have the capacity necessary to deliver programs and services to their peoples, and this department, and my role, will be obsolete. We are working with partners to build this capacity.
To support this essential work, the department's 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B) detail initiatives totalling approximately $1 billion. This brings total appropriations for the department to $13.8 billion for this fiscal year.
More than half of this new funding—$588.3 million—is to support the ongoing delivery of the first nations child and family services program, bringing the program's overall budget from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion.
Members will be aware that this committee served a vital role in addressing the overrepresentation of indigenous children in care with its study of Bill C-92, an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which came into force at the start of this year and empowers indigenous peoples to assert their inherent jurisdiction over child and family services and the well-being of their children.
Of the amount requested for this program, $414.9 million supports the implementation of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings from 2016 to September 2019 related to first nations child and family services by funding agencies based on their actual needs and focusing on activities and programs aimed at preventing children from being taken into care.
Our government believes in supporting a prevention-based system, where the needs of first nations children come first. Funding for the first nations child and family services program has more than doubled between 2016 and 2018-19. Since 2016, we've worked with partners to implement systemic remedies in support of the needs of first nations children. This means taking steps to keep children with their families to keep them connected with their communities and their culture.
The other two major items presented in the supplementary estimates (B) are funding to support Jordan's principle and emergency management service providers.
I'd like now to turn to the main estimates for 2020-21.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the department's main estimates are $12.8 billion. This reflects a net increase of approximately $538.7 million, or 4%, compared to last year's main estimates.
Further to these estimates, the department also anticipates funding from any investments announced in budget 2020, as well as future Treasury Board decisions. This additional funding is expected to be accessed through the supplementary estimates process.
This year, the department's main estimates reflect a net increase of $483.6 million related to the transfer of individual affairs and lands and economic development programs, as well as internal services from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
In addition to this, you will see increased funding related to some of the department's core priorities. For example, these estimates reflect an increase of $85.7 million for elementary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary education programs. From 2011-12 to 2018-19, actual expenditures in education have increased by about 41.7%. This is reflective of our government's commitment to ensuring that every first nations child has the best start in life and that first nations maintain control of first nations education.
You will also note that, in these estimates, $1.5 billion in funding is set aside in 2020-21 for first nations that have entered into the 10-year grant agreement, including 85 first nations that moved to the grant model last fiscal year, with additional first nations communities that will move to the grant in 2020-21.
The 10-year grant is a key initiative of our government's ongoing commitment to establish a new relationship that moves towards flexible, predictable and sustained funding for first nation communities.
I hope this presentation has provided insight into the department's supplementary estimates (B) and main estimates documents.
We have made, and are continuing to make, important changes in our relationships with first nations, Inuit and Métis. While there is still much work to do, our government's historic investments are making a difference in closing the gaps that exist and are improving the quality of life of indigenous peoples, all while advancing self-determination.
Before I end my remarks, I would like to briefly update the committee on COVID-19 as it relates to indigenous peoples in Canada, as I know you share my concerns about that. I thank those who attended the meeting with Valerie Gideon this morning for a more detailed briefing. In fact, I would invite further questions, should you so choose.
Our government is working with all levels of government, including actively supporting indigenous communities to prepare for COVID-19. This is a matter of the health and well-being of all Canadians. This is a time for jurisdictional co-operation, not divisions.
These efforts are supported through a federal-provincial-territorial special advisory committee for COVID-19 that is focused on coordination of federal, provincial, and territorial preparedness and response across Canada's health sector for all Canadians, including first nations, Inuit and Métis.
The federal government, including Indigenous Services Canada, has multiple systems in place to prepare for, detect and limit the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
In budget 2019, I would note, our government invested $211 million over five years, including $79.86 million, as the first-ever investment in health resiliency and health emergency preparedness on reserve. These investments have enabled first nations to strengthen their capacity, have allowed us to establish effective inter-jurisdictional networks, and are supporting us in our work to monitor and manage COVID-19.
My officials are working very closely with first nations communities to support them in implementing their pandemic plans, to provide surge capacity where needed, and to offer technical assistance as required.
The importance of clear, concise and timely communication and information-sharing can't be overstated. We all have a role to play in ensuring that our communications are based on the best science and the clearest recommendations. Factual, practical and clear information is essential. We're working with partners to make this information available in indigenous languages through print, radio and social media.
We have learned from past outbreaks. Accurate information is critical, and we all have a role to play in making sure that people are referring to information from trusted sources such as governments and community leadership.
My officials are working with local health directors, health workers and nurses through various social networks including with regional medical officers of health. These medical officers of health are also working with provincial partners in ensuring that supports to first nations, whether they live on reserves or not, are fully integrated into provincial plans.
The department has a network of regional emergency management and communicable disease emergency coordinators, as well as regional medical officers. Together, they advise and support first nations across provinces and lead public health emergency preparedness and response as required.
While recognizing that, in the territories, primary health care is delivered by the territorial governments, my department is working closely with indigenous partners and territorial governments to share information and prepare for COVID-19 and will be available to provide surge capacity support in a timely manner if needed.
While we have in place solid planning, monitoring and surge capacity, we also need to be very vigilant.
Proximity-related factors, such as overcrowding, and other determinants of health can increase the risks for some populations, including indigenous peoples. This is why we need to be focused on supporting communities on an ongoing basis and ensuring that we are able to reduce risks where possible.
I would now be happy to answer any questions that the committee may have.