[Witness speaks in Cree
I acknowledge you. I'm the chief from the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation. I'm also the grand chief of the Swampy Cree Tribal Council. My community is on the Treaty No. 4 territory.
My grandfather was a headman, so we sort of know the first instincts about entering into the treaty. It was the white person bringing what was promised.
A lot of time has passed. I'm here with my fellow chief from the north, Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.
There are two stories as to how we got to be where we are. My story would take a long time to understand. There's the story of the colonizers when we entered the treaty, and what the true intent of it was supposed to be.
Default management—it's not our way. Our default management was living off the land and continuing to live off the land. We're still two worlds apart. From my understanding, from my headman and my grandfather, it was to allow people to come into our territory to exchange, provide, and give us hunting stuff—nets, traps, shells—and to continue and to allow you to be in our Sapotaweyak territory.
Management is a little unique to us. From our understanding, annual contributions are given to us as grant money for the resources extracted from our territory. There should be no management services with regard to what's in default and what's not in default. We should be the ones sitting here and asking you, “What are you doing to our land? What's the remediation doing to our land?” We should be doing that, but I guess we have to follow this way of government, Canada's corporation, in exchange for what we could do.
As the grand chief of the Swampy Cree Tribal Council, I'm a person elected by a grassroots people. I'm on my second term. My predecessor is sitting beside me. Chief Arlen Dumas was there before as grand chief. They are to help and assist communities that are not reporting correctly or not reporting on time. This is what happens to us annually.
When we do general reporting, on social services for one thing.... I used to be a welfare administrator in my community. We were given an annual budget. It's supposed to be a dollar-per-dollar ratio. I'm being advanced the money to distribute. That's doing my job. I work alongside my provincial counterpart. Working with them, we collaborate on what's eligible and what's not eligible. At the end of the day, my counterpart, who works for the town, doesn't have to comply with anybody, under the province. It is a provincial act.
It's the same thing with the O and M services in the communities. Twenty years ago, in 2006, they stopped. My community didn't stop growing. Already 20 or 21 years now have passed. I'm still using the same numbers from back then.
In essence, why are we underfunded? That's the first question. Why are we underfunded? I should be asking you that question.
As a business in Sapotaweyak Cree Nation, we expanded our economic development using TLE. Now as a community, I get the benefit. But I had to explain to the previous government what I wanted, which is economic development, to prosper and to develop businesses outside my territory.
On the reserves currently, what we call my community, it's still housing. I'm housed on this surveyed piece of property, not for me to come out but to live in that little settlement. This is not what my grandfather envisioned. My grandfather envisioned us continuing to live off the land, so that we wouldn't be dependent on anybody. That's what my grandfather wished for me.
A lot has changed in regard to providing services—technical services, advisory services.
As grand chief of the Swampy Cree Tribal Council, I used to see economic activity to provide external services to the member bands of the eight communities we service. In 2014, that was downscaled to a bare-bones $500,000 to deliver the same programs and services to the communities that required help. You can't do it, physically. My staff had to do double duty, but there were limits to what they could achieve. That's a method of trying to fail. You don't prescribe that to somebody just to watch them fail. Here I was thinking that we'd be contributing to the economy of Canada.
I'm going to give it to my fellow chief, Chief Dumas, to provide a supplementary commentary to our issue at hand.
Thank you very much, Grand Chief, and my thanks to all of you for inviting us to be witnesses.
I'm Chief Arlen Dumas from the Mathias Colomb First Nation.
I took the liberty of listening to all the other witnesses and presentations given here in front of this committee. I would like to sum up of those comments.
The message we'd like to deliver today is that this intervention policy is a punitive measure. It's all about control and has nothing to do with transparency or accountability. The further the government chooses to go along this line, the more harm it does to the communities from a first nations perspective. I take a look at my community. We are survivors of this intervention policy. It was initiated because of government interference and the government's opposition to the different stances we had taken as a community and as a nation in Manitoba and in Canada.
Because of that, we were reprimanded and subjugated for a decade. With that happening, as a fairly young leader in my community, I can tell you that from the day I was born until 2000 there were never any suicides in my community. We were forced into intervention in 1998, and we had our first community suicide in the year 2000. After that, we had a rash of them.
