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

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Jamie, we're at time there, a full five minutes.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Chair, I took over from Bob Zimmer. I think I'm not scheduled to go again, but if Mr. Zimmer is connected, I'm happy to let him have a round. We'll see how it goes.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Yes, but we need the ability to translate. Otherwise, we can't run the meeting.

Ms. Zann, you have five minutes. Please go ahead.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Hi, there. It's nice to see all of you.

I always like to say thank you, o'wela'lin and hello from the beautiful unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, up here in northern Nova Scotia in Cumberland—Colchester.

I'd like to ask all of you a couple of questions. I'm going to put them all into one question, and then if we have time and if each of you has an answer to let me know what you think, I'd be really appreciative.

Today is World Environment Day, as you are probably aware, and that's a time for us to reflect on what we're doing as human beings to help turn things around to protect the natural environment.

In spite of the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing horrifying violence and indefensible acts of racism against racialized peoples right across North America. I know it happens, but it's being shown on TV screens more now, and there is more attention. Thank God it's coming to more attention. Let's do something about it.

Also, the domestic violence, misogyny and racism that indigenous women experience daily, both on and off reserve, must surely affect the finances of indigenous communities and their ability to grow wealth.

I am curious about the desire and intent of indigenous communities and businesses, including the witnesses here today, to put more attention and investment into the protection and well-being of women and girls and LGBTQ2S peoples, and also the interest and intent to invest and develop more green jobs, healthy natural products and alternative green energy projects.

Who would like to go first? Perhaps it could be Jean Paul Gladu, please.

12:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Jean Paul Gladu

I'll address one part of that.

With regard to the environmental protection, we're often seen as the stewards of mother earth. What I think is an opportunity for this country at all levels—private sector, federal government, etc.—is to empower people by having seats at the table.

The guardians program is an example of having our moccasins on the ground across the country. I know there is a proposal that is coming forward, one that I know has been partially supported.

It's really important that our voices be at the table—on the board of directors, on the Canada Energy Regulator, having the indigenous advisory group—and to make sure that our women are also represented on these boards in these powerful positions to bring their influence. That's how you build the capacity and that's how you build stronger relationships.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Mr. Ejesiak has his hand up as well, Ms. Zann.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Go ahead, Mr. Ejesiak.

12:35 p.m.

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

I agree with J.P. I think you need to back that up with financial resources for those people to participate. I can tell you that it wouldn't take much, really, for any group, such as the Inuit Business Council or others, to find members who would like to speak on behalf of these important issues.

I will go further by saying that our infrastructure deficits in our communities need addressing. The challenge is the procurement. It will take 10 years to procure hundreds of millions of dollars in our communities. We need to think of this as a COVID procurement strategy. We need to get the money out the door for companies that are able to build these water treatment centres, sewage treatment plants and houses. I think we need to address all those issues as urgently as we're addressing these issues today.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you very much.

Mr. Jules, would you comment?

12:35 p.m.

C.T. (Manny) Jules

One thing that happens with pandemics is that they fundamentally change society. We have to be able to think about what societal changes will happen as a result of COVID-19 and truly make this world a better place. In order to do that, we have to be able to take the steps necessary. As I've been saying throughout this period of time, it has to be based on jurisdiction, because we have to be in a position to look after those who are most vulnerable within our communities.

When you look at that, who is most disenfranchised from the land in our communities? It is the women, as a result of marital breakdown. It is the children. We have to be able to have the institutions to be able to look after those affected, but also we have to be able to have the entrepreneurial spirit to make sure we are resilient within our economies. Right now all of that is being shut off from us.

One of the things—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm sorry, Mr. Jules, but we're right at the end of our time.

We'll go now to Mr. Zimmer. In his cross-country drive, he has now purchased a new vehicle, apparently.

I can see you much more clearly now, Bob. Let's try it once again. Please go ahead for five minutes...

Once again, Bob Zimmer, I can see you but I can't hear you.

It looks as though Mr. Zimmer's connection has frozen.

I will ask Mr. Dalton if he can fill in on this CPC segment. You have five minutes, Mr. Dalton.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Okay. Thank you.

Kirt, I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about the businesses in Nunavut in terms of the spectrum and the prime focus of most of the businesses. Could you give us the lay of the land when it comes to the indigenous business community in Nunavut?

12:35 p.m.

