I call the meeting to order. I apologize that we're running late. We have had some technical difficulties.
We are continuing our study of Bill . We were to have a videoconference with Bill Erasmus, regional chief, Northwest Territories, from the Assembly of First Nations. Unfortunately he hasn't made it to Whitehorse yet.
We will also have a conference call with Joe Tulurialik, who is a member of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association. He was also supposed to appear by videoconference, but due to inclement weather he wasn't able to make his flight yesterday, so he's joining us by conference call.
We welcome you to the committee, Mr. Tulurialik, and ask that you make your opening presentation. Please keep it under 10 minutes. The committee will listen intently, and then we'll go to our line of questioning. Hopefully Mr. Erasmus will be able to join us later.
With that, Mr. Tulurialik, please give us your comments.
We had a meeting over in Inuvik on climate change, and somehow I got selected. I'd like to speak as an Inuit member as well as an aboriginal representing the Arctic.
The Nunavut youth who spoke were worried about food security, including the effect of brucellosis on caribou meat and the impact of ice presence on hunts for beluga, ring seals, and caribou. The taste of meat is changing, which indicates a change in nutrition. It is expensive to fly food to the north, and there is a growing inability to access local food.
You have to travel further for school, and families have to balance school with work. One family relocated from Cape Dorset to Fort Ross.
Plants are disappearing due to climate changes in ITEX domes. New invertebrates can be found in waters, and plants are coming early in the season.
There are amounts of multi-year ice. Some locations are free from multi-year ice, which can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Melting ice is limiting transportation, and unpredictable ice may break under travellers.
There is much more rain in Iqaluit, caribou migrations are different, and narwhales are becoming stranded.
Water has to be driven to houses and the sewage taken away, indicating a loss of access to these resources.
Nutritional parks have closed. The realities and challenges are different.
An arctic indigenous-based conference would be beneficial.
I'm speaking on behalf of Yukon now and the Northwest Territories. There are extreme changes in temperature. This has created an issue for food security as people need to travel further across land to get food--for example, in Old Crow, where there is no access.
New insects and birds are being introduced, like the spruce beetle at Haines Junction. There has been a problem with bears going into towns to escape forest fires, and there is increased siltation in fish spawning beds.
In Whitehorse the snow composition is wetter and heavier.
In Dawson, salmon populations are changing, with a decrease in their run and a change in appearance and taste, possibly indicating a change in their health.
Tourists need to be aware that climate change is happening.
Positive impacts have also resulted, such as an increase in the water table and the well-being of greenhouses. For hunters, bison populations are up, not the native chasing sheep. Additional research must be done that can be accessible to the general public and presented to the community. Study information must be available.
There needs to be an improvement in waste disposal, and action must take place in offices and houses.
Next is the Northwest Territories. There is a lot to be learned about change. Youth must be involved so they can inform friends and family.
Changes in populations have occurred, including a decrease in ducks and songbirds. Animals are migrating to untouched human communities.
There has been an increase in thunderstorms, and more insects have appeared.
Hunted meat is flakier and tastes different. Mammals are smaller, and deer and cougars are moving to the north, with muskox moving to the south.
Trees are changing earlier and are growing above the tree line.
Fish drying is no longer operational. There is a change in the ice breakup and freezing dynamics, which changes how communities prepare for both.
Climate change is leading to health implications, including increasing stomach cancer levels. A prelude to stomach cancer is being found in 70% to 80% of some communities. There have been changes in individual homes and at the community levels. We must raise awareness through youth networking, anti-idling campaigns, lobbying conferences, regulations, and policies.
These are the many things that we spoke about in the conference we had in Inuvik. The youth are trying to make a change and make our voice heard. Aboriginal people are being devastated and hit hard due to climate change.
We have many more.... We have storytelling that happens throughout the years, and within a 20-year span there have been changes. I myself personally have been touched by this. My family goes about 170 to 180 miles north of Talurjuaq to get our beluga. For the past 10 years it has been clear of ice. We were never able to make it through due to multi-year ice. Anyway, there are changes.