I was raised in a very opportune time when I was able to go to school and have these wonderful opportunities bestowed upon me. When I left my community, there was a great sense of hope. When I returned home in 2002, you could feel the despair in the air, simply because of this false narrative that we were unable to manage our own affairs. We went from being the beacon in the 1980s and early 1990s to being people who couldn't manage their own affairs, according to a false narrative perpetuated by the governments of the day. Essentially, that's what I'm here to present today, and I'll respond to some questions later.
I feel that in this co-management and intervention, a lot of focus was put upon third parties, but it doesn't a matter, because the second you move into this paradigm, it's a punitive experience. It will dictate whether or not you can complain about your contribution agreement, whether or not you can choose a different financial analyst, or whether you can complain that your population formulas were frozen from 1982.
In 1982, my community's population was 1,000. We're now well over 3,500 members, with the same amount of money. The issue is the chronic underfunding. It's not lack of reporting, transparency, or leadership. The fact is, we're chronically underfunded in all aspects of our community funding. In the time that we were in co-management, we didn't build houses and we weren't able to develop our infrastructure. In fact, the rules and mechanisms that exist within that infrastructure were very punitive to our communities. Once we get out of co-management, we hear that our lift stations have not been maintained for 10 years, that our infrastructure hasn't been maintained for 10 years, and so on and so forth.
It's also how the programs are laid out. We might get $300,000 to work on our housing stock, but then we're told we're not going to get any more money until that's paid off. My resources are already so slim. I ask how I'm going to do this, and they tell me I just can't manage my affairs. That's the reality of the issue.
I'm not sure how much time I have, but I'm looking forward to your questions a little later.
Good morning, everyone. Thank you very much.
Meegwetch, Madam Chair, for the opportunity, and committee members for allowing us to be here today.
My name is Andrew Yesno, and I am the manager of the financial advisory services for Matawa First Nations Management based out of Thunder Bay. I've been there since 2015. I'm a member of the Eabametoong First Nation and a former bank manager of that first nation as well.
Matawa First Nations is a tribal council. We have nine member Ojibway and Cree communities. We provide a variety of advisory services and program delivery to our members. We are committed to quality assurance and are responsive to our communities' needs. We have embraced a quality management system, which we continually monitor and try to enhance. We are ISO 9001:2008 registered, and with this system it promises that we provide quality, accountability, and transparency through our enhanced planning, our policies, procedures, and processes, along with appropriate documentation and resources.
In my particular department, financial advisory services, we are available to help provide our member first nations management or leadership in administration by delivering governance and financial advisory services. These services provided include working with the band, finance and program managers, and various administrative staff, and we try to address their financial needs, personnel management needs, governance needs, and to assist where we can in capacity development. We assist them with policy development, financial planning, and try to give them the support we can for the preparation of funding proposals for different community-driven initiatives not of our own.
We maintain a collection of resources, and we continually update them, on governance, management, documentation, template codes, policies, procedures, work instructions, and basically information on best practices.
Our current status right now is that five of our first nations are remote communities. They are accessible only by air or by a continually unreliable winter-road seasonal network. Six out of our nine communities are currently under default management. In previous testimony that I've read it's been said to this committee many times what the reasons are, the factors, and my colleagues here mentioned as well why this has occurred. They are remoteness, lack of own source funding, lack of capacity and its development, the reporting burdens, lack of financial literacy, and of course overall, woefully inadequate funding. The list can go on and on.
Communities that fall under default management are faced with a heavy burden and that includes the additional costs of an RAA or a third party manager, and that stretches out what's already a thin band of support funding. Our particular communities of Matawa surround an area commonly referred to as the “Ring of Fire”. It's been described as one of the most promising mineral development opportunities in Ontario in almost a century. The estimates have suggested that within this area lie a multi-generational potential for chromite production, as well as significant production of nickel, copper, platinum, and other precious metals.
Faced with such enormous potential development with figures in the billions, it's clear that our communities need to have the capacity to move forward to be able to deal with this, if we are to have an active role in proceeding. We lack the expertise and are insufficiently funded to get it. Until then our communities will continue to engage both the province and federal government for solid commitments and adequate funding to see our nations become prosperous.
As a tribal council, as mentioned we have also seen our funding cut. In 2014 the previous federal government changed its policy surrounding first nations tribal councils funding and cut core funding to services being provided to the communities such as financial advisory services, in the thinking that other national organizations would be there to fill in the gap such as AFOA, or FNFMB. In our region, although attempts were made, that has never really materialized and the void is still there.
