Madam Chair, thank you. I am pleased to be here today as you acknowledge the traditional territory of the Algonquin people and to speak with members of this committee in my new capacity as Minister of Indigenous Services.
Joining me is Jean-François Tremblay, Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, and Paul Thoppil, who is our Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer.
Fundamental to our work as a government is our relationship with indigenous people. I recognize the important work this committee is doing to further their priorities across Canada. In particular, I want to thank you for your recent report on long-term care on reserve, and I look forward to responding to your findings.
As Minister of Indigenous Services, my job is to advance work that closes socioeconomic gaps and improves the quality of services for indigenous peoples, in partnership with them, and in a way that promotes self-determination.
My predecessor, who is now President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, identified five interconnected priority areas where our joint work is needed. They are the following: keeping children and families together, quality education, improving health outcomes, reliable infrastructure and economic prosperity. At the centre of each of these priorities are real people: individuals, people, communities.
Much progress has been made in these areas and the work is, of course, ongoing. To that end, Indigenous Services Canada requires immediate funds to continue delivering on our mandate.
That is what the supplementary estimates (B) and the interim estimates are about. Today, I will briefly outline my department's supplementary estimates (B) for 2018-2019 and the interim estimates for 2019-2020 to address the funding requirements of the first quarter of the coming fiscal year. Then, we will be happy to take your questions.
The supplementary estimates (B) for Indigenous Services Canada reflect a net increase of $273.6 million. This brings the total appropriations for 2018-2019 to $11.7 billion.
The largest item requested by these estimates is $99.8 million for the emergency management assistance program. This is a critical appropriation in the supplementary estimates. In the past year alone, Canada has seen its share of floods, wildfires and severe storms, which have had grave impacts on a number of first nations. In fact, they have displaced more than 10,000 on-reserve residents in Canada.
Thanks to budget 2018 funding, we have been able to better respond, and reimburse communities faster for costs incurred due to emergency incidents. Indeed, this fiscal year, over 99% of evacuated people have been able to go back to their communities. We are working hard to get the others home as soon as we can.
Our government has also made historic investments to accelerate reforms to first nations child and family services. Budget 2016 provided $635 million over five years as a first step, and budget 2018 committed a further $1.4 billion in new funding over six years.
It is essential we put the safety and security of indigenous children at the forefront of what we do. There is a pressing need within indigenous communities to raise young people in their culture, in their language and in their communities with their families.
As such, the second item in these estimates is part of these investments to address funding gaps and support efforts to keep children and families together where it is in the best interests of the child. These funds are already at work, Madam Chair.
As you are aware, we put an item on notice this week. I look forward to introducing it in the House shortly. I am limited in what I can say about it until it is formally introduced in the House. What I can say is I look forward to talking with you and listening to each one of you in the very near future.
The next item I wish to bring to the committee's attention is $64.4 million towards advancing a new fiscal relationship with first nations.
This funding will support communities in developing governance and community-led planning pilot projects. It will also ensure that first nations are no longer required to pay for third party management.
A key element of this new fiscal relationship is a 10-year grant starting on April 1, 2019, for eligible first nations to deliver core services. Interest in this grant has been very high. We are working now with eligible first nations to finalize agreements for the April 1 entry into the grant.
The last item I will touch on in the supplementary estimates (B) is the $37.5 million in funding for first nations elementary and secondary education programs.
A new codeveloped funding approach for first nations kindergarten to grade 12 education takes effect April 1, 2019. This formula-based approach supports first nations' control of first nations education, and helps to ensure predictable funding that is more directly comparable to what students at provincial schools receive.
More concretely, this funding would mean real change for first nations kids. For example, thanks to budget 2016 funding for education programming, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is taking Mohawk immersion learning to the next level. It implemented a new math program in Mohawk, which is aligned with the Ontario math curriculum. This means that children can now learn math in Mohawk in their immersion classrooms.
We will start to see more and more successes like this replicated throughout Canada by way of regional education agreements.
I will now turn to the interim estimates and will highlight some of those items.