We need our voice heard.
If you have any more questions on this, don't hesitate to ask me.
You can maybe give me a one-minute signal.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for this opportunity.
My name is Chief Bill Erasmus. I'm actually the national chief for the Dene Nation, which comprises 30 communities in the Northwest Territories, one community in Alberta, and one in northern Manitoba.
The Dene are a large linguistic family that is actually in Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and northern parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. We're also in the lower 49, where they call us Apache, Navajo, Hupa, and other tribes. The linguistic family, in the books, is Athabaskan.
Again, it's a pleasure. My comments might not be directly related to the proposed bill, but I think it's relevant to make comments that will have the committee put together their thoughts on how to proceed.
As for my background, I was trained as a political scientist and as an anthropologist. I try to apply that work, along with my upbringing as an indigenous person from this part of the world, to my everyday thinking. I'm still a young man, in my view, but I've seen many changes over the years. I've been a chief since 1987 and have held office continuously since then. I've seen many political leaders come and go, and I've been very cognizant of Canada's position when it comes to issues related to our lands and our environment. In fact, until the end of last week, I held the national portfolio for environment for the Assembly of First Nations. So I was very aware of the issues related to climate change, global warming, and the concerns people have around those issues.
For our people in the north, it's a reality. It's real. Today, for example, it's maybe minus 10 degrees, at the most, in Yellowknife. It's very cloudy. It snowed a bit last night. It's the middle of November. When I was a child, it would be at least minus 30 degrees at this time of year. The ice would be frozen, and that would generally be normal. We didn't get a lot of snow.
We already have snow in Yellowknife, enough snow a year that would keep us for the winter. In other words, we're getting record amounts of snow. In some ways it's good, because in the spring the earth cleanses itself. The problem, and many of you can relate to this, is that the city's snow removal budget is well cut into already. And there are all the other related problems we have in municipalities.
Once you move out of our communities or our reserves or where we reside, it becomes very difficult for our people to maintain their way of living. For example, I know of at least one person who's gone through the ice already. He was lucky to get out. He didn't freeze. His friends got to him. He is one of the trappers, one of the local people who knows a lot about the land. The problem is it's very difficult to judge the ice, the snow. People are having a lot of difficulty.
In terms of the animals, you've probably heard about the caribou. We're having great difficulty because there's a huge decline in caribou right across the north, from Alaska, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, into Nunavut, into northern Quebec, and so on. Caribou are a very interesting animal. There are different species. The ones closer to you we call woodland caribou. They feed off different food. They're a bigger animal. Some are almost as big as a moose or an elk. But the more northern caribou, which we're just as familiar with, are the barren land caribou. They're smaller and they're very vulnerable. There are also what you call mountain caribou.
These animals are having a very tough time. I'll talk just about this year, for example. We had rain here a week ago, which is very uncharacteristic for this area. We would never see rain after mid-September at the very latest. But now we're getting rain in November. I believe a year ago, or the year before, it rained at the end of December and in January, which is the coldest time of the year. It should be minus 45 or minus 50. If it rains, you'll get a layer of ice after it cools and the animals cannot get underneath the ice to get the food they need to sustain themselves. If this is maintained throughout the winter, in the spring when they have their young they are malnourished. They have their young and they don't survive. They just drop them. So there are fewer calves. That has happened. There's scientific evidence for that.
But the caribou are having difficulty not only because of the climate. Other things are happening. Major developments in the north may be causing problems. For example, Canada's food guide states that we ought to eat caribou and wild game and so on, but if you can't get access to them, it doesn't help us. For example, if there's a diamond mine in the way of getting to these caribou, then there are problems. And if development is happening where the caribou are going to have their little ones, then the caribou are not in the right frame of mind to have their little ones. It's like the problem we had a number of years ago when there was a proposal to have low-level flying up here. It was proven that the low-level flights affect the animals, especially their eardrums.
Thank you very much for the question, sir.
