This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.

Topics

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

9:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. I have been trying to catch the member's eye for more than 30 seconds. I would ask him to please put his question very quickly.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

9:45 p.m.

NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of that elder, I would like to ask the member how we can get the necessary resources to put a treatment centre in our area now that the healing program is going to be done in. We cannot even get the money to send people to the treatment centres that do exist.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, certainly I acknowledge that there are small isolated communities that do not have a full range of services, but what they do have is a connection not only with programs and services with Health Canada, but also with regional health authorities and with their provinces. So it really is a fabric and a network of services. Every single community has some mechanism to create that fabric and network.

Really what the government is trying to accomplish is to integrate rather than fragment the very important services for healing and for health.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

9:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, I would also like to remind members that even though we are in a special debate tonight, the rules that state that we should not refer to who is or is not in the chamber ought to be respected.

The hon. member for Nanaimo--Cowichan.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

9:50 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to this emergency debate tonight. I am splitting my time with the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North.

I would like to acknowledge the member for Churchill for raising this very important issue in the House. I know the member for Churchill has been tireless in working on raising awareness of the importance of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and I really want to acknowledge the good work that she has done.

It is very interesting listening to the debate in the House tonight, because what it has turned into is an either/or. What I hear from the government side is that it is either the Aboriginal Healing Foundation or it is services from Health Canada,

It is unfortunate that it is the way the debate has gone. I believe that from the government's own numbers it has acknowledged that there has been an increased uptake on common experience payments and alternate dispute resolution payments. Health Canada's own website acknowledges that there are currently 80,000 residential school survivors still alive today.

Clearly there is a significant amount of people and their families who are impacted by the legacy of the residential school system.

I want to refer briefly to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There are many sections that I could quote, but I want to quote section 23. It states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.

It would seem to me that we have been hearing from first nations, Métis and Inuit from coast to coast to coast, saying that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is a mechanism that they want to see providing services to their communities. They are not saying that they do not want the services from Health Canada or from other organizations, but they are saying, “We still want those services. They are effective, they are available, they are culturally appropriate, and these are the kinds of services that we also want to have”.

I want to quote briefly from the final report, Evaluation of Community-Based Healing Initiatives Supported Through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, of December 7, 2009, provided by INAC. It clearly outlines some of the benefits of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It states:

There is almost unanimous agreement among those canvassed that the AHF has been very successful at both achieving its objectives and in governance and fiscal management.

A number of indicator measures provide evidence that AHF healing programs at the community level are effective in facilitating healing at the individual level, and are beginning to show healing at the family and community level. AHF research has shown that it takes approximately ten years of continuous healing efforts before a community is securely established in healing from IRS trauma.

It goes on to say:

Although evidence points to increasing momentum in individual and community healing, it also shows that in relation to the existing and growing need, the healing “has just begun”. For Inuit projects in particular, the healing process has been delayed due to the later start of AHF projects for Inuit.

Under the heading “Program Impacts”, it continues:

Impacts of the programs are reported as positive by the vast majority of respondents, with individual impacts ranging from improved family relationships, increased self-esteem and pride; achievement of higher education and employment; to prevention of suicides. Reported community impacts are growth in social capital indicators such as volunteerism, informal caring networks, and cultural events. One of the notable impacts reported by case study communities is that the “silence” and shame surrounding IRS abuses are being broken, creating the climate for ongoing healing.

The question I have to put to the government is this: If a program has been evaluated as working, fiscally responsible, accountable, getting results, why would we take it apart? It does not make good fiscal sense, and it does not make good community healing sense.

I want to quote from a couple of organizations that have sent me letters talking about the importance of the foundation. This one is from Darlaene Eccleston, who states:

Without the continuation of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the ongoing empowerment of our people healing our own communities and working toward reconciliation and forgiveness is severely set back.

Of course, she says much more about the importance of the program.

A letter from the Inter Tribal Health Authority, signed by co-chairs Chief David Bob and James Wilson, states:

The funding we receive is used to allow survivors of Residential Schools the opportunity to deal with the trauma of that tragic experience in a safe and trusting environment. After many years of suffering in silence, a therapeutic avenue was made available...To pull the funding at this time is an injustice and a disservice to the First Nations People of Canada as we have only begun the long work of helping people deal with the past.

