Welcome, everyone. We're here at the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, studying community capacity-building on reserves.
Before we begin, I want to recognize that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
This process of reconciliation that Canada is engaging in across the nation from coast to coast to coast is timely. Yesterday in Manitoba we celebrated Louis Riel Day, another important step in reconciliation, and I know the country had Family Day in other jurisdictions. Let's all remember our past and move forward in a positive way.
Today we have departments in front of us, and I don't want to hold them back. We have many experts here with us. I appreciate your attendance, and we're going to get started.
According to my list, we have four presenters, beginning with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Then we have the Department of Natural Resources, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Office of the Auditor General.
Welcome to you all. Typically, we have 10 minutes for every presenter. If you take less time, we'd appreciate it, but we want you to present as wholesomely as you can. We have many MPs who want to ask you questions.
Without further ado, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, please begin whenever you're ready.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for this opportunity to appear before committee.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the committee for its work, as it supports ongoing policy and program development efforts at Indigenous Services Canada. Your feedback on community capacity building and skills renewal in first nations communities is welcome. In fact, these aspects are essential to achieving the self-determination and self-government objectives of first nations.
This is why we are pleased to appear before you today. With me are colleagues from Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
From Indigenous Services Canada, I'm pleased to introduce to you Keith Conn from the first nations and Inuit health branch; Lynne Newman from the chief finances, results and delivery officer sector; and Adrian Walraven from the education and social development programs and partnerships sector.
From Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, I would like to introduce Christopher Duschenes from the lands and economic development sector and Allan MacDonald from the implementation sector.
As you know, in August 2017, the announced the dissolution of the former Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and the creation of two separate but complementary departments: Indigenous Services Canada, which works with its partners to provide first nations, Inuit and Metis people with better access to high-quality services; and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, which supports the nation-to-nation relationship and efforts to achieve the goals of reconciliation.
The creation of two new departments offers an unprecedented opportunity to bring about lasting and far-reaching changes that will enable us to more effectively move forward toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
The department is committed to a renewed relationship with first nations and is working in partnership and co-operation with first nations in a manner that is based on respect, recognition of rights and indigenous self-determination.
To prepare indigenous communities to take the reins, we have implemented initiatives such as comprehensive community planning. These initiatives promote new approaches to community planning, highlight best practices, and facilitate the engagement of first nations around topics such as infrastructure, health, culture and economic development.
In fact, Indigenous Services Canada’s vision is to support indigenous peoples to empower them to provide services to their communities and improve their socio-economic conditions. We want services to be designed, delivered and administered by indigenous peoples for indigenous peoples; in fact, our ultimate goal is to see the department disappear over time.
Comprehensive community planning is a holistic community-led process that enables a community to build a road map to sustainability, self-sufficiency and improved governance. With sustainability as the central principle, the community engages all its members, from children to elders, in planning and implementing the long-term vision for their community by addressing areas such as infrastructure, health, culture and economic development. There are currently 147 completed comprehensive community plans across Canada.
Indigenous Services Canada has also launched community-led planning pilot projects that involve 140 communities in 19 pilot projects across all 10 regions to demonstrate that by investing in community-led planning and the associated supports, governance capacity is strengthened. To measure the governance capacity of pilot communities in a culturally-relevant, meaningful way and to illustrate how these communities are moving along the governance continuum in a quantitative manner, three to four indicators will be co-developed with each individual pilot, based on the 10 core functions of governance and reflecting the individual community needs and priorities.
Another example of how we are supporting community capacity-building to support devolution and self-government is community-led health and wellness planning. The department helps communities develop local health and wellness plans, which allows communities to exercise greater control and flexibility over their health programs and services while supporting local capacity development.
The department also provides support to communities for developing health and wellness plans that are unique and specific to local needs. This approach promotes culturally appropriate holistic and integrated planning to improve health outcomes.
Longer term and more flexible funding arrangements provide communities with greater control and self-determination than federal health programming does. The successes to date have been possible due to relationships with partners and partnerships with associations such as the First Nations Health Managers Association. The association led the development of a guide for first nations health and wellness planning and was launched in November 2018. I have a copy here. It's quite colourful and really a very thoughtful and visionary document led by and developed with first nations communities, technicians and practitioners. The guide promotes culturally appropriate, holistic integrated planning approaches to improve health outcomes—a true vision around community ownership.
