In Canada, we have a visionary , in my opinion, who has decided to move Canada on a process of truth and reconciliation, and it's important, especially for this committee, to have, instead of the rote recognition, a recognition of the lands we're on here, those of the Dene and the Métis peoples of N.W.T., with their long history. We're grateful for the invitation and for the ability to meet with you to discuss the important issues of land claims, both specific and comprehensive.
This is our final journey of a cross-country tour. We were in Vancouver with the Tsawwassen, in Winnipeg with the Métis and the first nations, in Ontario with the Mohawks, and in Quebec. This is our final stop, after an invitation from MP Michael McLeod, who was a member of our committee but has left for the more mundane business of finance. We miss him, and we are very grateful to be here.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are conducting a study on specific claims and comprehensive land claims agreements.
The way it works is that you're on our first panel and you'll have 10 minutes to present. You're not required to use all of that, but I will start to give you signals and be more difficult as we get closer to 10 minutes. Then, after all the presenters have completed, we have an opportunity for questions, and that will fill the whole hour.
I understand that we are going to start first with the mayor of Fort Providence, Sub-Chief Sam Gargan.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I welcome you to Yellowknife, committee members.
I will begin. I'd like to table some documents with you, Madam Chair.
I've worked with Dene Nation for many years. One of the things we've developed is called “On the art of stealing human rights”. It's a document that we use when dealing with governments in terms of how we ourselves are contributors to our own demise at times.
The second document is called “Dene Principles & Values”. That was developed in 1987 by a bunch of elders, based on the Dene document “A Proposal for Public Government”.
The third one is a document from the Keepers of the Water declaration done in 2004 and called “One Land, One People” .
The final document is the Dehcho first nations resource protocol on cultural appropriation, the “Decho Traditional Knowledge Protocol”. That document itself is based on intellectual property and how traditional knowledge can be shared but not used as a transferable document.
For example, in 2000 the Mackenzie gas pipeline process started, with 10 years spent on that process, so for 10 years we also shared a lot of traditional knowledge, and traditional knowledge in regard to the pipeline itself, the Norman Wells pipeline. A lot of the presentations were based on experience from other industrial development. We also have a draft of what we call an “industrial development protocol”.
Madam Chair, these are the documents I want to table with you.
When I was growing up, Madam Chair, my mother told me a story when I was seven years old that sort of set my path. My mother was unilingual. She never spoke a word of English. I guess this vision out there in the bush was that a sea change was coming, and it prepared me for that change. I was also told in this vision that there would be some areas in which I would take a leadership role. It wasn't so much what she said that made me choose that path; it was the path that chose where I was going, so 50 years later.... I've been in politics for about 50 years now.
Decentralization started happening back in the fifties; that was at the time that aboriginal people were allowed to consume alcohol also. There was also relocation being done, and there was hardship for the people being relocated. Grise Fiord was one relocation, and Resolute Bay was the other one.
In the sixties, the term “northerner” started to be used a lot, and in 1969, the white paper occurred. The 1969 white paper was driven to make all aboriginal people the same as every other Canadian, and that was the beginning of the native struggle. The native people stood up and said, no, that they had a unique relationship with Canada, that Canada was their homeland, and that their way of life was being threatened and they were losing their language and culture. That started happening, and in 1983 a report came out called “Learning: Tradition and Change”.
That report itself was from a standing committee of the Legislative Assembly going all over the north and hearing from the communities that we needed an aboriginal institution to deliver language, culture, and a way of life. The report itself, “Tradition and Change”, did not say that. It said that aboriginal language and culture should be learned, should be taught in the schools. I want to add that the language, the culture, and the way of life do not belong in a white institution.
You only have to learn from the French people. They have their own institutions. We're still made to fit in. That's where it started: in 1969, with the white paper. Although it got rejected, I think that same principle from the white paper was transferred to the north. The term “northerner” started being used a lot, and the aboriginal people were just a part of that melting pot.