Part of the reason I am reading these letters into the record is these people cannot come and address the House of Commons, so they need another voice here and that is what New Democrats, the Bloc and the Liberals have been doing.

This is another letter from the Inter Tribal Health Authority. It states:

The program was well subscribed and we were making progress and helping many community members break their many years of pained silence and begin an equally painful healing journey.

This letter is from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. It states:

We request that you continue to support my recovery from the tragic experience of Indian Residential Schools. The communities of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs have benefited from the services of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and request that you provide ongoing financial resources that would allow survivors and families to continue to heal so that we may journey together to a stronger Canada that will include former Indian Residential Schools students.

This is from Nunavuk Tunngavik and the Qikiqtani Inuit Association. It states:

We are writing this letter to you to echo the voices of thousands of Inuit that suffer the impacts of the Residential School regime. For the mothers and fathers that never got to pass on their knowledge and traditions to their children. For Inuit that have been muted as their language has been stripped away from them. For Inuit children that suffer as their parents try desperately to learn to parent. For victims of suicide who had no resources to turn to in their communities. For Inuit men and women who sit in Federal Jails, thousands of miles away, because our communities lack the resources to help them. For Inuit shackled by the chains of addiction, because that has been the only way to cope with the desperation and hopelessness that they face. And finally for the Elders that have watched the capacity of our communities stripped and generational gaps grow into deep caverns...We need room and tools to address our challenges in ways that are designed by and for Inuit.

The Assembly of First Nations has been strongly calling for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to stay in place, to support first nations, Métis and Inuit across the country. It is calling for the government to work with them in the spirit of the residential schools apology.

Again, I want to emphasize the fact that we are not talking either/or here. Health Canada does provide valuable services to many communities, but the Aboriginal Healing Foundation provides a unique community, cultural, grassroots experience. It is not driven top-down from a bureaucratic process.

Earlier, to another question in the House, I pointed out some of the things people needed to go through, through the Health Canada process, in order to access services. I know many members in the House have received letters from people who have had to pay their own dentist bills and pharmacy bills because NIHB, first nations Non-Insured Health Benefits, is so difficult deal with that dentists and pharmacists no longer want to deal directly with the department. People who have very little income have to pay those dentist and pharmacy bills themselves and submit the bills.

We know what is happening. People who need those services are not getting them. I would suggest that for many people, the bureaucracy of dealing with Health Canada, as good as those health workers are, is a barrier to people accessing services when they need it.

I also know many members in the House have spent time with residential school survivors and heard their painful stories and know often that when they reach out for help, that help has to be available for them right there and then, not four weeks later, not six weeks later, not two months later. Oftentimes that is a cry for help from people. They need to be able to go to their local people whom they understand and trust, who have the language, who have the cultural experience and who can provide that service right there and then.

An interesting thing to ask is what kinds of wait lists for services Health Canada currently provide and are in place. We know from many people there are simply not the services available to them.

I know people have quoted from the Health Canada website, saying that transportation is available to remove them from their communities if they need help somewhere else. That sounds like the residential school experience all over again, taking people from their communities. That is a legitimate experience for some people.

I would urge all members in the House to support reinstating the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl ConservativeMinister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the member. I would ask her to consider the kinds of things she is talking about, such as comparing giving transportation to a survivor who wants to go to a clinical setting somewhere, at his or her request, to residential schools. That is ridiculous.

I could ask her an open-ended question. How many communities on Vancouver Island, where she lives, have an Aboriginal Healing Foundation service provided in their communities. The answer is one. It is in Nanaimo, where she lives. That is it. What do the people in Duncan do? What do they do in Victoria? What do they do in Campbell River? What do they do in Sooke and so on? It does not all happen in one community.

In my riding, the 20 Stó:lo first nations in my riding do not have an aboriginal healing community. It is not an insult to them. I do not think the AHF has done a bad job. However, my people in Chilliwack do not go to Lytton for services. They go to Health Canada.