The department is also making investments across Canada for first nations-led health transformation over the next three years. This funding supports first nations' initiatives in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. We're identifying and designing service delivery solutions tailored to their community needs. The immediate goal is to support first nations in the transformation of health systems to improve regional first nations' capacity for health governance. The longer term goal is to ensure that first nations health is supported by indigenous governance with models that are designed, implemented and maintained by first nations based on community needs.
For example, the department is partnering with the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak to design a process that will allow for greater control of community primary health care services. The goal is to create a system whereby primary care is developed and delivered by communities themselves. These initiatives bring services closer to home and support locally driven solutions, which improve health outcomes for indigenous peoples.
Madam Chair, we could go on and on to name a number of initiatives across an array of program areas where a similar approach to first nations empowerment is being employed. These range from co-development of new fiscal relations, to relationships between Canada and first nations, to first nations land management, to economic growth strategies for indigenous communities surrounding the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario so they can be in better positions to respond to economic development opportunities.
More specifically, since 2010, we have pursued a coordinated whole-of-government approach to support the development of the Ring of Fire, a mineral-rich region in northern Ontario, as you know and read. Early investments focus on helping first nations in the region prepare for mining development. With the economic downturn in the metal sector and persistent socio-economic challenges facing first nations communities, the strategic focus has shifted to address the underlying precondition to economic development: mainly individual and community well-being. To this end, federal departments and the Province of Ontario are working collaboratively with Matawa First Nations and non-governmental partners on comprehensive community planning, strengthening financial management and governance, and client-centred case management.
The department also supports community empowerment through the First Nations Fiscal Management Act. This opt-in legislation provides a legislative and institutional framework that builds core capacity and governance systems needed to transition to greater levels of self-determination and towards self-governance.
Furthermore, the act can also support self-governing and treaty nations who wish to benefit from the provisions of the act, including financial management and systems certification, and pooled borrowing through adaptation and regulations.
Thank you for the invitation to be here. I'm here with my colleagues, Ursula Gobel and Manon Tremblay, from SSHRC.
I want to begin, as you did, by recognizing and acknowledging our presence on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
As president of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and chair of the Canada research coordinating committee, I am really pleased to have this opportunity to speak to members of the committee about a very special initiative that the federal government granting agencies, in collaboration with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, are undertaking with the goal of strengthening indigenous research capacity.
ln 2015, as we're all aware, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada issued a very clear call to establish a national research program to advance the understanding of reconciliation. Call to action 65 reads as follows:
We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.
ln 2017, the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, or CRCC, was created. The CRCC brings together the heads of Canada's research granting agencies, namely the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the National Research Council, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Chief Science Advisor, the Deputy Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, and the Deputy Minister of Health.
The objective of the CRCC is to achieve greater harmonization, integration and coordination of research-related programs and policies, and to address issues of common concern.
The CRCC reaffirmed the federal granting agencies' commitment to the calls to action of the TRC, and identified as one of its priorities the creation of a national dialogue with indigenous communities to develop an interdisciplinary indigenous research and research training model that contributes to reconciliation. In budget 2018 the federal government committed $3.8 million to SSHRC to support this priority by developing a strategic research plan that identifies new ways of doing research with indigenous communities. This includes strategies to grow the capacity of those communities to conduct research and to partner with the broader research community.
ln support of these objectives, SSHRC, in collaboration with the other federal granting agencies previously named, has been leading the implementation of the strengthening indigenous research capacity initiative. This engagement seeks to build an increased understanding of the effective strategies for strengthening the research capacity of indigenous communities and improving relationships with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.
ln the spirit of renewing relationships with Canada's indigenous people, our engagement activities have been guided by three key objectives. First is a focus on co-development, such that everything we do will be developed in partnership with indigenous communities. Second, a key objective is to build new relationships with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples by fostering and sustaining mutually respectful relationships and generating ongoing opportunities for dialogue. A third objective is to take a coordinated approach across the federal funding agencies and other key partners in this endeavour.