I had a chance to travel the river this summer for one month with Dechinta university. In that travel, we had a lot of people from other parts of the country, and we had a lot of people from the north as well. One thing we started teaching them was “thinking to learn” and “learning to think”, two very different concepts that derive from the white culture and the aboriginal culture.
The elders will tell you that all first nations are self-reliant. Now, a lot of our people are not employed, and you will find a disturbing trend in the north about the employment of aboriginal people and the reason why a lot of them are not employable: because of criminal records. But a lot of them also live off the land. That's where their income comes from; they're self-reliant and they have self-determination. Therefore, self-government comes from the two: self-reliance and self-determination. The elders are also saying that.
In our travels down to Fort Good Hope this summer, I got as far as Fort Simpson. It took us a month to get to Fort Simpson from Fort Providence, and we thought a lot about how people lived off the land, and not just in terms of surviving, because it's a way of life for us. It's our home. It doesn't matter where we are, we are not lost.
We have two orders that we live by. The natural order is sunlight, daylight. It gets dark and you go to sleep; when there's light, you get up. There are also the seasons. The seasons develop our culture and our way of life to them. We have spring hunts, summer gatherings, fall hunting seasons, and winter trapping. Those are all parts of our way of doing things. That's based on the natural order.
We also have the learning to think kind of thing in the aboriginal culture. You learn in stages, not in steps. You're born, you sit up, you crawl, you stand up, you walk, and you talk. Then gender comes into being at a later stage, as opposed to one to 12 or an entrance level to doctrines and all that stuff. That's the way we develop ourselves.
As a member of the Legislative Assembly, I found myself fitting in a lot of times. Most aboriginal people in the communities have three orders of government in our own community: the municipality or the hamlet, the band, and the Métis Nation—three governments. You really don't need that, but that's what we have right now.
I still have a lot to say, but....
Thank you, Madam Chair.
As you've heard, my name is Bill Enge. I'm the president of the North Slave Métis Alliance. I have been the president of the North Slave Métis Alliance for 14 consecutive years now.
Since I am in the political business, I thought I'd let you know it's been a very hectic week and a good one for the North Slave Métis Alliance. Not only did we just win the biggest lawsuit in the history of our organization in the Federal Court of Canada on Thursday—you'll hear more about it in my presentation—but, fortunately for me, I just got re-elected to a four-year term of office on Monday. It is a good week for the North Slave Métis Alliance and my board of directors.
Welcome, panel members and committee members, to the traditional lands of the Yellowknife and the North Slave Métis Alliance and the North Slave Métis people.
The North Slave Métis Alliance appreciates the opportunity to provide its views to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs in support of its review of specific claims and comprehensive land claims in Canada, particularly the current process under way in the Northwest Territories.
The North Slave Métis Alliance is the only indigenous group in the Northwest Territories that has obtained judicial recognition of its members' common law aboriginal rights as Métis people. This has been established both in the 2013 Northwest Territories Supreme Court decision in Enge v. Mandeville and in last week's Federal Court of Canada decision in Enge v. Canada.
In the words of the Federal Court:
||...the NSMA is a credible organization that has existed for many years, advocating for the rights of the Métis of the north Slave region. The NSMA further represents a sizeable and identifiable constituency within the Métis community of the Northwest Territories, one with concerns and priorities that differ from those of the NWTMN.
Yet paradoxically, the federal government has refused to negotiate with the North Slave Métis Alliance because of outdated land claim policies and models.
Why is this? The North Slave Métis Alliance submits that the status quo of Canada's regional negotiation policy and balkanization of the indigenous communities into artificial regional groupings in the south Mackenzie Valley has simply not worked.
Canada's regional approach is the fundamental obstacle to concluding modern comprehensive land claim agreements in the Northwest Territories. Canada's policy approach to negotiations ignores the law, especially section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada's current negotiations policy does not pave the way to reconciliation, which is, as I understand it, one of the major goals of this Liberal government.
Two recent reviews of Canada's negotiation policies in the Northwest Territories support the NSMA's position: the report of Tom Isaac, ministerial special representative, and the decision of Madam Justice Mactavish of the Federal Court of Canada in Enge v. Canada.