Right now in all of Vancouver Island, with a population as big as New Brunswick, there is one aboriginal healing centre, and that is in Nanaimo and it is providing great service. However, do not pretend that is providing the service required in the hundreds of communities across Vancouver Island, because it is not true.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the record. First, what I said about the residential schools and transportation was for members who did not feel comfortable leaving their communities. I acknowledge that members who absolutely want to take advantage of it from Health Canada, it is there and it is available for them.

In terms of the aboriginal healing, certainly the minister is absolutely right. There is one centre, but there is another project at Tillicum Lelum. Therefore, there are other services available for people on the island.

However, again, I pointed out earlier in my speech that this had degenerated into an either/or. I did acknowledge that Health Canada did provide services for people, that it was available in many communities. However, there are other communities that have aboriginal healing fund projects in place and they want to maintain them.

Why do we have to make the division? We know that aboriginal healing funds projects are having some success and that they are accountable. The current government often talks about accountability and transparency. We have that. Why can the projects?

I would urge the minister to take a look at the successes of the aboriginal healing fund projects.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member asked a good question about waiting lists. We will be able to ask all those questions. As members know, I had a motion pass at aboriginal affairs committee, so we will able to study this at length and ask a lot of questions about the government's intransigence.

I visited, with the member, the Inuit Women's Association. A woman brought this note to me to show how pervasive this was across the country. It stated, “The Native Women's Child Care of Montreal needs federal funding to continue its incredible work. As of April 1st, it will lose employees who help our women and children heal from any forms of injustice”. Then in big letters “Help” and then “Please raise this in Parliament”.

Why does the member think the government is cutting this program? Everyone who has spoken in the House of Commons tonight, and it is very rare that everyone is on one side, has said what a tremendous program it is. The Minister of Indian Affairs has said it. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs has said it. The last Conservative member who spoke said it was excellent.

If everyone in the House is in favour, why is the program being cut?

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Yukon for his very good work on the aboriginal affairs committee. It is a great question. Cutting the program makes no sense.

We acknowledge that a residential school apology situated us so we needed to move forward and ensure there were healing programs in place and all kinds of supports for residential school survivors and their families. We have an evaluation that says the program is an incredible program. It is getting good results. The evaluation itself says that Aboriginal Healing Foundation projects are different from Health Canada.

I can only presume the government is cutting the program for ideological reasons. Absolutely nothing else makes sense about it. Maybe it is because the Liberals instituted the program. I am not sure.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad of the opportunity tonight to speak in support of this very important program. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation provides resources that promote reconciliation. It encourages aboriginal people both individually and together with their communities to build and reinforce sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical, sexual, mental and cultural abuse in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts.

In June 2008 the government stood in the House to formally apologize to former students of the residential school system. The Prime Minister acknowledged that policies of assimilation were wrong and “caused great harm, and has no place in our country”. Meaningful apologies are followed by concrete action. Actions that honour the concept of reconciliation with a focus on healing, building a sense of well-being and moving toward a stronger future are certainly called for in the wake of the residential school legacy.

It is clear that discontinuing this funding is in direct contradiction to the values that inspired that national apology. As we know, the intergenerational impact of assimilation and the residential school system are multi-layered and difficult to face. Violence, suicide, depression, increased probability of facing poverty, erasure of traditional parenting skills and loss of native language are just a few of the negative consequences of the institutional abuses suffered by aboriginal people throughout Canada.

Funding provided by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation directly and effectively addresses some of the intergenerational impacts of the injustices faced by those who attended residential schools. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation currently supports 134 programs that directly address the aftermath caused by the residential school system. This funding has helped organizations and communities offer restoration initiatives that support healing and well-being.

One such example in Thunder Bay—Superior North, the riding I have the honour to serve, is that of Gull Bay First Nation. This community is an example of strength and courage. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has funded a program called the Gull Bay First Nation healing program. It increases access to counselling, talking circles using traditional practices, information on abuse and other intergenerational impacts experienced by residential school survivors and their descendants.

The benefits of the healing program are real and they are pragmatic. Speaking with Chief Wilfred King of Gull Bay First Nation, it is abundantly clear that the funding from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has helped elders from his community reconcile their relationship with Canada. Chief King reports, “This is an excellent program that has met the needs of elders that were directly impacted by the legacy of the residential schools—this program has started to bridge the gap between elders and the intergenerational impact of the residential school system”.

