Evidence of meeting #17 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 miller.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Daniel Quan-Watson  Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Serge Beaudoin  Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs Organization, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Valerie Gideon  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services
Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services
Annie Boudreau  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

6:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm going to ask that we carry on now for the remainder of the questioning round, which is a five-minute round, followed by a round of two and a half minutes.

Mr. Viersen, you are up for five minutes.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My questions continue with Minister Bennett.

Thanks, once again, for being here.

I also want to thank the IT folks for making this all happen. I'm definitely looking forward to doing this in person back in Ottawa soon.

Minister Bennett, the last time I had an opportunity to ask questions, we were talking about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Over 50% of the victims of human trafficking in Canada are indigenous women and girls. Under the “Master List of Report Recommendations”, there are theme 14 and theme 14a, which is “The need to address human trafficking of Indigenous women and girls”. Are you familiar with those two themes?

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Yes. As you've followed and have said, human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes, and indigenous women and girls are very much overrepresented in this terrible crime.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

One of the key recommendations consistent in both of these themes is the focus on the prosecution of pimps and johns rather than the prostituted and trafficked women. Do you agree with the national inquiry's recommendations to focus on the demand, rather than to target the supply?

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

The government, as you know, has launched a new comprehensive national strategy to combat human trafficking in all its forms, as well as to protect the victims who are the most vulnerable. This is $75 million in additional investments. The national strategy to combat human trafficking will be able to increase Canada's ability to fight this attack on basic human rights and dignity.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Will any part of the national action plan, in response to the national inquiry, have a piece around human trafficking, sex trafficking or modern-day slavery?

7 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Absolutely. This is, again, very important in terms of responding to the national inquiry and the work that will be done with the provinces and territories as well. I know as a physician that one of the areas where we really need to do better is in educating front-line health workers to be suspicious that perhaps this young woman who comes with another person might be the victim of trafficking. We need to be able to have people think of it. If you don't think of it, then you don't diagnose it and you don't actually find that person a way out.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Minister Bennett, your mandate is about restoring the relationship between Canada and first nations. I have been in the COVID committee, asking Minister Anand about the procurement process in Canada. Have you been facilitating the procurement at all of PPE from first nations communities for the federal government?

7 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I do not sit on the COVID committee, but Minister Miller and Minister Anand are working together, and I know you'll have the opportunity to ask them both that question on Friday.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

So your office has not been facilitating any indigenous companies that are looking to supply PPE to the federal government. You're not aware of any of those kinds of accommodations.

7 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I am not aware that those companies have approached our office, but I would certainly be supportive of getting people to the right places. As you know, very many companies have approached both Minister Bains and Minister Anand. We do think that the response from indigenous communities is impressive. I've been so impressed with the cloth face masks that they've been able to provide for their communities, but I am not aware of what the link to the federal government procurement has been.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Are you aware of any indigenous companies that have a contract with the federal government?

7 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

I am not aware of that. I know you've asked that question in the House of Commons, and I hope we can find that for you.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

How about Mr. Miller?

7 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

MP Viersen, thank you for that question. In fact, I would probably encourage a more developed question or at least more time to respond on Friday. We do have a number of examples. They are too few, but clearly it's something we're very aware of, and we're moving to make sure that we do fill that need and demand from indigenous PPE providers.

7 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

Thanks, Mr. Viersen.

Ms. Zann, your five minutes are ready to go. Please go ahead.

June 16th, 2020 / 7 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thanks again, everybody, for all of your questions. They are really good and respectful questions from the committee and very interesting answers from the ministers. I really appreciate it.

I want to talk again about self-governance. We know that when indigenous communities move towards self-governance and self-determination, they really have better outcomes right across the board. Jaime can tell us that is the case with education, for instance, and also with health care, and one would imagine with policing. If we can go in that direction and prevent all these terrible atrocities that are happening.... Two in New Brunswick just in the last while were health wellness checks, and people ended up with five bullets in them or two bullets in them. It's just terrible.

My question involves the $24 million that was allocated to the band support program in the supplementary estimates. That was to help first nations move towards self-determination. Do you know yet—this is to any of the ministers—how that's being used? What else do we need to do to help first nations people and communities move towards self-determination?

Perhaps all three of you could give a quick answer; I'd really appreciate hearing from all three of you.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Both Minister Miller and Minister Blair have the mandate now to move on first nations policing. We have seen what has happened in Yukon, and we've seen the results when you have a more community-based approach. I think that the legislation that Minister Blair has committed to bringing in is the kind that changes it from the kind of program under which, for years, even those with first nations policing have worried every March whether the money would be there again or whether they'd be laying people off. Moving it to statutory funding as an essential service will make a big difference in people having the confidence to go forward with designing a regional force to be able to do the things they know work well, whether it's in their community or as a treaty group.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you.

Minister Vandal, would you comment?

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

That's a great question. I don't have a lot of detailed information on the initiatives Minister Blair is moving forward on, but I think just philosophically that self-determination and letting indigenous nations take care of their own governance and take care of their own community, whether it's child and family services or whether it's policing or health, is going to bring many more positive returns than what we've been doing thus far, so it's time for a change.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you.

Minister Miller, would you comment?

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

As an equally overarching comment, one of the observations I've had in the short time in which I've had the honour to serve as indigenous services minister is that at some point you realize that the pace has to be dictated by indigenous communities, and not the reverse. That means we talk on their terms and according to their priorities, and that we realize there's not a one-size-fits-all answer, which is so self-evident.

You may go into a particular community and say this framework we've proposed works perfectly. You may go into a different part of the country and hear “No, we have a treaty basis and we would like to proceed along those terms”, or in a different part of the country it might be rejected entirely and there's a different nature of discussion.

This is self-evident to the communities you're discussing, but perhaps not to a number of well-meaning, non-indigenous people, including me a couple of years ago, for sure. This is a long process. It is indeed sometimes frustrating, but I think this government has been dedicated to doing its best to get it right.

It requires patience. It requires dialogue first and foremost, but also recognition that it is key to support those pillars that I mentioned in response to Adam. They are pillars to identity and self-governance and nationhood that we take for granted, but they are very important in fostering and continuing to foster in the right way.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you so much. I appreciate that.