In June 2016, the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories jointly appointed Tom Isaac as a minister's special representative and mandated him to examine existing processes and report on possible amended or alternative processes that could successfully conclude outstanding claims in the area. Mr. Isaac delivered his report to the two ministers on March 3, 2017.
The Isaac report concluded: one, the federal mandates in the Northwest Territories show little regard for significant changes in the law regarding section 35; two, the legal and political landscape in aboriginal law has changed significantly since 1990, with the Supreme Court of Canada handing down nearly 60 decisions on the meaning of section 35; and, three, Canada's rigid reliance on a policy approach formulated in 1990 is not compatible with the unresolved interests in the southeast Northwest Territories.
Last week, on October 19, 2017, the Federal Court of Canada delivered its decision in Enge v. Canada. Imagine: that's just a few days ago. The court held that North Slave Métis Alliance members were not adequately consulted by Canada respecting the Northwest Territory Métis Nation Land and Resources Agreement-in-Principle signed on July 31, 2015.
The Federal Court held that Canada had “misapprehended the severity of the potential impact” that the Northwest Territory Métis Nation land and resources agreement “would have on the Aboriginal rights of the [North Slave Métis Alliance]'s members”. The court concluded that Canada “entered into its consultation with the [North Slave Métis Alliance] based on a fundamental misconception of the nature and scope of its duty to consult and could not properly assess what, if any, accommodation measures would be appropriate”.
The court ordered Canada to engage in meaningful consultation and appropriate accommodation with the NSMA and not to conclude a Northwest Territory Métis Nation final agreement until that had occurred. The court made such an important decision for several reasons.
One, although the Northwest Territory Métis Nation agreement in principle is styled as the Métis land and resources agreement, it is based on Dene ancestry rather than Métis ethnicity, or the application of criteria set out in the Powley test.
The Northwest Territory Métis Nation lands and resources agreement will extinguish aboriginal rights exercisable on the north side of Great Slave Lake, which is where we are now, for all those “eligible to be enrolled”, including those members of the North Slave Métis Alliance with Dene ancestors from the South Slave region, even though—and this is important—North Slave Métis Alliance members are ethnically Métis and the North Slave Métis Alliance has never been invited to the Northwest Territory Métis Nation negotiation table.
The wording of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation Agreement-in-Principle non-derogation clause and enrolment provisions pre-exist the enactment of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Imagine that: they were operating on things that came even before the Constitution of Canada was brought to this country. Canada has never required the Northwest Territory Métis Nation to submit a proof of claim pursuant to the Baker Lake test, something Canada's policy has required for almost 25 years before negotiations occur.
Canada has never asked the Northwest Territory Métis Nation to validate or prove the people it claims to represent, i.e., it never has required them to produce a membership list, relying instead on estimates of who might be eligible to be enrolled under the final agreement.
Because the Northwest Territory Métis Nation refused to disclose membership information, the Federal Court drew an adverse inference that such disclosure would not support the Northwest Territory Métis Nation's claim to be the only organization entitled to represent the aboriginal interests of the Métis people of the Great Slave Lake area, of which the North Slave Métis are part.
Canada admitted that the crown's intention in signing the agreement in principle was to affect the aboriginal rights of all those eligible to be enrolled, whether or not they actually enrol, and then refused the North Slave Métis Alliance's two accommodation proposals that we put to them during the so-called consultation period.
The intentional extinguishment by Canada of the very aboriginal rights for which the North Slave Lake Métis Alliance has obtained judicial recognition on a prima facie basis—which is what a judicial review requires for the threshold for the court to agree that a wrong has been committed against an applicant—and without any negotiation with NSMA members, is not a step towards reconciliation with any aboriginal group.
More egregiously, Canada ignored the Powley test, although federal negotiators were aware that Powley had become the law of the land regarding how Métis held their aboriginal rights in this country.