It's our organization's position that tribal councils have always been underfunded, right from the start. We have always argued that as tribal councils, we were doing the work of three to four bureaucrats for every one tribal council staff member that INAC had before this program even began.
The current system has been a failure. First nations across Canada are spread out over large geographic territories. Many are remote, and this is not adequately addressed in the current funding model. Five out of our nine communities are remote. Return airfare costs range from $420 return to fly to our closest community to over $1,200 to fly to our farthest. It's inconceivable that we are expected to deliver proper services equally to our members when faced with the costs of travel in the north. The formula does not work for tribal councils such as ours.
We feel that member tribal councils should be directly involved and properly resourced to provide training right at the community level. This will require adequate resourcing for both tribal councils and first nations. The current tribal council funding program was created over 35 years ago. Federal programs typically undergo program review every five years. Despite a major review of the program in 2002-04, the tribal council funding has not undergone any significant modifications since 1986, with the exception of the significant cuts in 2014-15.
It's our belief that a new review should be conducted, taking into account the modern challenges and complexities that face tribal councils across Canada. It should not be an INAC-led, top-down approach, but should be in collaboration with existing institutions, tribal councils, and at the grassroots level, hearing from the communities themselves.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for your time.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to our guests for being here today. This is an important topic.
At the last meeting, I said that it seems as though, if you trip the wire of entering into the first levels of default prevention management, you begin the long process of circling the drain to ending up in third party management and you therefore never even get out of it. The last witness we had here talked about their tax bill. It started out at $214,000, and because the third party managers never paid it, it's now nearing $1 million. Because they don't control it, they can't even pay that tax bill if they want to, so there are definite problems here.
Would you propose a solution? Default management is in every government ministry. I know back home there is a county near my riding where the Ministry of Municipal Affairs stepped in and removed the entire county council and then starting managing that particular county because there were significant issues there. The basic policy is that if money is not being managed or if services are not being provided, those kinds of things, that is essentially a tripwire for any level of government.
Now you're saying that you don't have enough funding, and that definitely could be the case, or in your case, with one and a half people to manage $6 million, it could definitely be.
Would you agree with me that there should be some sort of accountability structure? I'll go back one step further to something I call the golden rule. The golden rule typically means to treat others as you would like to be treated. However, I like to say the golden rule is that he who holds the gold rules, essentially. When that happens, the person holding the gold is going to say, we're not appreciative of the way this is being managed and we're going to pull it back and put in a different method. That's what's happening here.
What would be your solution? The rules are always there for the anomaly, right? When everything is going well, everything is going well. When you enter into default management, you begin the long process of circling the drain.
What would you propose? We all have to admit that, at some point, if somebody is being fraudulent or something such as that, we have to take care of that. We need to take care of that. We're not saying that's always the case, but if that is the case, we need to be able to take care of the fraud that's happening there. One of the tripwires is that the auditor has flagged concerns about the financial statements, right? That could be flagged because he suspects that there is fraud. Rather than putting you into default management, what would your solution be to say, we suspect fraud in this particular area, so how do we bring that to light and find out where that fraud is taking place?
That rule is now happening and we have a whole bunch of communities falling into default management, not for fraud but for another thing. However, we still need a rule to deal with fraud.
This is what I think needs to happen. We actually have to have a fulsome discussion, and we have to have a proper understanding of the things that we are discussing. We can say that the system is broken, but maybe it's not. The system is chronically underfunded.
As I said, the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation are survivors of this paradigm. However, it's because of a combination of our own source revenue and because of our entrepreneurial spirit that we were able to get ourselves out of co-management. However, other communities are still punitive, and in fact, it still affects us negatively because, to this day, I'm still paying for the sins of the past, of co-managers. We mentioned earlier about these triggers. We have to keep in mind, “What does that mean?”
When you change auditing firms, one auditor doesn't agree with the other auditor's number, so he's going to give you a qualified opinion. It doesn't mean anything about how you're actually operating. It doesn't mean anything about whether you're under or over budget. It's a matter of two different professionals having a disagreement of opinion, so they're going to give you a qualified opinion and the Department of Indian Affairs is going to say, “Well, you're in intervention then.” It has nothing to do with the communities. The system overall needs to be assessed and looked at.
