Evidence of meeting #4 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was businesses.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Steven Morse  Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Vanessa Davies
Chief Terry Teegee  Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations
Tabatha Bull  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
Shannin Metatawabin  Chief Executive Officer, National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

I'd like to call this meeting to order.

Welcome to the fourth meeting of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.

We're meeting to continue our study on barriers to indigenous economic development. After today's two panels, we will also consider our work plan, which was distributed yesterday.

On the first panel, we have Mr. Steven Morse from the Métis National Council. Hopefully, Regional Chief Terry Teegee, from the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, will join us.

On the second panel, we will have Tabatha Bull of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, and Shannin Metatawabin, of the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association.

There is no need for me to tell you about the health measures, because we all know about them. We all also know about the protocol and procedures we follow in our meetings.

I'm not going to go over any of that.

Each organization is invited to speak for five minutes, and that will be followed by a period of questions. In the first round of questions, we'll allow members six minutes each.

You're familiar with the timing with respect to a second round or any subsequent rounds. If time expires during the round of questioning, we will complete the order.

If Mr. Morse is now ready, I would invite Mr. Steven Morse of the Métis National Council to speak to us.

You have five minutes, Mr. Morse, after which we'll have questions.

Thank you.

3:50 p.m.

Steven Morse Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council

Thank you very much, and thank you for the invitation.

The first thing I'd like to do is extend the regrets of President Caron, who is unable to attend today. She has asked me to present in her stead.

On the barriers for indigenous economic development, I will start with looking at the sources of the barriers we face. I'd like to make a broad distinction between business development, which is faced by citizens and collectively held corporations, and economic development, which is faced by institutions [Technical difficulty—Editor] support business development.

With respect to business development, the sources of the barriers are the socio-economic circumstances of the Métis people—

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

3:50 p.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Ms. Vanessa Davies

I'm sorry, Mr. Morse. We have a point of order from the floor.

Go ahead, Mr. Garon.

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

The interpretation is not working.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

Mr. Morse, the translation is not happening in the committee room. They're trying to fix that.

3:50 p.m.

The Clerk

Mr. Morse, could you raise your mike a bit closer to your mouth, please?

Thank you so much. It helps the interpreters to have a clear connection.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

Mr. Morse, you can proceed, please.

3:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council

Steven Morse

Thanks. I'll start from the top.

First, I want to extend the regrets of President Caron, who is unable to attend and has asked me to present for the Métis National Council.

In looking at the sources of barriers to indigenous economic development, I'm going to make a broad distinction between—

3:50 p.m.

The Clerk

I'm sorry to interrupt, Mr. Chair.

Once again, could the witness please raise his microphone so that it's directly in front of his mouth? I understand from tech services that there is a lot of popping.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

And speak perhaps a little louder.

3:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council

Steven Morse

If that is now okay, I'll continue.

I'd like to make a broad distinction between economic development and business development. Business development is faced by citizens and collectively held corporations, while economic development is largely faced by institutions, which fundamentally support business development.

The sources for the barriers for business development are fundamentally the socio-economic circumstances of Métis people.

If you look at the available data, you see commonalities for Métis, Inuit and first nations when they're compared to non-indigenous Canadians. You see lower income and wealth; lower housing value and worse household repair; lower formal education rates; and lower labour force participation, employment rates and self-employment rates.

However, there are noticeable differences between the groups, and here we would caution that—

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Denis Garon Bloc Mirabel, QC

Mr. Chair, there is still no interpretation into French.

3:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council

Steven Morse

—the statistics are potentially misleading for Métis.

Since 2005, as an example, the rate of increase in Métis median income reported by StatsCan is significantly higher than that for the non-indigenous, first nations, or Inuit populations. Concurrently, the Métis population, reported by StatsCan, has increased at a greater rate than that of first nations, Inuit, or non-indigenous population, and far beyond what could be accounted for by natural growth.

The increase in Métis income is largely driven by the increase in self-identification as reported by Statistics Canada. When a large proportion of the population, that was previously recorded as non-indigenous is now recorded as Métis, the effect is to pull the Métis statistics toward the non-indigenous average. The gains are not from an improvement of underlying factors, but largely from reclassification.

February 8th, 2022 / 3:50 p.m.

The Clerk

Mr. Chair, I'm sorry to interrupt again. We need to suspend, because the interpreters can't seem to hear the witness.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

I'm sorry, Mr. Morse, we're experiencing difficulties with interpretation.

3:50 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council

Steven Morse

Mr. Morse, you may now continue.

3:55 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council

Steven Morse

They also, and to a lesser extent, drag the composite indigenous statistics towards the non-indigenous statistic.

With respect to economic development, the source of the barriers that Métis face can be traced to the latter recognition of Métis rights when compared to first nations and Inuit rights. Noticeably, too, are the seminal cases with respect to Métis rights, Powley in 2003 and Daniels in 2016. The effect of those have seen a later start-up of Métis institutions or no Métis institution equivalent to institutions that serve first nations and Inuit.

How do the barriers manifest? How do they translate? In terms of business development, the lower socio-economic stance leads to lower equity through lower intergenerational wealth transfer, lower income levels, etc. Lower equity in business development is high risk, and high risk, in turn, leads to higher costs. Money is a good, bought and sold like any other—the higher the cost, the lower the volume. The initial conditions affect opportunity. There will be fewer Métis business start-ups, and less Métis business expansion, because of the lower level of equity that Métis entrepreneurs can bring compared to non-indigenous Canadians.

The Métis capital corporations are the principal Métis institutions operating in business development. They seek to equalize access for Métis entrepreneurs by taking on higher debt-to-equity financing and accepting the higher costs that come with that. They also seek to drive volume by charging at, or below, market rates, so they're not taking into account the higher cost.