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

Our business community consists of mostly small entrepreneurs. That would be 20 businesses or less. They range from small convenience stores to small hotels to companies that bridge services like Canadian Tire in their communities. They would bring in most of the goods. There are small builders and companies like ours. We service governments with drones and imagery. We have folks who are consultants and former politicians. There is a full spectrum, from companies like mine that can afford office space to small businesses that are mostly at home. The revenues would be $50,000 or less, I would say, for most small Inuit businesses, but we do have businesses that are in the millions and have been around for 20 or 30 years. They are likely doing big projects with the mining companies.

We have a huge gamut. I think the challenge for us as a small business community is having a seat at the table. We often watch with interest some of these big megaprojects, but we're often so busy trying to service our customers that we don't actually put our hand up and say, “You know, it's time we collectively got together and spoke on these important issues.” That is really the impetus for our small organization. What we are requesting from government is financial support. For our organization, one million dollars would keep us running.

That is where we think we need to have voices at the table. I think it's important that you provide that support, because we need it. We need to be able to bring people to the meeting and share our voices. We appreciate the opportunity—

June 5th, 2020 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

If you don't mind, I'd like to ask about the impact of air transportation.

Obviously, most of the communities are fly-in communities, but especially during this COVID period, what has been the impact on businesses and the cost of living? Have you noticed changes? Are the flights...? Has that changed, or is it the same as before?

12:40 p.m.

Representative, Inuit Business Council

Kirt Ejesiak

I can tell you that everyone is going bananas on this, especially folks who were not born and raised in the north and who are dying to get out. I think that's the real impact. It's really fostered a sort of panic in our communities.

Air travel has virtually stopped. The Nunavut government is supporting our airlines. That's a tough call. I think we need to ensure that these vital transportation lines are kept open. That's where we would ask the levels of government to support communities that are only fly-in, and all of our communities are only fly-in.

In terms of revenues, we see the CERB and we see the financial supports that are targeted to indigenous communities in our communities. There's certainly enough spending; it's just that we can't live on supports. We need the businesses to be open. We need to foster regional projects that support the local businesses. I can't survive on handouts, nor do I want handouts. I want to bring my employees back. I want to be able to pay them a fair wage for good work, and I think that's what most businesses want.

I guess, for an ask, you need to support organizations like ours financially on an ongoing basis if you want to hear us and our voices.

Thank you.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Marc Dalton Conservative Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Chair, I guess my time is over. Is that correct?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

It is pretty much over, yes.

I'm going to try to offer Mr. Zimmer one more opportunity. We should have a chance just before the end of today's meeting.

Could you say something now, Bob? Go ahead. Just try it.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Is it working now?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I can hear you fine now.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

My device literally just overheated.

Dr. Powlowski, it is that warm in Thunder Bay today, as you know.

I'll get to my questions. Thanks for the opportunity, Chair.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

It won't be right now, Bob. I'm sorry. You will have another opportunity coming up.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Okay, thanks.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Right now it's Mr. Powlowski. You have five minutes. Go ahead.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marcus Powlowski Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you.

That's a great panel.

In passing, I want to mention something, and maybe if anybody has any ideas, they could get back to me after the meeting. Fort William First Nation is having trouble finding financing to build a long-term care home on the reserve. It seems like a great idea, for a lot of reasons. We've turned over pretty well every infrastructure rock we could find. Hopefully something is coming up, but not yet. All of you in finance probably understand it a lot better than I do. If you have any ideas of where they could possibly find that funding, perhaps through public-private partnership or things like that, let me know.

The question I want to ask is more of a philosophical one. Let's take the Ring of Fire. Obviously, this is a tremendous opportunity for development. I think all of you, if I interpret you correctly, are for development, for bringing jobs to communities, and see it as a way of improving life, but there's certainly a downside to development.

Having been to many fly-in communities, I know they are, in a lot of ways, tremendous communities. They're becoming more and more rare in the world, with people living a pretty traditional lifestyle that they've lived for thousands of years. With development come a lot of bad things. How do you reconcile those? I take it you're on the development side, but what do you say to somebody who's kind of questioning whether we really want that development?

Maybe I could start with JP, because I know he is from around here.

12:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Jean Paul Gladu

I am from Thunder Bay. I'm actually on the board of directors of Noront, which has many of the assets in the Ring of Fire.

My immediate reaction is to give the communities the opportunity to manage. Communities are going to stumble and they're going to stub their toes, but they're also going to find great opportunities. Some people, as in any society, will be challenged. The community as a whole, I believe, given the opportunity, will succeed. We're resilient people. We need to avoid the paternalistic approach that's been very much the fabric of the Canadian government—