Evidence of meeting #15 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 students.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Éric Cardinal  As an Individual
Clerk of the Committee  Ms. Evelyn Lukyniuk
Robert Watt  President, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq
Ellen Gabriel  As an Individual
Elijah Williams  Director, Indigenous Engagement, Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support, Sheridan College

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Watt.

6:10 p.m.

President, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq

Robert Watt

Recently we had our council of commissioners meeting, and we were advised that we are trying to reopen our schools. There are all different sizes of schools. Some are very small and some are much larger. We've been advised that it's going to take our bringing in transient employees in phases, so I think right now they're looking at different scenarios. We're not working single-handedly; we're working with the region here.

Kativik Regional Government has created these subcommittees to look at ways of reopening Nunavik. As much as we want to open and provide easy access to education and training, right now the mayors in the communities have a big say in this. We had our mayor on the radio this morning, informing the population that, rest assured, this is going to be a long journey, that it's going to take approximately two years to get back to “normal”.

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Let me leave it right there.

Thanks, Mr. Watt.

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

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you, wela'lin.

Hello to everybody from the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq here in northern Nova Scotia.

First of all I'd like to congratulate Mr. Elijah Williams on his students' graduation. That's wonderful to hear.

Many of our students from Truro go to Sheridan College to study musical theatre and things like that, so I am well acquainted with it. That's really great news.

One of the problems I have seen occurring in education over the years is that my parents were both teachers and when we moved to Nova Scotia from Australia, my mother said that the books she was supposed to teach history from were full of racist epithets.

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm sorry, Ms. Zann, there is no translation right now.

We're going to suspend briefly and allow the techs to see if they can fix it.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Ms. Zann, you have four minutes left.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Let me just start right in there again.

Listen, I think one of the problems in Canada and probably in most of the world is that when it comes to education, the textbooks that have been used for many years have been racist. When my mother, father and I moved to Nova Scotia from Australia back in 1968, my mom was supposed to teach history and said to her class that she was going to show them where the history books belonged. Clunk, she threw them into the garbage cans at the front of the class and said, “I refuse to teach you because these are racist to the black community and to our first nations people. It's not true what they're teaching.” My father taught at a teacher's college in Truro and there were no Mi'kmaq teachers in Nova Scotia. So he and Noel Knockwood and Bernie Francis, two incredible Mi'kmaq gentlemen from Nova Scotia, got together and put a program together called the Micmac teacher education program. This was in the early seventies and they trained Mi'kmaq students to become teachers and graduated 13 teachers. Now some government of the day eliminated that program afterwards. I think this is part of the problem: there are not enough indigenous people and first nation people in the system, and a lot of the history that Canadians have been learning is false.

I would say this has contributed to the racism in this country. I would just like to know what any of you might think about this and if you think this has contributed to racism, and what we can do to change things.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have a minute to answer that.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Who would like to answer?

6:20 p.m.

Director, Indigenous Engagement, Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support, Sheridan College

Elijah Williams

I can speak on that. Certainly what I think the K-to-12 system has perpetuated is a lot of misinformation and stereotypes. From working in post-secondary education, I find that we're almost trying to re-educate people. A lot of this information should already be known about who indigenous people are, the relationship between indigenous people and the Crown, and the different assimilation policies that happen. What I find is that when they come to college or to university, nobody knows that. It's sort of like a first shock. The provinces have to be encouraged to do more in this regard, to do better in re-educating people and re-educating children and making sure that the curriculum is relevant to what's happening right now in 2020.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

Thanks, Ms. Zann.

We go now for five minutes to Mr. Schmale.

June 9th, 2020 / 6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for your testimony.

Maybe I'll start with Ms. Gabriel if I could. You were saying that you had some frustrations with the department, especially when it comes to communication with the minister. Do you want to expand on that?

6:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Ellen Gabriel

This has gone on for more than 100 years, but more recently we sent several letters. The traditional longhouse people, the Haudenosaunee people, have been excluded from many decision-making processes on land. It's not about the administration of services; it's about negotiations of land. Minister Bennett has refused to intervene on any development that's taking place on disputed land. She refuses to say that we have any kind of rights. She always defers to the band council. It's a colonial system that's been created to undermine the traditional governments that existed pre-European arrival. It makes no sense for the government to pick and choose which part of our inherent rights they, the colonizer, are going to allow us to enjoy, even though there are international human rights norms that talk about respect and the right to self-determination. It's a violation of the rule of law that we keep hearing, which is being thrown at us.

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Just out of curiosity, I bring this up because there was an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun this morning regarding the governing structure of the Wet’suwet’en. I'm just curious because you mentioned the governance structure. How do you see, or what do you propose, or what are your thoughts on the governance structure?

6:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Ellen Gabriel

Well, there are differences.

We had proposed in 1990 that the band council could deal with the services. They are service providers, but when it has to do with how the land is being used, development or anything that has to do with the land, including Oka park, the traditional governments that have existed for centuries are the ones that the government speaks to. This is the true nation-to-nation relationship, rather than a band council that is created by Canada dealing with the government, because it's under Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. It's a department in itself, even though there is an election.

We were just asking for a meeting, and we have been denied over and over again, even from the Prime Minister, who said to go to speak to Carolyn Bennett, who said to go to speak to the band council.

In the meantime, third parties are taking our land. In the meantime, if we try to defend our lands, through protests or barricades, we are the criminals. As we've seen in Wet'suwet'en, it seems like the policing authorities are the ones who are working for the third parties. They are not there to defend indigenous people's safety and security. They're there to defend corporate interests. That's what we see all over indigenous territories.

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Okay. Thank you very much for your comments. Unless you have anything else to add I will move to my next round of questioning.

6:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Ellen Gabriel

I think traditional governments have been recognized at the international level. I don't see why Canada is refusing and standing firm in the colonial structure that benefits only them.

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Actually, before I move on, maybe I'll stay on this topic just a little longer.

My colleague, Mr. Viersen, read off a motion that we were looking to study.

Do you see the desire to move away from the Indian Act, if possible?

6:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Ellen Gabriel

If you're going to respect our self-determination, and if you're going to respect traditional forms of government and that traditional people be represented in any kind of discussion.... Because for us the women are the title holders to the land and the women are not being respected by someone who claims to be a feminist, like Minister Carolyn Bennett.

I would like to see something that moves in the way of relationship building, and then let's talk about nation-to-nation relationships.

Let's also put a hold on all development that's going on, because the economy can survive in a sustainable way without resource development or housing development.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

That's just about it, Jamie.

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Okay. Maybe I'll pick up on that in my next round.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Now we have Mr. Jaime Battiste for five minutes.

Please, go ahead.

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you very much.

I am coming to you from the Mi'kmaq community of Eskasoni, which is on unceded land.

I've heard Mr. Williams and Ms. Gabriel talk about barriers that exist for indigenous people and about institutional racism.

I am reminded of my friend, the late Donald Marshall Jr., and his inquiry. His wrongful conviction highlighted racism within the justice system and made several recommendations about inclusion in education. I am wondering in what ways we can best decolonize education, take down barriers that exist for indigenous people in education, and at the same time, create awareness of our shared indigenous histories and contributions to Canada.

If you could each do two minutes, that would be very helpful.

6:25 p.m.

Director, Indigenous Engagement, Centre for Indigenous Learning and Support, Sheridan College

Elijah Williams

There's a whole list of things that need to be done.

I think institutions are inherently colonial by nature. When we look at where education has come from, we see that it comes from the British and the Crown. When we look at education, we see that educational institutions have to make space for indigenous voices to be there. By making space, we really have to look at a re-examination of policy, not only internally to the school but externally through the ministry that oversees the education sector.

We have to look at how the intersection between communities and post-secondary institutions can be built better in terms of the relationship. I think what we've seen through post-secondary or higher learning is that there is an imposition of Eurocentric views on how people should learn or how people should view themselves, so we really have to re-examine how we conduct education. We really have to keep it a game-changing moment, so it's redefining what education can be for people, allowing for different modes of learning and allowing for communities to determine their own models of education. It's allowing different indigenous communities to say that they want this for their community as education, so it's not the universities or colleges dictating that.