It was not honourable conduct by the crown to disregard the rights of Métis with such indifference, considering the significant potential adverse effect of aboriginal harvesting rights on the Métis people of the North Slave area. The court was also clear that Canada cannot choose which Métis organization will represent the Métis collective when there are multiple constituencies represented within that collective. Canada cannot play favourites. At least with respect to the North Slave Métis Alliance, Canada's approach “lacks...justification, transparency and intelligibility”, which is a direct quote from the judge's decision.
As to the way forward in the Northwest Territories, given the report of the minister's special representative and the recent decision of the Federal Court, it is clear that the path forward to overcome obstacles to achieving lasting settlements in the southeast Northwest Territories is according to the framework of section 35 of Constitution Act, 1982, as recommended in Mr. Isaac's report, and as applied by the Federal Court in Enge v. Canada, namely, by focusing on core principles, such as: moving away from the failed 1990 Dene-Métis agreement as the framework for negotiations, and instead using section 35 for the framework, including its objective of reconciliation and the principle of the honour of the crown; two, respecting other section 35 interests and rights and recognizing that section 35 rights need not be exclusive in nature, thus showing a path forward to address the tricky issue of overlapping claims to the same geographic areas in the north; and, three, being flexible and not unreasonably rigid in mandate or negotiation positions.
The North Slave Métis Alliance recommends that the committee encourage Canada to implement the direction given by the Federal Court in Enge v. Canada, and the guidance of the Isaac report's recommendations, to use the principles of reconciliation inherent in section 35 and the honour of the crown as the new framework to settle comprehensive land claims in the southeast Northwest Territories.
Once again, the North Slave Métis Alliance would like to express its appreciation for the opportunity to present these submissions. The North Slave Métis Alliance is grateful for the committee's attention to this important matter.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you to both the North Slave Métis and Sub-Chief Sam Gargan.
I know that both of you have a long history in this whole area of trying to resolve the issue of land tenure and governance. You've certainly been up against a lot of challenges. I want to scratch the surface on something you said, Bill, about the land claim policies and models being outdated, which I know has been a real frustration for your organization, but given your experience, I'm going to ask both of you if you could talk a bit about how we can make the changes. What needs to be changed? Do we need to scrap the mandate? Do we need to change policies?
In your case, Sam, I know that the Dehcho first nations had, for the longest time, the Dehcho proposal, which was a model that was totally different from what they've ended up embarking on, which is pretty much the comprehensive claims policy. I hear all the time that people are not satisfied, but that's where they wanted to go.
Maybe I'll give you guys some opportunity to share the time and talk to us. Tell us what needs to be changed. Do we need to throw the comprehensive claims policy out the window? Do we need to throw government policy out the window? Do we need to allow claims to be negotiated in isolation based on what you need in order to provide governance and management for your membership? Give us an idea of what your vision is, what you're working towards.
We can start with you, Bill, but don't take all the time.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Thank you for the questions.
Justice is a big word, right? It has a lot of different dynamics to it. I think a step in the right direction toward getting justice is reconciliation. I think that's the path that Prime Minister has set the current minister on. My understanding is that this was in the mandate letter that was provided to Minister when she took on the office of minister of INAC.
She is still part of that mandate now, even though the department has been divided into two separate and different departments. It seems to me that she holds that portfolio, and that this is what this committee is looking into—sort of—in terms of land claims.
A land claim is about a form of justice. It is about reconciling the wrongs of the past brought on by colonialism. It does, in its end form, bring about a form of justice. Of course, there were a lot of wrongs that were committed under colonialism, and there are forms of justice under way, such as reconciliation about the sixties scoop, the residential school experience, and these sorts of things. There are a lot of things like that.
This is a step in the right direction. Getting land claim settlements in place is a form of justice. It's part of the bigger picture. As part of the bigger picture of reconciliation, which is the purpose of section 35 and which the good people of Canada saw fit to provide aboriginal people, I say that this is the right way to go. It's going to help bring aboriginal people into the mainstream of this country and right some of the wrongs that were done to them.
