Evidence of meeting #2 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 services.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Daniel Watson  Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Jean-François Tremblay  Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services
Serge Beaudoin  Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'd like to welcome everyone to this meeting of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. I will acknowledge, first of all, that it is taking place on the traditional lands of the Algonquin people.

Our business today will begin with the subcommittee on agenda and procedure, which met the other day. I believe all the material has been circulated to you.

Is it the pleasure of the committee to concur in the first report of the subcommittee?

11:05 a.m.

A voice

Yes.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Could I have a motion, then?

It is moved by Arnold Viersen that the first report of the subcommittee on agenda and procedure be adopted.

(Motion agreed to)

Thank you very much.

It, of course, includes the study material, and so on. We can, perhaps, discuss that later on today.

Pursuant to the motion adopted earlier, the committee will now receive briefings by the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and from the Department of Indigenous Services.

Each department has been given up to 10 minutes to make an opening statement, and then we'll proceed with questions and answers.

I invite the representatives to come forward now.

Welcome, all.

As mentioned earlier, we'll give each of our groups up to 10 minutes to make opening statements, and then we'll move to our committee members with questions and answers.

Perhaps we could start with the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.

11:05 a.m.

Daniel Watson Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I will try not to use all of the 10 minutes, so that more time may remain for questions.

Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee.

We meet today on the traditional lands of the Algonquin nation.

With me is Serge Beaudoin, Assistant Deputy Minister of Northern Affairs; Annie Boudreau, Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer; and my colleague Martin Reiher, Assistant Deputy Minister at the department.

As the committee begins its important work, we appreciate the opportunity to discuss the role of our department in promoting reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

To begin, I will describe some of my department's work and mention a few recent accomplishments.

Strengthening the relationship with indigenous peoples is central to the mandate of my department. ln pursuit of this goal we've significantly stepped up rights-based discussions with indigenous peoples. Five years ago, most of these discussions only occurred with communities in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Atlantic Canada. Today, active discussions are under way with partners from every province and territory—more than 150 processes, more than 500 indigenous communities, and a total of almost 900,000 indigenous people.

lnforming each one of these processes is a fundamental shift in Canada's attitude toward the rights of indigenous peoples. For many years, Canada abided by the concept of extinguishment and sought to have indigenous peoples cede, release and surrender their rights. This is no longer the case. From a legal perspective, Canada no longer interprets section 35 of the Constitution as an empty box, but rather as a box full of rights. Furthermore, Canada now considers treaties as the foundation and starting point for the work that remains to be done.

An important recent example of this shift toward a recognition and implementation of rights approach is the adoption, in 2019, of a new policy for treaty negotiations jointly developed by Canada, British Columbia and the First Nations Summit that replaces the comprehensive land claims and inherent right policies in British Columbia.

The policy states explicitly that rights cannot be extinguished, that treaties and other agreements can evolve over time and that negotiation mandates will be built through dialogue and collaboration between the parties. These are all key components of a rights-based approach to negotiated agreements and underpin the government's efforts to advance reconciliation.

This shift can be seen at negotiation tables, leading to tangible and timely results. For instance, last summer, July 2019, Canada and the Heiltsuk Nation signed a reconciliation agreement to address community priorities of self-government, housing and infrastructure, economic development and language revitalization and preservation. The agreement is the culmination of a three-year Heiltsuk-driven process that began with the question, what would reconciliation with Canada look like for the Heiltsuk?

Another example is the joint historic reconciliation agreement that Canada and British Columbia signed to support Tsilhqot'in self-determination five years after the landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Tsilhqot'in Nation decision. lt is the first tripartite reconciliation agreement of its kind in the province. This agreement is a tangible expression of the UN Declaration on the Rights of lndigenous Peoples, which recognizes that every nation has unique and distinct paths to self-determination.

Along with rights-based discussions, this government now follows a collaborative approach to policy development. This marks a significant change from the unilateral, standardized approach followed for decades. I am pleased to say that the new approach inspired the development of the collaborative self-government fiscal policy.

Departmental officials worked directly with their counterparts from indigenous communities to co-develop this policy, which provides for the true costs of government. By following a similar approach, we hope to achieve the same success with the comprehensive land claims policy and the inherent right policy.

Co-development is also central to our approach to negotiating self-government agreements with indigenous governments. These agreements enable indigenous peoples to fully implement and exercise their rights.

A prime example is the Anishinabek sectoral education agreement completed in 2017. The agreement is the largest in history and involves some 23 first nations. Under that agreement the first nations now have jurisdiction over education from kindergarten through grade 12. Approximately 2,000 Anishinabek students now study a curriculum that promotes their language and culture.