Building upon engagement through previous round tables and dialogues with indigenous peoples since the release of the TRC's report, four strategic themes were identified to guide our current engagement activities.
These themes were: supporting indigenous talent and research careers; engaging indigenous knowledge; mobilizing knowledge and partnerships for reconciliation, and fostering mutually respectful relationships. Each offered an area in which indigenous scholars, students and community and business leaders couId engage actively with our work.
The process of engagement has taken place over the past several months along two streams.
In one stream, a series of regional events, such as round tables and workshops, were organized in collaboration with indigenous partners and communities. Between July 2018 and March 2019, 14 regional events will have taken place with indigenous communities across Canada. These events have engaged with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, as well as reflected a diversity of voices, including elders and knowledge keepers, youth and students, business leaders, women's groups, community and research organizations and post-secondary institutions. An online engagement platform developed on GCcollab has further enabled engagement and dialogue.
In another stream, multidisciplinary research grants, entitled indigenous research capacity and reconciliation grants, were funded through SSHRC's connection program. A total of 116 indigenous research capacity and reconciliation grants, with a value of up to $50,000 each, have recently been awarded to indigenous organizations as well as to researchers at post-secondary institutions and other not-for-profit organizations.
These grants specifically support community gatherings, workshops and events that focus on mobilizing and exchanging knowledge on indigenous research in ways that are transformative and contribute to reconciliation.
Furthermore, for the first time, not-for-profit indigenous organizations were able to apply and lead these projects directly. In fact, some 85% of projects submitted by indigenous organizations were successful, and more than half of the indigenous research and conciliation grants were awarded to such organizations.
The lessons and perspectives that emerge from these engagement activities will be formulated into a draft strategic plan to be presented to the CRCC in the spring, and which we hope will lay the foundations for a sustained engagement with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples on advancing indigenous research and reconciliation.
These activities have raised many important points and ideas. Participants have been as impassioned as they have been insightful. They have demonstrated that the manner in which scientific research has been done traditionally, and in many instances continues to be done, with indigenous communities in Canada warrants serious reflection.
Through the engagement events, first nations, Inuit and Métis people spoke emphatically about the need to decolonize research, and especially putting an end to the type of "helicopter research" that has non-indigenous researchers fly in and fly out to collect data with little, if any, relationship-building with the community, little understanding of indigenous concepts like community consent, and sometimes without even adequate information provided to the community or meaningful consultation.
As one major step toward decolonizing research, indigenous people are demanding more control over the data that is collected about them. They want to be able to decide how that data is used, how it is published, stored and shared. In particular, they highlighted the difficulty of simply accessing the data for their own community uses and benefits.
Indigenous people also asked for more say in setting the research agenda, so that the research can be designed from the very beginning to address the needs and priorities of indigenous communities. They also want research partnerships to move beyond simple tokenism toward more meaningful and enduring collaboration in research. In this regard, they highlighted the importance of the more long-term community research and research funding.
These communities would also like more support in conducting their own community-driven research and help in building up their own indigenous research infrastructure at all levels.
A strong message coming from the engagement events has been that indigenous communities need more support in developing indigenous research talent, which includes better recognition and reflection of indigenous ways of knowing.
We consider the work being done by the tri-agencies on strengthening indigenous research to be valuable and innovative, and vitally important for a better understanding of reconciliation with indigenous people. It has also been important for recognizing and correcting the many historical grievances that have been inflicted on indigenous people through ill-considered processes of scientific research.
My name is Mary Kapelus and I'm the acting assistant deputy minister of the indigenous affairs and reconciliation sector at Natural Resources Canada.
I'll begin by acknowledging that we are gathered today on the traditional unceded territory of Algonquin people. I'd also like to thank you for the opportunity to address this committee as you undertake your community capacity-building and retention of talent study.
This important work is timely at Natural Resources Canada, as we deliver on the government's commitment to advance reconciliation and renew Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples.
Before going further, I would like to introduce my colleague, John Kozij, director general of the trade, economics and industry branch in the Canadian Forest Service; and Jean Gagnon, surveyor general in the lands and mineral sector.
As my CIRNAC and ISC colleagues have referenced, we too believe it is essential to support capacity-building in indigenous communities.