First of all, we need to come to terms with the fact that global warming and climate change are actually happening. It's man-made. It's not something that nature has created. We have to admit that climate change is a reality, global warming is a reality. I know there are some countries or some governments that are having a tough time even admitting that. So first of all, let's admit that it's happening, it's real, and it's not going to improve unless man does something. And that means every one of us--as individuals, as families, as communities, as regions, as nations, whatever we call ourselves, we all have to do something.
If you want to work on infrastructure and do something about permafrost melting and all the difficulties we see in the north, you have to deal with that reality. It means turning the policies around. It means dealing with the big corporations that are affecting us in northern Alberta. I've mentioned this to your committee before, that we are downstream from Fort McMurray. And we all know what's happening there, but Canada allows it to happen. You are in a position to do something, and if you don't do something, this is going to continue. We can put money into infrastructure and so on, but if you don't deal with those big companies, if you don't say, “Listen you guys, we have to get rid of the emissions, we have to be real with these targets, and we have to quit playing games”, then as people, we're not going to survive very long.
In our view, the report that Dr. Suzuki came out with, with the Pembina Institute, hits the mark right on. Canada can still be a leader in the world; they can still have the jobs they want and be a leader internationally.
Mr. Chairman, I think that's the way we need to look at this. If it takes more discussion across the country, then let's do that. Let's plug into these old-timers who have been here...and it's not only our people. Anyone near my age or older sees the differences. We had snow here last week--we call it “heart-attack snow”--that we only get in March when it's melting. We call it heart-attack snow because it sticks to your shovel, and that's when people can't lift the shovel and they keel over. That's incredible. And if we don't do something, it's not going to get any better.
Again, thank you for the question.
The anthropologists tell us we've lived here for at least 30,000 years. The oil and other resources in the ground have been there for a long time. Our people, to a large extent, knew they were there. We used some of those resources. We understand how other people see them. When people see diamonds, for example, we know they act in a particular way. Since we've had diamonds on the market for the last ten years here in Yellowknife, the black market has also been here. We've had activities here we've never had before. There are only 20,000 people in Yellowknife, and the crime rate here is incredible. We need to step back and look at the big picture. We need to ask the people what they want. We have to quit having these big dreams about having pipelines and having ships going through the Northwest Passage and all of these things that don't make sense to people who were brought up in the north and who are not going to leave. Clearly, what that means is....
There are only 40,000 people here. We are still 51% of the population. We are a majority. It is our homeland. Until we sit down at the same table and talk about what our future is going to look like, and until we all have the same ability to have influence in the world, we're going to have a very difficult time.
For example, I'm chair of the Arctic Athabaskan people from Alaska, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. We're fortunate to be able to sit at the Arctic council table as permanent participants. With the other circumpolar countries we're able to discuss all matters at that table. We don't have a vote, but we're able to bring forward our concerns. We generate a lot of influence. That is part of the north. But when we go to the UN we have no voice whatsoever. Until our nations have a voice at the UN, we're going to have problems. Canada can help us get to that table.
I want to answer the question in a way that relates to the bill. I don't mean to pull the committee one way or the other; I'm expressing a view from where I am in the world. Your job is to take that and use it in a way that will help you through this.
Mr. Chairman, in addressing this question, I'll talk a little bit about what happens when you try to get funding and try to get involved. What's happening right now is that our people have found that they have to express themselves, and the best way they can do that is through traditional knowledge, by bringing their elders forward, by reminding people of how we ought to move forward, all based on our own principles and values and so on.
The problem is that the system is not designed to hear our people. It's not designed to accept the science we have. It's not designed to recognize that our people have survived because we're able to adapt, because we're able to look forward, because we sincerely want to work with everyone. The system is based on an individual one, and we have great difficulty with that.
We're able to bring our concerns forward and talk about targets and talk about what the world could be, but it's very difficult. When we voice our concerns, many of our people don't see how the country brings their issues together.
