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

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

As far as the Métis nation is concerned, it is very important that they have their own process. Canada's Métis nation must have a process to present to its members.

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

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

Will you work to rectify the situation?

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes.

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

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

At a previous committee meeting, you stated that, according to Chief Ghislain Picard, Quebec first nations need nearly 8,000 housing units. For more than 20 years, the AFNQL has been asking for changes in this regard. How do you plan to improve the supply of housing?

My question is for you, Ms. Bennett.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

I can answer that question.

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

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

Yes, of course, Mr. Miller.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

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

The capital investments our government has made in housing have been for housing in general. In terms of our investments in housing for indigenous people, we have recognized that it has not been enough, and indigenous people are obviously suffering as a result, including through increased vulnerability to COVID-19.

As we emerge from this epidemic, we will therefore have to ask ourselves what level of capitalization exists across Canada, and not only in Quebec, to really address the problem of housing and overcrowding that may exist in the communities. I also include the Inuit communities, who are vulnerable to lung disease, to which overcrowding is a major contributor, especially given COVID-19, and tuberculosis, which is present in some communities.

We must all reflect on this. Above all, we must ensure that we make adequate investments in indigenous communities to overcome this plague.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Thank you.

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you. That's your time.

Now, Ms. Qaqqaq, you have six minutes.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Matna.

Thank you, Chair, and a shout-out to the IT team and translation for always being so great with all of us.

Thank you to the ministers for being here today. With my time crunch, I'm going to ask that you keep your responses to about a minute .

My first two questions are for Minister Miller.

First, the Inuit child first initiative was meant to assist Inuit children and parents. Instead, we hear stories of unbelievable hoops that parents need to jump through. A woman from Iqaluit told the Nunatsiaq News she had applied seven times, writing over 25,000 words, with over 50 appointments with qualified professionals and over 40 supporting letters, among many other items, just in the application process.

That is completely outrageous. We need to ensure Inuit children have access to fulfill their needs. What is being done to make this initiative work for children and parents?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

I thank the member for that very, very important question.

I am very conscious about your time. I do recognize that the child first initiative has been undersubscribed and that we need to deliver that flexibility, but I want to allow the time for my associate, Deputy Minister Valerie Gideon, to answer on that point.

Chair, could we pass that over to Valerie, please?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Go ahead.

June 16th, 2020 / 5:55 p.m.

Valerie Gideon Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services

Very quickly, it's just to say that the Inuit child first initiative right now is an interim approach. We are committed to working with the National Inuit Committee on Health on an approach that will meet the needs of Inuit across Inuit Nunangat.

We are consistently approving requests, and we've approved a number of requests related to COVID-19 as well, but we do believe that, working with the land claim organizations, there can be a simpler way to manage the initiative, which would be led by Inuit for Inuit.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

For my next question, my colleague brought forward motion number 174, a national suicide prevention action plan, in May 2019. Part of that motion stated, “conducting within 18 months comprehensive analyses of high-risk groups”. This was just over a year ago.

We know that Nunavut has the highest suicide rate. What has been done and what is going to be done to assist communities that have needed such resources for years?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

This is part of the undertaking that I undertook towards indigenous peoples when I was asked to serve as minister: to move forward on a national suicide prevention strategy. Some of the leaders in that area were the Inuit, with their suicide prevention strategy.

You will note that the 2021 supplementary estimates provide $5 million in new funding to support the continued implementation specifically of the Inuit-designed and Inuit-led Inuit suicide prevention strategy. This is a long-term solution tailored by Inuit to deal with the effects and the prevention of suicide, and this is something that is done through distribution of funds to Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which you are well familiar with, and the four land claim organizations.

This is building, of course, as you mentioned earlier, on the first three years of the implementation, and the funding will continue for the strengthening of suicide prevention strategies across Inuit Nunangat.

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

I've heard comments from constituents that they wish the federal government would react to our suicide crisis the same way we've been reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

My next two questions are for Minister Bennett.

There are institutions across the country that the federal government has refused to recognize as day schools, even though they clearly were. What was the reasoning to cut more people out of being able to access compensation? Also, when will you make sure that everyone who has suffered from trauma through these programs is compensated?

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you very much for the question.

We believe that a lot of the agreements to date have been based on court action. We don't want anybody to be left out, and we are committing to anyone who was part of a day school or harmed in any way just by going, and then, like all agreements, if there was physical or sexual abuse.... All of these agreements make that part of the way forward for healing. This is really very serious, and we feel that we've moved with McLean, and now we will move on with others.

6 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

I can give you a list to make sure that we are including everyone.

Pauktuutit has requested $20 million to support five shelters across Inuit Nunangat and in Ottawa. In recent announcements, we have not heard of this inclusion. While we know that women in the north are three times more likely to experience violence, over 70% of communities in Inuit Nunavut do not have safe spaces.

The delay in the response to the MMIWG report is nothing but disappointing. When will the federal government assist in providing the much-needed safe spaces for Inuit women and girls?

6 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you.

The member might have noted the undertaking of the government a couple of weeks ago to invest $50 million into women's shelters and sexual assault centres across Canada to help with their capacity over the long term. This is something that does not exclude Nunavut.

This is funding—let me be clear about this—that works with CMHC to deliver that to the institutions and representatives that will administer it, and I have had successive talks with Pauktuutit. This does not exclude their other ask, which is in relation to shelters across Inuit Nunangat, but this can be a partial answer to that request. I am encouraged by the discussions we had, but they will be ongoing as to their capital needs, and we are obviously dedicated to making sure that—

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks—

6 p.m.

NDP

Mumilaaq Qaqqaq NDP Nunavut, NU

Chair, I know I'm well over time.

Thank you.

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm sorry. Thank you.

Mr. Viersen, you are first up on a five-minute round.

6 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our guests and witnesses for being here today.

I also want to thank Mr. Powlowski for giving us a great tour of his house when trying to find some headphones earlier. I appreciate that too.

My questions will be directed to Minister Bennett. Thank you for being here.

With 14 first nations in my riding, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls matters a lot to many of my constituents. One of the chiefs, Chief Billy Joe, lost his youngest daughter, Bella Laboucan-McLean, a few years back in Toronto. Initially, the Toronto police called her death a suicide, and then later that was changed to a suspicious death. To this day, the family doesn't have any answers, and we continue to look for answers. We're looking to have the response to the national inquiry help out with that.

Your mandate letter calls for you to lead the response to the inquiry, but it appears that the national action plan launch has been postponed. Minister Bennett, can you confirm that it has indeed been postponed?

6 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you for the question.

The story of Chief Laboucan and Bella is one that really underlines how much work we have to do. This was a tragedy that happened here in Toronto. I think we are feeling now that the family liaison units that were set up at the launch of the commission itself are helping families to navigate the justice system in a better way and to access healing.

I think there have been families where.... The FILU here in Ontario commissioned the documentary Audrey's Story, where the chief coroner has reopened the case. I think, again, this is about justice for the families, healing for the families and survivors, as well as putting in the concrete measures to stop this tragedy.

Because this is the first-ever national inquiry, it means that all the provinces and territories are working on their plan, their chapter, as well as the distinctions-based lens that will allow first nations, Inuit, Métis and two-spirited and gender-diverse people to have their own views in a national action plan.

Arnold, I think the thing that really matters is that it works. It can't be a national action plan that sits on a shelf. That's why the money in the supplementary estimates today is so important. It will allow us to choose the indicators, work with families and survivors, and make sure that we're measuring/adapting, measuring/adapting, and getting the results. We cannot let those families and survivors down.

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

On what date can we expect the release of this national action plan?