As you may be aware, Natural Resources Canada is responsible for forestry, mining, energy and land-related sciences and geospatial information. This involves collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, universities, industry, and indigenous peoples. At Natural Resources Canada, it is paramount that this work recognize the importance of partnerships and mutual capacity building with indigenous communities.
lt's with this vision in mind that NRCan recently created the sector for which I am responsible, indigenous affairs and reconciliation. This new sector provides a coordinated approach in the department's engagement and consultation efforts with indigenous peoples. This includes enhancing our relationships with national indigenous organizations, supporting the various sectors at NRCan in their activities with indigenous people, and advancing the federal whole-of-government approach to reconciliation.
I'll now go over five initiatives where NRCan directly supports community capacity-building.
First, the Canadian Centre for Mapping and Earth Observation supports capacity-building through the lnuvik satellite station facility. It's making lnuvik and Canada a global data destination. This $20 million satellite reception facility is a global hub for geospatial services and data science in the Arctic built on partnerships with the Gwich'in, the lnuvialiut, the town of lnuvik, the Government of the Northwest Territories, Canadian and international space agencies, and the private sector.
This project also supports skill and capacity development of indigenous students who are recruited to work on projects related to collecting, managing and applying geospatial data, while providing an understanding of satellite operations.
Natural Resources Canada has also sponsored the development of user needs assessments for geospatial data in indigenous communities to increase data relevance for issues such as climate change, disaster management and ocean management.
The second area of NRCan's capacity-building is within the forest sector, which is an important generator of jobs, particularly in rural and remote parts of the country. The indigenous forestry initiative is the latest iteration of NRCan's 30 year legacy of capacity support for indigenous forestry.
Natural Resources Canada is working with communities to build capacity to manage forest resources and support the development of indigenous-owned and operated businesses.
For example, since 2016, NRCan has supported forestry management capacity-building with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, who directly manage forest crown lands in Nova Scotia by integrating indigenous knowledge and western science, leading to broader support for various forestry activities.
NRCan investments have also aided Chapleau Cree First Nation to develop the northeast superior regional chiefs conservation economy strategy, a cornerstone for forest sector economic development. This work has helped to establish the Wahkohtowin, an indigenous-led development corporation that includes a birch syrup business and a forest harvesting operation, bringing jobs and revenue to the local community.
The Indigenous Forestry Initiative fosters partnerships with indigenous communities. lt isn't just program results—it is about how we build lasting relationships. Our boots-on-the-ground presence through regional forestry offices means that we are able to co-develop projects in communities.
The third area I would like to touch on is our innovative and joint efforts to build a cleaner energy future. Through the clean energy for rural and remote communities program, NRCan was provided with $220 million over six years to support clean energy projects. We're collaborating with indigenous communities and organizations as they advance renewable energy and capacity-building projects to reduce their reliance on diesel.
With federal support, the Teslin Tlingit Council in the Yukon has built a forest-based bioenergy plant to heat their community. Teslin maximized the community benefits in each stage of the project. They oversaw the planning, construction and ultimately the operation and ongoing maintenance of their bioenergy systems.
Our off-diesel program has also allocated $10 million in funding toward capacity-building projects related to clean energy. Through this first round of funding we're advancing 11 projects across Canada that range from community energy planning and energy literacy to youth training programs.
These projects are at the very heart of ensuring indigenous communities have greater decision-making regarding their energy future. Every project is community driven and aims to achieve broader socio-economic impacts.
For example, NRCan is supporting a project that will recruit, train and offer professional development to new full-time indigenous energy managers across multiple remote communities in western Canada.
We've also launched the $20 million “Generating New Opportunities”, or indigenous off-diesel, initiative in Whitehorse last week. The goal of the initiative is to help transition up to 15 remote indigenous communities off diesel as their primary energy source.
Over the past 18 months, Natural Resources Canada engaged across the country to ensure diverse needs and perspectives were incorporated into the design of the initiative. This engagement resulted in a flexible design where participants can access the training and support needed to develop a clean energy project that meets the needs of their community.
Investment in clean energy solutions to reduce reliance on diesel in remote indigenous communities is one small but vitally important link in supporting reconciliation and self-determination.