The Department of Indian Affairs gets $8.5 billion annually. If you broke that up and gave us our money, I'd get $350,000 every year, but because of the bureaucracy and because of all these things that exist, as an individual, as a beneficiary to that budget, I think I get maybe 50¢. If we're going to talk about the system, then let's talk about the system. Where are the real fractures? Where is the real breakdown in the system that needs to be examined? It's not our fault. The communities are always blamed, “Oh, they don't have capacity.” We have capacity; just let me enhance it. I have all the capacity in the world. Never before have I had more educated people in my band membership. Just unshackle the chains so we can look after ourselves.
I hope I'm answering your question. We truly need to have the proper discussion in the proper way.
Four out of those six are remote first nations. They have no access to outsource outside resources, outside funding, other than what comes in through INAC or from the province, and that's all basically just piecemeal.
The other two are road-access communities, which are near larger communities that are off-reserve. They don't have access to collecting taxes, or the ability to create economic development.
Three of our communities right now are involved in a pilot project, which is funded by INAC under the strategic partnerships initiative. One of them, Neskantaga, has been under co-management for nearly 16 years now. In the past year, starting in June with this pilot project, we took a new approach in that the department, along with ourselves at the tribal council and along with community leadership, formed a working group that met regularly to try to determine what was the best way to get them out of it.
The system hasn't worked. It's been 16 years of paying MNP and their predecessors a quarter of a million dollars a year of their band support funding. How are you supposed to get out of it? It's like you mentioned. It's going around in a circle down the drain.
Sixteen years is a long time, and the leadership has said it has to stop. We have to change as well, and it's going to take both sides. That's why we came together. In that time, they've hired a new band manager. They have adopted new financial policies, a new HR policy, a new organizational structure. They've met with their community continuously. They developed a new management action plan, and they have been de-escalated, and now they are managing themselves. We did that in less than a year.
It is because of this funding. It's given us the flexibility, and that's what we need. You can't just say, okay, this is your education pot. This is your health pot. This is your band support funding pot, and you cannot mix, otherwise, you fall into default. Getting this sum of money has given us that flexibility to know where we can direct it. What we have accomplished in less than a year is pretty amazing, after 16 years of being in default.
We're just starting our second community, Marten Falls First Nation. Our third will be Webequie, and we're hoping to repeat that success. If this model works, why can't it be applied all across the country?
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for the invitation to speak here today. I'd like to introduce myself. My name is Dawn Madahbee Leach, and I am the interim chair of the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board. I am from the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation on Manitoulin Island, and for nearly 30 years now, I've been the general manager of the Waubetek Business Development Corporation.
I'd like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe peoples.
As you may know, the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board is an advisory board made up of first nations, Inuit, and Métis business and community leaders from across Canada. The board was formed in 1990, and members are appointed by orders in council. The board has a mandate to provide strategic policy advice to government on how to best promote indigenous economic development and how to respond to the unique needs and circumstances of indigenous people in Canada. I am happy to be here today to share the board's thoughts on default management and prevention policy.
Though we may not know all the process details of this policy specifically, my board colleagues and I have seen first-hand how third party managers or management impacts our communities. I also want to add that I reviewed some of the previous presentations to your committee, and the presenters have eloquently explained the root causes of this default issue and provided some great recommendations.
I am sure we have all by now memorized the 's much-quoted commitment, “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”
In January of this year, our board released its statement on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This document sets out a standard to be achieved in the spirit of partnership and mutual respect that marks Canada's stated commitment to reconciliation. The declaration describes 46 articles by which the international community and Canada as a signatory can work to achieve indigenous socio-economic equality and end the systemic racism that has limited the development of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples for far too long.
Among the articles and of particular interest to the national board is article 3 that states, “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” Indigenous self-determination is foundational to the national board's vision of vibrant indigenous economies that are characterized by economic self-sufficiency and socio-economic equality with the the rest of Canada.
It is the view of the board that a nation-to-nation relationship is only possible where indigenous people reassert jurisdiction over their lands, resources, and people. The existing default management prevention policy is an anathema to our vision. This regressive, designed-to-fail policy must be eliminated and replaced by practices that actually result in improving outcomes for first nation communities.
In February, the national board hosted the first of a series of conferences on reconciliation and economic development. spoke at the event and shared with us the words of the late Nelson Mandela who said, to paraphrase, beyond the necessary healing and truth telling, reconciliation actually requires laws to change and policies to be rewritten.
