Thank you. It's a pleasure once again to join you here on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. We're also pleased to have Mr. Yurdiga here with us in that we missed you last time, and we hope that everything is progressing in your territory.
As the chair said, I am joined again today by our deputy minister, Hélène Laurendeau, and our chief financial officer, Paul Thoppil.
We want to thank the committee for your work to date, particularly for the ongoing study on suicide among indigenous people and communities. I am pleased to let you know that the parliamentary secretary will be travelling to Nunatsiavut in July to be with ITK as they release their youth suicide strategy.
As you know, we feel that we're beginning to address the most urgent aspects of this crisis, but I know that your work will enhance and inform the government's response to the ongoing tragedy. From my point of view as the minister of the social determinants of health, our job is prevention and providing hope.
Here we go again. We're here to discuss the supplementary estimates (A) for Indigenous and Northern Affairs. As I mentioned last time, we are more than aware that the current estimates process is arcane and that it is particularly challenging for this committee to do the essential job of holding the government to account for proposed spending.
The President of the Treasury Board has been clear in his commitment to work on this problem so that the government can provide Parliament with more timely and accurate information.
In the meantime, I am happy for this opportunity to be here to answer your questions and provide you with as much information as possible so you can do your jobs effectively.
As you can see, the estimates reflect a net increase of $1.2 billion in appropriations for our department, which brings the total appropriations for INAC for 2016-17 to $8.8 billion. That funding, once approved, will target investments in many important areas, which I'll highlight later in my remarks and through your questions.
I want to make clear that these supplementary estimates are only the first of several, which will account for both the additional funding flowing through budget 2016 and the new funding needs that will be identified throughout the year. Your scrutiny is paramount to this process, and as more of the budget and other new funding is reflected and approved, I look forward to returning for future estimates to ensure full transparency.
These, the first supplementary estimates of the fiscal year, primarily reflect infrastructure stimulus as identified in Budget 2016.
However, I want to make it clear up front that just because budget commitments are not reflected in these estimates, it does not mean that no new money is flowing. Where there are existing authorities, the department can accommodate new spending using existing funding in anticipation of future estimates being approved, because they were in the budget. This is the case for the remaining budget 2016 commitments not included in the supplementary estimates (A).
For instance, by July 1, 2016, we will have advanced $4.1 million in new funding from budget 2016 to the recipients for the existing network of 41 emergency shelters for victims of violence. That money is flowing even though you don't see it in the supplementary estimates (A).
As well, in anticipation of future estimates, we have advanced approximately $28.4 million to first nations child and family services program providers for initiatives such as the enhanced prevention approach, which we know is working. We've been able to put it into the provinces and territories that didn't previously have it.
We have no doubt that some of your questions will be about these estimates, but some will be about what's not in them.
I would, however, like to use the rest of my time today to highlight some of the key initiatives that are included in these estimates.
The $1.2 billion of funding sought in these supplementary estimates is primarily for investments in water, waste water, waste management, affordable housing and social infrastructure, education infrastructure, and settlement of outstanding claims. As we have discussed here before, all Canadians expect access to safe, clean, and reliable drinking water, and first nations should expect no less. Frankly, that is one of the most well-received parts of the Minister of Finance's speeches. Everybody gets this.
Through these estimates, INAC will access $308.5 million to support first nations in the operation, maintenance, and construction of water and waste-water facilities, as well as waste-water management infrastructure. The $1.8 million over five years is earmarked for on-reserve water and waste-water infrastructure, and is part of our commitment to end the boil water advisories on reserves within five years.
Housing is also a fundamental need. All Canadians should have access to a secure home. I think we've all been in those homes on reserve. The conditions are, quite frankly, a disgrace.
To address urgent housing needs on reserve, Budget 2016 proposed to provide $554.3 million over two years for first nation housing.
Through these estimates, INAC will access $206.6 million to address the immediate and urgent housing needs on reserve and the renovation and retrofit of existing housing on reserve.
Cultural and recreational infrastructure can provide an important focal point for community activities, contributing to social cohesion and, most importantly, a safe place for youth. As you know, that wasn't previously funded.
This infrastructure connects individuals and families to their communities, and contributes to the healthy development of young people.
These estimates will also provide $34.4 million of budget 2016's $76.9 million to support the construction of cultural and recreational infrastructure on reserve.
Budget 2016 funding will also support investments in a range of complementary infrastructure needs, such as roads, bridges, energy systems, and broadband connectivity.