[Witness speaks in Dene]
I've just said that my name is Joseph Kochon and I'm from Colville Lake. I've been doing this work for the last 24 years. I have many roles in my community, and one new role is being the chief negotiator. I'm grateful to be here to present to you some ideas that might help in future deliberations.
We are part of the Sahtu land claim agreement and are negotiating a community-based self-government agreement with Canada and the GNWT.
I am going to start by stating that Canada's self-government policy has been the same since 1995. Over the last 20 years, there have been a number of studies by Parliament, the Senate, and the Auditor General, and commissions about indigenous people, but we still have the same problems facing us. We want your committee to produce an action plan, not a report. Our community has motto: don't talk, just do it. We'd be pleased to lend this motto to your committee.
Canada still has a colonial relationship with us. What would help would be for you to test your policies against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Use that as your guide for what should change.
This government wants to reset the relationship with us. We are glad to see that the has taken action, but we are not seeing that change at the negotiating table. There's a big gap between what the politicians say and what the negotiators say. Somewhere in this big government machine, the people who are supposed to change what is being said at the negotiating table are not doing their job.
We want your action plan to tell the bureaucrats to change their negotiating mandates. Today we are focusing on three areas we see that need to change.
The first is about cultural competency: training for government officials. Government people make decisions that affect our lives. Few of them know about or have been in our community. I can give you examples of problems that has created, with everything from someone in Ottawa trying to shut down our post office because they did not understand the geography of the N.W.T., to houses sitting empty in our community while we have families that are homeless or living in overcrowded houses.
To try to fix that at our negotiations, we have asked for a culturally competent approach to implementing our self-government agreement. What this means is that everyone from government who is dealing with our community should take training to understand us and our context.
Recommendation 57 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission also approached government to do this. So far, the reaction from both governments to include this in our self-government agreement has been to put it on the “too hard” pile and to prepare us to hear that the answer is no. Saying no is unacceptable.
In health systems across Canada, this training is a priority, because in the health system when doctors and nurses don't have cultural understanding, or if they act on stereotypes, people die. It happened in an emergency room in Winnipeg. There have been similar incidents in N.W.T. and Nunavut. In the health system, people might die right there. It is obvious that they have died because someone was making decisions based on stereotypes instead of knowledge. That's why health systems are changing.
In other systems, such as housing, the suffering is not so obvious, but the suffering happens. People who are homeless because of bad housing policies also die, or families break up or their kids fail at school. It's good to start with health care, but don't stop there. There are ways to kill or harm people other than by denying them immediate health care.
Our first recommendation to you is to give your self-government negotiators a mandate to include cultural competency obligations in land claims and self-government agreements. Require your officials to understand who they are working with.
The second is to change funding policies so that we can speed up the negotiating process. Negotiations with Canada are set up to keep us negotiating for an entire generation—20 or 30 years. This does not help us to rebuild our community, which has been damaged by colonization, and it does not serve taxpayers in Canada well. As you know, we also pay taxes in Canada.
We want an agreement in five years. We are negotiating chapters, including those on governance, housing, and lands. After we have done those things well, we will come back to the table to negotiate more authorities. We can call this a modular or stepping-stone approach. After completing module one, with about 12 chapters, we can focus on implementing and negotiate other authorities later. We are building our government at our own pace.
Canada and the GNWT have committed to completing a final module one agreement with us by 2018. We have one year left to complete our agreement. Canada, the GNWT negotiators, and the bureaucrats are all supporting this accelerated pace as best they can. However, Colville Lake is severely held back by the INAC funding policy.
INAC's negotiating funding policies assume that we will spend 20 years negotiating everything in one agreement. As a result, we cannot get the resources we need to finish in five years because the funding policy assumes that we are going to take 20 years. The funding policy uses the size of our population to also restrict the amount of funding; however, the number of people in our membership does not dictate the amount of work that is necessary for us to complete each chapter that we must negotiate. To serve the needs of all people in Canada and to fulfill the government's commitment to allow us to negotiate from a position of equality, the funding policy needs to change to reflect the actual costs of negotiations.
