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

11:45 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

One thing we've been advocating for is greater access to the markets. We accomplished that somewhat through the First Nations Finance Authority, but we also need access to all of the banking institutions and the same kinds of credit that other Canadians have taken for granted.

That means having the institutional support that everyone takes for granted, including a proper land title system, so that Her Majesty doesn't own Indian reserves, and we have greater fiscal power so that we can have the same kinds of credit that federal, provincial and indeed municipal governments do.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

Now we go to Ms. Gazan for six minutes.

Please go ahead.

June 5th, 2020 / 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to start by giving a notice of motion. Given the elements outlined in supplementary estimates (A) that affect indigenous communities, I give notice that on a future date I will move the following motion:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee invite the Minister of Indigenous Services and the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to provide testimony regarding the supplementary estimates (A), 2020-21, no later than June 16, 2020.

Thank you very much.

I'll now move on to questions. I want to thank you all for being here.

There have been studies showing that there will be severe gendered economic impacts from COVID-19. Could any of the witnesses expand on how indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals will be affected differently, economically, by the impacts of COVID-19?

Anybody can answer. I'll leave it open.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Calla, go ahead, please.

11:45 a.m.

Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board

Harold Calla

I think much of the economic activity in the areas you described is among small businesses. Small business owners will be significantly impacted as a result of this because they're not able to financially withstand the long-term impact of COVID-19 because they don't have the balance sheet, if I can call it that, and the cash flow to be able to sustain themselves.

I think it's absolutely critically important that small businesses and individuals have access to the programs that larger corporations are getting access to—not that larger corporations shouldn't get it, but we can't forget people in our communities.

I believe that women in particular in our communities are the backbone of indigenous economies and I think that they need to be recognized and supported in ways that aren't necessarily consistent with the programs that are laid out today. I would encourage the committee to make that recommendation to Parliament and to the government.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Jules, did you want to say something?

11:50 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

Yes. I think one of the most important things is that one of the casualties of COVID-19 is the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. I think it has laid out a number of recommendations that should be followed up by the federal government. It has also underlined the fact that indigenous women and others are impacted by the economy because they're landless as a result of marriage breakdown. They're the ones who are impacted more than anyone else, according to the inquiry on missing and murdered women.

What we have to do is to make sure that we have sustainable economies so that marriages will stay together, that our families will be important and be able to withstand not only COVID-19, but also the economic impacts afterwards.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you so much.

I'll move to my next question.

Social enterprises often offer unique opportunities for employment and benefits for our communities. In Winnipeg, for example, we have a social enterprise called Mother Earth Recycling.

Can any of our witnesses describe any unique challenges that indigenous social enterprises are facing during the pandemic?

11:50 a.m.

Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board

Harold Calla

I really appreciate the question, because we often don't understand what we mean by “social enterprise”. We look at Indian bands as orders of government, and we don't understand that as they realize their aboriginal rights and title, they become social enterprises. I think the challenges we face in our social enterprises are no different from the challenges we face as indigenous people, in that we don't have access to capital and we don't have long-term revenue streams, and it's very difficult for us to produce strategies that provide confidence to the investment community.

I think that has to come from a recognition that, first of all, we are social enterprises in indigenous communities. Historically, we were, before European contact. We had economies that on the west coast stretched from Alaska to Mexico. We provided for our communities from those social enterprise efforts. That has not been recognized. Once we became wards of the government and we were marginalized from the economy, we weren't allowed to do that anymore.

As a consequence of that, we haven't been able to build wealth. If you look at the biggest challenge we face as indigenous communities, either in our businesses or our governments, it's that we've been marginalized and we've not been able to establish the platform to build wealth and to have a balance sheet.

Those things have to change, and that comes through a new fiscal relationship and the continued access, because of secure revenue streams, to access capital and manage what we choose. Those are the biggest issues. Then, as governments within our communities we can support, as a government in our community, those social enterprises that are created in the areas where we live. That is no different than other orders of government do.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you so much.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks, Ms. Gazan.

We're now to the five-minute round of questioning. I have Mr. Dalton, Ms. Damoff, Mr. Viersen and Mr. Battiste.

Marc, you have five minutes.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Thank you to all the witnesses for being here today and for your remarks.

I'm wondering if each of you could respond to this question. That is, what would be the impact on first nations if non-renewable resources, resource development projects, stopped going ahead?

Go ahead, Mr. Gladu.

11:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Jean Paul Gladu

That is a great question, because a lot of our indigenous communities rely on the natural resource sector for employment and for significant revenues for their businesses. The impact would be significant.

We recognize that there is an energy transition that needs to happen in this country, particularly with oil and gas, but we have other sectors, such as mining, that are going to provide the stopgap in the longer term. All I'm going to suggest is that as we move forward in the policies around infrastructure, as we transition into clean tech, into renewables, hydrogen, wind, solar and what have you, we ensure that the government incentivizes companies to co-invest with our indigenous communities as we build it out.

Our communities are just getting caught up with a lot of the capacity to compete in the natural resources sector, so we don't want to miss another wave as the next wave comes.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I saw Mr. Calla with his hand up.