Other recent self-government agreements of note include those with the Deline and the Cree Nation of the Eeyou Istchee.

Another indication of progress is the series of agreements-in-principle—the penultimate step before final agreements—completed in recent years. The largest of those, with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, involves some 37 communities in Ontario.

A number of innovations help to accelerate the negotiation process and to make it more efficient. The cabinet-approved process to convert agreements-in-principle to final agreements, for example, will save all parties considerable amounts of effort and money.

Another policy change promotes the financial well-being of indigenous governments in a different way. Previously, any revenues that indigenous governments generated on their own were deducted dollar for dollar from the fiscal transfers provided by Canada. This policy was a clear disincentive, because it discouraged indigenous communities from acting to realize their potential to generate revenues of their own. We implemented a moratorium on that old policy. This will incentivize entrepreneurship and foster a spirit of self-sufficiency.

The government has also moved to strengthen relationships with national indigenous organizations. Ensuring that these organizations have the stable, predictable and reasonable funding they need to adequately represent the interests of their constituents will promote reconciliation.

To ensure that key issues are regularly discussed at the highest levels, the Government of Canada established permanent bilateral mechanisms with first nations, Inuit and Metis leaders to identify each community's joint priorities and help the government and indigenous peoples work together to develop solutions.

In recent years, we have also completed political accords with the Native Women's Association of Canada and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.

Canada also continues to make progress in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. Some of the credit for this goes to Parliament for enacting a number of bills that amend Canada's laws. This government also continues to make strategic investments that directly contribute to a better quality of life for indigenous people. Budget 2016, for instance, allocated five-year funding of $8.4 billion to first nations education, infrastructure, training and other programs.

Three additional accomplishments that I want to highlight are the actions to address historical wrongs, such as the sixties scoop and Indian day schools, the work to establish the National Council for Reconciliation, and the measures to resolve issues related to our border with the United States.

The mandate letter of the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations sets the stage for future progress. The letter calls on the minister to work toward developing legislation to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of the year, for example. The minister is also expected, in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, to establish a national action plan in response to the calls for justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

In conclusion, there are many hopeful signs, but much more work remains to be done.

I encourage committee members to recognize that Canada's journey of reconciliation will be lengthy and sometimes difficult. We remain committed to the journey, however, because it will lead to a better place for all Canadians.

Meegwetch.

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Our second delegation will present and then we will go to questions for all of our guests today.

Monsieur Jean-François Tremblay, please introduce your group.

11:15 a.m.

Jean-François Tremblay Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Good morning, Mr. Chair.

It is a pleasure to appear before this committee today.

Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional and unceeded territory of the Algonquin people.

I am joined by Gail Mitchell, Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy and Partnerships.

My goal is to give you a bit of background on Indigenous Services Canada, what we have accomplished so far, and what the road ahead looks like.

The department came into being on November 30, 2017. It brought together first nations and Inuit health services, formerly with Health Canada, with all the other services that were basically inside the old INAC. Those included education, essential social services, child and family services programs, housing, and infrastructure programs. The idea was to replace old colonial structures and to fast-track self-determination, to contribute to closing the socio-economic gaps, and to advance reconciliation.

The legislation that created this department came into force in July 2019, and clearly guides our work ahead, which is first to focus on improving the delivery of services and programs to indigenous communities across the country using a distinctions-based approach, with a particular focus on closing the socio-economic gap between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous Canadians.

Our second goal is to support indigenous peoples in delivering services and improving socio-economic conditions in their communities, because they are best placed to do so.

Indigenous Services Canada works in partnership with first nations, Inuit and Métis to improve access to high-quality services for indigenous peoples, and in doing so, improve the quality of life. The role of Indigenous Services Canada is to listen and support indigenous-led solutions and strategies. This is the only way that we can continue to build a new relationship grounded in the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, partnership and self-determination. As my colleague noted, our approach is changing from imposing to actually moving toward co-developing.

The ultimate goal is to support the self-determination of indigenous people so that Indigenous Services Canada would no longer need to exist.

The objective is for us to disappear.

To this end, the department is focused on five key priorities: children and families together; quality education; improving health outcomes; reliable infrastructure; and economic prosperity.

We have made good progress in all of those areas.

I will use some examples.

On the well-being of indigenous children and keeping children and families together, which is one of the most important priorities, we have passed, thanks to Parliament, the Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families. This legislation puts into law what indigenous peoples across the country have demanded, which is to have jurisdiction to develop and deliver child and family services, so that indigenous communities, organizations, and governments can decide themselves what is best for their children, families and communities. The goal, of course, is to drastically reduce the number of children in care.