Our second recommendation is that negotiations and negotiation funding must be flexible. The flexibility must provide resources needed to negotiate an agreement in five years instead of 20 years.
I'll get right to our third recommendation, since we're running out of time. If Canada is committed to renewing the relationship in which crown and indigenous governments work together on matters of mutual importance and concern, the self-government agreement, instead of requiring “certainty”, must recognize that we will evolve and take up all our rights and responsibilities.
Thank you. I think you all have a copy of the presentation.
Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity.
Mr. Bailey, who is the president of the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, is unable to attend, so I've been delegated this responsibility. It's an honour and my pleasure to be representing him, given that I'm not an elected official. Having said that, I welcome the House of Commons standing committee here today.
As a bit of historic background, the indigenous Métis of the Northwest Territories have a distinct culture and history, and a separate way of life independent from the Dene people, with whom we have long ancestral relationships. Indigenous Métis helped to establish Fort Resolution in 1786, among other communities in the Northwest Territories.
The members of the NWTMN were the backbone of the Hudson's Bay Company's trading network throughout the Northwest Territories and beyond, including Fort Rae, Fort Resolution, Fort Smith, Hay River, Fort Reliance, Rocher River, Fort Fitzgerald, and Salt River.
Some of the languages spoken are Chipewyan, Cree, French, Slavey, and Michif.
To give you a bit of the structure, the Métis councils are made up of indigenous members from Fort Smith, Hay River, and Fort Resolution. Collectively, we have been in an enumeration process, and close to 3,000 people have applied for enumeration.
The NWTMN is mandated to negotiate the land and resource agreements and self-government agreements with the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories, and to seek the recognition of its aboriginal rights. In the NWTMN's constitutional bylaws, article 2(b) lists its objects: to protect, promote, and enhance the aboriginal rights of Métis of the South Slave Region. The NWTMN does not receive core funding from Canada to fulfill its objectives, nor does it do so for the administration of programs and services for our members.
In regard to the implementation of the Daniels decision, as the federal government has responsibility for Métis based upon the Daniels decision, the NWTMN must be treated on an equitable basis, with Indian bands and status Indians, with respect to all aspects of federal programs and services and associated funding envelopes. We implore Canada to take immediate steps to bridge the gap, as the denial of federal programs and services has placed the NWTMN in a dire situation compared to that of bands. The NWTMN requires core funding in order to be in a position comparable to that of Indian bands and their tribal councils.
In terms of principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples, in researching Canada's websites, it's noteworthy to refer to the opening paragraph and the caption entitled “Principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with Indigenous peoples”, found on the Department of Justice website. It states:
||The Government of Canada is committed to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples through a renewed, nation-to-nation, government-to-government, and Inuit-Crown relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change.
It is fair to say that with a change of government at the federal level we are cautiously optimistic that we will achieve an equitable land and resources agreement, including self-government.
In terms of land and resource negotiations, from 1972 to 1990, the NWTMN participated in the joint Dene-Métis land negotiations. Elsewhere in the NWT, Dene and Métis have negotiated a single agreement, e.g., Sahtu and Gwich'in land claim agreements; however, with the collapse of the territory-wide Dene-Métis negotiations, the Akaitcho Dene First Nation initially decided to pursue a treaty land entitlement negotiation that did not include indigenous Métis of the South Slave region.
The NWTMN land and resource negotiations commenced with the signing of a framework agreement among the NWTMN, Canada, and the Government of the Northwest Territories in August 1996, which set the stage for negotiation of a land and resource agreement in principle.
On July 31, 2015, the NWTMN, Canada, and the GNWT signed the Northwest Territory Métis Nation Land and Resources Agreement-in-Principle. The AIP sets out the substantive basis for negotiations of the NWTMN land and resources final agreement and includes the following matters. Not everything is included, but these are some of the key elements: the continuation of Métis traditional life; wildlife, fish, plants, and tree harvesting practices throughout the agreement area, including gifting and trading; Métis land and community land ownership; a capital chance for resource revenue sharing; consultation for oil and gas exploration, mineral exploration, and development; requirements for the negotiation of impact and benefit agreements; commencement of the self-government and co-management negotiations; and, involvement in heritage resources and protected areas and parks.
