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

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Miller, in your presentation, you talked about the $270 million for income assistance for people on reserves, or the income assistance program that you added $270 million to. The news release talks about this also helping to hire additional staff to better serve first nations communities and better connect individuals to other government programs.

I'm curious as to whether you could identify how much of that $270 million was actually getting to the ground on the first nations to help with income assistance, and how much was internal resources to add staff and administration.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Gary, that was the whole 30 seconds.

Could you respond to that question in writing, Mr. Miller?

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

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

I will.

We plan to deploy this shortly. I will note one nuance, though. As people in Canada, regardless of whether they are indigenous or not, have suffered income challenges, we have to manage for additional caseloads, so some of the elements you see may reflect that, but I would note that sensitivity as we get back to you.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you.

I'm now having problems juggling the speakers list as well, for technical and other reasons.

I have Ms. Damoff as our next Liberal speaker, for five minutes. Pam, please go ahead.

June 16th, 2020 / 6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

After Jaime giving us all a great laugh with his kids at home, I'm going to pass it over to him for the next question.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Go ahead.

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I want to apologize. It's a hard life being a single dad sometimes.

On a serious note, we've all been hearing about the institutional racism that exists in Canada. I've been frustrated myself, and deeply concerned, with what I'm hearing from chiefs who have lost community members because of what's going on. They have talked to me and pleaded for justice and change.

I would like to get a sense from the ministers, especially Minister Vandal, who is an indigenous person as well, of what's happening now. What are we doing to address systemic racism and what are we doing to decolonize some of our institutions?

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Thank you so much, Jaime. That's a great question.

First of all, I want to say clearly that the images we've been seeing on television for the last couple of weeks—whether it's in Nunavut, Alberta, the Maritimes or Minneapolis—are absolutely unacceptable. For me personally, they are revolting. It's something that our country, our society, can really no longer put up with.

I'm talking to you from Winnipeg, and when I first started getting involved in community issues and politics, there was something called the aboriginal justice inquiry that kicked off in the late 1980s. Judge Murray Sinclair presided over it. Three years or four years later, there was a big book of recommendations on how we work ourselves out of it. Successive governments since that time have done something; others have not done anything.

The bottom line is that 20-some years later, there is not a lot of change in the city of Winnipeg. We've had three shootings of young indigenous people in the last six months. That is unacceptable.

Since then, of course, we've had the calls to action from the truth and reconciliation commission. We've had the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous girls and women.

I think that all levels of government have been shown the way over successive years. What we really need to do is to act, to do something more dramatic, which hasn't been done in a long time.

There are no simple solutions. There is no silver bullet that's going to turn all of this around. We have to take collective action. We have to take a whole-of-government approach and a whole-of-society approach. That's the way to do it.

In trying to answer your question, I know that our government has spent unprecedented amounts, at least $25 billion in new money, to try to change education, health care and infrastructure, to try to change those social determinants of health to let young people have a better chance out there.

However, it's not just the indigenous population; it's the non-indigenous population that has an even greater responsibility. It is really built into our colonial system, where the first three policy objectives of the Government of Canada were to civilize, to Christianize and to assimilate indigenous people into Canadian life way back when Canada was formed. That is really the basis of the racism. It needs to stop, and it needs a dramatic government intervention.

I hope that our government will be able to lead the way, because the images we saw of police brutality are absolutely unacceptable. We need to stop the hate, the violence, and we need to stop the racism.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you.

Do we have time for any of the other ministers to answer that, Bob?

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We have 45 seconds. Someone can try.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

I don't think I can say it any better than what Dan said. Maybe Carolyn has some words.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

That's fine.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

I just think that as we look to other models of policing that are community-based and first nations-led, that is the work that Minister Miller, Minister Blair and all of us will be helping with as we look to the success of Kwanlin Dün and what happens when you have trusted people who know the community. Calls to the RCMP dropped by 30%.

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

That does bring us to time. Thank you very much.

We now have a round of two and a half minutes.

Ms. Michaud, you have the floor.

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Earlier, I ran out of time before I could thank Mr. Miller for his kind words about my leader. I will certainly pass them on to him.

The key message in his speech, of course, came from Mr. Picard. He said that in three months, police operations have claimed more victims than COVID-19 itself, which is quite unbelievable.

This brings to light several issues. Since the 1960s, 14 commission of inquiry reports have been released, all with the same damning conclusions. We have been aware of problems, inequalities and injustices for a long time, but it seems only now that people are thinking of going into solution mode.

Beyond funding, what has been done so far to address these issues? It is not just a matter of putting money on the table to fix them. What has been done so far?

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

We are all becoming aware of the situation and we are outraged. Over the past few weeks, you may have seen me express my outrage on television. As you have pointed out, now it is time to act.

When the MMIWG report came out, we did not delay in taking action, especially with regard to the findings on police forces.

These measures are not only the responsibility of the federal government, but also of the provincial governments, as they also control their own police forces. There is work to be done in the short, medium and long term.

First nations have long called for policing to be under their own control and managed by their communities. I know many indigenous people who have served in the military and have been part of a non-indigenous police force. They, too, would like to have an indigenous police force in their communities because the situation is unacceptable.

As ministers—three of us are here at today's meeting—we feel that now is the time to act. This will not happen overnight. We can take action in the short term, but it is a job, as Minister Vandal pointed out in English a few minutes ago, that will also be done in the medium and long term, even if it means reforming a police force. This promise was made two years ago.

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Thank you. Can you provide examples of steps to be taken?

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We're at time right now. I'm sorry to interrupt, but we're way over time.

Now we have Ms. Gazan for two and a half minutes. Please go ahead.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Minister Bennett.

On April 11, 2016, you promised this very committee that your government was committed to putting an end to long-term boil water advisories on reserve within five years. On June 11, 2019, you promised that boil water advisories would end by 2021. Clearly, your government is going to be breaking another promise to indigenous people.

I looked on the website. It has not been updated in terms of boil water advisories since February 15, 2020. That was prior to COVID.

In the estimates, you've allocated approximately $6,832,500 for capital investments. How much of that $6 million will be invested to end boil water advisories?

If you could you limit your response because of the short amount of time, thank you.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I would perhaps note that this is a question that most likely should have been directed to me, since Indigenous Services Canada is in charge, in addition to the communities that are affected, in eliminating those boil water advisories.

I believe what you have said to be correct. There have been no public updates since March and perhaps the end of February.

We have continued to invest in ensuring that short-term water advisories do not become long-term ones. Those that are on the list, and indeed the ones remaining, are the most complicated, but I would note that as of December 31, 2019, we've invested more than $1.4 billion with targeted funding to support over 602 waste-water projects, including 276 that are actually now complete. These projects serve about half a million people in first nation communities.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

I have just one last point. With COVID, we now know that it's more urgent. This is a very clear human rights violation, and wilful. What is your plan? How long is this going to take? This is a life and death matter.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Our plan, MP Gazan, is to eliminate the long-term drinking water advisories on reserve.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

By when, Minister?

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

We continue aggressively to meet that spring 2021 date that we've set. My team is working around the clock, despite COVID, to keep working on that date. This is community-by-community decision-making, and we are engaged with those communities to ensure that they have the supports they need, even in the face of communities that have decided to close down. We want to make sure that they do have that support for what is best described as an essential service.

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you. Thanks, Ms. Gazan.

You will recall that we were very late getting started because of a number of technical issues. I said that I would ask the committee, because we need unanimous consent to continue after the hour.

Is it the wish of the committee to continue to fill out our round of questioning? Are there any comments? Does anyone have issues that would not enable them to?