Evidence of meeting #28 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was c-15.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Naaman Sugrue
Daniel Quan-Watson  Deputy Minister, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Laurie Sargent  Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice
Koren Marriott  Senior Counsel, Aboriginal Law Centre, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice
Ross Pattee  Assistant Deputy Minister, Implementation Sector, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs
Sandra Leduc  Director and General Counsel, Aboriginal Law Centre, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice
Marla Israel  Director General, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you for that.

Members of the committee, in order to complete the round of questioning, we're going to have to extend. We also need to discuss Mr. Schmale's motion from the past hour and one other matter.

Could I have a motion to extend past one o'clock?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Mr. Chair, I'm wondering whether by “extending” we mean just by two five-minute and two two-and-a-half-minute rounds, or are you—?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

That's right—just completing this round.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gary Anandasangaree Liberal Scarborough—Rouge Park, ON

Okay, then I can move that motion to extend.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

All in favour please signify.

(Motion agreed to)

Thank you. We'll carry on with a five-minute round, which will complete the questioning today.

Mr. Melillo, go ahead, please.

April 20th, 2021 / 12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I thank our witnesses for joining us for this discussion.

I'm not going to address my question to anyone specifically. Whoever wants to jump in, please do so.

One thing that has interested me is that we've heard a lot from indigenous people and organizations who don't feel there has been adequate consultation on Bill C-15. We've even heard testimony in this committee from some indigenous organizations.... The Native Women's Association comes to mind. This is a group that had expressed concerns about the consultation process. I find it quite ironic that when we talk about Bill C-15, obviously the government has been emphasizing that it is brought forward in the spirit of reconciliation. However, there seem to be some gaps and some failures of adequate consultation with indigenous peoples.

To me, this runs contrary to what the government is trying to do. I do not doubt for a second the intentions of this bill; however, it seems that the government has missed the mark.

Again, whoever wants to jump in may. I'm wondering whether anyone can share some insights into the consultation process that has happened for Bill C-15 and say whether you believe there could have been a greater diversity of indigenous organizations represented in this consultation.

12:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Implementation Sector, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Ross Pattee

As we've heard and as you've heard, the time frame to meet the commitment to introduce this bill by the end of the calendar year was indeed tight. Having said that, over 70 meetings involving more than 450 people took place in this compressed time frame. I've said before that it's not really the quantity of engagement; it's the quality of the engagement that matters. As Minister Bennett noted, many of those discussions resulted in improvements to the bill as introduced.

I'd like to relate this quickly to the question from the previous member, which was around the going forward plan. Part of the reason the budget has allotted more than $31 million is to make sure we have a more robust engagement strategy going forward. We're working on that right now, and we've already begun discussions with a number of key players. There will be opportunities for many interested parties to have a say in that plan and the action plan as we move forward.

Thank you.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Does anybody else want to comment on that question before we move on?

12:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice

Laurie Sargent

Perhaps I would just add a couple of considerations, if I may. As you may well be aware, there is a “What We Learned” report available on the Department of Justice's UN declaration website. It speaks to the engagement that took place. It very much shows, as Ross said, the level and the quality of input that we received, even though the period was relatively compressed.

I will note that contributions from groups including the National Women's Association of Canada, NWAC, very much influenced the bill as it is currently drafted, including the preambular paragraphs relating to the importance of taking diversity and gender into account in implementing this legislation.

Thanks.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you both very much for those comments. With the time I have, I'll just quickly ask whether there was consultation with indigenous organizations and indigenous people specifically around the question of FPIC—around consent and how it should be interpreted.

Ms. Sargent, do you want to jump in there?

12:45 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice

Laurie Sargent

I'm afraid the question cut off just before I got it, but I understood it was specifically with respect to “free, prior and informed consent” discussions with indigenous partners.

The issue of FPIC and how it is understood did come up, although I would say that in many ways the focus of engagement was much more on the legislation itself and what it should contain. As the term is not defined in the bill, as has been noted, it was not the key topic of discussion.

There were, however, round tables held with industry—mining, forestry, energy and petroleum—in which indigenous organizations also participated and there were discussions about the concept, its meaning and implications. Certainly we heard feedback on that as well.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Eric Melillo Conservative Kenora, ON

Thank you very much.

Mr. Chair, I believe I'm well over time. I had a five-minute slot.

I'll have to end it there. Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you.

Mr. van Koeverden, you have five minutes.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I apologize in advance for my connection today. I'm experiencing the same Rogers challenges and difficulties that many people connecting in the GTA are. If I drop off, I'll simply cede my time to the chair.