This will help communities as they develop and grow, and support significant improvements to the environment and quality of life of first nation communities.
Through these estimates, $104.3 million will be accessed to support the construction of public infrastructure on reserve. I'm also pleased that an additional $96.1 million will be accessed to support the first nations enhanced education infrastructure fund and the building and refurbishing of first nations schools.
As you know, the amount for school infrastructure is actually twice what was in the platform, and this was viewed as very urgent. It means safe and healthy places in which students can learn and achieve academic success, along with the funding for the maintenance of these facilities.
I'm also pleased that the funding will help reduce the environmental and human health risks posed by federal contaminated sites. Through these estimates, $199.9 million will be accessed for the assessment, management, and remediation of these sites. This funding will contribute to the wide range of tools to reduce the risks, including treating contaminated water and soil and removing hazardous waste.
This has been a priority of the department. When there have been extra funds at the end of the year, this has been one of the areas where we do it. Certainly we heard this week from the chief of Attawapiskat that being able to rebuild where the school burnt down was very important, so that becomes an urgent contaminated site where we will be able to progress in that community.
As you can see, there are many other important investments as well, including waste disposal, claims and negotiations, and funding for northern priorities, such as housing and a Canadian high Arctic research station.
The funding will contribute to a more prosperous Canada and contribute significantly to closing the social and economic gaps for first nations, Inuit, Métis, and northerners.
But these estimates are just the beginning.
I very much look forward to taking your questions today as well as returning for future estimate appearances.
Thank you. Meegwetch.
In order for us to move forward on all of the initiatives in budget 2016 as planned and without delay, even though not all are contained in the supplementary estimates, the government prioritized the initiatives that were considered stimulus funding and shovel ready. Those were prioritized, and they're being accessed in supplementary estimates (A). The department will then prioritize the remaining initiatives to move forward in future estimates.
We believe that things that aren't there are proceeding and flowing as required without impeding the program delivery because we can cash-manage it in the areas where we already had authorities.
It means that we have the internal flexibility within the department to advance those funds, and then, when we come back for the supplementary estimates, finance reimburses our department for what we advanced. The cash management allows us not to interrupt the flow.
We have to go after the things that we felt were stimulus, and I'll give you two examples.
In the first example, we already had authority for emergency shelters, so we advanced $4.1 million of the new funding to the recipients for the existing network of emergency shelters, but we would have to come back for authority for the new shelters.
In the other example, we already had advanced the $28.4 million to first nations child and family services providers for initiatives such as the enhanced prevention program. That was already in place in some provinces, but not in B.C., Yukon, Ontario, New Brunswick, or Newfoundland. We advanced that money on enhanced prevention in order to prevent children from having to be apprehended.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the minister for joining us here again.
First I want to say up front that we do support the expenditures that are planned, both in the budget and in the supplementary estimates, while ensuring the effectiveness of every single dollar that's spent in terms of making a real difference in the lives of the communities.
I want to focus my comments on the comprehensive land claims and the $44.2 million that's allocated for them. In British Columbia, of course, that is particularly important.
If you'll indulge me, I want to take maybe two minutes of my time to set the table for what I consider to be a significant concern that we have to deal with.
As I say, we have the comprehensive land claim process in the supplementary estimates. I think things started in good faith in the nineties. There was engagement at a local level and comprehensively with all the players. Somehow, over the years we have drifted away from that in terms of communities. As National Chief Perry Bellegarde indicated, we need peace in the nation at times.
In the spring of this year, 58 of our ranchers were called in and told that due to a treaty settlement, significant components of their land were going to be removed. Their ranches are tenured on leased land and some of it is owned land. This was part of the Shuswap agreements. We have 58 ranchers who were given maps with significant sections of land removed and winter pasture and summer pasture cut off.
These ranchers are very much behind settling treaties. There is nothing about them unsupportive of treaty settlement, but in actual fact, the impact is that 17% of the caribou herd is going to be lost because of being cut off from spring pasture. There are very complicated formulas. We have 58 ranchers who have probably gone from a marginal operation that made some money to an operation that will make no money.
Another example is someone who owned a trapline. He was shut down. Again, he appreciates the need for settlement. Someone else had access to his property and said, “Well, we hope that you can negotiate access to your property.” His property was cut off.
As happened with other organizations, they're looking at compensation for significant business loss, as was the case with fishing licences. In this case, it's the ranching community.
I know the province is responsible for the land selections, but the province is saying the federal government is responsible for money. If there's an impact to third parties, they believe that the federal government should be at that table.