Sixty individuals in that community alone have directly benefited over the last 12 months, but the overall effect has been even further reaching. The services made possible through this funding have helped elders who left Gull bay reconnect with their home community, a central aspect of supporting culture and maintaining traditions.

The same is true in many first nations and other communities across my region such as members of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. In the neighbouring riding of Kenora, the first nations and communities of Lac Seul, Mishkeegogamang, Sandy Lake, Wapekeka, Cat Lake, North Caribou Lake, Sachigo Lake, Slate Falls and Bearskin Lake will all be negatively impacted. They find the support of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation absolutely crucial.

I will be watching with interest to see if the hon. member for Kenora fights to continue funding for these vital programs in his riding. I am disappointed he is not here for the emergency debate tonight. Not only should this funding be preserved, but it could be expanded to other communities who need it across northwestern Ontario. We have many first nations reserves and communities in Thunder Bay—Superior North and if any of them, including—

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you were distracted momentarily, but the member is making reference to members who are either present or not present in the House. It is most inappropriate to talk about members who are not present in the House. I would ask him to not do that, please.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. parliamentary secretary is correct that it is unparliamentary to make reference to a member's presence or absence, so I will remind the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North of that standing order and allow him to continue his remarks.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:10 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was not aware of that. I now am and I withdraw that comment. I thank the hon. member opposite for educating me on that matter.

Quite often I am asked, in these difficult times, in northwestern Ontario what pathways I see for hope and optimism. I often say that the future of Thunder Bay—Superior North, northwestern Ontario and, indeed, the future of much of Canada is intimately tied to the future of our first nations people.

It is about empowerment and fairness. It is a matter of treaty rights and applying the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to all Canadians. It is also a matter of practicality. If first nations do well, we will all do well in Canada. If first nations people are not helped to succeed, it will adversely affect all of us.

Keep in mind that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation ensures that each and every funded project has a proven track record of sound financial management. Projects must have a broad reach, including women, youth and elders. Each project must deliver direct therapeutic services.

Even the department, INAC itself, and the chair of the Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission have praised the programs that are possible only because of the support of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. All of the projects are delivered by the people who live and work in each community, providing a grassroots approach to healing and community building instead of a top down approach, which leaves too much room for error, paternalism and waste.

This successful program is essential as it ensures that those communities which receive funding decide independently which services and programs are most needed by their own people. This community-based, grassroots approach is a strong and worthy method of addressing the healing process, building stronger communities, and increasing health and well-being. Community-based, culturally appropriate programs that inspire effective healing represent hope and a willingness to build a stronger future by moving together as a community.

The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has made a great start in the right direction. Instead of changing course and abandoning it, we call upon the government to continue its commitment to first nations communities in the spirit of hope and reconciliation, and in the spirit of following the national apology with concrete action by ensuring that Parliament extends the funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. It is a pragmatic and meaningful solution to a very difficult situation.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:10 p.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North talked about an adjacent riding, which is the Kenora riding. The member for Kenora sits on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. I know his background is nursing and that he has worked as a nurse in remote first nations and aboriginal communities, certainly on the British Columbia coast, northern Ontario, and likely other places as well that I am not immediately aware of. He is a tireless worker in representing his far-flung riding, in which there are approximately 60 first nations communities.

My comment is this. We cannot impugn other members and suggest in any way that they are not motivated to do the right thing in terms of this subject of healing.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member. Just to reiterate what I said, I am going to be watching with interest in the hope that the hon. member he was talking about will, along with us, be fighting to maintain the funding for the communities in his riding.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, obviously, everyone in the House is very interested in effective healing results. I will read something from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs about the consequences of closing the program. This is on page 49 of the document from the department. It states:

When asked what the consequences would be if their program were to end, many respondents became visibly disturbed at hearing the question and contemplating the loss of the program. The vast majority of respondents in case studies used words such as “catastrophic”, “disastrous” “a betrayal of trust”; “removal of hope” and other equally strong language to indicate their belief that ending the AHF healing programs at this point would have extremely negative consequences...as the healing is not yet widespread enough or firmly enough established...An Elder...said that “we had 100 years of abuse and 12 years of healing”.