The department's interim estimates will be approximately $7 billion. This funding would ensure that Indigenous Services Canada is able to carry out its activities in the first three months of the fiscal year, until the full main estimates are approved in June. Among other things, a timely appropriation of these funds would ensure that First Nations are able to take full advantage of the start of the construction season.
We know that healthy and safe homes are integral to creating healthy and safe communities. We also know, however, that indigenous people are more likely to experience poor housing conditions than the general population. According to Statistics Canada's 2016 census, 18.3% of indigenous people live in crowded dwellings.
With that in mind, we are making progress with the Assembly of First Nations on the codevelopment of a first nations housing and related infrastructure strategy. This will contribute to more sustainable and healthy first nations communities. With the AFN, we are also codeveloping a new operations and maintenance policy framework that will provide greater flexibility to first nations to manage their assets on reserve.
It is also why, among other things, the Government of Canada is working in partnership to address the serious housing needs of Cat Lake First Nation through immediate action and long-term planning.
We know that decades of neglect are challenging to reverse, but we will be working in partnership to achieve results for the people of Cat Lake First Nation and for all indigenous people in Canada.
I joined Cat Lake Chief Matthew Keewaykapow last Thursday to sign an initial framework agreement that means a solid plan moving forward. This agreement includes $3.5 million to support 15 new housing units, as well as additional funding for demolition, site preparation and shipping of materials; $2.1 million to repair 21 existing units; $2 million for the delivery and installation of 10 portable housing units; and expediting the seven new units that are currently under way.
Chief Keewaykapow invited me to join the community, and I have gratefully accepted accepted his invitation.
Madam Chair and committee members, I urge you to support the appropriations requested in these estimates. The funding will enable us to continue to address the day-to-day realities in indigenous communities in a holistic way.
[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]
[Cree text translated as follows:]
I think it might have been my fourth or fifth day as minister that I attended the B.C. gathering of chiefs. That was an incredible eye-opener on the importance of emergency management assistance. Most of the questions that I took from the floor on that day were on exactly this, and for good reason. It involves their safety and their security.
We provide emergency management support to on-reserve indigenous communities through the emergency management assistance program for the four pillars of emergency management: prevention, mitigation, response and recovery. We reimburse first nations partners, provincial and territorial governments and other third party service providers like the Canadian Red Cross for any eligible costs incurred in the delivery of emergency management systems to first nations communities.
Supplementary estimates (B) includes $99.8 million to reimburse first nations and emergency management providers for on-reserve response and for recovery activities in 2018-19.
If you look at what's driven those costs, there's $16.58 million for flooding, $26.92 million for wildfire response, $1.86 million for response costs for other emergencies such as tornadoes, $8.88 million for long-term evacuation costs and $74.91 million for recovery costs for things like critical infrastructure that needs to be replaced as a result of a fire, for instance.
For the past four years, response and recovery costs have exceeded A-base funding of $29.3 million. Options to address this persistent funding shortfall are being explored right now. I expect, to be honest, that it's not going to get any better.
The funds being requested will ensure first nations communities receive funding at a level to address that response and to recover. They support the Government of Canada's commitment to deliver consistent and high-quality programs and services to first nations.
I'll begin with some good news, which is that we just lifted our latest boil water advisory yesterday, which now brings us up to 80. This is something that we heard very clearly during the election campaign and since. It's something that Canadians can grasp onto for exactly the reasons that you cited, the idea of a community not having access to clean drinking water.
Our government right now, as I said, is on track for our goal to lift all long-term drinking water advisories in public systems on reserve by March 2021. We also know that the work doesn't end with the lifting of long-term advisories. We're providing some sustainable investments to prevent short-term advisories, to expand delivery systems and to build capacity of and retain local water operators, training people on the ground in the community and putting in place systems for regular monitoring and testing.
Decades of neglect are challenging to these reserves, but we are working in partnership to develop plans to meet their specific needs. A lot of work needs to be done, but so far the results are encouraging. As I said, 80 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted so far, including that one yesterday in North Spirit Lake, Ontario. That one had been place for 17 years.
