It's a pleasure to spend this next hour with you.
As I said to the natural resources committee, which I have had the pleasure of appearing in front of twice, I truly believe that this is the heart of our democracy and the heart of Parliament. This is an opportunity for members to exchange views respectfully, for ministers to be accountable to colleagues, and for us to take seriously, as I know we all do, the very important issues that face us, whether in government or in opposition. I welcome this next 58 minutes or so.
I want you to know that I appreciate and acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquins.
I also want to talk about my mandate letter from the , and the priorities we have established to ensure that indigenous peoples are true beneficiaries of local resource development: economically, socially, and culturally.
I will also note, and not just in passing, that these mandate letters are public. There are 35 million Canadians who can read them and can hold us accountable. In fact, there are billions of people around the world, if they're interested, who can know what is expected of ministers. The has made public his expectations of us, and his expectations of our responsibility to Canadians.
As the himself has said, there is no relationship more important to our government than the one with indigenous peoples. His directions have been clear to every cabinet minister:
||It is time for Canada to have a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.
This is fundamental and central to our vision for developing Canada's natural resources for the low-carbon, clean growth economy ahead. If we want to attract the investment and build the infrastructure to move our resources to market, then we need to get our environmental house in order and have Canadians behind us. There's no better place to start than with first nations, Métis nation, and Inuit peoples. That is not just because there is a constitutional duty to consult, which there is, but because it affords an opportunity to include, to make real the promise of a new relationship based on trust and mutual respect as economic partners and as environmental stewards.
The importance and the urgency of these efforts has rarely been more apparent than with the tragic suicide crisis in Attawapiskat and in indigenous communities across the country. Speaking with colleagues over the last number of days, we have been reminded that these tragedies are not local or isolated to one part of our country. They exist throughout the north. They exist in remote communities. We should always be mindful of the fact that what we're witnessing in one part of the country is occurring throughout the country. Therefore, our concentration, our effort, and our focus has to be a national one.
Our government recognizes that any solutions in the short and long term must involve greater resources. That's why, through budget 2016, we have committed to historic investments totalling $8.4 billion for first nations priorities, to improve living conditions and social and economic outcomes. Money alone, as all members know, is not the answer; it's part of an answer.
People in these communities must also have hope. Sustainable resource development can be part of that hope. It can strengthen local indigenous economies, preserve the integrity of their land, and create well-paying jobs, simply by incorporating centuries of indigenous culture and wisdom to ensure that economic prosperity and environmental performance go hand in hand.
To recount very personal experiences that I have had over the last number of months as minister throughout Canada, in conversations with elders, with community leaders, there is a generational responsibility, both retrospectively and prospectively, to make sure that we respect the relationship between the human, the land, the water, and the air. Those generations that came before us expect us to be stewards in our time. In our time, we have an obligation to make sure that we leave our planet and our environment in shape for the generations to come.
We can strengthen local indigenous economies and preserve the integrity of their land, all at the same time. Where do we start? One of the things I've been doing as minister is calling round tables, and members will be interested to know that if you put a group of industry leaders, aboriginal community leaders, and environmental activists at the same time, and you would think they would have no common ground, you find that after two or three hours of intense conversation and listening, common objectives become much clearer. In some cases there had never been these kinds of conversations before. When we realize that economic growth and environmental stewardship along with respect for indigenous background, culture, and practices is actually a shared national objective, you begin to see the contours of how we can make sense of the complexity and the layers of decision-making that are going to be in front of us.
As Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde has said so well, “Before you build anything, build positive, respectful relationships”, and we are heeding that advice as follows: Implementing an interim strategy to guide decision-making for major resource projects, a strategy that emphasizes the importance of not only meaningful engagement with indigenous peoples but also concrete actions to deepen those consultations; making sure decisions are based on science and evidence and that the evidence includes traditional indigenous knowledge; and modernizing the National Energy Board so its composition reflects regional views and has deep expertise in indigenous traditional knowledge.
Our first budget supports these efforts by including $16.5 million to implement some of these new measures.
We have a chance to change the language on resource development and to strive for consensus. We will never achieve unanimity. We don't achieve unanimity even on simple matters of public policy, and we understand that the complexities of our federation and the issues that are involved in resource development will never lead to everybody saying the same thing about the same issue at the same time. But we can develop a consensus and we can develop a process that carries the confidence of the Canadian people.
