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

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Minister, over the last five years, I've personally provided you with evidence of harassment, intimidation—even as far as intimidation at gunpoint—and growing tensions within my region between non-first nations and first nations. You've still refused to act. Why is that?

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Again, I think this is.... My responsibility is about building a relationship and trying to have durable solutions in all of the regions across the country. I think that in terms of policing and jurisdiction, that also becomes provincial in terms of how people end up seeking justice on both sides, so I again commit to doing what we can together to make sure that people feel safe.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you. We're right at time there.

I have Mr. Powlowski next, but I don't see him. Having toured his home earlier, I'm not seeing him in that particular room, so I'm going to ask Mr. Battiste if he can step in now and carry on for this five-minute segment.

Jaime.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Minister Bennett.

As we look to rebuild after COVID-19, we are looking to build back better. We've heard from many witnesses that the normal on reserve is far below the Canadian standard. Many witnesses stated that in order for first nations to grow and not rely on government, they need to access financial capital and loans to be able to grow their economies.

I'm wondering, as part of our efforts to move forward, whether there is the ability for us to also include first nations government in that, in terms of their ability to grow through forgivable loans, interest-free loans, as we've seen as part of the COVID money.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

I think Minister Miller would be in a better position to answer this. We certainly have been investing in the self-determination and in nation rebuilding, but in terms of that kind of support, that has been coming from Indigenous Services Canada.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

MP Battiste, I think we've seen a real increase, particularly on the west coast but moving east, of the use of 10-year grants. They are very important in creating that predictability and ability to look over 10 years as to what the needs in communities are. My mandate letter, as well as a number of other ministers', contained undertakings toward indigenous people in closing the infrastructure gap.

We work with communities. Our regional directors work on the five-year infrastructure plans that are key to the planning of communities. It's something that I think we need to take a look at as we take stock and ask, “What is the new normal? What are the needs within communities to ensure that they thrive, that they grow and that we can continue the nation-to-nation relationship?” That includes looking at financial instruments that non-indigenous communities take for granted or that are available and haven't necessarily been available.

A number of the issues that we face on a daily basis.... Communities choose to get out from under the Indian Act. Again, these are slow discussions, but they are deliberate ones. They are very important in order to make sure that community decision-making, nation decision-making, is not made from Ottawa but, indeed, made by the peoples and the nations that we are trying to improve our relationship with.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Mr. Miller.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Jaime, if I can just add.... I know that you know well the First Nations Finance Authority. During this time, we did provide it with $17.1 million so that it could deal with some of the first nations with existing loans and work in partnership with them to make sure that any potential trouble was ameliorated.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you very much.

The band support funding is certainly good to see—another $24 million on top of the $48 million delivered to 222 first nations—but it was intended as an interim measure.

I know that I've reached out to both ministers on the wage subsidy, on making sure that indigenous businesses are eligible. However, some of the indigenous leaders I've heard from are saying that the CRA has been telling them that they're not eligible because they don't pay into taxes. I'm just wondering if there's an ability to reach out to the CRA and to work between departments to figure out why some indigenous businesses are being told that they aren't eligible when our government has said that they should be.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

This is something we have been struggling with from the very beginning.

There was never any intention to exclude band-owned businesses, for example, or support to indigenous communities. A number of modifications needed to be made in order to effect that, and if it's an issue of clearing that up with CRA, absolutely. Sometimes it is on a case-by-case basis and depends on the business's eligibility, which all Canadians are struggling with, but this is something that we can work with on a case-by-case basis with CRA.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have 20 seconds.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

That's it.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you.

Mr. Vidal, you have five minutes. Go ahead, please.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In addition to the limited scrutiny and transparency that I talked about in my earlier round of questioning, as identified by the PBO this morning, the House of Commons is no longer actually sitting, and because of that, I'm not able to ask or submit order paper questions. This question might be one that I would normally have as an order paper question, but I'm going to ask it in this forum. It's for Minister Miller.

Last week I spoke with Chief Peter Bill of the Pelican Lake First Nation in my riding. He expressed his concern that the carbon tax is raising the cost of fuel, heating fuel and other goods in his first nation, and is making life more expensive for members of his first nation.

Minister, can you tell me how much carbon tax revenue the Government of Canada is collecting directly from first nations across Canada?

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

I cannot personally. I would ask if any officials are on the line, and perhaps our CFO or J.F. could answer that.

6:40 p.m.

Jean-François Tremblay Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Normally the products, if I remember correctly, would be taxed off reserve. I'm not sure we are taxing on-reserve products per se, those that are sold on reserve.

We can follow up and try to give you the information, but it's not information that I have at the moment. I doubt that the CFO would have that information.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I appreciate that maybe you don't have that at your fingertips, but if you could clarify for me whether or not the chief is wrong, that would be good. If he's correct—

6:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

I would never say that a chief is wrong.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

If you could provide me with a number on that and follow up, that would be appreciated as well. I can then take that number back to the chief and provide it to him directly.

Minister Miller, to you as well, the last time this committee reviewed estimates—I think it was the main estimates—I questioned you or talked to you about the department and the implementation of Bill C-92 and how that was going and whatnot. In these supplementary estimates now, there's an additional $468 million that's identified as being for Bill C-92 implementation.

Can you identify for us how many first nations have applied to take control over their child and family services? I understand they have to indicate their intent as part of the application process. How many have actually started down that journey?

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes, and thank you for the question. It's a very important one as part of my mandate, but most importantly for communities that want to take that jurisdiction and assert the right to self-determination.

We have a number that have applied, and I would defer to my department to disclose the specific number at this time. If not, we can undertake to get back to you.

J.F., can you answer, please?

6:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

Let me come back to you on this, because a lot of them have expressed interest, but that doesn't mean they formally sent us a demand.

We have received some over the last few weeks, so I want to make sure that we have the more accurate numbers. I would prefer to make sure we have all of them and give you a sense of the ones that have expressed interest, that want to engage with us. Some of them would say they're not necessarily expecting to get there and take jurisdiction in the next few years, for example, which is different from the ones that will say that in a year from now they expect they will actually take jurisdiction. That's the difference. I will try to separate those two, do the triage, and we can respond to you in writing.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Gary, I would just like to say that in a lot of the negotiations on self-determination, child and family are quite often at the top of the list as the incentive to take back that jurisdiction.

There's the child well-being law with the Anishinabe nation here in Ontario, and we did sign an agreement with some of the hereditary chiefs at Wet'suwet'en. There is a real need to bring their children back in all of the negotiations that we're doing.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I appreciate that.

Perhaps you wouldn't mind also including for me some idea of how we are tracking against the targets that have been set.

I think I have time for one quick question, Mr. Chair, if I watch the clock here.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have 30 seconds. Go ahead.