We implemented Jordan's principle, which helps first nations children receive the assistance they need when they need it. Between 2016 and 2019, more than 508,000 products, services and supports, like tutoring, educational supports, speech therapy, medical equipment such as hearing aids, and mental health services, were approved under Jordan's principle. Probably half of that was last year, to show you how much it has grown.

We improved quality education for every first nations child by co-developing and implementing with first nations a new policy and funding approach for education on reserve that provides base funding comparable to provincial systems across the country. It also provides resources to support full-time kindergarten to four- and five-year-olds, as well as language and culture programs in first nations schools.

On improving health outcomes, Canada is working with first nations to advance indigenous-led approaches to mental wellness and to provide better access to effective, sustainable and culturally appropriate services.

There are now 63 community-led mental wellness teams serving 344 communities, up from 11 teams in 2015. In December, Minister Miller announced $2.5 million to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to develop an evidence-based suicide prevention strategy.

The goal is to support the development of other regional first nations strategies that would then inform a comprehensive national distinctions-based mental wellness approach.

On infrastructure, we are working to ensure that indigenous people in Canada have access to adequate, safe, healthy and affordable housing and clean drinking water. A joint working group, made up of the Assembly of First Nations and our department, with the support of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, is co-developing a 10-year national first nations housing and related infrastructure implementation plan. Together we have lifted, as you know, 88 long-term drinking water advisories. We are still planning to have them all lifted by March 2021. ln partnership with first nations communities, we are also working toward long-term solutions to improve on-reserve water and waste-water infrastructure and ensure that water facilities operate efficiently and are maintained.

On economic development, we know that closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians in socio-economic conditions could boost Canada's GDP significantly. We have numbers saying that it is $27.7 billion, according to the National Indigenous Economic Development Board. That is why, based on a recommendation co-developed with the Assembly of First Nations to provide sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for first nations, we are working on a 10-year transfer agreement so that first nations can count on predictable funding and have the freedom to design and deliver services based on their priorities. This past year, 85 first nations signed 10-year transfer agreements.

We are also working with all partners and stakeholders to have at least 5% of federal contracts awarded to businesses managed and led by indigenous people. We continue to capitalize aboriginal financial institutions, a key source of funding for indigenous entrepreneurs. Last year alone, these institutions provided $125 million in development loans to indigenous entrepreneurs, helping to establish 1,158 new businesses, 36% of which are owned by indigenous women.

For hundreds of years, indigenous peoples have been calling on the Canadian government to recognize and affirm their jurisdiction over their affairs, to have control over their land, housing, education, governance systems, and services.

There is still a lot to be done. And as we have seen in recent weeks, there will be stumbling blocks along the way, but the work will be worth it.

It is worth it for all of us.

Meegwetch.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

Once again, we will go to our committee. Members have six minutes in the first round of questioning.

Our first speaker will be from the Conservative Party.

Mr. Zimmer.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

It's Mr. Vidal.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Oh, I'm sorry.

Mr. Vidal, please go ahead.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My questions will mostly be for the indigenous services group, because that's the file I'm looking at.

As you mentioned in your report, in June of 2019, Bill C-92, an act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, became law. It was implemented on January 1, 2020. Jeffrey Schiffer, director of Native Child and Family Services of Toronto, Canada's largest urban indigenous child welfare organization, is quoted in a CBC article as saying, “I think it was quick and it was hasty.” He went on to say, “Honestly, it's a little bit reckless to have this legislation come into force without regulations that guide its implementation, and we still have so many different ideas across Canada about what's going to happen [with this].”

I have two questions in that regard. What is the status of creating the regulations to guide the implementation from coast to coast? How many indigenous communities have currently given notice of intention to the Minister of Indigenous Services to assume responsibility for their children?

11:25 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

This legislation was co-developed with first nations, Inuit and Métis organizations. It was not the intention at the time to come up with regulations the day the legislation started. The objective was to work with them on what regulations would make sense for them, as we have to understand that we're not looking for legislation that would provide a one-size-fits-all model for everybody. What we're looking for is more legislation that opens the discussion between the parties to engage at the local and regional levels on what solutions are best. We have to be careful in developing regulations that would impede the capacity of the local and regional levels to develop solutions they prefer.

What we are doing now is re-engaging with first nations, Inuit and Métis organizations. They have expressed, as you can imagine, a desire to have a distinction-based approach at national, regional and local levels. We're looking at different formulas and different processes to put in place that will also involve and engage the provinces and territories, because that's key. That's basically the next step.

