Good morning, everyone.
This is the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs. We are continuing our study on community capacity building on reserves.
We want to welcome our guests here on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. Canada is in a process of reconciliation, and everyone here around the table is very cognizant that this is an important step in rectifying historic wrongs, and that the process will take an effort from all of us.
We will be hearing from Mr. Howard Grant, who is the executive director of the First Nations Summit Society.
You have up to 10 minutes to present. After that, we'll have questions and answers until the time is up, in just under one hour.
Whenever you're ready, you can begin.
First, I want to say thank you to the committee for giving me the time to present to you today in regard to the capacity of first nations in Canada, but more particularly in British Columbia. I'd also like to say thank you to the Algonquin people for allowing me to have such an audience with you today.
Having said that, I believe we submitted a presentation to you. Rather than go through the presentation myself directly....
I should apologize first of all to say that Christa Williams, who was at one point the executive director of the First Nations Public Service Secretariat, is unable to join us today for health reasons. In B.C. we have bronchitis, pneumonia and whatnot and it's sad to say she's one of the people who have been afflicted.
I thought I would give you a bit of background on who I am. My name is Howard Grant, and I'm the executive director of the First Nations Summit Society. I'm also a member of the chief and council of the Musqueam First Nation in British Columbia. I've been on council for 37 years. I'm an ex-bureaucrat. I worked for Indian and Northern Affairs from 1984 to 1993. I had the opportunity to work within the federal public service for a number of years. I'm also an ex-band manager. My whole life has been within the bureaucracy of government and first nations.
My traditional name is Qeyapalanewx VI. It was my great-great-great-grandfather who met Captain Vancouver in 1791 and Captain Narvaez in 1792. We have a long history in British Columbia, particularly our first nation, recognizing that we've had 300 years less contact with the European population and, therefore, having had the clear opportunity to maintain a lot of understanding of our complex governance system that was in place prior to the usurping of that with the European culture and the Indian Act. I was blessed and fortunate to have conversations with my grand-uncles who were 106 years of age in 1952, so 1848.... I'm talking about individuals who probably met the first Europeans. I'm only one example of a number of other people on the west coast to have such a luxurious background.
Having said all of that, I was a recipient of Indian Affairs program and service delivery as a young child, not knowing that government was there providing so-called resources. I also became a delivery agent as a band manager and also a policy-maker within the federal government in regard to how one would provide services to first nations.
In 1970, first nations started to take on program and service delivery, first of all, just handing out welfare cheques and whatnot rather than having to stand in line at a district or regional office. Then they allowed a salary level of approximately a CR-2 level. I don't know if you're familiar with government structure, but that CR-2 level was maintained throughout the 1970s and the 1980s, and from that period first nations and the federal government started to delegate more and more of their responsibility to first nations and their institutions, but again always looking at a CR-2 level, a very low clerical level position.
In the mid-1980s they decided they would give more responsibility to first nations to manage those programs, and asked for reports that looked at the management of those programs. Whether or not they utilized the information is not relevant at this point, but the significant point is asking them to manage something at a PM-5 and higher level, but still at a CR-2 wage scale. There was non-recognition of that balance.
In 1970 in British Columbia approximately 6,000 federal employees were delivering some kind of service to first nations. That also included teachers, etc.
Then the government, through Mazankowski, decided to downsize. With that came the fact that government downsized to where it is today with regard to about 300 people within the former department of Indian and northern affairs. There are about 8,000 first nation employees currently on staff at various first nations in British Columbia, but recognize that they are still at a CR-2 or CR-3 level salary base. Take those things into account, and recognize that those first nations people are still enjoying the luxury of having a minimal wage scale, if not less than that, but being asked to provide senior management with guidance, advice and reports. That's the backgrounder to what I have to say.
