Evidence of meeting #16 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 community.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chief Marlene Poitras  Regional Chief, Alberta Association, Assembly of First Nations
Tom Jackson  Performer, Creative Industries Coalition
Chief Alvin Fiddler  Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Steeve Mathias  Long Point First Nation

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks very much.

As a 45-year broadcaster, I can tell you that, when the government allowed expansion of corporate ownership of radio stations, it almost killed the local radio market and all kinds of entry-level jobs. However, that's not my opportunity because I'm not on the list of questioners, and he has five minutes.

Mr. Zimmer, please go ahead.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

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

Yes, I want to get back to the discussion with Tom.

Thank you for answering some of those questions about what the industry needs. Again, maybe to a bit more of an in-depth discussion of where it's at, I'm a resident of British Columbia, and in Vancouver there's the film industry. Vancouver is huge, and many of us watch the programs on a daily basis that are produced for the world, so we know how valuable the industry is, not just economically but how much it matters to us just in our leisure in our lives. I will say for myself that I miss the theatre experience. We regularly go to movie theatres just to get out, and it's part of our history and our own heritage, and it's something that we miss.

I wanted to talk again about, Mr. Jackson, how we get back there [Technical difficulty—Editor] the discussion around PPE and, again, as I framed it before, around this cloud of COVID. How does the industry get functioning again? As you said, welfare isn't something that's a long-term thing. It's to sustain us in gaps and in challenging times, but it's something that we can't rely on in the long term. How do we get back to functioning where we were pre-COVID, when the industry was doing fairly well? There were challenges there, for sure, but how do we get back there as a film industry?

12:40 p.m.

Performer, Creative Industries Coalition

Tom Jackson

We have to recognize the challenges in front of us and take those challenges one at a time. We can't just throw everything in and expect that the right answer is going to come out.

At the front of end of this, we have to be better at managing and demonstrate that we have the ability to manage such things, like building forts. Let me give you an example. I have a project where I'm going to go into a theatre. I saw on the television the other day children going back to school, and they have to figure out how to respect social distancing, so they got to build a fort.

We're going to go in, and I'm going to tell each of my players, “That is your fort.” That's what they have to do. We have the opportunity to make sure that we address our own health and others' health first. Then we have to figure out.... We just have to follow the dotted line. As the opportunity expands, we have to expand, but if we're not willing to explore right now.... It is an entertainment industry. It is an industry of imagination. We have to explore ways that we can, first of all, take care of ourselves, and second, take care of the.... We'll become more successful in what we do if we take care of somebody else first. If we figure out how to take care of them, we'll figure out how to take care of ourselves.

As well, don't just rely, in my opinion, on being an actor. I was living in a hole in the ground. When I got out of that hole in the ground at one point, I was trying to get a job, so I phoned my friend and asked if I could carry a cable. I'm not just an actor; I'm a cable carrier. I'm not just one thing. I have to be prepared to work in other areas that are in the business. The business is a big thing, and there are plenty of opportunities to be creative at a time when you have no other options.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

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

Yes, that's well said. I started off as a dishwasher. Eventually, I became a carpenter, and here I am as a member of Parliament after a few years. It's funny how it works. It all works out.

I'll go back to Chief Mathias again.

I had asked a question about the communities and ran out of time before we got to your response. I just want to know—and that's the hopeful future, post-COVID—where you see the need in getting the communities back to functioning on that level we were at before.

I know some of the functionality wasn't even where we wanted it to be pre-COVID, but what do we need in our communities to be successful?

12:45 p.m.

Long Point First Nation

Chief Steeve Mathias

With regard to the comments that were made earlier about getting back to normal, for us, back to normal is really not an option. We talk about welfare cheques because that is what normal was for Winneway: depending on the welfare system.

We need to have access to our own lands and to give ourselves a greater autonomy in how to govern ourselves. That's really what it's going to take. UNDRIP has to be implemented, and that's what we should be working on.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you, Chief. We're out of time.

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

June 12th, 2020 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I want to start by acknowledging that I'm on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. I also want to thank all the witnesses for their outstanding testimonies.

In mid-April, Tunchai Redvers, the co-founder and executive director of We Matter, noted an increase in anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm and hopelessness around youth in communities, and also that youth were turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Grand Chief Fiddler, before I was an MP, I had the privilege of visiting the Nishnawbe Aski Nation with two girls who sent books up to the community, Emma and Julia Mogus of Books with No Bounds. When we went up there, we visited Pelican Falls First Nations High School and met the executive director there, and she talked about the number of youth at that time, in 2013, who were attempting suicide, so it's not a new issue.

Could you speak a bit about some of the issues that the youth in your community are facing and about some of the challenges that COVID has presented in being able to support those youth and their mental health?

12:45 p.m.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler

I think it's also important to note that these challenges existed before this pandemic was declared.

Because we are a party to the Human Rights Tribunal case that Dr. Cindy Blackstock launched back in 2008, we've been able to carve off significant pieces to help support our children and youth in the NAN territory. One unique initiative we've started in the NAN territory is called Choose Life. It was started four years ago after a cluster of suicides in two of our communities.

We were given a three-year extension two years ago, and we have one year left. Every chance I get when I talk to government officials, I always say this needs to be made permanent, so I would ask you to support us in that effort. It's called Choose Life because the issues we're dealing with are long standing. We're dealing with historical trauma from the residential schools and from the Sixties Scoop, issues that we cannot deal with and address with our children in three or four years. This is a life-changing and a life-saving initiative, and I would encourage all of you to learn more about the work NAN is doing to support it and to make it permanent.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Grand Chief Fiddler, is that a pilot program? Could other communities take advantage of the outcomes you get from that, or is it unique to your community?

