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

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks very much, because we want to ensure that all of our rounds of questions are complete.

Next is Mr. Powlowski for five minutes.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marcus Powlowski Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Minister, thanks for being here.

I want to talk a bit about the national action plan. I realize that you've spoken to a lot of people in various communities, especially the indigenous community, as to what goes into the national action plan. I want to find out what you were hearing, especially from the indigenous community, as to what is needed in developing a national plan that is not only effective but also accountable.

In responding, could you talk about both, but especially about the issue of accountability? How can you make such a plan accountable and ensure that, in fact, we're delivering on the plan and that it's actually having results?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you for being able to underline the need for better data. Through COVID-19 I think we've learned we weren't getting good data, and we certainly weren't getting it in real time. You can't manage what you don't measure. For us to be able to honour our pledge to the families and survivors, we will put in concrete actions to stop this tragedy.

We're going to have to show whether it's working or not. That is why the working group on data will build out the kinds of indicators they would want measured and whether that's high-school leaving, children in care or over-incarceration of indigenous people, we need to measure a lot of indicators so we flatten that curve in the way that data matters.

I wanted to speak to you a little about the kind of education that emergency physicians are now being asked to understand: identifying trafficking, and not allowing that adult into the examining room with the young person, when we think we're being nice as doctors. That might be a trafficked person who isn't able to speak to you frankly. We're learning a lot as we listen to families. We listen to victims of trafficking. We listen coast to coast to coast. The measurement piece is going to be the reason that this is indeed a national action plan where we have to show results.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Marcus Powlowski Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Where are you going to get those statistics? Is this StatsCan you're talking about?

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

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

I think that disaggregated data has always been difficult to get and I think even in COVID we're now learning that people know they'd better collect it if we're going to be able to be effective in treating it. I think we have to take the same intentional approach to missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and two-spirited and gender-diverse. This is about us.

I've always worried that the things that are already at StatsCan are easier to collect and measure. Probably we're not measuring right now some indicators we should be measuring. Those will be harder to get, but I think the national inquiry has meant that we need a national plan for this, and that will mean getting the data that will inform the efficacy of a plan.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marcus Powlowski Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

In talking to people about statistics related to COVID-19, a common complaint from people in the public health community is the lack of consistent data from hospitals and health care systems, for example. Some of that is apparently because of concerns over privacy. There seems to be a commonality there that we're not getting the kinds of health care statistics that would probably also be needed to inform the national plan. I'm not sure whether you have any thoughts on how to make health care data more accessible to epidemiologists and policy-makers.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

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

What was interesting in talking to the Manitoba coalition was that there's also the qualitative data, the stories. When an indigenous person dies in emerg of a bladder infection because somebody thought he was intoxicated is evidence of a problem. I think it will be interesting to continue to collect the qualitative data. Not only what was said, or what was done, but how someone was made to feel is this ongoing aggression.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm sorry to interrupt.

We go now to Mr. Viersen for five minutes.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you to our guests and witnesses for being here.

Dr. Bennett, for months your government was saying we shouldn't be wearing masks and then that messaging changed. Do you remember the date that message changed?

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

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

All I can tell you, Arnold, is that it's a fight I've been having with my boys from the beginning because, as a physician, I was basing it on the evidence we had to date as to how this virus was transmitted. at the beginning, we did not believe it could be transmitted that way. I have to say that I'm now wearing a mask when I go to the grocery store, and my sons are saying, “We told you so.”

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

It was May 20, so our first nations communities were probably at risk during the time they weren't wearing masks. Is the government providing masks now to indigenous people?

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

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

Absolutely, and I think Minister Miller will be able to expand on that in the next panel.

I have a call every Thursday night with some of the indigenous physicians working in communities across the country, and they are dealing with the reality as the evidence changes and the advice changes, too, but I think they always knew the kind of protection needed to deal with an elder centre or deal with other issues, and they were being provided with the personal protective equipment in order to be able to do their work.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Do you have any idea how many masks have been shipped to first nations communities to this point?

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

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

I think that Minister Miller and the deputy will be able to explain it. It's quite a large number, and there are also the other kinds of protections in non-medical settings. Some of the people who've put in the checkpoints going in and out of their communities and those kinds of things also needed to have masks, and we have continued to provide what the nations need in order to keep their communities safe.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Have you had any problems with first nations communities getting faulty masks? Has that been an issue?