Then you also have a government policy that was established in the late 1960s and early 1970s. That policy states, “to provide...for status Indians living on reserve under the Indian Act...comparable to...Canadians...” in regard to services and programs; “to negotiate...forms of self-government...which increase Indian control and management...”; “to remove barriers and to facilitate Indian access to the economic expertise, capital and markets...” of the world; “to negotiate comprehensive claims...”; “to satisfy legal obligations...”; “to fulfill the terms of self-government legislation and associated formal undertakings....”
That is just a snapshot in regard to the policy of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in the 1970s. We fast-forward to today and those policies now are what you call something new under the guidance of reconciliation, but they have always been there. The recognition of government as a whole—to recognize that they had that fiduciary—and a horizontal approach were non-existent up until most recent times.
Even today, that is still a fact. Most governments, most federal departments, acquiesce and say, “No. That's an ISC or a CIRNAC problem. Hand it over to them.” Yet there is the realization that the sent a mandate letter to every federal department, and those departments still today are not acknowledging that recognition and relationship that is required.
Having said all of that, we have to look at how to build capacity. We in British Columbia, under the First Nations Summit, created the First Nations Public Service Secretariat, recognizing that there was a need for something more. This secretariat was created a number of years ago under the regime of Gordon Campbell, former premier of British Columbia. We came to the federal government and asked for their support in regard to creating a two-pronged approach. The federal government said, “No. Sorry, but we're not into that.” That was 10 years ago.
We fast-forward to today. The federal government has come to a recognition and a realization to some degree that they need to re-aggregate, reposition, reconcile and work towards first nations self-determination, but under whose definition? Under whose definition do we define reconciliation?
True reconciliation requires the recognition of first nations governments under the Constitution, recognizing that there is a true nation-to-nation relationship that is required and, in order to have that relationship, to enhance the opportunity of first nations with their government structures. That's the requirement. So how do we build those kinds of relationships? It's through reconstituting, rebuilding or building a first nations public service, to regain a better understanding in regard to their complex governance system.
Indian and Northern Affairs from 1970 to today has tried to impose a European style of governance. They say that public admin is public admin. That is not necessarily so. We have to recognize that first nations are unique. Their circumstances are different. Carleton teaches federal public admin and the University of Victoria teaches provincial, but we have to deal with federal, provincial and municipal. On top of that, we don't have the institutions that all of your governments have in regard to supporting Crown agencies and business development.
We have a responsibility as a first nation to look at how we maintain our fiduciary, and at zero risk, so a first nations public service is a full requirement. I'll conclude by saying that we clearly recognize that four pillars are fully required. The first is senior management; the second is financial; the third is human resources; the fourth is in regard to records information management. Those are the clear four pillars that we've come to realize are full requirements.
With that, I want to conclude by saying that we have to ask tomorrow's questions today.
I'll answer your questions by giving examples of what has happened.
For me, as a band manager or chief executive officer of my first nation, I was there for 10 years. I left my community in 1997 to work for the First Nations Summit. From 1998 to today, in my community's case, we've had 11 band managers, or CEOs, or COOs, or whatever you want to call them. All of those individuals had MBAs, MPAs or commerce degrees, etc., but none of them fit into all of those categories, recognizing that when you're at a first nations level, do you completely understand public administration from a federal perspective, a provincial perspective and your adjacent municipal perspective?
On top of that is recognizing zero risk in regard to your Crown corporations that you've created under the land management taxation, etc., and then your business arm external to that, and most importantly, the subtle nuances of cultural activity within the community. When you're dealing with people, especially in British Columbia, whose populations range from 700 to 3,000, your constituents are right in your face immediately if you make an error in judgment. They'll question everything. You've had people make reports in regard to saying that first nations aren't transparent—absolutely wrong. When you make a decision as a councillor or a band manager or whatnot, they're right there, those people who ask these kinds of questions. You have an internal auditor branch, so to speak.