That's why I'm here today to tell you that this policy of default management needs to be rewritten. It doesn't work. In fact, it hurts the communities it's supposed to help because it increases financial hardship on reserves and does nothing to build financial capacity or financial literacy.
One of the published objectives of the policy is to support community capacity development so that communities continue to increase their ability to self-manage and prevent default and default recurrence.
The on-the-ground reality is much different. First, third party managers are appointed with no requirement or incentive to support a community’s ability to self-manage. In fact, a perverse incentive exists for third party managers to keep a long-term contract going. Third party management is an opaque process that can sometimes go on for decades, but leaves first nations with no more capacity at the end of the process than they had at the beginning. This has actually become an industry unto itself, and is exactly why approximately 25% of our first nations are still currently undergoing some form of the default management process.
Second, first nations are required to pay for a recipient-appointed adviser or third party manager from their band support funding envelope. Reallocating needed resources for third party managers only increases the financial hardship of the community, further limiting revenue-generating opportunities. The lack of dedicated funding to assist in default management results in exactly the opposite of what capacity building and support means, and works at complete cross-purposes from what the policy intends.
As mentioned—and I know you have heard from my colleagues at the First Nations Financial Management Board—there is a new audit and evaluation of the policy coming out soon, which will give you many more specific reasons why the policy doesn’t work. I want to spend my time proposing a few solutions.
First of all, the default management process should be run by first nations institutions. These institutions, including the First Nations Financial Management Board and AFOA, have the mandate to do the work and a commitment to building the capacity, financial management skills, and self-determination of indigenous peoples that is lacking in the current approach. I also want to mention that the First Nations Market Housing Fund also provides an element of capacity building to establish policies and processes.
Third party managers should be first nations individuals who are trained and certified to do the work, and accountable to the community. The First Nations Financial Management Board can undertake the education of these people, provide the oversight to ensure that the work is done in a reasonable time frame, and ensure that knowledge remains in the community. We have our own institutions, and they should be supported in doing the work to help our people. I think that if there is a new industry that exists, at least our people could be part of it in delivering the service.
Second, there needs to be an increased emphasis placed on financial literacy and financial management capacity. In some remote indigenous communities, there are no banking services and poor Internet connectivity, which means that people have literally no exposure or opportunity to learn even simple things like how to read a financial statement. There is a lot of talk about the need for indigenous education and training, and financial literacy and management must be part of that conversation.
Again, our first nations institutions should be supported to help. They are already doing some of the work, but they could be doing more. For example, AFOA Canada is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing indigenous finance management practices and skills, and you'll hear more about this with the next speaker. The excellent work of this organization and other indigenous financial institutions like it should be strengthened and used to their full measure.
My third recommendation is to increase the financial management component of the comprehensive community planning process that is part of INAC's partnership approach to community development. These plans have been proven to build capacity and contribute to community resilience, but there needs to be an emphasis on financial management as part of this process. It will go a long way towards building the financial literacy and capacity that is needed.
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to an approach to first nation community financial review by the Ulnooweg Development Group. They work at training the chiefs and councils to better use and understand their community financial information. It is so key to train the chiefs and councils. They prepare a reliable set of standardized and streamlined multi-year financial data. They put it in charts and explain it, so the communities know how much they can lend and what kind of financial commitments they can make. The objective of the process is not to turn chiefs into financial experts, but to build their financial capacity.
I just want to summarize by saying that moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation, rewriting laws and policies means making sure that we are always working together to make sure that policies are not punitive or regressive—
Good morning, kola
. Hello, friends.
I would like to recognize that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe people. Thank you for inviting me to speak today on the federal government's default management and prevention policy. My name is Terry Goodtrack. I'm a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota First Nation in Saskatchewan. I'm the president and chief executive officer of AFOA Canada.
Today I would like to focus my comments on three areas: one, who we are at AFOA Canada; two, current initiatives that we're undergoing at AFOA Canada; and three, AFOA Canada member input into the default prevention and management policy.
AFOA Canada was founded in 1999. We're a national, not-for-profit, non-political organization with nine chapters across the country. We are a membership-driven organization. We have 1,508 members. AFOA Canada exists because years ago aboriginal people recognized the need for certification and training programs for financial managers, aboriginal administrators, and elected leaders. Over the past 18 years, we have created numerous products built around the pillars of effective financial management, good governance, leadership, and wealth management.