In terms of how many have basically self-declared, we have some who have said they want to go ahead. We haven't necessarily seen a lot of legislation per se. Sometimes we have discussions with first nations who say they want to go ahead, but it will be five years from now when they really start. What we're seeing now is people thinking about what the next step is for them.

What we're trying to do, as much as possible, is engage with them early on and ask what they're looking for. You have to remember—and Daniel can probably confirm this—even self-governing first nations have jurisdiction in many areas don't necessarily pass laws in those areas. That's the case for the Nisga'a and for a lot of other first nations.

The act itself of going with the law is something that first nations sometimes will not necessarily do. With a lot of the people who say they're interested in legislation, suddenly the discussion becomes about their desire to have an agreement with the province on this, not necessarily legislation. Therefore, it's really too early to know, but what we are seeing is clearly an interest that is picking up across the country by first nations as well as Métis and Inuit. We've had some of them tell us they will send us something by that date, and we'll have to look at it.

As you know, when we have that draft legislation ready, it would be our duty to make that information public.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you.

As a follow-up to that, I had the opportunity earlier in January to meet with representatives from the Government of Saskatchewan, and they expressed some concerns about a lack of consultation at the provincial level. I'm sure you've heard that before.

Why weren't the provinces consulted or engaged earlier? The social service minister in Saskatchewan expressed an honest concern about no child falling through the cracks. Is there an intention to get the provincial departments more involved in the process going forward than they maybe were during the development of the legislation?

11:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

It's always been an objective to do that. Developing legislation like that is quite a challenge, especially with three groups at the same time. We have kept provinces informed as much as possible. As I've always told them, I never refuse a call when they call me. I've always told them not to hesitate to do that; I invite them to do it. We continue to have those discussions. We had, for example, a meeting for technicians in Toronto in January. Provinces were there. First nations, Inuit and Métis representatives were there, and we were implementing a process to make sure that they would be part of the discussion.

The fact that it brings some nervousness, I think, is normal. It means that we're challenging the status quo. The fact that people are worried that kids will fall in-between the cracks.... I am concerned too, but they were already falling between the cracks at too high a rate. We have to understand that the status quo was not great and that we're trying to move to something different. It creates some turbulence. It creates some challenges and concerns, but at the same time, I think it's the objective to force that discussion and to make sure the discussion is happening. We are engaging with provinces, and we'll continue doing that.

Also, this uncertainty that they feel sometimes, I think, comes from the fact that neither of us wants to impose a one-size-fits-all approach. If I were doing that, they would probably be telling me that it's not the right approach. I think people must have the authorities and actually manage the situation.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

That's your time.

Our next speaker is from the Liberal party, Mr. Jaime Battiste.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, invited guests, for coming to this meeting.

I want to ask two questions, one around education and one around reconciliation.

In Nova Scotia, the Mi'kmaq took control of their education system 20 years ago with Mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey, which we call MK for those who are not linguistically gifted. We saw a 30% graduation rate increase to where we are today at about 90%.

The evidence seems to be clear that first nations-led and first nations-governed education systems achieve better results for first nations students. I also understand that there are 23 Anishinabek nations who have signed a historic self-government agreement on education.

Can you provide an update on the implementation of the Anishinabek education agreement and how MK is viewed by the department? Also, how are you supporting additional first nations to take control of the education of their young people?

I have one question after that, Mr. Chair.

11:30 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

With regard to the Anishinabek one, we may want to send you detailed information because I'm not sure that I have all the details on the implementation of the self-government at this stage.

As for MK—because I'm not linguistically good; you heard my French already—we have a few of them in the country that are, for us—how can I say it?—guiding our actions. They're basically what inspires us in our day-to-day life and in our work. The other one, of course, is the First Nations Health Authority in B.C.

In some cases, it's the first nations under the 10-year grants who are taking control of their funding. MK, as you mentioned, in 20 years closed the gap, and in some aspects they're doing better than the general population in the Atlantic provinces. As you mentioned, even though some people sometimes contest it, that is because it's managed by first nations for first nations.

I met recently with the Cree of Quebec on other issues, and you can see the kind of progress that first nations are making when they actually make the decisions for themselves. That's why, for us, it's a model. That's why I said that the objective of my department is to become obsolete. I say to the staff on a regular basis that we are a species at risk that is looking for its own extinction. The way that it's going to happen cannot be directed from the centre. It's going to be different from place to place, but those are the models that inspire us.

NAN in the north of Ontario is an interesting one. We're doing some work in northern Ontario on health, on what we call “health transformation”. There's work being done in Quebec on health and social services. What we want everywhere, without imposing a model, is to say to the ones who want to take it up, “Let's do it.”

