Hello, everybody. Let's get started.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), we have supplementary estimates (A), 2018-19: votes 1a, 5a and 10a under the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and votes 1a, 5a and 10a under the Department of Indigenous Services Canada, referred to the committee on Wednesday, October 24, 2018.
We are the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and we will have the opportunity to hear from two ministers whom we deal with directly.
Before we get started, we always recognize the fact that we're in a process of truth and reconciliation in Canada and that, in fact, these Parliament buildings are on unceded Algonquin territory. We do that when we are anywhere in Canada, and I encourage all Canadians to review the history of settlement and our relationship with indigenous peoples.
Today we start off with the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
Welcome once again to our committee.
Thank you. It's great to be back.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for inviting us to be here with you all today.
I would like to begin by acknowledging, as you have also mentioned, that we come together on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
We're pleased to be here this afternoon to discuss the supplementary estimates (A) for the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, specifically as they relate to my responsibilities as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
I am joined by Daniel Watson, our new deputy minister, who I don't think has been with us here before. He comes from Parks Canada, so he knows a lot about reconciliation. I am also joined by Alex Lakroni, chief finances, results and delivery officer, both for the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
We are appearing in the context of the ongoing changes to the departmental organization and ministerial responsibilities to fulfill our commitment to replace the colonial structures that were conceived at another time with a different kind of relationship.
As you know, to better support our government's commitment to renew relationships with first nations, Inuit, and Métis on a foundation of recognition and implementation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership, as the Prime Minister put into the mandate letters of all ministers, the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of the old Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in August 2017.
The dissolution of the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada reflects the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and the two new departments, we believe, are already better serving the distinct needs of first nations, Inuit, and Métis.
The first nations and Inuit health branch has already been integrated into the new Department of Indigenous Services, and Minister Philpott, whom you will be hearing from later today, is focused on improving outcomes for indigenous peoples by delivering more effective, distinctions-based services, as well as focusing on prevention.
I'm focused on advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples by redressing long-standing historical injustices while accelerating our work to support first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to implement their visions of self-determination.
We are committed to moving from a denial of rights approach to one that recognizes and affirms rights.
In support of that vision, we are working in partnership with first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to create a new recognition and implementation of indigenous rights framework. Among the points of consensus from indigenous partners is that the framework should include accountability measures to ensure that Canada is fully implementing indigenous treaties and rights and acting transparently.
Our continuing engagement is building upon the more than 100 sessions I have personally attended, with more than 1,700 participants, which have been held coast to coast to coast to ensure that the framework reflects the views of indigenous peoples.
Engagement with our partners is ongoing, and we are moving forward, together. We are absolutely determined to get this right.
In August 2018, assumed responsibility to lead our government's work in the north, including the new Arctic policy for Canada. I remain focused on strengthening and renewing the relationship between the federal government and the indigenous peoples of the north. Minister LeBlanc and I work very closely together to ensure that northern policy is developed by northerners for northerners, and that it reflects the unique perspectives of indigenous peoples in the north in a manner that respects their distinct cultural traditions and identities.
These and other initiatives are ensuring that we close the socio-economic gap between indigenous peoples and non-indigenous Canadians, advancing reconciliation and making foundational changes to accelerate self-determination.
The supplementary estimates (A) reflect a net increase of $1.7 billion, which brings the total appropriation for 2018-19 for the department to $4.9 billion. The vast majority of these requested funds are to resolve long-standing litigation and to support concrete self-determination measures, including the $155 million for the sixties scoop settlement, $666 million for special claims out of the Williams Treaties, $239 million for the Little Red River Cree Nation agricultural benefits specific claims, and $53.9 million for other out-of-court settlements. There is $116 million that is to be reprofiled back to the specific claims settlement fund, and $129 million to support the implementation of the government-to-government relationship with the Manitoba Metis Federation.
The Sixties Scoop is a dark and painful chapter in Canada's history.
The requested $155 million will fund the approved settlement, which resolves the issues raised by the longest-standing case of ongoing litigation and similar class actions. Sixties scoop survivors have also identified their desire to reconnect with their communities, and that is why the settlement includes $50 million for a foundation for healing, commemoration, education, language and culture.
Our government knows there are other claims that remain unresolved, and we are committed to addressing the remaining harm suffered by other indigenous children as a result of the sixties scoop.