The fourth area is the first nations land management program. Budget 2018 invested $8.4 million over five years to pilot a land surveying capacity development program for first nations communities to address and remove barriers to effective land management.
Under this program, NRCan will provide 24 first nations communities with 12 weeks of in-community and customized hands-on training in the fundamentals of surveying.
The program aims to increase knowledge of the role and benefits of land surveys to support land governance and decision-making.
The retention of acquired skills in the community is important and will be maintained by training in the community, rather than requiring participants to leave the community, and by the development of in-house tools and procedures.
Finally, in 2014, NRCan embarked on early and ongoing engagement with indigenous peoples through the west coast energy infrastructure initiative. This initiative provides capacity for engagement between federal officials and indigenous communities on energy infrastructure projects. Working with partner departments, 235 projects were approved, valued at nearly $61 million. For example, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation undertook numerous initiatives focused on restoring ecosystem health to Burrard Inlet, including establishing an environmental action plan, convening a co-managed round table to update the water quality objectives for the inlet, and installing a network of scientific instruments to monitor water quality.
Through this work, the community harvested clams out of the inlet for the first time in 44 years.
In response to this situation, the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council developed the First Nations Referrals Officer Certification Training Program, a technical training initiative for first nations communities in B.C. The purpose of this initiative is to better understand and manage consultation-related referrals and improve natural resource management decision-making in their territories.
Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to present the results of two audits from our spring 2018 reports: one audit was on the socio-economic gaps on first nations reserves and the other was on employment training for indigenous people.
Joining me today are audit principals Dawn Campbell and Glenn Wheeler.
The Office of the Auditor General of Canada has a long history of auditing federal programs and activities that affect indigenous peoples. Although successive governments have made numerous commitments to improve the well-being of indigenous people, I am sorry to report that our decades of audits indicate that the results of the programs for indigenous peoples have been unacceptable.
As you will see from the findings of the two audits we are discussing here today, recurring issues include the lack of information and the poor use of available data to understand and improve the impact the programs have on the lives of indigenous peoples.
In the first audit, we concluded that Indigenous Services Canada did not satisfactorily measure or report on Canada's progress in closing the socio-economic gaps between on-reserve first nations people and other Canadians. We also concluded that the use of data to improve education programs and thereby improve socio-economic well-being was inadequate. We found that the department's main measure of socio-economic well-being on reserves, the community well-being index, was not comprehensive. While the index included Statistics Canada data on education, employment, income and housing, it omitted several aspects of well-being that are also important to first nations people, such as health, environment, language and culture.
We also found that the department did not adequately use the large amount of program and other available data to accurately measure and report on whether the lives of people on first nations reserves were improving. For example, we calculated that the gap in levels of high school graduation, or the equivalent, between on-reserve first nations people and other Canadians widened between 2001 and 2016. We also found that the department overstated first nations' high school graduation rates by up to 29 percentage points because it did not account for students who dropped out between grades 9 and 11.
Indigenous Services Canada also made poor use of the education data it collected to improve education results. For example, the department spent $42 million over four years to prepare first nations students to enter post-secondary education programs; however, we found that only 8% of those enrolled completed this preparatory program. Despite these poor results, the department did not work with first nations or educational institutions to improve the success rate.
Our second audit examined how Employment and Social Development Canada managed two programs, the aboriginal skills and employment strategy and the skills and partnership fund. The common goal of these two programs was to increase the number of indigenous people who had sustainable and meaningful employment. For both of these programs, the department worked with indigenous organizations across the country that provided training and employment to support first nations, Métis and Inuit clients.
Overall we found that the department could not demonstrate that these programs increased the number of indigenous people who got jobs and stayed employed. Specifically, we found that the department did not define the performance indicators necessary to demonstrate whether the programs were meeting their objectives. For example, the department established an annual target for the number of clients employed after receiving services; however, the department counted any employment obtained as a successful outcome, whether the work was short term, seasonal, part-time or full-time. This means that it did not know how successful the programs were in helping clients find sustainable employment.
