Evidence of meeting #18 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 masks.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Arianne Reza  Assistant Deputy Minister, Procurement, Department of Public Works and Government Services

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

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

On another note—

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We're at time right there, Minister.

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you.

Ms. Gazan, you're up for a six-minute round of questions.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the minister for attending today.

On Tuesday you stated, “This has been an emotional time. We have all been upset by the images on our screens and the undeniable evidence of systemic racism in Canada. It is the basis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls”.

You acknowledge this crisis, yet your government reneged on its promise to have a national action plan in June in spite of the increases in violence against indigenous women that has occurred during COVID-19.

Do you believe that inaction is an appropriate response? You had at least eight months prior to COVID. Chief Commissioner Buller notes that use of that excuse is an embarrassment to the government. Women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people continue to go missing and die. When will a national action plan be released?

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

First, thank you for your advocacy, but I also want to say that the work commenced immediately after the national inquiry report was tabled. The assistant deputy ministers committees were struck by all the provinces and territories right after the election. We were able to begin funding the indigenous organizations that needed to engage with their people. Those reports have only recently come in, because of some of the delays as a result of COVID. The work continues and the response to the interim report....

We will not let these families and survivors down. We're going to get this done. Lots of people believe that this, because of the intensity of the kind of discovery of wise practices and respect across the country—

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Minister Bennett, with all due respect, that is not an acceptable response. Families, advocates and even the commissioners have voiced their concerns about the lack of transparency. In a letter, the commissioners themselves called it “one year of inaction” with “the lack of transparency”.

When I tried to get answers from you about when you would release a national action plan, you simply told me to go and look at a website.

Last month, Hilda Anderson-Pyrz of the Manitoba MMIWG2S coalition said, “It's really concerning for me as a family member and as an advocate that we've heard nothing.” This is what we've been hearing from family members across the country.

You promised again today not to let them down. It's too late. Your frantic scrambling that we have witnessed over the last weeks clearly demonstrated you have wasted at least eight months since the release of the report, despite your promise to have a national action plan within one year following the report's tabling.

Can you grace this committee with information on at least the stage at which the national action plan is at?

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

I really dispute the word “inaction”. In the half-day I spent with the federal, provincial and territorial ministers on the status of women in December, we asked them to begin identifying their wise practices and to begin building their plan. We have been doing the same at the federal level. I am impressed by the work that has been going on, and particularly with the Manitoba coalition. It has—

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Again, Minister, those are not my words. Those are the words of commissioners, family members and victims of violence.

I have one last question, because I have a limited amount of time. A year ago when the MMIWG2S report was released, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, stated that “it's very important that Canada will make an action plan. A national action plan...”.

It has been over a year now since the report was released, and the international community can see that nothing has been done with respect to the ongoing human rights violations against indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals.

Did your government expect to secure a UN Security Council seat when you clearly turned a blind eye to the human rights violations at home and abroad, in violation of your domestic and international human rights obligations, including your failure to release a national action plan?

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

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

I think the comment that's the most important in what you've read is the fact that it needs to be a national action plan. This is not a federal report that I can just write and table. This has to be in partnership with every single province and territory, and we have that—

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

I'm just reiterating your promise, Minister. Your government promised to have a national action plan tabled one year after the report was released. These are not my words; these are your government's words.

When will the national action plan be released? I would like a date.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have one minute left.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

We see this as urgent as well, and we will work with our provinces and territories, and our first nations, Inuit, Métis and two-spirit partners...an urban plan. We need a really good plan, but the most important thing I would like you to help me with would be this. What indicators would you say would enable us to show—

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

You've had almost a year, Minister, to figure out all of these things. Because you've now reneged on your promise, I would like you to show your commitment and indicate that this is urgent by actually having a national action plan.

What date can we expect a national action plan?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

We will have a national action plan when our partners believe it is appropriate to release that, with a consensus. We are working with our partners to make that happen as soon as possible.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks, Minister.

We'll now go to five-minute rounds with Mr. Schmale, Mr. Powlowski, Mr. Viersen and Ms. Zann.

Mr. Schmale, you have five minutes. Please go ahead.

June 19th, 2020 / 11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you, Minister. It's great to see you again.

You talked about your plan and working with your partners. Can you give us a brief idea of how many partners you have and how you expect to achieve consensus with each and every one of those groups and individuals?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

We start with 13 partners, which is every province and territory, and then we have been very grateful for the input of the AFN Women's Council, the Michif women as part of the Métis Nation, Pauktuutit, who have done their engagement to be able to inform this plan in the best possible way. NWAC has done its work. The new organization, 2 Spirits in Motion, really did an excellent job of what it believes needs to be part of a national action plan.

We have many other partners. They are informing this, particularly as we develop the indicator data working group to be able to make sure their engagement now informs what will be an accountable plan over the next five years, where we will want to assure families and survivors that we're getting results with this plan.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Building on what Ms. Gazan was talking about, it's been over a year and, again, these are your government's words, not hers or mine. Given the fact that you are working with other partners, how much longer do you think it will take to achieve consensus? Can you tell us what some of the stumbling blocks are so that maybe this committee could help?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

That's a great question.

In Yukon the Women's Circle, plus the first nations, plus Chief Doris Bill, who has a wise practice on peace officers, together with Minister Dendys and the Government of the Yukon were almost ready before COVID-19 to release a plan on their four points.

We are working with all of the provinces and territories.

In your province, Jamie, Minister Dunlop is working with an advisory committee, but in Ontario, the family liaison units and Kim Murray have really become a wise practice as we build on strengths and make sure that the national action plan reflects the wise and promising practices in all of the provinces and territories.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Minister, in a CTV News article, you were quoted as saying, “We acknowledge we must redouble our efforts to eliminate the systemic racism arising from colonial policies and attitudes”, when talking about the report. Having said that, are you or your department considering speaking or talking more openly about providing off-ramps to those who want to get away from the Indian Act, which is considered racist by many people on all sides of the political spectrum and within Canada in general?

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

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

Absolutely, and I think even about the comments I had in a conversation yesterday on first nations policing.

This is all about self-determination and being able to get out of the colonial systems that have not been safe for indigenous peoples in our country. Over half of the Indian Act bands in Canada are now at a table being able to talk about asserting their jurisdiction, whether it's on child and family services, whether it's on fish, or whether it's on education or health care. We are actually, I think, really building towards that kind of momentum in nation building.

We have funding for nation building and a lot of excellent work that really will speak to a new relationship, which will really be based on the recognition of rights and the right to self-determination, as well as on respect and co-operation, and something that feels like a partnership to our partners.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Chair, how much time do I have?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have 20 seconds.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

I will address that in the second round.

Thank you very much, everyone.