[Witness spoke in Cree ].
Good morning, everybody. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
My name is Karla Buffalo, and I'm the CEO of the Athabasca Tribal Council in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo, Alberta. The Athabasca Tribal Council serves five first nations—the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Fort McKay First Nation, the Mikisew Cree First Nation, the Fort McMurray 468 First Nation and the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation—by providing relevant and innovative services and supports that enrich the well-being and health and prosperity of its people.
We believe strongly in the need for authentic and action-oriented reconciliation. In our traditional territory in Treaty No. 8, the first nations are leaders in the advancement of economic reconciliation at a remarkable pace. Our focus is not just on fiscal sovereignty, but also on cultural revitalization and fostering strong and thriving communities and indigenous peoples. We are here to encourage a collaborative process with all nations, while respecting their individual sovereignty and self-governance.
The establishment of the national council is an opportunity to help further meaningful reconciliation and to give accountability to progress being made on the TRC's calls to action that have yet to be implemented by Canada. It is important that any new structure established by the federal government be indigenous-led and have indigenous laws and legal systems in its creation.
ATC supports the establishment of a national council for the purpose of advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples. However, as it stands now, ATC has some serious concerns about the bill, such as under-representation of indigenous people in the committee structure. Additionally, the representation needs to be balanced in gender and ages, including a balance between youth and elder voices.
Bill C-29 does not include any measurable outcomes or targets, and no formal structure is given regarding metrics set out to the committee. We believe it's crucial that the proposed legislation include processes to measure outcomes.
The current bill does not bind the federal government to provide funding to the national council, which is necessary to ensure that the national council has adequate resources to carry out its mandate.
The legislation, as it's written now regarding the disclosure of information, does not appear adequate to allow the national council to obtain necessary information that it will require in order to carry out its mandate.
Also, Bill C-29 lacks accountability measures by the Prime Minister and Canada to recognize and implement the national council's recommendations. The national council must be given the appropriate tools to hold this government accountable for the progress on reconciliation in all areas.
ATC recommends the following amendments to Bill C-29:
First, there need to be specific metrics outlined in the bill to give the national council structure and to measure its accountability. Measures and targets must encompass all areas from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. This document is not a checklist to complete; it is a guide toward the long-lasting reconciliation to have indigenous people move forward from being an oppressed minority to having equal treaty and inherent rights as indigenous peoples of Canada.
Second is with regard to funding commitments on an ongoing basis. The Government of Canada announced in its 2019 budget that a total of $126.5 million would be allocated to support the establishment of the national council for reconciliation, including $1.5 million to support the first year of the council's operations. However, there are no funding commitments in the proposed legislation, and it is unclear how the national council will be funded on an ongoing basis.
Research and reporting requirements of the national council are very extensive. In order to carry out its mandate, the national council will need to hire a large staff, including investigators. A funding commitment in the proposed legislation must be included to ensure adequate funding to support the national council's operations.
Third, how the council will be able to access the necessary information to carry out its mandate should be clearly indicated. Bill C-29 should also be amended to give the national council the power to subpoena, in order to ensure that the national council has the ability to obtain all necessary information.
Fourth, the council would benefit from an independent process in appointing the initial board of directors, allowing a more transparent and less politicized processes. Having an open and transparent process that honours indigenous forms of governance is necessary for the council to have relevance for all communities.
Fifth is to increase the accountability required of the federal government. The federal government must take the steps necessary to ensure the recommendations of the national council are implemented. While ATC supports the passing of Bill C-29 to support reconciliation efforts, it is important that the values in reconciliation be upheld by having an appropriate structure and accountability measures in place.
If the goals of the national council are to monitor, evaluate, conduct research, and report on progress being made in all sectors of Canadian society and by all governments in Canada, it is imperative that the national council have the appropriate tools to carry out this mandate in a meaningful way.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you all today.
Marsi cho. Hay hay.