We also found that the department did not analyze the program data it collected to identify trends, problems or good practices that could help indigenous organizations improve their services and results. For example, the department spent $130 million between the 2010-11 and 2016-17 fiscal years on wage subsidies for employers who hired clients for specific lengths of time; however, the department did not track whether these clients continued working after the subsidies had ended.
ln addition, the department did not consistently monitor indigenous organizations to ensure that they fulfilled their obligations under funding agreements, nor did it use the information from the monitoring it did to know how well the programs were working.
This means that the department missed the opportunity to explore ways to improve program delivery and to work with indigenous organizations to identify areas in which capacity needed to be strengthened.
Following the tabling of our reports in Parliament in May, lndigenous Services Canada and Employment and Social Development Canada each prepared an action plan to address our recommendations. Your committee may wish to ask them for an update on the implementation of their commitments.
I would like to note that the committee may also be interested in several of our previous reports that address issues related to capacity development as indigenous organizations take on more responsibilities for programming. Notably, you may be interested in our June 2011 status report on programs for first nations on reserves, in which we identified structural impediments that explained the lack of progress in improving programming.
Another is our fall 2015 report on establishing the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, which identified factors that facilitated the transfer of health responsibilities to first nations.
This concludes my opening statement.
We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.
Thank you to each and every one of you for attending this morning.
I'm going to pick up with the data. You don't have the data. You haven't had the data, as the Auditor General has stated, for over two decades.
It's interesting. We continue to throw money...and I see it right now in education. There are some groups in this country that are getting more education dollars than others. You have picked winners and losers.
Mr. Walraven, I'm going to start with you.
I have seen this government throw a lot of money at skills. Two weeks ago, we had the Department of Employment and Social Development here, and there were horrific numbers. There were 318,000 people who went through training, and only 100,000 got jobs. Over 217,000 people didn't get jobs after the training. There were 4,500 people who went back to school, which was good. But you see where we're coming from.
In Manitoba, there are certain areas that are getting more dollars for education.
How is your department looking at the education dollars? There are some students getting up to $18,000 per year, and others still getting $10,000 per year. How do you pick winners and losers in the education system in this country?
It's very important to us as a funding agency situated in Ottawa that we have the advice and hear the voices of indigenous communities. We have welcomed tremendously the advice of the indigenous advisory circle, which reflects indigenous scholars from across the country, and also now indigenous community members and a commitment to continuous improvement.
We hear that a lot, but our president mentioned our policies and guidelines that are regularly being updated. We most recently addressed the issue of greater accessibility and support for indigenous students, recognizing some of the administrative barriers that were in place. How do we provide that opportunity for indigenous graduate students to have consideration, should they wish it, for a longer duration, given their needs as caregivers? How can we ensure that merit review committee members recognize traditional knowledge and different epistemologies and methodologies in graduate training? That should be recognized. So we're constantly re-evaluating and ensuring that our administrative processes and our guidelines are respectful of indigenous communities' needs and truly endeavour to support their growth.
Now in the context of tri-agency harmonization, Ted reviewed all of the activities that have been under way for several months. There are clear areas that have been identified across regions and by Inuit, first nations and Métis people: issues related to ethics and ethics policies, issues related to eligibility, issues related to data governance, each of these areas. Coming to a better understanding of the needs of the community, the distinctions between communities and regions and across first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and within the mandates of the tri-agencies, how can we better harmonize our practices?
That is complex work, but we are committed to doing it. We have established a tri-agency working group directly with Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, for example. Being at the table and really rolling up our sleeves and addressing these issues with the voices of the community front and centre has been our approach.
We are actively working with Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council to establish one of those regional education agreements that I was speaking to earlier. All of our discussions and the joint development of these regionally-led strategies with first nations are predicated on us establishing a direct, provincially comparable base-level funding so that if a student is being educated at an on-reserve school, he or she is going to benefit from essentially the same funding package that he or she would receive if they were attending an Alberta provincial school off reserve, in an adjacent community.
This is the base. This is the starting point. We are building up and discussing with partners the multi-faceted additional needs in terms of where we go next.
To refer to what I understood you were asking, we don't have a system that is currently under conversation with our first nations partners about vouchers or anything that specific. The primary focus of these conversations right now is that.... I have to say that we are being more transparent than we ever have been historically, in terms of opening up our books, showing how we fund, and having funding-sufficiency conversations on that basis. Things will evolve from there.