If the member were told this, would he close that program?

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, speaking for myself, I feel very grateful that I am well educated, was supported by a wonderful family in my youth, went through a good educational system, and am white in a country that sometimes favours those who are white.

I think we need to go an extra kilometre to help those who need our help. The New Democrats are about leaving no one behind and helping those who particularly need it the most.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, among the first nations chiefs I had the privilege of working with, one was Joe Johnson, the former chief of the Kluane First Nation. The many times I worked with him on his land claim, he told me stories of the trauma he felt from residential schools, how he suffered from having to work away from home in British Columbia, and how he wished that jobs could be provided along with healing services closer to his community.

He tried for many years to establish a healing centre and I am not sure if he ever managed. He just could not get the funding. I noticed that there is no money remaining for any healing centre in Yukon, only one in the Northwest Territories.

I am wondering if the member could speak to the need to provide healing centres close to the communities where first nations continue to work.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, upon reflection this evening and listening to debate from all sides of the House, I am really persuaded that we not only need to maintain the funding, but we need to expand the funding and apply it to more communities.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am greatly pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the Aboriginal Healing Foundation this evening with my colleagues. I feel strongly that we would be remiss if we did not take the time tonight to acknowledge the difficult but critical work that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has undertaken over the last decade on behalf of Canadians.

The foundation was established with a clear mandate in 1998 and all of those involved with this non-governmental organization should be applauded for their ongoing commitment and tireless pursuit of a better future through healing.

My comments this evening will outline the path our nation has taken over the past decade, recognize and highlight the foundation's accomplishments, and convey a message to the foundation about our hope that its transition phase goes smoothly.

As one of only a handful of nations who have apologized for how past generations treated aboriginal people, I am proud to be a Canadian.

Some of us may remember Australia's landmark apology to its native people in 2008, and all of us will surely remember that on June 11, 2008 the Prime Minister made an apology, on behalf of all Canadians, right here in the House of Commons.

I think we can all agree that the apology certainly represents a giant step forward toward reconciliation and progress.

National Chief Fontaine noted at the time of the Prime Minister's 2008 apology that it would benefit all Canadians because it opens the way to restoring public consciousness about the history of the first nations in this country.

An example of this kind of change can be found in the government's substantially revised and recently published guide to citizenship in Canada. The guide is a significant departure from the version crafted first in 1995.

Notably, the 2010 edition of the guide introduces the concept of three founding nations: aboriginal, French and British. For the first time, Métis leader Louis Riel is introduced to new Canadians. This important document, which communicates a summary of our history and culture, no longer skips over the history of our aboriginal people. Rather, it speaks the truth and duly notes the important role that aboriginal people have played, and continue to play, in our nation's cultural fabric.

I have learned that the act of listening and speaking the truth can play an enormous role in our nation's healing process. Dr. Judith Herman, whose book Trauma and Recovery is widely considered a landmark work on the social impact of psychological trauma and its treatment, states that “Recovery requires remembrance and mourning. It has become clear from the experience of newly democratic countries in Latin America, eastern Europe and Africa that restoring a sense of social community requires a public forum where victims can speak their truth and their suffering can be formally acknowledged. Like traumatized individuals, traumatized countries need to remember, grieve and atone for their wrongs in order to avoid reliving them”.

It is this spirit of recovery that inspired long overdue discussions between key parties of our nation's historical landscape, and in the end through research, conciliation and negotiation, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement was concluded with the approval of all parties: the Government of Canada, former students, churches, the Assembly of First Nations and Inuit organizations.

Just as Canada's apology to its aboriginal people marked an historic international milestone, so too does the significance of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement extend beyond our borders.

This agreement is an important part of the reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. It is the first time that a country has recognized, in both words and deeds, the negative effect that its policies and actions had on its first nations.

As members heard this evening, it is important to note that the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement features five main elements:

a common experience payment; an independent assessment process; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; commemoration activities; measures to support healing such as Health Canada's Health Support Program and an endowment to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

It is here in this last item, number five, measures to support healing, that we find the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation predates the agreement by nearly a decade, but this aboriginal-run not-for-profit foundation was established only after discussions were held with survivors, members of the healing community, the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Native Women's Association of Canada.