AFOA Canada is proactive. We look at the big picture and the long term. We focus our work of education, research, training, and certification on forging a community of financial and management professionals. AFOA Canada has two professional certification programs, which are recognized and respected in the fields of finance and management. The certified aboriginal financial manager certification, or CAFM, for short, identifies the holder as a highly qualified professional, up to date on the latest and best financial management practices. We align and create a pathway for our certified members toward a chartered professional accountant designation with CPA Canada. We have 596 CAFMs across this country.
Our second designation is the certified aboriginal professional administrator designation, or CAPA, for short. The focus of this certification is first nation senior administrators, CEOs and chief operating officers of indigenous communities, and their successors. We've created a pathway from our CAPA designation to university undergraduate and graduate programs. We have 51 CAPAs across this country. Shortly, we will be embarking upon an elected leader certification program.
Turning to our current initiatives, to maintain these certifications, our CAFMs, our CAPAs, and soon our elected leaders certification, AFOA Canada has a number of capacity-building workshops. Last year, AFOA Canada and its chapters trained over 2,000 people. For example, we have workshops in financial management, community governance, strategic planning, performance measurement, human resource management, and developing an effective management action plan for first nations, to name a few.
In the past four years, we have been working on financial literacy projects for community members. This includes a dollars and sense program for youth in elementary, middle, and secondary schools. We've also completed a workshop on retirement planning for aboriginal Canadians. In addition, we have been piloting financial literacy workshops in four Ontario first nation communities, whereby we coach local teams of volunteers to deliver workshops on access to banking, building savings, and taxes and benefits.
We hold an annual conference for our members every year. The theme of our conference this past February was “Aboriginal Economy—Building a Stronger Future”, and 1,140 delegates attended. Our next conference is October 2 to 5, 2017, in Vancouver, British Columbia. The theme is, “Building Sustainable Communities by Strengthening International Networks”. It's our first inaugural international conference.
Turning to the default prevention and management policy, in August 2016, AFOA Canada was approached by INAC to gather input on the impacts of financial policy and legislation on first nations across Canada. AFOA Canada conducted online surveys. We held focus groups with our members in Halifax, Montreal, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. At our AFOA Canada annual conference in February, we presented the draft of our report, including the recommendations, and integrated the written and oral feedback into the final version. This report captures the lived experiences of first nations communities as they interact with federal financial policy and legislation.
I'll now provide you an overview of the findings and recommendations specifically as they concern the default management and prevention policy, and I'll start with the general themes. The first theme, obviously, is funding levels, in particular the need for more capacity development funding. AFOA Canada is very involved in this work.
We see financial and management education and certification as vital investments. We need to be proactive, putting more focus on prevention, and not only prevention of default, which I would say is a minimal standard, but also promotion of excellence in financial management. Without these types of investments in capacity building and supports, the cycle of managing poverty rather than prosperity will continue.
We need to set communities up for success and not for failure. If we invest in these communities, it will pay dividends to the Canadian economy in the future, which is something my colleague Dawn speaks about very eloquently.
A second theme is collaboration based upon a nation-to-nation relationship, which, our members assert, should be the main focus of policy and legislative changes. A commitment to working with first nations as governments, for example on fundamental issues of capacity, is simply a recognition that first nations are partners in a shared public purpose. That purpose involves caring for children, promoting healthy communities, educating future generations, and other priorities that matter to Canadians.
The third thing is reciprocal accountability. The focus groups as well as survey comments agree that the role and reach of a third party manager or recipient adviser should be revised to better serve first nations. We all agree that accountability is important. The principle of reciprocal accountability stresses that the crown should be accountable to first nations just as first nations are held accountable to the crown through their funding agreements. Mutual accountability fosters two-way communication.
Our focus groups told us that INAC must be accountable to first nations if the relation is truly to be nation-to-nation.
In the case of a first nation designated as high risk by INAC, accountability could take the form of an obligation to work with that community so that it may move to a lower risk designation.
Investments in capacity building, collaboration, and reciprocal accountability—these are the three overarching themes.
Turning to our recommendations, the first recommendation focuses on prevention and ensuring that where a community is in default, actual capacity building is delivered to community management. Our members stated that, in communities in default, investments are required to prevent further decline. With today's level of reporting and auditing, we can spot potential defaults through trend analysis. This means we can also address the underlying issues, deficits in specific areas due to management capacity issues, or perhaps even federal policy decisions.