In different parts of the country, first nations are coming forward and saying that this is great, but in terms of actualizing their education objectives they need this on top of what they have, or they need to prioritize additional resources in these areas. We are seeing that, certainly, with a focus on language and culture. We are seeing that with a focus on holistic lifelong learning strategies that would integrate early years, post-secondary and vocational training.
I think the committee is very interested in how students come back in their teen years if they drop out. How do we get students back in the classroom? We are having those conversations, but they are first nations-led and regionally driven. Our attitude is, how can we help? We're going to work together to figure out strategies going forward.
Thank you, Madam Chair. It's been a very enjoyable morning subbing in at this committee.
Again, I want to thank the presenters for all of their good work. I think all of us around the table would acknowledge that we need more of that good work to continue.
My riding of Winnipeg South hosts the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Senator Sinclair, a Manitoban, was the chair of the commission, as you know. We're very, very proud of the roots of the centre in our community. We had , our Minister of Heritage, visit us on Friday when we toured the centre.
We really got some insights on the really impressive work that's going on there with digitizing the stories of residential school survivors and some of the research that's going on. I think, again, all of us would agree that we need more of that good work to continue.
Former Grand Chief Ron Evans, who is the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, came to see our caucus a month or two ago. He raised the issue that the term “reconciliation” is thrown around. There isn't a lot of precision with regard to what constitutes a reconciliation measure. He called for co-developing a standard, much like with have ISO standards for the environment and industrial safety, to bring some precision to this rapidly evolving area you're working in.
I wonder if you would have a comment on that, whether there is a need for a research project to look at best practices around the world with indigenous peoples in other countries and to begin this process of codification. Again, we've heard all about monitoring and measuring today and why it's important.
First of all, what we said is that when researchers or students, typically graduate students, apply to us for funding, in the projects they design and in the projects they elaborate, they can certainly—and we encourage them to—go well beyond traditional western bases of knowledge, such as published reports, evidence that's provided through observation and experimentation, etc. If they say they want to use oral history or any other indigenous way of knowing that they believe is valid, that their community believes is valid, we will accept that. It goes through peer review, but the peer review is managed with indigenous people involved. We've been pioneering on that at SSHRC for many years, and it has been a very ensconced principle. Traditional knowledge is what our researchers and students tell us it is.
Second, the intellectual property element of this has become a really hot topic because, I think, for indigenous researchers who work in their communities and gather information and knowledge, they do own that information. They can use it as they see fit. The problem, as I see it, and the challenge that we hear about frequently is when researchers from universities, colleges or elsewhere who are non-indigenous go into the communities, gather significant data, draw conclusions, and then don't share that information back with the community. Then the claim becomes “That's our information because we gave it to you”, and the researcher says, “Well, I own the intellectual property.”
We're trying to deal with that as well. It's a frequent topic at the various events we're organizing and in the feedback we're getting, but we understand that 100%.
Thank you for the question.
Maybe I could focus on what we're doing in the off-diesel space. Under our clean energy for rural and remote communities, there's a $220-million program over five years that has been created to really address our Paris climate change targets. Embedded in that program is a capacity stream. We understood that, if we're going to embark upon a set of initiatives to reduce diesel use in communities, it's going to take some time. We'd be establishing relationships with communities, and we needed a capacity stream that looked at that front-end piece of moving communities into clean, renewable projects.
In the area of biomass, which I'm more familiar with, we've often talked about how there could be a 10- or 12-step program to move to biomass for heat or power generation. That's because you're talking about the front end, understanding how to do forestry management; training people in forestry operations; looking at the types of systems you can use and whether or not you're just going to use them for heat or power, combined heat and power; and then looking at host capital installation, the capacity of the people to be able to run those facilities over time. In terms of that whole gamut of activities, from the front end to the back end, we have to have capacity right through.
In addition, we've just announced the challenge-based program, where we're working with the Indigenous Clean Energy Network to build on their 20/20 catalysts program to build a series of clean energy community champions in a number of different first nations, primarily, but also in Métis communities across Canada, so that they can go back to their communities, develop clean energy plans and come back to us with funding proposals to be able to proceed forward.