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

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

I don't know, and again that is with Minister Miller, Dr. Gideon, Dr. Wong and Dr. Adams. They will be able to tell you in the next little while. As you know, lots of people were buying from various suppliers. Our job is to support whatever they need.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

It's been reported that we've ordered 120 million masks and have gotten about 10 million, and nine million of them don't meet N95 standards. PSPC is saying that they're redirecting them to other organizations outside of the health system. I'm just wondering if they were ending up in our first nations communities.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

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

Again, I think Minister Miller and Minister Anand will be able to answer that. I have to tell you that N95 masks are not comfortable to wear. Our job is to make sure that the medical people have those masks.

I was so touched when I received some beautiful masks, cloth masks, homemade by Angela Bishop from Saskatchewan, who was providing them for the elders as well as the veterans. It's been very impressive to see that work start up so fast in terms of seamstresses being able to provide safety for their communities with the beautiful cloth masks.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

We'll move on now. I appreciate everyone's timeliness.

Ms. Zann, you have five minutes. Please go ahead.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Hello there. Thank you, Minister Bennett, for coming back to our committee today.

I want to welcome everybody from the beautiful Mi'kmaq unceded territory here in Cobequid or Wagobagitk, as it used to be called, in Cumberland—Colchester.

We were talking the other day about systemic racism. I have been listening to various programs, the CBC and various other things recently, and reading a lot, of course. What a lot of people are saying about systemic racism is that we need to keep hiring first nations and black members of the community and have more diversity in jobs, in businesses and also in levels of government.

One of the things I remember from when I was in the provincial government here in Nova Scotia is having arguments with the deputy minister of a particular department because the all-white staff just couldn't understand that our Mi'kmaq community centre and museum did not own their artifacts because they felt the ancestors owned them.

To try to explain that to somebody who just didn't get it and who didn't get the culture, I finally had to say, “Look, you're Scottish from Cape Breton, right? Imagine if you weren't allowed to sing in Gaelic and you weren't allowed to do Highland dancing or you would be thrown in jail. Imagine you weren't allowed to speak your own language.”

These are the problems that have been building up. People just don't understand the culture. Again, as we mentioned the other day, it's a lack of respect, too.

What can we do, Minister, to try to change that as quickly as possible? I think this will help deal with the problem of why first nations women and girls are treated like they are not even second-class citizens. They're just not respected or treated with value, and their lives don't seem to be as valued as others'. What do you suggest we can do as a society and a government?

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

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

With it being National Indigenous History Month and what we've been trying to do with indigenous reads and all of the books here, it's hard. I wish I could change it. I think prescribing all the books in the world and the lovely, amazing films by indigenous filmmakers is a start, but it is about a relationship. It is about respect. It is about having indigenous people, women and girls in leadership and making sure they are able to influence the institutions.

From Indigenous Works and Kelly Lendsay's work in Saskatchewan, it's not about changing the indigenous person to be able to fit into an institution. It's about changing the institution so that indigenous people feel safe. Also, it's about how they can influence the institution.

The indigenous world view is really the future of Canada. Thinking seven generations out, using the medicine wheel instead of the medical model, using indigenous pedagogy, respecting elders, putting children first and listening to wise women are all things that were here and were good until the settlers arrived and decided they were superior. That's what we've got to change.

I believe you shouldn't have to be an MD or an MP in order to have new friends. We've got to make it safer for indigenous people to want to work in government. For a lot of them, it's going to the dark side. We need to really be intentional about those kinds of changes in policing, hospitals, universities and all of the institutions where they've had that experience as well.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much. We're right at time.

We'll have a two-and-a-half-minute round of questioning now.

Ms. Bérubé, you have the floor.

June 19th, 2020 / 11:55 a.m.

Bloc

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

Thank you.

I want to thank all the participants and witnesses, along with the interpreters and the technical service staff.

I'm on the traditional territory of the Algonquin, Anishinabe and Cree people of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

My question is for Minister Bennett.

Why aren't the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls being consulted and given information on the national action plan?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you for the question.

The families of survivors must have input into the development of the plan. The plan must also include indicators to allow for accountability over the next five years.

The $6 million included in the supplementary estimates tabled this week will be used to fund the commitments to the families and survivors and to seek their advice on the plan.