We recognize that those four pillars are so important, but the one that's absolutely missing is records information management. All records used to be held by the federal government. In the mid-1980s, they transitioned and said, “Okay, all these files, Indians, you have them.” You have files that are contained in chiefs' or band managers' houses, in attics, in basements and whatnot, but none of that is in a concentrated area. To get all of that information back into one building to access for daily operations and to recognize how we're moving forward is what's missing.
We need government to recognize those kinds of things. They've placed us into a far, far corner, and we're trying to get out of that corner now. Those four pillars that we've described are just the starting point, because then we have to build those institutions beyond that.
There is limited data being collected in regard to the right data. As an example, the government is applauding themselves, patting themselves on the back and saying, “Wow, look at this—from 1985 onward the graduation rate for post-secondary is on the rise.” Absolutely not. If you use the same factors prior to 1985 on reserve exclusively you'd see a decline, because all of the current investment for post-secondary in particular right now is going toward the more urban population, the so-called city Indians. They're taking advantage of that. You had Bill C-31, Bill and whatnot, and the new Indians and the self-identified natives, and all of those are put into your database, the government database.
Now, that rate looks like it's on the rise, but if you use exclusively on reserve, because those are the people who are going to stay at home.... They're raised there and they're culturally involved. When we send our children off reserve to communities, they lose that in the majority of cases. Imagine sending your children aged 7 to 14, who are living in rural and remote communities, to schools outside of your reserve because there are none there. It's a challenge, and the most important lesson of education is being lost. It's what I call the dinner table talk education. That's the important part. You have not only the education that you learn from high school or post-secondary, but the cultural side of your community as well that's quite important.
I'll give you an example. We have an individual who is a forester, an arborist, and is trying to manage an economic development opportunity. He saw a grove of trees up on the mountainside and said that we should cut that down, invest and make an economic opportunity, but that was a very significant archeological and whatever site for the community. That resource was never to be touched, but just because the person who was the band manager of the day or the forester didn't realize those kinds of things, it may as well be a non-aboriginal person moving in.
Yes. I say, take a step backwards. Asking tomorrow's questions today is so important. You ask, “Okay, how do we do this?” We build with tomorrow in mind. Capacity requires us to assess the current situation within the community: what we have, what we don't have and what we need. How do we train the current bureaucracy that's there? As well, then, we need to look at the future and ask, “Okay, how do we invest in that?”
That's how we did it pre-contact. We already knew a child when he or she was growing up, and we knew who was going to be the speaker of the house, who was going to be the artist and who was going to be the gatherer or the hunter and whatnot, because they demonstrated those skills. Society is no different, but what happens is that in society, if you're a doctor or lawyer or Indian chief, your child almost assumes that responsibility. We don't have that. We don't have role models in our community. We don't have a doctor. We don't have a scientist.
Let's be honest. For those of you who have children beyond the age of 21, you've helped them with their homework. You've taught them and you've talked to them every day of their lives. We don't have that. You parachute somebody in. Somebody goes in and says, “I'm going in for my cultural fix once every two weeks of the year.” You can't just come home and say, “I'm part of your family”, and then leave.
We have to look at those things. We have to invest in that and say, “Okay, which natives are going to live on reserve forever?” Let's invest in those and then, no matter what...because salaries are going to be very important. We lose a lot. I'm in an urban reserve, and a lot of people who have professional standing don't come and work for us because we can't compete in regard to salary.
The governance structures.... Again, looking at the definition of the more colonial mindset, you've heard a lot of speeches with regard to this: reaggregation, reconstitution, rebuilding. East of the Rockies there was a formula that described and allowed first nations to have x
amount of land, 250 acres per family. That's why you have large communities east of the Rockies of 5,000 to 12,000 acres. Then you move to the west of the Rockies, where the formula changed dramatically. In my particular case, it's 2.5 acres per family. We have the smallest reserve in all of Canada. In British Columbia, the sad reality is that we have 200 first nations, and people are saying, “Well, why don't you reconstitute yourself? You must have had the Coast Salish, the Kwagiulth, etc.” No, we didn't.