The funding of $666 million is to make settlement payments to the seven Williams Treaties First Nations, which will resolve the Alderville litigation. The Williams Treaties First Nations have been fighting in court for more than 25 years to redress injustices involving compensation, land and harvesting rights dating back to 1923.
Earlier this month, the settlement of these long-standing claims was celebrated at a moving ceremony that I was honoured to attend with the Williams Treaty chiefs, community members and the Government of Ontario. Achieved through dialogue and in partnership, it includes financial compensation, recognition of treaty harvesting rights and entitlement to add additional reserve land.
Canada and Ontario also apologized for the negative impacts of these treaties.
As Chief Kelly LaRocca has said, “this settlement agreement marks the beginning of healing for our people.”
Canada has also been negotiating with 21 first nations to resolve specific claims alleging that Canada failed to provide agricultural benefits under Treaty 8.
Agreements have been signed with 18 First Nations, and funds have been paid.
The related $239 million in supplementary estimates is to fund the settlement with Little Red River Cree Nation, which is one of three remaining first nations, out of the 21, still to receive payment.
As these concrete examples show, our government understands that negotiation rather than litigation is the best way to right historical wrongs and settle past grievances. I also think it's important to highlight that these settlements resolve legal liabilities of the Government of Canada. We believe that resolving litigation out of court is not only the right thing to do, but the most responsible and effective way to manage taxpayers' dollars. Negotiated settlements are not only often less costly, but able to achieve investments in healing, commemoration, wellness and culture initiatives, in addition to the compensation.
We are also moving forward with renewed nation-to-nation, government-to-government and Inuit-to-Crown relationships.
The funding of $129 million is for the implementation of a renewed government-to-government relationship with the Manitoba Metis Federation. This includes funding to support governance capacity to assist the Manitoba Metis Federation in its transition from a corporate entity to a government and to implement its vision of greater self-determination. Its negotiations with the Government of Canada represent the first self-government negotiations between Canada and a Métis collective south of 60 and will include discussions to establish a long-term self-government fiscal relationship.
The funding requested through supplementary estimates (A) supports our government's commitment to honour treaties, resolve claims through negotiations and accelerate indigenous self-determination.
I urge you to approve these supplementary estimates, and I look forward to taking your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank you again for coming, Minister, along with Deputy Minister Watson and Alex Lakroni.
You may recall that about a year ago, on November 30, my question to start out that day was, and I quote:
Two departments, more staff, more money.... Give me an indication of how many more staff we have now, how much more money. Can you just give us a quick update? Obviously, you've split into two now, so that means you're hiring more. How much does that cost?
If you don't mind, a year ago, on November 30, 2017, you said:
One of the corrections I will make is that we are not splitting a department in two. We are dissolving a department, because all the great people who worked in our department had one burden on them: they worked for INAC. INAC is no longer to exist. We will build two new departments, bottom up, form following function, as we said, based on the needs.
Here we are today, and on the notice of meeting I see four, not two. How does this work? How much, really, is it costing Canadian taxpayers? A year ago, on November 30, you said two, and here we have four: Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Indian Affairs and Northern Development now, Minister of Indigenous Services, and now Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, with Mr. as the new lead.
Please, Minister, fill us in.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for the welcome and the opportunity to be with you today.
I want to acknowledge that we are gathering for this meeting on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
It is a pleasure to meet again with the members of this committee. I would like to start by thanking you for the important work you are doing.
I appreciated your report on wildfires and fire safety on reserve, and I look forward to the results of your study on long-term care on reserve.
Last week, as you know, the reminded us in his fall economic statement that the Government of Canada is committed to growing the middle class, which means creating an environment for indigenous peoples to access the opportunities that will enable them to be part of the thriving middle class.
It's no secret that those who have faced some of the most severe economic disadvantages in this country for a very long time are indigenous peoples. I want to assure committee members that we are hard at work to change this reality for indigenous peoples in Canada. We have made good progress in our work to close the socio-economic gaps for indigenous peoples.
I will be happy to answer any questions about that progress today.
Today I will be outlining my department's supplementary estimates A, funding which is crucial to address the broad socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada.
As you know, in January 2018, we identified five interconnected priority areas where Indigenous Services Canada plays an important role. These are child and family services, education, health outcomes, infrastructure and economic prosperity.