11:55 a.m.

Executive Chair, First Nations Financial Management Board

Harold Calla

Thank you.

The financial management board was instrumental in supporting the creation of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, first nations that were interested in resource development, and as a result of that, we got a lot of insight into the potential economic impacts of major resource development.

I think the big issue that has always been there is in the approval process, the environmental issues that are faced and the cumulative impacts. We're starting to be able to resolve those issues in ways that many communities along these corridors for linear projects support.

The economic impact of not proceeding with these initiatives is going to be significant to first nation communities, both in the short and the long term. I think that as we move into a new fiscal relationship that sees us sharing in the revenues that other orders of government get, it is going to be even more so.

As JP said, we do recognize that we need to transition from fossil fuels in time, but the fact is, we're not there yet, and we need to be able to move forward. I think it's a tragedy that we're buying oil from the Middle East when we have it within this country. We have to find ways to solve these kinds of problems.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Ejesiak.

11:55 a.m.

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

I echo those comments. I think it's important to recognize that many of our communities rely on projects such as mining, especially in the north. Although we want to balance that with managing the environment, if those projects are put on hold or stopped, it would have disastrous effects right across our communities, and guess what? It would impact most small Inuit businesses in the north. I think we need to work on supporting those projects.

Look, I recognize that a lot of those companies are global nationals. However, we need to ensure that they have at least an opportunity to support their projects in a balanced way. For me, coming from the north, I think it's important to ensure that those projects continue.

This pandemic may go on for awhile and we're happy to report that we have no COVID cases up here, but we know it's just a matter of time. We have to recognize that we have to support those big projects so that those families continue to get that income they need.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

There is half a minute.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Go ahead, Manny. Do you want to say a few words on this?

11:55 a.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

Yes. One thing we've been advocating right across the country is.... Firstly, I want to say that I believe in the integrity of the federal and provincial tax systems. What has to happen is that there has to be an orderly vacating of tax room so that first nations would be able to take over a portion of the resource taxes that are collected within our traditional and treaty territories, and therefore be able to benefit directly from resource exploitation. We would be in a position to look after our own infrastructure and take care of ourselves, as opposed to depending on the largesse of the federal government.

Once those steps are taken, I believe that the wealth of this country will be unlocked. You need look no further than the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, and here in British Columbia as well, but right across the country. We benefit from—

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm sorry, sir. We're beyond time.

Ms. Damoff is our next speaker for five minutes.

Please go ahead.

Noon

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I want to start by acknowledging that I'm on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. I want to thank our panellists today. Once again, there's incredibly helpful information that's being shared.

I do want to ask about infrastructure, but I first want to start with you, JP. I think you sat on some committees on moving indigenous communities to renewable energy projects, with my son Fraser and Tabatha Bull, when they were both at the IESO. At the last meeting, we heard from one of the witnesses about the economic benefits of transitioning to green energy.

I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about how the federal government could play a role in transitioning to green energy to power our first nations communities.

Noon

As an Individual

Jean Paul Gladu

That's a great question, and thank you.

Let me give one example of a first nation, Henvey Inlet. They went out to the market and raised $900 million in senior debt to be a 51% equity stakeholder in a 300-megawatt wind farm project. What's extraordinary about this project is that none of that financing came from within Canada. It came from all over the world, not Canada. So, it's broken. It's about creating the space for investment in partnering with indigenous communities. That could be through tax incentives. That could also be through creating adders to energy produced by indigenous energy projects.

Then, lastly, just from a big-picture perspective, we're talking about creating bonds. At OPG, they created a green bond. Why don't we create an indigenous bond that's directed towards indigenous projects, where people can get a good return on their dollar and then we have the money to backstop, to invest in, that type of infrastructure?

Noon

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

That's a terrific idea.

On the First Nations Tax Commission website, there's a report that I'm going to quote from. It says, “The current First Nation infrastructure system is the least effective government infrastructure system in Canada. First Nation infrastructure costs the most to build, takes the longest to develop, and has the shortest operational lives.”

There's obviously something broken in the way that we're doing infrastructure on reserve. I'm just wondering if I could perhaps hear from all of you about creating better infrastructure and creating a facility. You've talked about it already. How can we move on this, because it's something that obviously needs to get done?

Noon

C.T. (Manny) Jules

With regard to the first step, we've been having discussions with the federal government now for a number of years. I first introduced the concept to Minister Bennett in 2016. We've done a considerable amount of work. We have a panel of experts right across the country.

What we need is legislation. What we need is a memorandum to cabinet giving direction that legislation be drafted, and then the legislation could be introduced as early as this fall. Without a legislative base that empowers first nations governments, we can't monetize federal transfers or open up opportunities for private-public partnerships, including green approaches to dealing with infrastructure.

Right now, all of the power rests with the federal government, and there's no way that any government, even during the COVID-19 crisis, will write a cheque for $45 billion. We need investment, but we cannot approach it without a legislative mandate from the federal government, and then we can reach out and work with provincial governments and municipal governments as well as other first nation governments.