Evidence of meeting #5 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 health.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sony Perron  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Indigenous Services
Valerie Gideon  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Department of Indigenous Services
Daniel Watson  Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Diane Lafleur  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

One of the experts the committee invited on Tuesday, Éric Cardinal, said that the comprehensive land claims policy was an outdated policy and pointed out that it came into force in 1987. One of the things he disliked is that the Liberal government is currently both the judge and the jury when it comes to land claims.

What does your department plan to do to modernize that policy? What do you think about Mr. Cardinal's suggestion to establish a tribunal for recognizing indigenous rights, which would be similar to the Waitangi Tribunal in New Zealand, for example?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

I absolutely agree that this policy is completely outdated.

I want to highlight the good work done by British Columbia's first nations and our public servants, who have successfully developed a policy for first nations through the claims process in the province.

Those words and policies previously prevented successful claims—policies such as the surrender of their rights, the violation of their inherent rights and their land rights. However, we are now changing course to obtain the support needed for discussions and for forgiving the nation's debt.

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

You are talking about the nation's debt, but at the same time, for communities....

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

I'm sorry, your time is up.

Do we need to pause? Do we have a technical issue that we need to clean up? Are we good to go?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

We're good.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Okay, we'll carry on, then.

Mr. Johns, you have six minutes.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, ministers, for being here, especially in light of the crisis right now that we're all facing together.

Minister Bennett, I want to talk about the systemic racism that indigenous people in Canada are going through. A couple of weeks ago we were all invited, as you know—and Minister Miller was there—to hear the story of Colton Boushie and the extremely difficult circumstances his family has dealt with, including the overt racism from our justice system.

Colton's story is just one of thousands in Canada. Given the sheer amount of discrimination and the scope of what needs to be addressed, wouldn't it be appropriate to invite the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples so that she can help us identify...so we can do the work, as parliamentarians, that needs to be done? You've heard me in the House on this. We need to get an answer on it.

We know Colton's family is asking for this and we just need a clear answer. Yes or no, are you going to do it?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

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

Gord, you've raised really important points. I believe that when we met with the Boushie family—as I have done on many occasions with Minister Lametti and Minister Miller—this was really important for awareness of the racism that still exists in our justice system in all of the areas.

As we've learned through the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls inquiry, whether it's education, health or justice, racism is everywhere and the outcomes for first nations, Inuit and Métis are really unacceptable.

What we found in that conversation is that even what we are doing now for female victims in the family liaison units in all of the provinces and territories is really helping families navigate through a justice system that wasn't designed for them.

It was very interesting to realize that, of course, if the victim is a male there aren't those kinds of support and services, so we became very open to having a look at how can we provide that kind of support for those families.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I wish I had more than seven minutes because we could have a long conversation on this.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Yes.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

What's the resistance to having the UN special rapporteur come? She's unbiased. It would give us an expert opinion, an analysis and a separate lens on this issue.

I don't understand why the government's resisting.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

I hear you on this, but we are also going to have to settle this coast to coast to coast and bottom up, with all of the realities. We need the solutions that will be made in Canada—

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

We can do both.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

We're already working on that, right here.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I just don't know why the government's not open to having that external lens. It shouldn't be opposed to it. I'm urging you to take up their ask.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

We'll look into it, Gord.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Currently, we know that the government is fighting the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal compensation order in court. It's opposing certification of a class action lawsuit that it previously indicated it wouldn't oppose. The government is also in court with the AFN over child welfare.

When will you call off the lawyers and just get to the table and settle this?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Thank you for that question, Gord. In some ways that is my job. It is to get out of court to be able to settle these things at a table.

As we learned with the sixties scoop, even though that was a case won in court, what Chief Marcia Brown really wanted was language, culture and healing—all of those things that courts can't award.

It's so we know that when we get to the table, we're able to provide those additional services and that kind of support for the victims. We hope that we will.... As you know the government is committed to making sure that all children harmed by the system will be compensated. We also want to make sure that all the other things they need to have a secure personal cultural identity will also be in place.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I see these things get dragged out, first hand.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

We don't want to go to court, but some people want to take us to court.

March 12th, 2020 / 12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

You're spending piles of money on legal fees. I'm sure the money people can tell us how much.

I did tabled a question in the Order Paper on the Nuu-chah-nulth fishing rights court case. Some $19 million was spent just on government legal fees, never mind court costs. We're talking tens of millions of dollars that could have paid for the quota to settle it. You've spent more money fighting than it would have cost to solve this issue.

We hear that across the cabinet you have a reconciliation lens for every member of cabinet. We're not seeing that.

I've explained to you that the number one issue for coastal people in B.C. is salmon. We're not getting restoration dollars. The court case is ongoing. The government continues to fight indigenous people for the rights that are enshrined and protected under the constitution.

Why is your department and your leadership—we're looking to both of you—not leading and talking to those interdepartmental cabinet ministers and getting these things done? We're wasting money.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

You have 30 seconds.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

I've talked to you about the Kus-kus-sum project.

Reconciliation is dying here on the ground.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

I agree with you. I think my colleague will talk a little bit about the north and the DFO, but we agree. This has to be a whole of government solution.

Our deputy now chairs a deputy minister's oversight committee on treaty implementation, where all the deputy ministers come to the table. We're making some progress there, but there's no question, Gord, that fish is probably my toughest—

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

We need your help.