With regard to education, one thing that we've been doing is focusing on the funding formula because if you want to take over the education system, you need to make sure that you have a sufficient amount of money to manage it. We have been developing this formula, which was not easy, in co-development with first nations. It actually provides comparability with provinces, plus funding for some aspects that are not in the provincial formula. As soon as we have the funding formula, the funding, what we say to the first nation is, “Now do you want to take it and how?” MK becomes a model. It's not the only one. Some will say they're not ready to go that far. As you know, some nations would not necessarily work at this regional level, but others, of course, are looking at it.

We see it now becoming more and more evident. The First Nations Health Authority is inspiring people in northern Ontario and people in Quebec, but their solutions will probably be different at the end.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Jaime Battiste Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Before I was elected an MP, I was the treaty education lead for Nova Scotia. I was really happy that one of the places that took me up on treaty education and training in cultural competency was the Amherst Indigenous and Northern Affairs office.

In the era of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, a lot of which mention education and training for creating awareness, and which are really a blueprint for reconciliation in Canada, what kind of education and training are staff of the department doing so that they can have the understanding and empathy for the people they are serving? What training are they doing in Ottawa, and are there any best practices you're utilizing?

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

We have some programs. We have an introductory course on first nations, Inuit and Métis issues. Staff who arrive would have some training. We are now reviewing material to make sure that more and more people get detailed information. We also work on something in the department that is a new idea, which is to put mandatory training in everybody's learning plan every year. That does not necessarily mean going to a course. It could be an activity. It could be reading books. It could be leading with elders. It could be something different. We want people to engage with first nations, Inuit and Métis.

To be very honest and direct on this, I find the best practice is when the relationship is real. It's making sure that our employees have relationships with first nations, Inuit, and Métis and that they see exactly what's going on on the ground. It's more difficult in the headquarters, but the more we can have employees having discussions, having relationships with first nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders, the more it's important. I sometimes call it "indigenization" of the departments. It also means bringing more indigenous people into the department. The department is now at probably 27% or 28% indigenous people. Some of the regions are doing very well. For example, Ontario is now at 50%. We have places where it's easier. There are some challenges related to languages, but also getting people in Ottawa is not always easy. It is something that we're working on, figuring out how to systematically develop hiring processes that will actually target first nations, Inuit, and Métis at all levels.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks very much.

Ms. Bérubé, go ahead.

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

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

I will use my time to give notice of a motion:

That, in accordance with Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertake a study on the current Indigenous crisis in Quebec and Canada; that it invite the key stakeholders at the centre of this crisis: the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs, the ministers concerned and experts on Indigenous affairs; and that it report back to the House.

I also have questions.

Mr. Tremblay, you say that you are ensuring that indigenous people in Canada have access to adequate, safe, healthy and affordable housing, as well as drinking water.

I represent the Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou riding, where situations are currently escalating in terms of access to drinking water and to housing. I know that you have a joint task force, one of whose members is the Assembly of First Nations. Which among the first nations is involved in that joint task force?

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

First nations are made up of 634 communities in Canada. I do not have the exact figures, but 98% of the money we invest in infrastructure is intended for reserves.

As for drinking water, Quebec is one of the best provinces for aboriginals. Quebec currently does not have a long-term drinking water advisory and has not had any in a long time.

We are now working hard to decrease the number of long-term and medium-term advisories, which are likely to become long-term advisories. Over the past two years, there have been 150 advisories, and we have set up projects to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

We are now putting in much more time to provide people with the training they need to take care of drinking water systems. For example, in Quebec, first nations have implemented an initiative called the “Eaulympiques”, which compensates people who take care of water processing and recognizes their work.

In Quebec, the gap between wages on and off reserve is smaller than in other provinces. We are figuring out how we can provide better funding for training. It should also be ensured that they have the necessary financial resources for long-term repairs.

Institutions are another key element to take into consideration. First nations are increasingly implementing water processing initiatives. In the Atlantic, for example, the authorities in charge of water have made proposals.

We are also considering the proposals of the First Nations Infrastructure Institute. We are looking into how we can create infrastructure that is not only based on a single community, but on intermediate parties, who are experts and aboriginals.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

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

Does the joint task force include all the first nations you just mentioned?

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services

Jean-François Tremblay

Yes. We are working with the Assembly of First Nations and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, or CMHC, which is an important partner. We are in constant discussions with regional and local organizations because this cannot only happen at the national level. We start with that and try to gather all the information.

In Quebec, there is a great deal of collaboration among first nations, the CMHC and our department. For instance, there are tripartite tables that discuss housing a lot. It differs from one region to another. The objective is always to determine what solution works the best.

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

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

I assume that it varies from one province to another.

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services