The failed 1990 Dene-Métis final agreement formed the basis for the N.W.T. land and resources agreement-in-principle negotiations. The other N.W.T. land agreements also inform negotiations, as the parties are seeking equity among the aboriginal groups, taking into account population size and the extent of their traditional territory.
In regard to the report of the ministerial special representative, on April 6, 2017, special representative Thomas Isaac prepared a report regarding aboriginal land claims in the southeast region of the Northwest Territories. The following are key recommendations of the ministerial special representative: aboriginal rights are exercised on the same land base by overlapping aboriginal groups.... You all have Isaac's report, so we can just move on.
Concerning implementation, since the report of the ministerial special representative was released, parties have undertaken the following initiatives. Canada and the GNWT have tabled a revised offer for the capital transfer of land, surface and subsurface, and resource royalties, and harvest areas. The NWTMN has tabled a counter. The parties developed a work plan to expedite the NWTMN land and resources negotiations over the next 18 to 24 months.
One other thing is the change in the federal mandate since the AIP. During the July 2016 main table negotiation session, the federal chief negotiator advised that Canada has now a mandate to conclude a final agreement that would be a section 35 treaty land agreement.
Let me just highlight some of the substantive offer: a mandate for land resource negotiations; self-government; overlap; seeking a meeting with the , and recommendations.... One of the reasons why I just touched base on the minister of parks and the environment is that I've been at the table for seven years, and I think we've been asking successive environment ministers to meet with us. We haven't been successful.
In terms of recommendations, we look forward to your assistance in improving land negotiations involving the NWTMN; ensuring the minister's response for the negotiation on parks; INAC should meet with the NWTMN leadership on a regular basis; ensuring that timely negotiations with the N.W.T. final agreement are a priority for Canada and the GNWT; ensuring that the final agreement is equitable with other aboriginal final agreement negotiations as offered; and, exploring viable options for generalized interest in terms of sharing the royalties in the subsurface.
I'll quit there just to get a little bit of grace.
Thank you all for the opportunity to present before you. My name is Duane Smith. I'm the chair and CEO of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. With me today is my general counsel, Kate Darling. We will, as others have, just make it briefer than what we had planned. We have provided our presentation to the interpreters.
The IFA, which is the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, is a modern land claim agreement within the meaning of section 35 of the Constitution. This agreement is not just ours. It belongs to both Inuvialuit and to Canada. Under it we each carry solemn obligations to diligently carry out its promises. The IFA established the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation as the organization with authority to generally represent the rights and interests of Inuvialuit and to manage the implementation of the agreement. We have gathered a lot of experience on this topic in our 33-plus-year history.
Through our land claim agreement, Inuvialuit would seek to ensure a balanced approach to our resources that preserves the integrity of our treaty rights and pursues reconciliation over the long term. Under the distinctions-based approach, in accordance with principle 10 of the principles respecting the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples, “a distinctions-based approach is needed to ensure that the unique rights, interests and circumstances of the First Nations, the Métis Nation and Inuit are acknowledged, affirmed, and implemented.”
Since settling our claim in 1984, the Inuvialuit have shouldered the work of ensuring that federal laws, policies, and operational practices are consistent with the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and support its objectives. This has often been a difficult exercise in coordination and education of federal representatives. More recently this has begun to change for the better.
Inuit from the four Inuit regions of Canada have also signed the Inuit Nunangat Declaration on the Inuit-Crown Partnership. Under this structure, our land claim organizations have been active participants in the development of Canada's Arctic policy framework. We've also contributed to the work of the review of law and policies project. These are important venues for ensuring that the federal government—our partner under the IFA—has the proper guidance for its work toward achieving the objectives under the agreement.