Proponents of major resource projects are coming to understand this. They are starting to take the necessary time and effort to work with local indigenous communities to build trust with indigenous leaders and communities. The mining sector, as many of you know, has long been a role model for this. By our estimates there are 380 active agreements between mining companies and indigenous communities across the country. These agreements have helped to forge strong partnerships and provide significant local benefits in key areas such as training, employment, business development, procurement, and environmental protection.
What is the result? More than 10,000 indigenous people are working in mining and mineral processing across the country. Most of them are employed in upstream jobs, but there are many others finding business opportunities in the service and supply industries as well as in environmental technology. We need to expand those efforts, as the forest sector has done over the years, and how every resource industry could with goodwill, the right kinds of engagements, and growing experience.
Indigenous communities have waited a long time for this. I've heard it repeatedly. Yes, indigenous peoples consider the land integral to their identity. They have a sense of responsibility, but they will also tell you, often in the same breath, that they want opportunity for their children. They want economic possibilities for communities that have had very few. We need to take these two imperatives and merge them together to find new ways to develop our resources responsibly, to get them to market sustainably, all while creating good, clean jobs for indigenous communities.
It has been a very long time since we last had a better chance for consensus. That's my message to you. It's the message to us. If we take the power of industry, show respect for the land and water, acknowledge the essential role of indigenous peoples, we can be an example not only to ourselves, but to the world.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you for having us.
Today I'd like to provide an overview of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada's mandate, its responsibilities, organizational structure, and key priorities for the 2016-17 years.
Before I begin, I would note that I am also tabling a presentation entitled “Main estimates 2016-2017” for your information. The presentation contains the department's financial context and expenditure information. While I won't speak to this presentation today, Paul Thoppil, the chief financial officer, would be pleased to respond to your questions.
INAC's minister oversees a complex and challenging portfolio and provides leadership on the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples and its responsibilities in the north. The department has a dual mandate: indigenous affairs and northern affairs. In some cases there's overlap between the two areas, but as often as not the two are separate.
The minister's mandate is derived from a number of statutes. Of particular note, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act outlines the powers and duties of the minister and the department. While the term “Indian” remains in the department's legal name because of this act, the term “indigenous” is now used in the department's applied title under the federal identity program.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights, and section 91(24) of the Constitution Act gives the federal department exclusive legislative authority over “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians”.
The department's mission is to work to make Canada a better place for indigenous and northern people and communities. We work towards this by promoting reconciliation and fulfilling our constitutional and legal obligations to indigenous peoples. We work to improve quality of life and to support and enable indigenous peoples' participation and inclusion in Canada's economy.
In general, INAC has primary but not exclusive responsibility for meeting the federal government's constitutional treaty, political, and legal responsibilities to indigenous peoples and northerners.
The presentation before you outlines INAC's key objectives as well as a comprehensive listing of responsibilities and activities. These include engaging in dialogue with indigenous peoples about rights that have yet to be recognized or established; negotiating comprehensive and specific claims and self-government agreements, and implementing related obligations; implementing the Indian Act, which remains the primary vehicle for exercising federal jurisdiction under 91(24) and the Constitution Act, 1967 which guides how the minister interacts with first nations; implementing approximately 93 other statutes covering a wide range of subjects and responsibilities; and supporting the minister as the Government of Canada's primary interlocutor for Métis and non-status Indians.
INAC also funds the delivery of programs and services for first nations on reserve as a matter of policy, including provincial and municipal-type programming and services such as education, social housing, emergency management, and community infrastructure, often in partnership or through memoranda of understanding with provinces and territories. It is important to note that indigenous peoples residing off reserve have full access to provincial social and education programming. This context points to the need to work closely with provincial and territorial governments in developing solutions to issues facing indigenous peoples.
INAC also supports indigenous participation and inclusion in Canada's economy through entrepreneurship and community economic development programs; indigenous involvement in natural resource development and management, such as participation in commercial fisheries; key opt-in legislation, such as the First Nations Land Management Act; and indigenous labour force readiness in participation activities.
Through its northern development mandate, INAC leads federal government efforts for two-fifths of Canada's land mass, with a direct role in advancing the Northern Strategy through the political and economic development of the territories and significant responsibilities for science, land, and environmental management. In the north the territorial governments generally provide the majority of social programs and services to all northerners, including indigenous people; however, INAC serves as a focal point for Inuit issues and supports the inclusion of Inuit-specific concerns in federal program and policy development.