I visited one facility in Piapot in Saskatchewan. The women who run this particular facility have trained long and hard. They work long, hard hours. My God, are they proud of the work that they're doing and the fact that they're doing that work in community, and they're the ones doing it.
I have to say that the other thing that really struck me, and it was pointed out to me by the leadership, is, how spaced out many of these communities are. I think that, when we see images sometimes in the media, we see some communities that have houses that are in close proximity to one another, but a number of these communities have great distances between the houses, which makes dealing with their water needs more complex than meets the eye.
Thank you for having me back.
I think we would like to begin by acknowledging that we come together on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people and that we're here to discuss the 2018-19 supplementary estimates (B) as well as the 2019-20 interim estimates for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.
Specifically, I will discuss the aspects of the estimates that pertain to my work as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
I am joined by Alex Lakroni, Chief Finance, Results and Delivery Officer.
Also with me are Diane Lafleur, the Associate Deputy Minister, and Joe Wild, the senior ADM for Treaties and Aboriginal Government. I think you will come to know that Joe's work has been very helpful in getting us as far as we are in helping get people out from under the Indian Act.
As you know, our government is taking concrete steps to renew the nation-to-nation, Inuit-to-Crown and government-to-government relationships between Canada and first nations, Inuit and Métis and to accelerate self-determination.
In support of these fundamental goals, our department's 2018-19 supplementary estimates (B) present initiatives totalling $174.9 million, which includes $112.8 million in new funding and $62.1 million in net transfers with other government organizations. This brings the total appropriations for CIRNAC in 2018-19 to $5.1 billion.
Roughly half of that new funding of $57 million reflects our commitment to resolving disputes outside of court whenever possible. As we've discussed here at this committee many times, our government strongly believes that negotiating settlements focused on healing and closure outside the adversarial court process is the most responsible way to resolve past wrongs and paves the way for a more respectful and constructive relationship with indigenous communities going forward.
I think it's important to reinforce that our work to support first nations, Inuit and Métis communities to implement their visions of self-determination is intrinsically linked to unlocking untapped prosperity and closing long-standing socio-economic gaps.
An excellent example of this is the new funding in the estimates of $48.4 million for the Métis Nation Housing Strategy and the Métis National Heritage Centre.
We have been working in partnership with the Métis Nation to identify in advance shared priorities, including affordable housing. Through annual meetings between the Métis Nation, the and key federal ministers, we have codeveloped the Métis national housing strategy.
In July we had the honour of representing Canada in signing the Canada-Métis Nation housing sub-accord with the president of the Métis National Council and the presidents of its governing members.
The housing sub-accord is funded from budget 2018 with $500 million over 10 years and reflects a shared commitment to narrow the housing gap between Métis Nation citizens and non-indigenous Canadians, and does so in a way that respects and supports the Métis Nation's right to self-determination.
Funding also supports the construction of a Métis national heritage centre in historic Upper Fort Garry, Winnipeg, by 2020.
The centre will showcase the history of the Métis nation and the significant contributions of the Métis people to the development of Canada.
Right now, no such Métis heritage facility exists in Canada, and this initiative will support the Métis Nation's management of its own culture, art and history.
Supplementary estimates (B) also include funding for first nations fiscal institutions to hire additional staff and open regional offices in Winnipeg, Halifax and Ottawa. This will allow the fiscal institutions to support more first nations to exercise jurisdiction over financial management and proper taxation and will provide better access to affordable financing for infrastructure projects.
Funding is also included for the renewal of the Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq education agreement, which provides for continued first nations self-governance over education programs and services and an inclusive and quality education for first nations students in that province.
I think at this table before, I have mentioned this huge success. It was 20 years ago that the Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia decided to take over their education system. At that time, their secondary school graduation rate was 30%. Today, the Mi'kmaq education system in Nova Scotia has a secondary school graduation rate of 90%. That is higher than most of the non-indigenous population in Canada.
The evidence is clear: First Nations-led and First Nations-governed education systems, achieve better results for First Nations students.
For 2019-20, the department's interim estimates are $2.2 billion. This will provide sufficient funding in the beginning of the fiscal year to deliver regular programs and additional requirements specifically for out-of-court settlements, early settlements of specific claims and self-government agreements.