Strictly speaking, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation's original mandate was to disperse a Government of Canada one-time grant of $350 million starting on April 1, 1998. As explained in 2010-15 corporate plan, the foundation defines its role as follows:

We see our role as facilitators in the healing process by helping Aboriginal people and their communities help themselves, by providing resources for healing initiatives, by promoting awareness of healing issues and needs, and by nurturing a broad, supportive public environment. We help Survivors in telling the truth of their experiences and being heard. We also work to engage Canadians in this healing process by encouraging them to walk with us on the path of reconciliation.

Now as we come to the inevitable winding-down phase of the foundation, it is clear that the foundation's approach was indeed successful in achieving its objectives. I can say this with certainty because, as required in the settlement agreement, the government conducted an evaluation of the healing initiatives and programs undertaken by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

The evaluation was tabled in the House of Commons earlier this month and underlines the financial and project management skills of the organization. It was a comprehensive evaluation that included the review of 108 documents and literature sources as well as all administrative files, such as annual reports and case studies, interviews with 35 key individuals from the foundation, relevant government departments, aboriginal organizations, project directors from foundation-funded projects and subject experts from across Canada, and a total of 8 community case studies based on 145 interviews with participants and key stakeholders at locations across Canada.

As hon. members may have noted, I referred to the winding down of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation as inevitable. This is the important point worth emphasizing. The foundation was never intended to be a permanent organization. The organization's annual report, corporate plan and initial mandate all make this perfectly clear.

Given this reality, no one should be surprised that the Government of Canada chose not to allocate new funding to the foundation. For more than 12 years, the expectation has been that the foundation would begin a winding-down phase. We are not talking about any kind of cut to any kind of funding. In fact not only is the word “cut” misleading but it does a disservice to the excellent planning the foundation has undertaken in its wind-down strategy, as well as its prudent dispersal of substantial funds, a total of $515 million since 1998, which the Government of Canada has allocated to it.

According to the foundation, the wind-down strategy is to take place over a period of three years. During this time, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation will fulfill the remaining work of its mandate through the publication of annual reports, corporate plans and newsletters as well as the production of five more major research projects. In addition, the foundation will begin to reduce staff and space at a gradual and planned pace.

The Government of Canada remains committed, as ever, to providing support to all of its citizens, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal. In fact, it is through an investment made by this Conservative government that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation will fund the operation of 12 healing centres across the country through to 2012. In addition, the Government of Canada will fulfill its continuing obligation to provide emotional and mental health supports directly to former Indian residential school students and their family members participating in the settlement agreement through a program operated by Health Canada.

The resolution health support program provides mental health and emotional support services directly to former students and their families as they participate in the various components of the settlement agreement. These include professional counselling services, paraprofessional services through aboriginal community-based workers, culturally appropriate supports through elders and transportation to access supports not available in the home community.

I reiterate that this government has also funded additional initiatives designed to provide support directly to survivors of Indian residential schools, and these include the national Indian residential school crisis line and future care awards. Future care awards are provided through the independent assessment process outlined in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

Through this assessment process, claimants may receive future care awards for treatment or counselling services totalling $10,000 for general care and $15,000 if psychiatric treatment is required. To date, the average independent assessment process award is $125,000 and the average future care component is over $8,000. It is also important to note, and members will know, that all of this support will be provided during a time of much-needed fiscal restraint. Although Canada has returned to economic growth following the deepest global recession since the 1930s, the global recovery remains extremely fragile, as the recent 2010 budget speech indicates.

Before closing, I believe it is important to summarize the government's commitments to date in cold hard numbers. The Government of Canada will invest more than $5 billion to implement all components of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Budget 2010 committed net additional resources of $199 million toward the implementation of the settlement agreement, which will conclude in 2014.

The Government of Canada has provided $515 million to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation since its inception in 1998. These funds include the endowment of $125 million granted as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and have supported community-based healing initiatives. These numbers testify to the fact that Canada acknowledges that the Indian residential school system is part of the shared experience that is our nation and validates the important role that counselling plays in healing and in reconciliation.