My presentation provides some information on the terminology used to refer to indigenous peoples today, as well as some brief demographic information on the populations we serve in executing INAC's mandate and responsibilities.
The term “aboriginal peoples” refers to the descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. The Constitution Act 1982 recognizes three groups: Indian, Métis, and Inuit. There are three separate peoples with unique heritage, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.
The term “indigenous” is similar to aboriginal, in that it refers to all three status groups in Canada: first nations, Métis, and Inuit. Indigenous is used in the international context and is the preferred term in English. Both terms translate into French as autochtone.
The term “status Indian” refers to a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act, while “non-status Indian” refers to an Indian person who is not registered as an Indian under the act.
There are legal reasons for the continued use of the term “Indian”. Such terminology is recognized in the Indian Act and is used by the Government of Canada when making reference to the particular group.
“First nations people”, though, is the term that refers to Indian peoples in Canada both with and without status under the act. Some communities have adopted the term first nations rather than band.
“Inuit” are indigenous people in northern Canada living primarily in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec, and northern Labrador. “Métis” refers to the people of mixed first nation-European ancestry who identify as Métis.
In terms of demographics, about half of the registered Indians live on reserves, with the majority of non-status Indians and Métis living in urban centres.
INAC's program alignment architecture or PAA is an inventory of all the programs undertaken by the department for systematic reporting, from main estimates to Public Accounts. The PAA forms the backbone of each department's report on plans and priorities. Planned performance in regard to financial resources, human resources, and program results are articulated at all levels in the PAA.
INAC's 2016-17 PAA is organized by four strategic outcomes and is supported by 15 departmental programs and 37 subprograms. The four strategic outcomes are: the government, which supports good governance rights and interests of indigenous peoples; the people, which addresses individual, family, and community well-being for first nations and Inuit; the land and economy, which addresses full participation of first nations, Métis and non-status Indians, and Inuit individuals and communities in the economy; and the north.
The program alignment architecture illustrates how the work of the department has been organized in the past. This structure will be used with minor changes for the upcoming year, and will be revisited for future years.
To deliver on its responsibilities, the department is organized into nine sectors that provide services for Canadians. Key activities of each sector are referenced in my presentation. All of their activities support and align with the department's four strategic outcomes.
As well, INAC has 10 regional offices and one special operating agency, Indian Oil and Gas Canada. The regional offices are critical to the work of the department. They support the effective delivery of the wide range of programs, activities, and services that the department undertakes. They maintain direct links with the communities we serve and with the provincial and territorial governments and other partners. Although INAC's mission and objectives are similar from region to region, the economic, social, and cultural profile of indigenous peoples is diverse and varies across and within regions.
In addition, five corporate service functions support departmental activities through the provision of communication services, human resources and workplace services, audit and evaluation, corporate secretariat functions, and legal services.
It is becoming increasingly important for the sectors to work together to implement the department's priorities, just as different departments across the federal government need to come together to support government-wide priorities.
Here, on page 11, we have provided you with some information on how departmental staff are distributed across regions and headquarters. The proportion of staff in each region generally corresponds to the relative size of the indigenous population in each region.
Concerning the current direction, we have provided an overview of key indigenous northern commitments that have been articulated in Minister Bennett's mandate letter and the Speech from the Throne. These commitments are what will guide INAC over the next four years. Tabled in the House of Commons on March 22, budget 2016 also announced historic investments totalling $8.4 billion over five years to implement the commitments. Proposed investments in education, infrastructure, training, and other programs will be implemented in collaboration with a number of other departments.
For the purposes of INAC's report on plans and priorities, the department has translated these commitments into five major cross-cutting themes: moving forward with rights and reconciliation; putting children and youth first; supporting stronger indigenous communities; improving quality of life for Métis, individuals, and communities; and fostering a strong and inclusive north.
All of the priorities are horizontal in nature and will require co-operation with other federal departments, with provinces and territories, with municipal governments, and, most importantly, with indigenous communities and organizations.
Just to conclude, INAC has a leading role on behalf of the federal government in advancing the reconciliation agenda and the nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, as well as a direct role in advancing the northern strategy through political and economic development.
The roles are wide ranging and they're constantly evolving. We're trying to do everything with a sense of partnership.
With that, I'll conclude and take your questions.