People keep trying to place us into this category of linguistic groupings. We were more city states as opposed to a nation, and we always will be, so that governance structure has to be recognized with regard to who's defining it and how we build it. We had it before contact and we can have it again post-contact. It's just a recognition of that. Then we need to look at how we work it in a manner that will help first nations.
If you take a look at the federal government, you have institutions that support your good governance structures, the Department of Justice, the Department of Finance, etc. We have created some of those institutions as well, but sad to say, they have followed in the footsteps of government structure, of siloed.... We have the First Nations Finance Authority, the First Nations Financial Management Board, First Nations Tax Commission and the lands advisory board, but they're all siloed.
I took the opportunity four years ago to hold a dinner, and I said to all of those institutions, “Why aren't you working together? Why aren't you promoting and educating the first nations and making them understand so that they can access what you have to offer?” It came to them; a light bulb turned on. They had their first conference last year, and now they're having their second one where they're working together to do those things.
Those governance institutions are needed in every region.
Sad to say, the reality of government, especially federal, is nationalism, a national approach, a national policy. Currently, we've asked that the First Nations Public Service Secretariat be a pilot in British Columbia, but ISC is afraid. It said, “How do we go to Treasury Board and ask for something? We know we're going to get turned down.” This is true because the mindset of Treasury Board is the bottom line: How is this going to save money? How is this going to be better?
If you went to a national approach right away tomorrow, it would not work because there's the uniqueness of every region and a complexity—some are matrilineal and some are patrilineal—and we have to allow them to rebuild based on that approach. We can't keep continuously imposing.
I hope I answered your question.
The majority of the hereditary system is on the west coast of British Columbia, as opposed to the interior and whatnot. It's working with those first nations. Right now in the news, you have the Wet'suwet'en who have the hereditary system, the elected system, and half of the hereditary chiefs are also elected as well. It does work. It's just a matter of defining it and then looking at who the people will take their guidance from.
We have a Senate. The Senate is very, very important. There are people who have on-the-ground intelligence, the knowledge and the wisdom, I'm hoping, in regard to looking at how we improve Canada and how we don't deface it. We're a country that is considered to be one of the best in the world. You have that responsibility to look at no matter what piece of legislation is coming through and you ask those hard questions.
Likewise with the hereditary system, if I were a hereditary chief, I would be worried about land loss, the environment and the future legacy for my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The oil pipeline is a clear and good example of that. The National Energy Board said it is good for all Canadians; therefore, let's proceed. Excuse me, but is it good for all Canadians? Is it good for it to come through my backyard? I don't think so. We're not getting any economic return on it. But we will have a legacy if the pipe ever bursts.
In my particular case, the Salish Sea, if one of those tankers collides and has an accident, the whole of the Salish Sea will be ruined for 50 years. That's my bread and butter. We won Sparrow under that. Right where we won Sparrow is where they are building Roberts Bank terminal two. Again, we're being denied the opportunity for ceremonial and food access.
So how do we engage with government? That's the challenge. We won Sparrow, and we're the second under conservation to access the Fraser River-bound fish. What did the government do? They negotiated with the Maa-nulth people for the first access of Fraser-bound sockeye. You look at those kinds of things and you ask questions as to how we create a reconciled approach by government looking at other pieces of legislation and other governments introducing legislation that will impact whatever we come to a conclusion on.
Under the hereditary system, I believe that's where the wisdom of hereditary chiefs and chiefs comes into play.
You're asking a question that's beyond tomorrow's exercise, but yes. First nations have also asked for an institute called the auditor general's office. I don't agree with that. We have one Auditor General who holds Canada to account. You could have a subdivision of a first nations body, which they currently have, but it's not as structured as you would hope it to be. The Auditor General holds our government to account with regard to that, and I think that office does a fairly good job.
To your question, I'm an optimist, or else I wouldn't be here. I still believe that one day we're going to get rid of the Indian Act, but let's not do it until such time as we have something that is equally good to replace it.
