Evidence of meeting #34 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 enforcement.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Naaman Sugrue
Connie Lazore  Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
Derek Yang  Director, Community Services, Tla'amin Nation
Murray Browne  Lawyer, Tla'amin Nation
Reginald Bellerose  Muskowekwan First Nation, Touchwood Agency Tribal Council
Leon McNab  Justice Co-ordinator, Touchwood Agency Tribal Council
Brooks Arcand-Paul  Lawyer, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada
Deborah Doss-Cody  Chief Officer, Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

That's just about time, Madam Bérubé.

We'll go to Ms. Blaney now. You have two and a half minutes, please.

1 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you, Chair.

I am coming probably to you, Mr. Browne, but of course, Mr. Yang, always....

One of the things I find so fascinating about this conversation is that I would love to see a government that saw this as an opportunity for decolonization. When we hit systemic racism, the reaction is, “Oh, there it is. Let's peel that back and figure it out. It's not personal.” This is not about people personally being bad. It's about a system that has been here for a long time. When a nation's leadership is calling 911 and hoping for the best, all of us should see that it is systemic racism.

I know that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada only enforced COVID bylaws under the Indian Act, not laws under the land code or treaty. You guys used the K'ómoks case as an example.

I'm just wondering if you could talk about what it means for a nation trying to do its work. I remember that Hegus Rempel said in her testimony that she was having another case like this in K'ómoks. The person she was dealing with was laughing at her as she was trying to enforce this in her community.

Can you talk about what this does to leadership and what it does for community building when this systemic racism is continuing through this process?

1:05 p.m.

Lawyer, Tla'amin Nation

Murray Browne

Thank you. That's a really important question. I apologize that I have to leave shortly for another meeting, but I really appreciate this opportunity.

In terms of that question on what it does to the leadership, it creates doubt in their minds when there should be no doubt. There should be confidence that they are the leaders. They have been elected by their communities and they are often from long lines of hereditary chiefs who have been trained by elders on how to do what's right for their community by their culture. They should not be in doubt when they go to remove a drug dealer or a dangerous sexual offender or someone who is wrongfully taking the resources from their land that they need to feed their families. They should be able to pick up the phone and send the enforcement officer or go together and enforce it.

You're absolutely right that there is institutional resistance. There is, unfortunately, still colonialism and racism, and we really need to all work together to confront that, but not in terms of people. We always say, “Let's be hard on the issues and soft on the people.” If someone needs some help and education, we can bring them into the community. We can educate them about the culture, the laws, the history, and how and why nations have done things in the past that have worked before the settlers, like me, arrived.

What we need is the education and training and the support from the government to have somewhere to go. There is no accountability right now. A DFO officer can do and say whatever they want, and they'll be promoted. If we complain to the minister, the staff member writes a letter for the minister, and around and around we go. We don't have an Auditor General of reconciliation. We don't have anywhere to go.

What you say is exactly right. Thank you.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thanks, Mr. Browne.

I have Ms. Zann, who is the final questioner for the Liberal Party.

Jamie, I'm not sure who would like to take the final five minutes for the Conservatives.

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

I'm going to take that, Mr. Chair, if that's all right with you.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Okay, great.

Mr. Vidal, please go ahead.

May 13th, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Sorry for our changing our order on you. Thank you so much.

I want to thank all the witnesses. This has been tremendous today, and there has been a lot of valuable information provided for us to consider in our recommendations.

I want to go down a very specific path and I want to open it up to any of you who want to jump in here.

One of the things we've heard over the times we've met on this matter over the last couple of weeks—and I think we've heard it over and over again today—is this concept of a jurisdictional quagmire that seems to be inherently in the system.

We've also heard of the concept of some really good partnerships that are working, and that there is willingness of the law enforcement agencies—whoever they are, whether it's RCMP or your own individual enforcement agencies—to enforce, but the prosecution and the process beyond that seems to be a challenge in what I would call this jurisdictional quagmire.

I want to open up with a really simple question. Instead of a five-year legislative development of this framework and many of those kinds of things, are there some really simple things that you would say...? If you could offer one piece of advice today that would make a difference tomorrow to get rid of some of the jurisdictional issues that you find yourselves facing every day, what would that be?

I'll open it up to whoever wants to go first, and I'd like to hear from as many of you as possible in the short time I have.

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Ms. Lazore's hand is up.

Please go ahead.

1:05 p.m.

Mohawk Council of Akwesasne

Chief Connie Lazore

Thank you, Chair.