The community-based work of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has not only been crucial to our vision of a just and caring society but has also successfully created a lasting and positive legacy out of a tragic episode. I am confident that my hon. colleagues will join me in committing all sides of the House to move forward and pursue a bright future for all Canadians.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I will ask my question first and then I will comment. I would like to congratulate the member as the chair of the aboriginal affairs committee. I think he does an excellent job and I really enjoy working with him.

Does the government have a comprehensive plan to deal with all these various services in various departments and the survivors of residential schools and also the thousands of people left out in the cold because of closing the foundation? I will leave him a minute to think about that while I make my comment, and maybe the officials want to send in something from the lobby.

The minister made a good analogy saying it was like a puzzle. There are more people who need healing and we heard there are all these healing areas, all the programs in the various departments, all like pieces of a puzzle. The huge piece in the middle is the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. In fact all of these pieces are going to have to swell a bit because the government said there is more uptake so there is more healing, so all these programs will have to get a little bit bigger.

What has been frustrating tonight is that we have heard speech after speech, which have been fine, describing all these pieces of the puzzle that are not being cut. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health made a great speech about all the health programs that are not being cut, that are going to stay there. So all these other programs will stay there and do their work, but no one has addressed the fact that this huge chunk, this huge piece, is coming out of the middle of the puzzle and as I said, one of the 134 projects affects thousands of clients, so that is thousands and thousands of clients across the country and that is what has been frustrating about this debate.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his kind comments.

There is no doubt that this will require a substantial effort, and we have outlined that tonight in the form of the 1,600-odd workers with Health Canada. These are people from aboriginal communities themselves who are specifically trained and knowledgeable in delivering the kind of programs in the community at that level. We heard from the evaluations tonight that native and aboriginal people appreciate those programs and feel they are benefiting from them. Those programs will roll out.

In addition to that, Health Canada continues to support some $200 million in programs that support other outcomes that come from the difficulties people experienced through this kind of reconciliation process and the hurt that has been caused by the residential schools episode.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:35 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I do not know him well. He seems like a nice fellow. I assume he understands, because he said he does, the impacts that residential schools had on aboriginal people and continue to have to this day.

I am speaking in part out of the frustration of the people I know who have been involved in the Aboriginal Healing Foundation's work in the northwestern area of British Columbia, who I represent. They have been involved in the six programs that are in existence that have now lost their funding and their capacity to do the community-based work that has been seen as so crucial. It smacks of a certain hypocrisy of the government and a tragic sense of cynicism to say that a report that was sitting on a minister's desk for months, a report that we now know says the Aboriginal Healing Foundation worked and worked well, was released the day after the budget. It was done by Indian Affairs itself, saying how wonderfully this community-based system worked, a family-based system, delivered by first nations for first nations and that it was helping the healing process. The cynicism to cut that program in the budget and then release a report the next day that says what a fantastic program this was smacks of a hypocrisy to the first nations communities that I represent and all across this country. The apology was meant to be followed up by action. That is what we asked the Prime Minister for when we all sat in this place and listened to the residential school apology.

First nations people, despite many generations of broken promises, took the chance and said they would give the Prime Minister the time, saying maybe he would follow up on this action and deliver and support aboriginal healing in this country.

Now we find out that all of these programs are being cut, programs that were working, and the government is saying that it is very interested in this healing process and wants to support it. The way the government can support it is to continue the funding.

To the last point about the so-called time of restraint, the government found $250,000 to send to an asbestos lobby in Quebec to promote asbestos exports to other countries, while ripping it out of the walls of this place. That is $250,000 that could be much better spent on aboriginal healing at a—

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for Simcoe North.

Aboriginal Healing FoundationEmergency Debate

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government stands squarely on the side of aboriginal residential school students and their family members who have experienced the tragedy of the episode that we now know so well. I say that because the measures the government has taken in the last several years are unprecedented in our history to cope with this segment, this part of our history.

The fact is that the program we are talking about tonight has been on a scheduled wind-down for years, since 2007. It is all right in the plans. It is right in all of the reports, in the 2010-14 report. In fact, the foundation itself has done a terrific job in putting that program in place. It will stay in place, by the way, until 2012. We will continue to do the work it has undertaken, but this is a scheduled wind-down and the work will continue to be taken up by the important programs of Health Canada.