Secondly, our members also stated that there ought to be clear and meaningful metrics by which we can measure and assess the progress of third party managers and recipient advisers. Manager-level mentorships through the period of third party management should be mandatory. There appears to be no incentive for third party management to move a community out of this level of intervention, as Dawn mentioned in her speech.
Thirdly, funds should be allocated to the hiring of qualified, long-term first nation employees or the extensive training of existing staff. These are long-term investments that look far beyond the short-term and mid-term crisis.
Fourthly, in the short term, timelines for third party managers and recipient advisers need to be well defined. We recommend a target of one to five years, depending upon the severity of the default issue. The goal should be to ready the community for financial sustainability at the end of the prescribed time frame. Again, meaningful and concrete metrics should be in place to monitor progress toward this end. In some cases, a recipient adviser has never been in a first nation prior to taking over a community's finances. Focus-group participants noted the lack of collaboration and cultural sensitivity among recipient advisers and third party managers.
Fifthly, our members therefore recommend investments in cultural training for third-party managers. As a matter of principle as well as practicality, we recommend a shift of focus from punitive measures to capacity building, collaboration, and mutual accountability.
When a first nation is flagged and the general assessment is medium-to-high risk, the crown ought to have a positive obligation to provide capacity funding and to work with the first nation to strengthen the financial management processes. This is a proactive, not reactive, measure. A risk assessment helps identify the areas where improvement is possible, even necessary, and where transformative change can begin.
Governing these initiatives, there should be a clear and transparent implementation plan setting out the roles and responsibilities of the partners on the principles of a mutually respectful and mutually accountable nation-to-nation relationship. First nations are your partners in a shared public purpose.
As a CEO in AFOA Canada, I can't overstate the importance of investing now in tomorrow's financial and management professionals.
Hello. I thank you all for inviting me here today. My spirit name is Eagle Fire; Charmaine Stick is my English name. That was the name given to me when I was born. I am thankful to the Creator for allowing us to come and sit together. It's nice that you finally listen to us, not only for all people but for the first nations and the leaders. I'm not speaking on behalf of myself. I'm not only speaking for my reserve but for all people.
At Turtle Island, as it is called, money is being misspent many times. How many days are we given money? You can give us all the money and you can allow the chiefs and leaders to use it in any way, but sometimes it doesn't work that way because there is no financial transparency and accountability. When they brought in the financial act, under the leader, Stephen Harper, it was nice. He was trying to do the best for us.
We would not be sitting here talking, discussing, dialoguing about the money. This emerged and arose from the financial transparency act, and being able to talk about it. We would not be sitting around here asking questions. We would have known already where these dollars had gone and how they were misused, and it's not only us and the leaders, because you are all leaders as well, even Indian Affairs. That's where money is also misspent. It's not just us.
Sometimes chiefs come and tell you about various issues but some do not tell the truth. As I sit here today to tell you about this event, as you're looking for financial transparency and accountability, I also look for these.
I starved myself for 13 days, while sitting down in my village, in the main area, all the time. The chief always drove by to get to the band office. He never thought anything of my sitting there starving, and didn't even check on me. Finally, he came to check on me, and I talked to him.
“Why are you sitting here?” he asked. I told him it was because there was so much mismanagement on reserve. Dollars were being misspent, and he was hurting his people. With the situation as it was on the reserve, he did not think anything of me. They are playing with us. They are mistreating us and it's because he wants the leadership. He wants to be rich, not for my children, my grandchildren, just for him himself. He wants to be rich.
As I sat there, he finally came to talk to me. He asked me why I was sitting here. What did I want?
I told him to teach us how the money is being spent. We know it's being misspent.
He didn't like it. He was angry, and then he told me again to never mind, to starve myself, but it's for nothing. I wouldn't see anything.
Then he said to go ahead and starve myself to death.
[Witness speaks in Cree with interpretation, as follows:]
Then he said this to me. I know he doesn't think anything of the people.
He puts himself above everybody else.
[Witness speaks in Cree with interpretation, as follows:]
He puts himself before the Creator and Mother Earth. He thinks highly of himself and the laws don't apply.
He doesn't follow any laws.