As an example, currently, government is proposing 10-year grants. They're proposing a number of things. They say that first nations can become self-determining, but let's be honest; no matter what, most first nations can't. You can have a current funding resource from government, but if you don't have jurisdiction, it isn't going to work.
It's the same with you as a government. The oil industry is down, so what do you do? You raise the tax dollar or whatnot from other areas. We need to do the same thing if and when we enter a nation-to-nation relationship.
Thank you for that question because it's always concerned me.
Having been a bureaucrat, I know that all of the funding is basically done on an annual contribution agreement. When they went to what you would call block funding, or AFA, to five years, it was always at a very restricted amount. It had little to do with building capacity or training first nations. That was excluded within those kinds of funding formulas for first nations. Then, on a proposal-driven basis, you could apply for funds for capacity development. They call it PIDP, the professional and institutional development program.
Those programs only operate on an annual basis. The sad reality is that many first nations were on remedial management plans, so the majority of those dollars did not go towards professional development of first nations. It was provided to contractors such as Deloitte Touche and financial institutions that would parachute into first nations and help them get out of remedial management. I use that as one example.
Therefore, there was no long-term vision in regard to these contributions arrangements. As you're well aware, when you do it on a proposal-driven basis, and it's only on an annual basis, there is no ability to look at a five-year or 10-year strategic plan, because it's not there. How do you say to somebody that you want to move in a certain direction?
I will say that in the last five to 10 years, government has come to the realization that comprehensive community planning is a critical instrument, so they invested in it. With comprehensive community planning, three or four first nations got global attention and won a number of awards, and they updated the planning every two years. The sad reality, however, is that consultants have taken this situation, and rather than build on it from the ground up, they're once again imposing it from the top down and saying they're “cutting and pasting”. That doesn't help anyone. That's the reality.
More importantly, to answer your question, government is still operating on an annual contribution basis in the majority of cases. They're going to say to you that they're offering a 10-year grant. But if you look at it very closely, the 10-year grant is really in regard to statutory requirements, where there's discretionary and non-discretionary funding. Non-discretionary is the 10-year grant, and all others are still proposal-driven.
With me, I was blessed and fortunate that I didn't have to go to residential school. I was surrounded by grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles. I became the surrogate child, grandchild and nephew of every member of my community. I have six children. I made sure that my children always sat at the dinner table and we would talk about who we are and where we came from, as my mother and elders had always described to me.
That was important in regard to who we are: to know who you are. That is the missing element. That is one of the residual effects of residential school. A lot of those current parents whom you're talking about never had that opportunity.
How we get it back is, again, to develop the curriculum, develop the history books of first nations. People call it stories. We don't call it stories. We're not telling a story. We're telling you our history. That's the important aspect: telling what's important in life. Five TVs and a Cadillac are not important things. At the end of the day, you can't take it with you when you're going to heaven or hell. The important thing is how rich you are, how many people you have touched in your lifetime, and how many of you have created a legacy that you left this place better than when you arrived.
That dinner table talk education becomes so, so important to recognize what a child is and what they can learn about how to take care of Mother Earth.
It sounds so simple, but those of us who live in cities take for granted that the beauty is going to remain there, that the gasoline is going to always be there for us. It's not.
That dinner table talk becomes an expensive exercise that doesn't need to be expensive. We just need to regain and have those, which are an investment into developing within the first nation itself it's curriculum to say our history, who we are. We have role models. We have idols. We don't recognize them, you know?
My kids go to school, and they have Tecumseh and Hiawatha. Our greatest warrior was Giyeplénexw. There's nothing about him in the curriculum in the school system. If you went and asked my community members who the most important person is in their community, they wouldn't know that.
There's a need for investment in that dinner table talk. That's the missing element—for those parents, as well. I agree with you. You have to create a healthy community before you can have a healthy government.