12:50 p.m.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler

Right now it's unique to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation and we've been very open about sharing this information and the work that our communities are doing with other regions, because we know it's making a difference in the lives of our children. We're still experiencing suicide, but not at the rate we had before.

I would encourage government officials from all the parties to get behind this effort because these challenges are now made even worse by this pandemic. We need to give hope to our children and our youth that these programs will not just be from year to year, and we hope there is going to be an extension. They have to be made permanent because, as I said, these are long-standing issues, and it's going to take all of us to address and be a part of this effort.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you for that.

You want that stability.

Mr. Jackson, I only have about a minute left, but I know you've done a lot of work with youth, and you had the Dreamcatcher Tour to try to deal with youth suicide and mental health. I wonder if you might be able to provide some comments on how we can ensure that youth can access social and cultural supports.

12:50 p.m.

Performer, Creative Industries Coalition

Tom Jackson

There are a couple of things I can say quickly. We obviously need to understand the question. We don't understand the answer because we go into a community, and we assume we know the problem. We need to ask young people what the problem is. They'll tell you, and then we have to react.

If they are brave enough to answer the question, “What stresses you out?”.... It's not suicide. It's an s-word, but it's called “stress”. If we can manage stress, the byproduct is prevention, but we can't assume we know the answer. We can't just pluck that answer out of the air. We have to know the questions, and those are simple questions: What stresses you out? How can you tell someone is stressed out? What do you do when you're stressed out? How can you help somebody who is stressed out? There are a myriad of answers.

I was in the north and I asked this question in a school. There was a young girl in the back of the room, and she said with tears in her eyes, when I asked 26 people, “Popcorn, making popcorn,” and everybody in that room knew exactly what she meant.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm sorry to interrupt at this point, but we need to get in our next round of questioners, which is a two and a half minute round with Ms. Bérubé and Ms. Gazan.

You have the floor.

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Actually, it's my turn, Mr. Chair. Thank you.

My question is for Chief Steeve Mathias.

I appreciated the candour in your response earlier, when you said you didn't want things to go back to normal in your community. You don't want your community to be recognized as a reserve either, because that would make you dependent on the federal government and subject to its paternalistic administrative constraints, as you put it in your opening statement.

Furthermore, you don't want to give up a large part of your territory, but recognition-wise, you face serious issues, especially when it comes to your community's governance, management and autonomy. You talked about your challenges around imposing health measures and not having your own police force. It took the Sûreté du Québec more than three and a half hours to get to your community when you called for assistance in recent weeks. You want the legitimacy of being able to make your own laws.

What tools do you need to ensure the people of your community—or, as we often hear, the young people of your community—have a bright future? In this parliamentary committee, people's voices are heard. What is your message for your community's future?

12:50 p.m.

Long Point First Nation

Chief Steeve Mathias

Thank you for your question.

What are the tools? The first thing it takes is will. It all starts there. It takes political will from governments, which have to stop treating us the way they have for decades, even centuries. That has to change immediately. We always say,

Who knows best for the Anishinabe people from Winneway? It's the Anishinabe people themselves.

Give us the tools and the means, give us access to the resources and the land, and we can govern ourselves and build our own future.

That's what it takes.

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I am 100% behind you on that.

Meegwetch.

12:55 p.m.

Long Point First Nation

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks, Mr. Lemire.

Now we'll go to Ms. Gazan, for two and a half minutes.

Please, go ahead.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Chair, actually, the time in this round is going to Ms. Qaqqaq.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Ms. Qaqqaq, please go ahead.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and sorry about the mix-up.

My question is for Chief Poitras.

While we are still concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 and still have a lot of physical distancing requirements in place, one of my largest concerns is the delivery of mental health supports. Could you talk about how your communities have tried to make sure people are getting the mental health supports they need?

12:55 p.m.

Regional Chief, Alberta Association, Assembly of First Nations

Regional Chief Marlene Poitras

One of the things I've been advocating for in Alberta is to utilize our aboriginal...like the elders, the health professionals and those who work in the mental health field. There was a move towards virtual, providing mental health services online, but of course the issue is that a lot of first nations don't have access to Internet, especially those that have the addictions.

I'm hoping that moving forward we can have a discussion about how we can address the issue of mental health, because it's huge. You've seen the number of suicides, the number of women who are being beaten and murdered. It definitely needs to be addressed, especially if we're going to be looking at a second wave. We have to find ways to mitigate any of the critical issues that come out.

We've been having those discussions here in Alberta, and I'm hopeful that we can find some good answers for the people, especially for the youth. One of the things that I tell FNIHB and ISC here in Alberta is that we have to hear from the youth. They know the answers. They know what works best for them in terms of addressing their mental health concerns.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Chief.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody. That brings us to time for this meeting.

First of all, on behalf of all of our committee members I will say that we're so appreciative of the witnesses' testimony today. It was remarkable. It touches all of us. We're nowhere near finishing our work. That's obvious. There is so much that we still need to talk about.

That brings me to my next suggestion.

Madam Clerk, if I may, after we suspend and adjourn, could we have the lines stay open to just discuss briefly offline the matter of the upcoming session? We have some inhibitions with regard to how we may be able to sit in the summer, and we had some earlier informal discussions about summer sittings. If I may, Madam Clerk, I'm going to look for your nod to allow us to adjourn this formally, and then have a brief discussion following. Would that be okay? I'm getting a nod.

Thank you so much, everyone.

This meeting is now adjourned.