For example, this bill that you're bringing forward connects with a whole lot of other things. It links with economics. It links with language. It links with culture. It links with the very fabric of this country. If everyone is not involved in it, you as parliamentarians are going to be accused of doing something that's against the will of the people. And we will feel this for the next hundred years.
Thank you to both witnesses, Mr. Tulurialik and Mr. Erasmus, for making the effort. It's unfortunate that you weren't able to be with us today due to weather issues, but again, we do all appreciate what you've shared to this point.
I found it very interesting, because climate change is happening. There is consensus, both internationally and within this committee, that climate change is happening. It's very important to hear your perspective of how that is affecting first nations, Inuit, and Métis. I appreciate what you've shared.
Our focus today is on Bill C-311. My question to both of you is.... Do you have a copy of Bill C-311 with you today?
I don't mean to speak ahead of our other presenter. This is what I was getting at earlier; I think we need to sit down together, all peoples of this land, including all of the indigenous peoples.
A very interesting thing happened in the U.S. two weeks ago. President Obama invited all of the tribal peoples to meet with him, and they talked about the economy and about the future of America. Apparently, it may not have moved as far as people wanted, but a process is beginning.
Canada, with much fewer people, ought to do the same. If I were the Prime Minister, I would call in the first peoples of this land, with their experts, and talk about how we ought to stimulate the economy, how we ought to approach the world, and how we can get out of this mess we're in. Our people notice—
Hello, Bill. Hello, Joe. It's Justin Trudeau. Thank you very much, both of you, for being here. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
I'm interested in following up on some of Mr. Warawa's comments. The government is regularly bringing forward the concerns around the costs associated with truly ambitious targets, more in line with the science, like a 20% reduction from 1990, or a 25% reduction.
It's interesting to me to hear your perspective, because, as you're only too aware, it's more expensive to live in the north. You are therefore greater emitters, because of energy requirements and such, of greenhouse gases and carbon emissions. So any stringent targets, and ambitious targets, as Mr. Warawa showed in an example in an extreme case, would doubtless require a slightly larger level of sacrifice perhaps from the people in the north than elsewhere. Even given that, you seem to be still in favour of having ambitious targets and holding ourselves to them. Is that a fair assessment?
I'd like to hear from Bill first, but then Joe afterwards.
I would like to voice my opinion on that. I do a lot of hunting, like a lot of others up here in the Arctic. We Inuit rely on our country food more than store-bought food. But guess what? It costs $23 for a quart of oil, and the price of gasoline has gone right through the roof. For me to get all those things to go out on the land, I have to work. And guess what I have to use? I have to use a loader that uses diesel. It puts a big strain on the people up here.
As Bill Erasmus said, we don't want a dollar sign. We're renewable, sustainability people. We live off the land. But we need our voices heard, and you guys need to know what it is like up here. You have to come up here to know how it is. We have people coming from the south going to the stores and saying, “These prices are ridiculous!” We already know that. But what can we do?
People in the House of Commons in Parliament make all kinds of bills and leave us out. It hurts us big time. Yes, we need help economically. Whether we're in the north or in the south, there are people who say that we need more money and more mines. But the people who actually live up here say, “No, we do not need that.” There are people who are manipulating their power in this area, telling us we need jobs and mines to help our people. But they are really only representing themselves.
I just want to voice my concern. Yes, everything is very expensive up here. Yes, we need money. But no, you can't put a dollar sign on all of that. We are people who live off the land.
It's nice to see you again, Chief Erasmus. As you know, we met in Edmonton, I think it was, when the committee was on its tour of Alberta in the context of its study on oil sands and water, which hopefully we will approve a final report on shortly, perhaps after this bill has gone through committee.
In terms of what might be needed to reach the 25% reduction target by 2020, would you not think it would be much easier to achieve if we lived in a kind of unitary political state, perhaps like Britain, where we didn't have powerful provinces with very different economic bases, with regional rivalries and jealousies, and so on? Would it not be easier to achieve if we lived in that kind of system, with maybe more of a command-and-control government in Ottawa, if that's at all possible? What's your perspective on the achievability of a 25% reduction within the current political context?