For me, we need to be recognized at the same level as the federal government. For years I've heard “nation to nation” and I've constantly asked someone to define what that meant.

As I see us now, you have the federal, provincial, municipal, and eventually first nation governments. We are the first people of this country, Canada, everything. We are just literally the first people. We should be sitting eye to eye with the federal government, and there I see “nation to nation”. We should not be working with the provinces. We are being pushed down and held under their thumbs at the provincial level. We need to be eye to eye with the federal government.

I have a very difficult time waiting for Canada to decide that policing on first nations reserves is essential. It's the same thing with my fire department. They're not paid. I go across the river and they're all paid, right there in Cornwall, Ontario.

Why are we treated to a level that is a fourth-level government when you claim “nation to nation”? My one opinion, comment, recommendation, is treat us as your equal, and with respect.

Thank you, Chair.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Chief.

Does somebody else want to jump in?

1:10 p.m.

Muskowekwan First Nation, Touchwood Agency Tribal Council

Chief Reginald Bellerose

This is Reg Bellerose.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Hi, Reg.

1:10 p.m.

Muskowekwan First Nation, Touchwood Agency Tribal Council

Chief Reginald Bellerose

Thanks, Gary.

It's very simple. Everyone needs to understand who the chiefs in Canada are. It's very, very simple. I look at it a little differently because of what I've been through. I don't see us as third level; I see the chiefs as the first level in this country. Just recognize that.

Thank you.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Is there anybody else?

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Go ahead, Mr. Arcand-Paul.

1:10 p.m.

Lawyer, Indigenous Bar Association in Canada

Brooks Arcand-Paul

I really like the brevity of Chief Bellerose.

Just listen, also. It's really difficult, and we can sometimes get it into our heads that we have all the answers, but you have to listen to the people to know what those answers are and what the people want. That's what our chiefs are busy working on. That's what I am busy working on. I listen. Instead of talking and talking, we need to listen to be able to find concrete solutions.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Vidal Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. McNab, are you looking to jump in there?

1:10 p.m.

Justice Co-ordinator, Touchwood Agency Tribal Council

Leon McNab

Yes. I have a couple of comments. I'd like to make a suggestion.

Across Canada, we need to be comparable. Some of our communities are ahead, while some are left behind. We need to develop at a rate that's acceptable to everyone. A lot of our communities are not prepared in the areas of policing and fire safety. On fire safety, there are communities without fire trucks. I can go on and on, but I think that we need to recognize that first nations people need to develop, and if there is going to be a plan, it is important to have the involvement of our leaders, our chiefs and our people at those tables, where we can all develop at an even pace.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much, Mr. McNab.

Now, Ms. Zann, you're going to conclude a remarkable afternoon with five minutes.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you very much, Chair.

Good afternoon, everybody.

I come to you from the unceded territory of the Mi'kmaq here in Nova Scotia.

First of all, I have to say that I completely agree with the witnesses who have been saying that we need indigenous self-government. The time has come; in fact, it has long since passed, but we need to do the right thing and get on that course.

As far as I'm concerned, we do speak nation to nation. I think that is a very important thing for all Canadians to learn to recognize, and [Technical difficulty—Editor] to that.

Also in that respect, I have to say that a great deal of systemic racism has existed in policing and in justice. I believe that because of that, there is, unfortunately, a distrust of law enforcement and an over-incarceration of indigenous people. I believe that is due directly to systemic racism and the impoverishment and abuse of first nations people, generation after generation after generation.

How do first nation policing services foster trust within their own community? Is there any best practice that can be followed in this regard, and how can we help make that happen?

Thank you.

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Who would like to try that?

Ms. Doss-Cody, go ahead, please.

1:10 p.m.

Chief Officer, Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service

Deborah Doss-Cody

Thank you for your question.

The Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service has a board that has self-governance. They are trained to oversee the Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service through the recommendations put forward by the chiefs, so the communities are engaged in how they want their police service and how they want us to engage with the communities. We are overseen and we are accountable to all levels of government—provincial, federal and community. All are recognized, but the one that we acknowledge and we want to adhere to is the community level, the nation level that we work within.

What the challenge is, though, is the funding. We're program funded, so we're competing. We have to provide core policing with program funding. We're doing all of it, core policing and community policing, and it is extremely challenging. The communities are the ones that provide those answers. Each individual community, each indigenous community, is unique unto its own, and they're the ones that answer the question.

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

I appreciate that.

1:15 p.m.

Chief Officer, Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Lenore Zann Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Thank you so much.

Could Chief Lazore—