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

Noon

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

So would that—

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Ejesiak had his hand up.

Mr. Ejesiak, could you lift your microphone up an inch for more clarity?

Thank you.

Noon

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

I think that's a good question.

For us in the Arctic, the critical thing is looking at the procurement system that's currently in place. It often favours companies that are outside the north. We need to think about how we structure it so that it would take advantage of the local capacity that exists. As you heard this morning, the challenge for small, indigenous-owned companies is access to capital. We could certainly bring in the capital that we need if we actually had a fair shot at some of those big megaprojects in our communities.

The infrastructure deficit is huge. I could speak to some of the energy projects that we wanted to undertake in the north to reduce our reliance on diesel. Some of the green initiatives that exist are not set up to service northern communities. We certainly need to get off diesel, but the procurement and the priorities that are set just don't allow for us to try innovative solutions at the moment.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

May I just apologize to the witness? I said “on reserve”, but I didn't mean to exclude the north from the question.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you.

With that, we move to Mr. Viersen, for five minutes.

Please go ahead.

June 5th, 2020 / 12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

I want to congratulate Mr. Powlowski for getting a haircut. It looks good. Here in the promised land, we've been able to get haircuts for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, in Ontario, they too will start to open up hair salons soon.

Mr. Jules, you mentioned something a little—oh, I don't see him there right now, so I'll skip that one for a little bit.

Mr. Ejesiak, I'll jump to you.

The distribution of PPE has been a big challenge in northern Alberta, particularly for first nations communities. The Alberta government has partnered with McDonald's and A&W to distribute PPE across the province, and that does seem to be working fairly well. Is your group of companies able to help with PPE distribution, and is the PPE available?

In Saskatchewan, I know that many of the northern first nations communities say that there's no PPE available, let alone trying to get it distributed.

Do you have any comments on that?

12:05 p.m.

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

The PPE is certainly something we thought about in March. We don't have a McDonald's. We don't have the big chains that you would typically see in southern Canada.

I think our chief medical health officer and his team have worked well with the national organizations to allow PPE to be shipped up north. As you know, we don't have any active cases of COVID in the north, so I think the idea of having PPE is not top of mind. I do have a partner who is in the medical field, and that's certainly a concern for our immediate family.

I think small businesses can play a role. We have the capacity to build face masks and small items at our shop, but it's something that we currently have not been asked to assist with.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Have you been submitting at all to the government procurement for PPE? Have you been engaged in that at all?

12:05 p.m.

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

I have looked at the procurement. My comments earlier were that the procurement system is set up to favour the large companies, and I think it would be helpful to set up a regional procurement system that would allow for local and regional companies to bid on some of the work.

It's a touchy issue, I know, and I think it's important that we start to recognize that these systems are set up to favour large companies. I think a lot of our indigenous companies would certainly benefit if we set up a regional organization similar to the current CanNor and the regional organizations. If that were passed on to them, I think it would certainly provide a better avenue for small regional businesses to bid on.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Jules, go ahead.

12:05 p.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

One interesting story that just happened within the last two weeks is that when my tribal council and health authority were trying to secure PPE for our communities, lo and behold, it was the provincial government that took our share. Part of the reason, of course, is that we don't have the capacity within our communities to make our own, and that is one of the reasons we have to be part of the retooling of the Canadian economy after the pandemic settles.

12:10 p.m.

As an Individual

Jean Paul Gladu

If you go to the CCAB website, there are numerous indigenous suppliers that can produce this, and a lot of them have shifted to producing PPE. This is just a little shout-out, because there are a lot of capable indigenous businesses that can help with the PPE as well as distribution.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

We had Tabatha at committee last Friday, and at that point, she hadn't heard of any of their being able to secure a contract. That's a little bit concerning. It appears that we have Canadian capacity, and yet a lot of the PPE that we're getting is coming from offshore.

Mr. Ejesiak, do you have any ideas about what the stockpile is up in the north if any your communities need PPE in a hurry?

Just to get it on the record, the A&W model works well in Alberta. Every small town in Alberta has an A&W, and that's not a problem. In your community is there a similar network of...? I know in Africa—

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Viersen, we're way overtime.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Oh, come on.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Perhaps you can reprieve that question until later on; it's a good one.

Right now for a two-and-a-half minute round we're going to Ms. Gaudreau and Ms. Gazan.

Ms. Gaudreau, please go ahead for two and a half minutes.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I have a point of order.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Yes, Mr. Battiste.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I heard my name being called in the five-minute round, but I don't remember getting my question.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You know what? You're right.

I apologize, Ms. Gaudreau, because while bouncing around looking at whose hand is up, who is speaking and what the time is, I completely missed my friend Mr. Battiste.

I apologize, and I'm going to give you five extra seconds in addition.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I accept your apology and I know you didn't mean to do it. You're doing a great job as chair, Bob.

I come to you from the Eskasoni reserve, the largest Mi'kmaq community. We have close to 5,000 people. I'd say that the majority of the people in this community don't see sections 87 and 89 of the Indian Act as negative things.

Manny, I would just like you to elaborate a little bit on the tax rating that you talked about and how that helps the indigenous economic recovery strategy. Can you speak to those points a bit?

12:10 p.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

Part of the problem that I talked about earlier was the restrictions of the Indian Act on our being able to go to a local bank, as JP was talking about. One reason is section 89, which leaves us completely dependent on the federal government for housing. The Minister of Indian Affairs builds about 2,000...agreeing to mortgage about—

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Manny, can you tell the committee what section 89 is? I know what it is; I just want to make sure it's clear.

12:10 p.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

It deals with an ability to come on reserve and seize property. That restricts us from being able to be mortgaged. It restricts the ability of our small business owners to securitize, and their ability to get into business. That's a jurisdictional question. What has to happen is that first nations have to be able to have the jurisdiction to make their own determinants at the local level. The hindrance for us getting to the capital market is section 89 of the Indian Act.

The other is the personal tax exemption under section 87. One of the things it has led to is a complete dependance on the federal government and all of its resources. That has its roots going back to 1927, to the Indian Act. What happened was that my ancestors were asking for the land question to be settled here in British Columbia. We were calling on the federal and provincial governments to come to the table to deal with us. One of the things they did in 1927 was to forbid us to collect taxes from ourselves. That meant that we couldn't have potlatch and we couldn't have winter dances. We weren't able to raise revenue on our own. That has led to the situation—again, because of the lack of jurisdiction—of having complete dependance on the federal government.

It impacts housing. It means that we'll never catch up to the housing backlog on a national basis. If you believe the federal government, it will be 300 years before we catch up to the housing backlog on a national basis; if you believe the Assembly of First Nations, it will take us 800 years.

It has its roots in the Indian Act. One of the things I've been advocating is a proper land title system so that we can have our own title and create a basis where we can go to the markets with our own credit.

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Can you expand on what you meant by tax rating? What does that mean? That was part of my question.