[Witness speaks in Cree with interpretation, as follows:]
That is, he is making his own laws. That's how a person is affected in a community when you're given money and no rules are applied, not even to be observed. Indian Affairs should be watching to tell him how they are misspending the money.
When I started asking questions, I phoned Indian Affairs. I told them how bad the situation is on our reserve. Money is being misspent. What were they going to do? Didn't they know? They said they knew but they couldn't do anything.
I asked why. I was told because of our chief, Wally Fox. A big government department is scared of one man. Why? You should be watching over us. You have a role and responsibility when you send money to the reserves.
If we were to follow the financial transparency act, we would know already where the money went. We would not be sitting here.
You would have made your own laws, your own rules, regulations...how to fix your mistakes, or how to fix where you guys went wrong, or what was lacking and where.
[Witness speaks in Cree with interpretation, as follows:]
But you haven't been doing that for two years already. When they stopped.... The government, ...what are they doing now? Are they working at anything? They have 5,000 employees at Indian Affairs. After two years, still nothing. Why?
I am truly happy to be invited here. I thank you all, even though there is still much to talk about but I am unable to. I cannot speak on this, the time is limited to 10 minutes.
That was very moving testimony. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
As Don said earlier, this can be such a frustrating exercise. Since the beginning, since I've become part of this committee, more and more I've seen that the treaties we negotiated under the crown were never negotiated with the intent of actually fulfilling them in the first place. This is another case that is evidence of that fact. The more and more we hear from the different organizations....
We find ourselves revisiting the same question every generation. For a generation we've done nothing to assist first nations people. Since the 1980s everything has been virtually frozen, and meanwhile your populations continue to grow. The funding never, ever met the growth of that population and the needs of that population, even though at that time you were already behind the eight ball in trying to deliver services, in trying to deliver a decent living for your communities. Third party management is just another extension of that punitive, abusive practice of a paternalistic governing class.
At the same time, I see so many communities that are rising from these extremely difficult circumstances and showing the rest of the country and other indigenous communities that there are pathways available. Those pathways are community-driven pathways, with community-driven priorities. They seize control of their own destiny, and that's what gets them there. Just under third party management, there's the First Nations Financial Management Board, the First Nations Tax Commission, the First Nations Finance Authority, AFOA, the Matawa, and even the Swampy Cree Tribal Council, where they're starting to build indigenous solutions.
I don't fault the previous government for wanting to try to find transparency and accountability, but once again, it's a paternalistic way of moving forward with it. I think we have enough evidence now to show that first nations communities can do it if they have the will to do it.
I guess I want to put that to you. Should we blow up third party management, as with so many other things, and focus on finding first nations solutions, not necessarily reserve by reserve but nation by nation? I think we have a generational opportunity to find those solutions.
I'd like to put it to you, Charmaine, Dawn, and Terry. Do you agree that this is really where the solutions need to come from?
Charmaine, I will also tell you that I understand. As I hear you, I understand you. Thank you. Your story affects my heart, and I understand you. It's highly thought of and you are doing well.
I thank you for speaking the Cree language in this setting. Thank you very much for doing so.
Madam Chair, those were just words of thanks for allowing Charmaine to speak in Cree. It's nice to hear my language here. Although I didn't understand 100%, I got a good 75% of what she said. I think it's an important recognition on the part of the chair and this committee to allow Charmaine to speak in her language, so thank you for that.
I want to go on. Dawn, you spoke about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and I want to take the opportunity to mention that I do have legislation before the House stating that, as a legislative framework in any future legislation and policy development, we should act in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is coming up for debate some time in September, on the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the UN declaration.
I invite your organization to endorse Bill , as many other organizations have, and even many non-indigenous municipalities have, and as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called for.
You spoke about jurisdiction. UNDRIP also contains a statement on access to our own resources for our own development, which I guess is part of your mandate to promote economic development for the communities. That framework is important. When a government endorses an instrument like the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, every policy development or legislation should use that as a framework, and I invite the government to do that.
“Reconciliation” is a word that was used by the Supreme Court way before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was established. Back in 1984, in the Haida Nation case, the Supreme Court talked about reconciliation, and this is what the Supreme Court had to say:
||Treaties serve to reconcile pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with assumed Crown sovereignty, and to define Aboriginal rights guaranteed by s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Those are the words of the Supreme Court of Canada, not mine. Do you agree that should be the basis of our discussion in this country?