This is not lending that the commercial financial sector can take on. It's high cost and low return. Nonetheless the Métis capital corporations experience default and arrear rates that are comparable to the commercial financial sector, to the banks and to the credit unions.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

Mr. Morse, sorry, I'm going to ask you to wrap up, because we've gone over our time.

4 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Métis Voyageur Development Fund Inc., Métis National Council

Steven Morse

Okay.

If we look at what remedies could be done by the Métis National Council in terms of business development, we see that it would be to commit to the re-establishment of the Métis economic development strategy through the following: the capitalization of the MCCs rather than a push to borrow; the aboriginal entrepreneurship program growth that supports demonstrated demand; access to the Canada small business financing program; and support in establishing regulated commercial sector Métis institutions.

Importantly, on equitable access to current economic development programming, first nations and Inuit have access to the lands and economic development services program and to regional development agencies; Métis do not.

There should be co-developed programming to address the gaps. There is no First Nations Finance Authority equivalent for Métis—that should be co-designed. Programming in clean growth infrastructure, access to CMHC insurance and, on procurement modernization, the funding of Métis business registries, should all be co-designed.

The last is a commitment to develop meaningful statistics to guide our joint efforts.

Thank you.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

Thank you, Mr. Morse.

I understand that Chief Teegee is here. If you are ready, Chief, you have five minutes at the microphone.

4 p.m.

Regional Chief Terry Teegee Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

Thank you.

[Witness spoke in Dakelh]

[English]

I just wanted to acknowledge the territory I'm calling from, the unceded, unsurrendered and continually occupied territory of the Lheidli T'enneh, the Dakelh people.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations. I hold the economic development portfolio on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations and continue to work on behalf of many first nations across this country. Seeing that we're so diverse and have numerous communities, well over 630, there certainly are different points of view in terms of economic development.

Many first nations communities rely not only on our traditional economies but also on market-based economies, which we have been accustomed to since colonization began. Certainly, there are many environmental issues that we deal with as first nations in upholding our rights, treaty rights, and different ways of knowing and being.

Yet, the common theme that serves as a barrier to first nations' economic development is the ongoing systemic impacts of colonialism, in particular the persistent failure to recognize and implement first nations' rights and treaty rights, and the ongoing denial of first nations' self-determination and jurisdiction. It's really important to understand that UNDRIP is law as of June 21, and certainly the declaration identifies and sees sovereignty and self-determination as a cornerstone for implementing first nations' rights, title and interests. Most important to the Assembly of First Nations is ensuring that we address these barriers as first nations.

What we need are solutions that address barriers to help first nations. In some cases, those barriers relate to the failure to implement the treaty relationship, or specific treaty obligations and historical treaties. In other cases, those barriers are related to specific impediments found in the Indian Act itself, to federal or provincial policies, or even to corporate Canada.

Barriers include lack of respect for first nations' inherent rights and jurisdictions, as they relate to treaties, and lack of involvement in economic development planning, decisions and financing. Certainly we've seen the lack of respect for first nations' rights and jurisdictions in many historical fights, whether it's on the territory, in the public or in the courts. Our first nations continue to be in the court systems to fight for what is rightfully ours. A perfect case is the Ahousaht case here in British Columbia—fighting for the ability to commercially fish some of the commercially viable species.

There is a lack of involvement in planning. First nations must be included in strategic planning and decision-making processes for economic recovery. In the long term, certainly, those are some of the discussions that we've been having, not only nationally, but also provincially, as we come out of this pandemic—building back better, if you will. We need to be part of those discussions.

One of the core standards recognized by UNDRIP—which is law here in British Columbia and now federal law elsewhere in this country, through Bill C-15—is the need to uphold and live up to many of the articles within UNDRIP, including free, prior and informed consent. The way we see it, it would provide more certainty in terms of how decisions are made.

Finance, as well, is always an issue in regard to funding certain projects led by first nations, or which are in partnership with first nations. It's very difficult to access the necessary financing on many projects out there, whether it's infrastructure or the development of projects that are important not only to our first nations communities but to the economy in general.

Going forward, we'd like to see more working together in terms of joint actions and measures to progress in these areas. I know this is a very short time. Five minutes doesn't allow me to say a hell of a lot, but certainly we're seeing major issues in Ottawa. The political discourse that we're seeing [Technical difficulty—Editor]. Many racialized peoples, including indigenous peoples, are concerned about the state of this country, so we need to do this in partnership.

Marsi cho.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Marc Garneau

Thank you very much, Chief Teegee.

We're now going to proceed to the first round of questions. If you have a headset, Chief, could you put it on? It helps with the translation.

We're going to go to the first round, and we'll begin with Mr. Shields from the Conservative Party.

Mr. Shields, you have six minutes.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, witnesses, for being here today.

Chief Terry, you covered a lot of ground in only five minutes, which is great. When you talk about the barriers that you identified under the Indian Act, is there anything specific under the Indian Act that you would identify as a barrier?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Chief, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations

Regional Chief Terry Teegee

In general, the Indian Act has historically created barriers for many first nations in terms of accessing the proper ability to break away from some of these issues. The Indian Act, in terms of relations to first nations is far too often.... Much of what has come out of the Indian Act is through Indigenous Services Canada and also CIRNAC, where there is a lot of program funding.

As it relates to economic development, what we need to see is more investment and more infrastructure in terms of INAC funding. We are seeing it somewhat. For example, the police act, in terms of policing within first nations, is going from program funding to more substantial and predictable funding, and that is a really important step, and we can learn from that. Program funding doesn't work; we need more funding in terms of economic development.