Our government has been working with first nations to resolve historic grievances through the specific claims process and has done so at twice the rate of any previous government in Canada. There are 475 specific claims that have been resolved through negotiated settlement agreements since 1973, with a total compensation value of over $5.6 billion. Sixty-seven of these specific claims agreements have been reached since November 2015, with a total compensation value of over $1.6 billion.
Payments of claims and tribunal awards up to $150 million come from the specific claims settlement fund. Anticipated funding is allocated in advance to ensure prompt payments.
We are forecasting that funding will be required during the first quarter of 2019-20 for settlements, including the Mohawks of Akwesasne's Dundee claim. As I noted earlier, the best way to support the success of indigenous communities is to accelerate self-determination and ensure that communities have the tools they need to implement their vision of what that means.
An exciting new way that we are supporting indigenous people in realizing their vision of self-determination is through the recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussion tables. I'm very pleased to say today that now there are over 77 tables, with 380 communities and involving more than 800 000 indigenous people. When there are 634 Indian Act bands in this country, to have 380 communities at tables is I think a huge success and is an example of us accelerating the path to self-determination.
We are also implementing 25 modern treaties, 18 of which include provisions for self-government and/or accompanying self-government agreements, four stand-alone self-government agreements and two sectoral agreements in education.
Stable funding of self-government agreements is fundamental to nation-to-nation, government-to-government and Inuit-to-Crown partnerships. Most of the funding for self-government agreements is paid during the first quarter of the fiscal year. In fact, some agreements flow 100% of the funding in April.
In addition, Canada has the obligation to provide stable funding to implement its obligations under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, including Inuit housing. These agreements require their majority or full annual payment during the first quarter of the fiscal year.
I look forward to discussing the supplementary estimates (B) and the interim estimates with you, and welcome your questions.
To characterize the progress is to underline the work that communities are doing and how ready they were for someone to open the door. A lot of them had already been reconstituting their nations, working on their constitutions, writing their laws, doing all these things, and now it's up to us to step up and try to keep pace with them, with their ambition. That's what has been so exciting, as more and more communities are choosing to come together and do the hard work it takes to get to self-determination.
One of the exciting examples of the type of work that has been done is in the groups that are already self-governing and have modern treaties. The work they've done on the collaborative fiscal arrangement has been a real incentive for others to see how this could be hugely important for their community, to get this work done so that they can be self-governing, because they will be funded properly in terms of language and culture and all the things it takes for them to run a government, as opposed to being funded in a haphazard way, with never quite enough, and in the way that people were treated under the Indian Act.
On both of those things, Joe Wild's approach didn't start with the 's speech. This has been going on really since 2015. It's a new way. As you know, in B.C., people weren't really happy with the treaty process. Some had left the treaty process because they thought it was too prescriptive. We've offered another way of going about getting to a final agreement. That means that we sit down with them and work on their needs, interests and priorities.
Over a third of them have put child and family services as one of their priorities. Here in Ontario, 23 nations have worked together on a school system. The Coastal First Nations are working on a fishery. We are being flexible to allow them to work in whatever way they want to get out from the under the Indian Act and assert their jurisdiction on the areas of their priority. That's why people are coming to tables to just say, “This is what we want to work on with you”. Then our job is to get out of the way so they can actually govern themselves in that jurisdiction.
Others will want to move to a full modern treaty, and a lot of those, particularly in British Columbia, are doing that. However, even in that treaty process, I was very excited to see that there are all these prescribed stages. Two of the communities have decide that it was too prescriptive for them and they want to step aside and do it differently. They're going for a core treaty in very plain language so that seven generations out will understand what they signed, and the legal stuff will be in side agreements. Again, it's really exciting to learn at each of these tables and then watch some of the other tables pick up the good idea and say, “We could do it this way.”
The other piece that's important is that these communities and the leadership, chief and council, have to have their communities with them. They have to actually have it ratified by their community. Bringing their communities with them and the type of consultation they are doing is inspiring.
I was just thinking as I was coming here—