Although the appropriations in budget 2018 are reflected in the main estimates of the Treasury Board Secretariat, I would like to take a moment to outline some of the ways this funding is supporting these priorities.
We must address the humanitarian crisis of far too many indigenous children being taken into care. Budget 2018 provides more than $1.4 billion in new funding over six years for first nations child and family services. We are currently working with indigenous partners as well as provinces and territories to reform child and family services, with a focus on prevention and with the idea of keeping children safe and families together. This includes exploring the co-development of options for federal child and family services legislation and supporting the exercise of jurisdiction over child and family services by indigenous communities.
We must also address the unacceptable health outcome gaps in first nations and Inuit communities across the country. To close these gaps, budget 2018 announced more than $1.5 billion over five years, starting this fiscal year, and $149 million per year, ongoing, for health programs. This funding will help, among other things, Inuit-specific approaches to prevent suicide and eradicate tuberculosis. It will also provide resources to address the opioid crisis in first nations communities.
In terms of first nations education, we know the graduation rates don't match those of non-indigenous Canadians, and we've made progress on a co-developed education policy reform that puts the emphasis on self-determination in education. We have also built and renovated schools and increased funding for post-secondary programs.
Another area of priority is addressing the infrastructure need. Both budget 2017 and budget 2018 are providing $1.5 billion in funding towards distinctions-based housing strategies: a co-developed first nations housing strategy; an Inuit-led housing strategy for the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and lnuvialuit; and a Métis Nation housing strategy.
As well, Budget 2018 provides $172.6 million over three years for clean drinking water on reserve. To date, we are on track to lift all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. We have now lifted 75, with 66 to go. This information and all updates on changes to drinking water advisories are available on our website.
I want to spend a few minutes on our fifth priority, that of economic prosperity. The Government of Canada is committed to building a new fiscal relationship with first nations communities, one that will result in sufficient, predictable and sustained funding. This relationship will be built on co-created solutions that support self-determination and accountability of first nations governments to their citizens.
To that end, the Government of Canada agrees with first nations who have told us that the First Nations Financial Transparency Act needs to be replaced with a respectful approach to the accountability relationship between Canada and first nations. That is why we are moving forward with first nations partners on the co-development of a mutual accountability framework, which was a recommendation from the new fiscal relationship report that was produced with the Assembly of First Nations and published in December 2017.
My department and the AFN recently established a joint committee on fiscal relations, which will provide advice on this important co-development work. The recommendations from the committee will be shared starting in spring 2019.
Let me now turn to the supplementary estimates (A).
Indigenous Services Canada requires immediate funds to continue delivering on our mandate of closing socio-economic gaps and advancing self-determination.
These estimates reflect a net increase of $1.23 billion, which brings the total appropriations for 2018-19 for my department to $10.9 billion. The largest portion of this increase, $1.18 billion, is in vote 10, grants and contributions, primarily for water and other infrastructure, and for Jordan's principle. I will touch on three of these initiatives.
Funding of $423 million would be provided for the first nations water and wastewater enhanced program and to monitor and test on-reserve drinking water. This funding is critical to build on our priority work in this area. Projects like the water treatment plant upgrades and repairs, and the training of operators through the circuit rider training program are supported by this funding.
Jordan's principle ensures that all first nations children have access to the health, social, and education products, supports, and services they need, when they need them. Funding of $323 million will support care delivery under Jordan's principle. Since its inception, the reach of Jordan's principle has expanded to apply equally to all first nations children living on or off reserve. From July 2016 to September 2018, more than 165,000 requests for supports and services were approved under Jordan's principle.
To assist with the infrastructure crisis in first nations communities, we are requesting $287 million in funding through these estimates. The funding would address critical infrastructure needs, including housing, and help communities plan in accordance with the construction cycle. With this funding, communities would be able to explore innovative and new approaches to meeting their housing and infrastructure needs.
These supplementary estimates (A), should they be approved by this committee, would make a direct difference in people's lives, in a manner that advances reconciliation.
I thank you for this opportunity, and I am pleased to take your questions.
Thank you very much for the question and for your generous words.
I would point out that any success we have managed to achieve has been a collective effort, working across government, across all parties and across first nations, Inuit and Métis leadership in this country. We're thankful that we're starting to see some really great progress.