My question is basically twofold. It starts with what I've perceived as the mischaracterization of what free, prior and informed consent is and will be. Initially, a few meetings ago, FPIC was characterized as a veto. We've kind of gotten past that a bit, which is good. We're making progress.

After that, we got to the point with the other side saying, oh, advance disclosure is the status quo; it's totally adequate and has always worked, and why would we change it? Again, that's not something I agree with, but it seems as though we're past that point now as well.

Most recently, including at today's meeting, the question is, don't we just need a definition of this ambiguous term, “free, prior and informed consent”? I disagree. I don't think it's ambiguous. It's very clear what it is, and it implies partnership, involvement and engagement rather than just telling somebody in advance what's going to happen.

In addition to that, more recently we've heard that since there are a variety of valid concerns and, not surprisingly, a lack of total unanimity on the final product of what this will look like and how it should be implemented, it lacked the adequate amount of consultation with community and industry.

My question, therefore, has two parts. One, is the definition of FPIC necessary, or does it already exist? Two, is total unanimity ever a reasonable ambition worthy of pursuing throughout these consultations?

I'd start with Madam Sargent.

12:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice

Laurie Sargent

There are some important threads in that question.

In respect to the first part, regarding a definition of free, prior and informed consent, I think Minister Bennett provided very helpful responses: first, that because this concept or right is not defined in the legislation, it would in fact be somewhat strange to define it in the bill. Also, it is something that, as my colleague explained as well, has to be understood in context; therefore, trying to define it in a single way, in a one-shot definition, would be very challenging indeed. Those are considerations when we look to defining terms in legislation such as this bill.

With respect to your other question, about the pursuit of total unanimity, that is something that is a challenge in all contexts, for every bill in every context. It's not usually the standard, but I will leave it to others to speak more to the political considerations behind some of that.

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Thank you.

Is there anyone else who might have some insight on those two questions?

No. I'll cede my remaining time to the chair.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

We'll move, then, to Ms. Gill for two and a half minutes. Please go ahead.

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would also like to go deeper into a question that I asked Ms. Bennett earlier, and I want to make sure that I completely understand.

I asked her whether the bill had had a gender-based analysis plus, GBA+, and she said yes. She is also going to send us the results. However, I would like to be more specific about the premise for my question.

Some women's groups have mentioned that things are missing from the bill. That's why I asked whether an analysis has been done. I wonder why some women's groups consider that the bill does not accommodate their demands as women. I ask the question in good faith.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Is someone prepared to respond to Ms. Gill?

Ms. Sargent.

12:55 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice

Laurie Sargent

I think that I can answer that question. However, perhaps I will turn to my colleague Mrs. Leduc again, since she took part in the discussions with the Indigenous women's groups.

As we do for all bills or proposed policies, we did conduct a GBA+. Normally, that information is protected because it is in Cabinet documents, but we will see whether it is possible to send the information.

In addition, as I mentioned before, we made some amendments to the bill to accommodate the contribution of indigenous women's groups. Clearly, it's up to the representatives of those groups to tell you whether or not they are satisfied with those amendments. However, I believe that they did so the other day.

Mrs. Leduc may wish to say more about the changes that were made.

12:55 p.m.

Director and General Counsel, Aboriginal Law Centre, Aboriginal Affairs Portfolio, Department of Justice

Sandra Leduc

Thank you, Ms. Sargent.

We did indeed receive many comments from groups representing Indigenous women from all over Canada. They really helped us to strengthen the bill.

For example, in the preamble, we included a reference to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and we also stress the importance of working with and consulting women.

We really did amend the bill to make it stronger.

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Thank you.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks, Madam Gill.

Ms. Gazan, you have two and a half minutes.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Leah Gazan NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Thank you so much, Chair.

Just building on the comments of Madam Gill, and even comments in terms of what has occurred in the committee, there's a real lack of indigenous voices and women's voices in the process. Going forward in consultation, how are women's and two-spirit voices going to be included in this process? Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQIA are on the forefront of this human rights crisis, including around resource extraction, where we see higher rates of violence perpetrated against indigenous women and girls on our very own lands

Our voices are often marginalized, even more marginalized than that of resource extraction companies. We've heard a lot of consultation with mining. I'm wondering, moving forward in the consultation process, how we will ensure that indigenous women's and two-spirit voices will be lifted up in this process.

12:55 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Implementation Sector, Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Ross Pattee

I'm going to turn to my colleague, Ms. Israel, to respond, if that's okay, Mr. Chair.