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

5:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Éric Cardinal

Absolutely. Economic recovery is certainly a priority for First Nations, but it raises many concerns. One concern is the fear that Indigenous interests are not being adequately addressed in government economic recovery plans.

This can be seen currently in Quebec's Bill 61. Just today, the chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, Ghislain Picard, appeared before the parliamentary committee in charge of reviewing the bill. He stressed that, despite the emergency situation, the government cannot avoid its responsibility to consult First Nations. He also raised the concern that is very worrisome to First Nations, namely the protection of the environment in general, natural resources and wildlife habitats.

At the same time, reopening and economic recovery must also be seen as economic opportunities for Indigenous businesses and communities. I feel it is important here to point out a very positive initiative by several national Indigenous organizations that decided to join forces to help the federal government better meet the economic development needs of Indigenous people. Together, they created the Indigenous business COVID-19 response task force, which aims to speak to the Government of Canada in a unified Indigenous voice in this time of crisis. I find this is good and important.

The team is currently putting together a comprehensive database of Indigenous businesses that can be used by federal departments looking for suppliers. It is also analyzing the impact of the crisis on Indigenous businesses and communities to ensure that the Government of Canada can provide adequate support measures, equivalent to those available to the rest of the Canadian economy. This is an unprecedented and very important collaborative effort that will facilitate better representation of Indigenous people in Canada's economic recovery plan.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Thank you very much.

5:55 p.m.

As an Individual

Éric Cardinal

Thank you.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

Ms. Gazan, this is a six-minute round. Please go ahead.

June 9th, 2020 / 5:55 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all our guests for their excellent testimony so far.

Before I go to questions, I'd like to dispose of the motion I gave last week. I hope we don't waste too much time debating it.

I move the following:

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.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Seeing no comments, are we ready to vote? If we are, it will be a recorded vote by the clerk.

Ms. Damoff, you have your hand up.

6 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Yes, Mr. Chair. I am just wondering if the member would also agree that Minister Vandal also appear at that meeting. There are actually three ministers responsible for indigenous and northern affairs in Canada.

6 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Yes, that's fine.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

It's a friendly amendment. Fine.

Go ahead with the call of the vote please, the division.

6 p.m.

The Clerk

Thank you.

Before we proceed, I would like to inform the committee that the list of members eligible to vote includes the following: Jamie Schmale, Gary Vidal, Arnold Viersen, Bob Zimmer, Sylvie Bérubé, Leah Gazan, Jaime Battiste, Pam Damoff, Marcus Powlowski, Adam van Koeverden and Lenore Zann.

When your name is called, please allow for a two or three-second delay before answering. Your video should now be turned on. When you are recognized, please state clearly and verbally if you are in favour of or opposed to the vote.

I will now proceed to the taking of the recorded division on the motion.

(Motion agreed to: yeas 11; nays 0 [See Minutes of Proceedings])

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

Ms. Gazan, let me give you three more minutes for your question.

6 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Ellen Gabriel.

You spoke a little bit about three centuries of fighting for your rights for your homeland, indicating that the pandemic has increased fear and uncertainty of more land dispossession. Can you explain this a little bit further?

6 p.m.

As an Individual

Ellen Gabriel

First of all, I want to say that I'm longhouse. I don't go vote in band council elections because they are an imposed system. I know that Mr. Cardinal works for the band council in Kanehsatà:ke.

As I mentioned before, our traditional governance was made illegal by a 1924 law within Canada. The land dispossession continues. There is a housing development in nearby Saint-Joseph-du-Lac. There is the unknown status of the so-called eco-gift by a developer, Mr. Gollin, who bought land, and uncertainty because we are excluded by the band council from knowledge of any kind of negotiations. It's the traditional governments that have the inherent rights and those who have survived colonization who have the rights.

I guess what I really want to say, with all due respect to Madame Bérubé, is that the questions she was asking should have been asked of an indigenous person. I respect Mr. Cardinal, and I think he answered very well. I just feel like sometimes I'm in an anthropology session, and I'm a third person looking in, and people are speaking about us.

I would appreciate it in the future that with anything that has to do with people living in the community, it be addressed to the people who are from that community, because land dispossession is continuing. Housing development continues. A new home was built on the border of the Pines.

We are far from resolving any of the land issues, and as I've mentioned previously, those checkpoints were not respected by the people in Oka. Our decision about Oka Provincial Park was not respected. This is something I think Grand Chief Serge did a good thing for, but we are so divided, and this is caused by governmental coercion to divide and conquer our community

It has to stop. There has to be some kind of resolution to this problem. Thirty years later we are marking another anniversary, and we are no further ahead in resolving these issues. With the pandemic, it is even worse.

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks very much.

We will go now to a five-minute round, beginning with Mr. Zimmer. Then we'll hear from Ms. Zann, Mr. Schmale and Mr. Battiste.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

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

Hello, everybody.

I have a couple of questions for Mr. Watt and Mr. Williams.

As a former teacher, I too wrote a course about the transition to trades. I'm a former tradesmen as well. I'm really concerned about that aspect of education as one thing we can accomplish. There are certain courses online, but those tangible, hands-on courses I'm sure are going to be a challenge, if not now more in the future.

My questions are about PPE. The question is about courses that are happening now. I know that some of the programs have obviously stopped.

Did you have access to adequate PPE during the crisis?

If you could just answer that quickly, then I will have a follow-up question.

Mr. Williams.

6:05 p.m.

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

Elijah Williams

At Sheridan, we completely shut down the school. All schools within a one-week span transitioned online. We had a transition of hundreds of programs online.

I think this is where the learning curve comes into play for some students because they went from in-person learning to learning online. We are doing an in-person pilot in the summer with a few students who have to do nursing programs. We are going to pilot that, and then we'll see how that's going to work out how we can do social distancing in the fall.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

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

We would appreciate hearing what you find out there. How successful it is or not is going to be interesting for us to know.

Mr. Watt, have you any comments about the PPE and access to it?

6:05 p.m.

President, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq

Robert Watt

PPE meaning—

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

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

That is personal protective equipment—the masks, hand sanitizer and the like.

6:05 p.m.

President, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq

Robert Watt

Okay. I do know that within Nunavik here now we have airlines flying between communities, so they are providing masks.

As for our schools, this is something that's going to be under discussion. I know that we have approximately 370 adults who are attending our vocational training centre, so this is something we are working on right now.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

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

Mr. Watt, just to follow up on that, are they attending right now, as we speak?

6:05 p.m.

President, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq

Robert Watt

Right now all vocational training courses have been put on hold, but we are providing access for them to be able to finish some of their courses online and even take an examination.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

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

Where do we go from here?

I know the challenges. My file is economic development, so I'm asking from that perspective. Seeing that we definitely need to get our economies going again, education is a big part of that. As a former carpenter, I knew how important it was to have those students getting into the workforce.

I'm concerned about the PPE and the access to it and to testing, etc., to get us back to this new normal, because I have children who are in school.

It's a stopgap measure, but it certainly isn't where we want to be.

Where do you see education getting back to those normal sessions in class, with carpentry students doing carpentry work in those trade schools? How soon do you see our getting there, and do you see access to the appropriate PPE? Is that possible?

We'll start with Mr. Williams again.

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have one minute.

6:10 p.m.

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

Elijah Williams

Yes, we can get there.

I think once we find out how the summer goes, in July when we have some students back, we'll understand more how the social distancing will work.

I think most of our programs will be online for the fall term. We're going to be preparing for the winter with a lot more classes being offered in person. It's going to be challenging, but I think we'll have to work out access to PPE and all of that with our local public health agency.