Yes, I do remember meeting you, and it was a pleasure meeting before the committee. It seems we never have enough time to have the kind of dialogue we need. We might have to have this dialogue outside the committee chambers.
I think strongly that Canada has a real interesting background and history, the way it has been developed. It's not like the States in many ways, but then it is. Yes, the provinces have authority. Yes, indigenous peoples have authority under section 35. The provinces are under section 92, and the federal government is under section 91. We have these incredible agreements that, on the face of it, look like they could do a lot, but they're not being implemented. For example, Treaty 11 goes 200 miles north of the Beaufort Sea because it's an international instrument with Great Britain, but this country refuses to recognize that and have that as a sovereignty document. The issue of sovereignty up in the Beaufort delta was settled in 1921 between our peoples and England, on behalf of Canada, because Canada didn't have the authority to sign the treaty. So this makeup is incredible.
If we were to sit down and talk about adaptation, talk about the potential this country has, we could go a long way, but there are a select few who want to tell everyone what to do and guide our lives; it doesn't work today and it's not going to work tomorrow.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, of course, to our witnesses appearing here today, Chief Erasmus and Mr. Tulurialik.
We're here studying Bill currently, a bill sponsored by a member of the New Democratic Party, and of course this is not the government's climate change plan, though Bill C-311 could have serious effects upon that. Our options as a committee are whether this bill will be passed as is by the committee, whether it will be rejected as is by the committee, or whether there will be changes proposed to the bill. That's the task in front of us. And changes could be based on the input of witnesses.
Having laid that as the foundation to our witnesses, Chief Erasmus, I want to start with you, because I'm a little confused, based on your testimony so far. You said, in response to Mr. Woodworth's question, that you think you may have been consulted by the NDP in the drafting of this bill.
Mr. Tulurialik, you said you weren't sure whether the NDP consulted you on this bill, but it's possible that there may have been some consultation. You've also said, on the other side of it, that we need more consultation. So I'm not sure, for purposes of considering Bill , the NDP's bill, whether there has been enough consultation or whether we need more consultation specifically with first peoples. Could you answer that question for me as a starting point?
I can appreciate that. I can see already in the discussion that there can be very different regional effects when we discuss what to do about climate change.
I come from the southernmost riding in all of Canada. Of course, the auto industry is king there, so possible effects on the auto industry, for example, do become a major part of the discussion that I bring to the table here as a member of Parliament on behalf of my region. I can see now that issues can be very different with respect to the north, and I can appreciate that.
I am going to have some difficulty in terms of further questions because you both testified to some extent that you've either only read part of the bill or you haven't read the bill, so you may have some difficulty answering questions about the bill. I will pose them again for the record, and if you could answer in a written submission to the committee, we would appreciate that. I'll just leave them for the record for you so that you can provide a written response to the committee.
Specifically, because climate change has impacts with respect to the north, does Bill address the issue of adaptation in a meaningful fashion? That's question one.
Question two, do you feel that traditional aboriginal knowledge has been appropriately used in developing Bill C-311?
Question three is about industries in the north that affect aboriginal communities. Have they been appropriately consulted in the preparation of Bill C-311?
If you could provide written answers to the committee on those questions, we'd certainly appreciate that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you. Time has run out on the meeting. Actually, Mr. Tulurialik's connection has been terminated already.
Chief Erasmus, I'd like to thank you for your comments and participation in today's study of Bill C-311.
Just before I adjourn, I want to request that anybody who wants to forward amendments on Bill C-311 do so as quickly as possible so we can start doing clause-by-clause on December 1.
Just so everyone knows what the line-up is on Thursday, we are having our international panel. Next week, on Tuesday, we have the international panel, with witnesses from Environment Northeast and from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. On November 26 we have the panel on the economy. Our final panel is on December 1, and we have an industry panel.
There have been other witnesses who have requested to appear, but time is running short, unless the committee desires to have one more panel on December 3. But right now we do have that for clause-by-clause consideration.