Evidence of meeting #14 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was federal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean Paul Gladu  As an Individual
Harold Calla  Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Evelyn Lukyniuk
C.T.  Manny) Jules (Chief Commissioner, First Nations Tax Commission
Kirt Ejesiak  Representative, Inuit Business Council

June 5th, 2020 / 11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Calla, Mr. Gladu, Mr. Ejesiak and Mr. Jules, thank you for being here today. Merci. Nakurmiik. Meegwetch.

I think I speak for everybody on the committee when I say that your insights are completely invaluable and play a critical role in enabling us to make better policy. I say that your contributions today are tremendous. I also would like to say that this is a really tremendous panel today, so thank you very much. It's really nice to hear from you and gather some insight today.

My question is mainly on the north, so I guess I will direct it first to Mr. Ejesiak, but somebody else might have follow-up afterwards.

Mr. Ejesiak, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency has two COVID-19-related support systems for small and medium-sized businesses in the north, the $15-million northern business relief fund and the $34.3-million regional relief and recovery fund. These are mainly for tourism, mining and related industries, but not necessarily the infrastructure we've heard about today from you.

In your view, are the eligibility criteria fair? Do they enable the participation of indigenous businesses across a variety of sectors? How can we dovetail infrastructure projects with economic development, employment and other efforts?

I'll go to you, Mr. Ejesiak.

11:35 a.m.

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

Thank you, Adam.

I think those programs that were set up in response to, I guess, small business concerns would address about 75% of the council's issues. We still have some issues related to eligibility. As you know, in the north the challenge in smaller communities is having adequate office space, so most people have offices at home. A lot of businesses are seasonal businesses, so they don't fit the criteria that was set up. They are still not eligible because it's very difficult to split between your home office and commercial space. We don't have the luxury of having those.

I would say that the members we've reached out to have been very happy with the programs that were set up, but we still have some shortfalls, namely the CEBA program, which, if you recall, is a line of credit with the banks of $40,000 where $10,000 is forgivable. I think those programs would certainly benefit. I think the smaller folks would not be eligible for the CanNor programs that were set up.

In terms of the infrastructure, I can tell you that nothing is happening in our communities at the moment. We are opening up on Monday, which is great, and I think the challenge for those who survive is going to be how we normalize our operations so that we can take advantage of some of the opportunities this summer, but I think in the long term, my worry is that our summer season is starting in four weeks. I have three months to find the money, order all my supplies, try to get it to the port and ship it up north before October.

My hope is really to try to get support and relief, at least immediately for those issues, because, if we miss the boat, we literally miss the boat, and what do we do for the next year? That's really our concern.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Thank you. Nakurmiik.

My follow-up question is for anybody, really, and it will focus more on connectivity. We're missing one of our colleagues today, MP Qaqqaq, because she is in Baker Lake and she does not have the connectivity required to join us.

My dad used to work for the aboriginal business council in the 1990s and the challenges that he faced were quite different from a business perspective. Business is changing. We require technology these days and that technology is not universally available in Canada.

I would like to hear, from an infrastructure perspective, how we might better serve modern businesses and indigenous communities with better infrastructure with regard to technology.

11:35 a.m.

As an Individual

Jean Paul Gladu

That's a great question and I think my colleagues would agree that there is a lot of untapped potential with indigenous communities, both from a business perspective as well as in the employment force.

We all know that the infrastructure deficit is well over $30 billion in our indigenous communities. If I think about what's going to help unlock that potential from technology, quite frankly, any time we have any kind of infrastructure projects going in, we need to be leveraging mines, rail lines, linear projects and electrification by ensuring coaxial cable so that our communities can get access to the Internet. Everybody in this room is really lucky to have one of these and access to the World Wide Web. Many of these communities are absolutely hamstrung because they can't get connectivity.