The meeting last week with the youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation was an extraordinary one. They were all so inspiring and enthusiastic, and bright and articulate. They met with the , which of course they were delighted to be able to do, but they talked specifically about some of the things you mentioned.
One of them, which I really would be happy to share, is this program called “Choose Life”. One of the great things about Choose Life is that it was actually designed by the youth of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation for the youth of NAN. It was a reaction to the very high rates of suicide. They said they know what their youth need to build hope and resilience, and could they plan a program that they believe will actually make a difference in young people's lives? They placed requests for funding through Jordan's principle, which we were able to support.
It has taken off in an incredible way. Now 47 of the 49 nations are using this. It's a program that has been incredibly successful in building hope. It includes a range of approaches, including spending time with elders, learning about traditional ways, learning about the history of their peoples and building that cultural resilience. There are also opportunities for outdoor education, where they go out on the land, on the rivers, and they learn about hunting and fishing. It really builds up what always likes to call “a secure personal cultural identity”, which is so valuable to people actually being able to have that strong self-esteem.
The youth themselves said it is making a difference and it is saving lives, and they pleaded with the that they be able to continue this program.
I could go on at some length about some of the other great things that Jordan's principle is doing. For example, in Manitoba, where the chair is from, an entirely different program has been designed, called “My Child, My Heart”—again, led by first nations for first nations, totally changing the lives and prospects of these young people.
Thank you very much for raising that question.
You're absolutely right. This matter is of interest to all Canadians. Everywhere I go in the country, I am amazed by the fact that not just indigenous peoples, but non-indigenous Canadians are really seized with the need to make sure there's access to clean drinking water for all Canadians. We have made progress that I'm grateful for. It's good news to celebrate, but there is still more to do.
You're right, though. We discovered early on that, as long-term drinking water advisories were being lifted, new ones were being added. This is something I became aware of as I was starting in this portfolio. We had developed a robust plan for every one of those long-term drinking water advisories. However, initially, what we hadn't yet done was to ask who was at risk and which communities might develop a long-term drinking water advisory.
I'm happy to report to you that we have invested more, as well, in the area of prevention and extra attention for communities where we believe the system is vulnerable. We have also provided more resources for vulnerable systems to be able to pay attention before it gets too late. We are also working directly with communities to make sure they have the necessary construction equipment in place.
However, often it's more than just equipment. It's also about the operation and maintenance plan for the community. Do they have trained water operators? Are those water operators supported to be able to stay and be retained in the community over the long run? It actually requires a pretty comprehensive approach.
I won't say that there aren't setbacks from time to time, and sometimes the timelines get adjusted a bit. This is something we pay very close attention to. I have to give a shout-out to our officials, who have really put together a very strong team and made sure that we provide support to communities.
Thank you, Madam Chair. Unless there's unanimous to consent to double my time, I'll have to halve it with Mr. Waugh, so cut me off at two and a half minutes. Thank you.
Thank you, Minister.
I'm going to give one example, but I really want to say that it represents a lot of examples. About a month ago, I walked in the evening with the Bear Clan Patrol, and I saw them deal with a sexual assault where they very compassionately had an escort take the woman to hospital. I saw them dealing with domestic abuse. I saw people saying, “Thank you so much for being there.”
These are large groups of volunteers who are going out in the frigid weather of Winnipeg and doing absolutely incredible work. They got $100,000 in 2016-17, and in an email to them for 2017-18, they were told, “[T]here was an overwhelming demand for funding to address urban Indigenous issues. As a result, Indigenous Services Canada...is not currently issuing a new call for proposals while we work with partners...”, blah, blah, blah. Basically, we're consulting, and that $100,000 you got last year is not going to be available this year.
I just find that incredible. I make a point, when I'm in cities across this country, to see what our urban aboriginal organizations are doing. To be frank, I think they're the forgotten cousins.
Let's talk about this. How can your department, when these guys are going out and they're picking up needles and they're looking for people who are frozen behind garbage dumps...? There are hundreds of them. They're told, “There's no $100,000 for you to maybe have someone who's going to coordinate this or put some gas in your trucks.”
We're spending almost $100 million on an inquiry and, in the meantime, we have this group of grassroots, compassionate people doing this. Tell me how your department can just say, “So sorry, we're consulting.”