Last, I'm also on the resilient recovery task force with a bunch of great folks from across the country, and there's a real need for dependable, renewable clean energy for our communities. You can't build another home in many communities because there simply isn't the energy capacity.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We're out of time there.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Mr. Chair, if I could—I apologize for taking up too much time—but I failed to acknowledge that I'm on the sacred and traditional territory of the Wyandot, Haudenosaunee, Anishinabe and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Ms. Bérubé, you have the floor for six minutes.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses who are taking part in our meeting, as well as the technicians and interpreters, who are essential resources for this committee. I am on the traditional territory of the Algonquins, the Anishnabe, and the Cree of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

Mr. Gladu, to what extent does the market turmoil affect the first nations' borrowing capacity, now and for the future?

11:40 a.m.

As an Individual

Jean Paul Gladu

The borrowing power of communities...? Actually, I would love to hear from Harold and Manny on that one as well.

Credit rating is really important, but the challenge in many of our communities, as my colleagues know really well, is that the Indian Act hampers our ability to develop credit. The Indian Act does not allow us to own our land, which is an impingement on investment into our communities. As a prime example right now, I'm trying to build a home on my reserve. I make a pretty decent living and I can't get a loan from a bank unless I'm backstopped by my community, so I think part of the market forces are just the Indian Act and our ability to actually attract capital.

If you wouldn't mind, Ms. Bérubé, I'd direct that to Manny as well and maybe Harold.

11:40 a.m.

Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board

Harold Calla

Mr. Chair, could I go first?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Go ahead.

11:40 a.m.

Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board

Harold Calla

I think the immediate impact on short-term loans is real, because commercial lending is now concerned about the cash flows that are flowing into first nations. This is why I mentioned the fact that in some of the analysis we're doing, we're starting to measure the own-source revenue that's contributing to first nation governments and what that impact will be.

In the long term, I think it will have a significant impact if we don't have fiscal capacity and if we don't see that fiscal capacity being transferred to first nations. I think the overall problem we face in this country when it comes to indigenous files is that we tend to look at this issue on a fiscal basis in parliamentary budgets. What we need to start doing is provide the certainty to first nations to have access to revenue streams so that we can engage the private sector and the capital markets to provide the things we need.

We're not any different from any other government. We have to pay for things over time. I haven't bought a car or a house that I haven't had to finance in my lifetime. We need to be in a position where first nations can secure their interests for their community's well-being through access to capital as they choose, and to recognize that there are revenue streams to which they have access that can pay for those things over time.

Currently, we're working with the first nations health authority of B.C. to look at how we could provide the funding for them to put in the 10 nursing stations they need in this province instead of waiting for annual contributions through the parliamentary budget process to put them in. The benefit that comes from providing this infrastructure earlier is obvious.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Jules, do you want to add to that?

11:40 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

Yes, I do. I didn't get the translation from French to English, but I understand that we're talking about credit.

This is what my ancestors talked about in 1910:

We stand for the obtaining of a permanent and secure Title (to be acknowledged by the government as such) of our ownership of our present reservations, and of such lands as may be added thereto.

They also said they wanted to be able to compete on better terms with the whites in making a living. Unfortunately, we're still dealing with the remnants of the Indian Act that are preventing us, because of sections 87 and 89, from securitizing proper credits. That's why JP can't go to a bank and get a mortgage; it's because of those two sections of the Indian Act. We need our own title system so we ourselves can begin to stand up, and individuals can securitize their own mortgages, go to the banks, and therefore have secure title.

When post-COVID happens, individuals will be looking for the most secure title they have. Unfortunately, that won't be on Indian reserves.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Jules, could you ensure that your selector is on the English channel, which is the little globe at the bottom of the screen? You were probably on the floor channel.

11:45 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

It's there now.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

It's there? Okay. We need you to get the translation, for sure.

Madame Bérubé, you still have a minute.

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jules, what is your perspective on the state of the financial markets after this crisis?

11:45 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

Unfortunately, I'm still not getting the translation.

11:45 a.m.

The Clerk

Mr. Jules, if you click on the interpretation button, which is the globe at the bottom of your screen, a menu will open up. You should have three options—off, English and French.

English will need to be selected.

11:45 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

For language, I have the original audio, English and French.

I've clicked on the English.

11:45 a.m.

The Clerk

Can you hear me properly now with the interpretation?

11:45 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

Yes, I can.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Madame Bérubé, I'll give you your minute back. Please go ahead.

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Jules, how do you see the state of the financial markets after the crisis?