With that we'd like to make our first recommendation. The IRC respectfully requests that the committee include in its report the recommendation to continue to invest time and intelligence in the Inuit-crown partnership, the Arctic policy framework, and the review of law and policies, and that Canada continue to approach this work through a distinctions-based approach.
With regard to implementation, I'd like to speak now to key issues relating to the implementation of our modern treaty. For Inuvialuit everything flows from the implementation of the IFA and its achievement of its stated objectives: to preserve Inuvialuit cultural identity, for Inuvialuit to be equal and meaningful participants in the economy, and for us to protect and preserve our environment for our children.
Over the past three decades, Inuvialuit have received only nominal amounts to support the management of implementation. We receive $40,000 annually, which covers participation at the meetings of the IFA implementation coordinating committee. In comparison to what other land claim agreement holders receive, this is a fraction of what is seen as necessary to carry out the functions of a land claim organization.
We have made the argument that where land claim agreement holders must undertake some functions of government in order to address service gaps, doing so requires a reasonable level of financial support.
With that, we'd like to make our second recommendation. The IRC respectfully requests that the committee include in its report the recommendation to fix the inadequate core funding situation that has limited the IRC's ability to manage the implementation of the IFA since its signing.
In addition to the level of funding, the form of funding can be a constraint upon or a catalyst to implementation. lnuvialuit have proven ourselves to be able business people, project managers, and programmers. If we were not in the ISR providing health and wellness programming and helping to propel economic development, these obligations would fall to Canada and the territory. In order to operate effectively, the IRC needs longer-term financing arrangements that will allow for better planning, consistent offerings, and better outcomes.
This leads to the third recommendation. The IRC respectfully requests the committee include in its report the recommendation to extend longer-term flexible funding arrangements to land claim agreement organizations with established track records of financial responsibility.
In the ISR there are areas where progress has been made such as on skills and training through the federal ASETS program, but there are other areas where minimal progress has been made, like in “Economic Measures” under section 16 of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and sections relating to parks.
lnuvialuit and Canada would benefit from the establishment of an accountability framework for land claims implementation. This would assure lnuvialuit that the federal government is working diligently to satisfy its promises and would demonstrate to Canadians that tax dollars are being put to constitutional and legislated purposes.
This leads me to our fourth recommendation. The IRC respectfully requests the committee include in its report the recommendation to develop an accountability framework to track the implementation of the IFA and other land claim agreements.
Under my final subject matter, laws and policies, no matter how strong or well drafted a modern treaty may be, if a law, policy, or administrative measure conflicts with the terms of the agreement, this can have an immediate detrimental effect. We experienced this with the 2012 omnibus bills that amended the Navigation Protection Act, the Fisheries Act, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. We are experiencing this now with the joint Arctic leaders' statement, which instituted, without consultation, the moratorium on offshore development.
We may experience this with the amendments proposed in Bill to the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act. Canada has demonstrated on these occasions a disregard for the objectives of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, the processes established under the agreement, and the role of lnuvialuit in our own future.
The IRC, the Inuvialuit Game Council, and several IFA co-management bodies participated fully in the reviews of the National Energy Board Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Navigation Protection Act, and the Fisheries Act. We have also made lengthy submissions on the frontier and offshore regulatory renewal initiative, or FORRI as it's referred to, the Oceans Act, the CPRA, and CEAA, among others. We also intervened in the Supreme Court Clyde River case alongside our fellow Inuit, all of these at our own expense.
As we put forth in Clyde River, free, prior, and informed consent is an essential element in co-operative federalism that includes indigenous authorities. Further, for FPIC to work, consultation and accommodation is required. As we continue to explain to Canada, the Arctic cannot serve as the environmental conscience of the nation without commensurate support in line with the objectives of the IFA to advance the quality of life and opportunities of lnuvialuit.
This leads me to my two final comments and two final recommendations.
The Inuvialuit respectfully request the committee include in its report the recommendation to fix the conflicts created by the past amendments of significant pieces of legislation and to incorporate the reasoning of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Clyde River decision in Canada's approaches to environmental regulation.
The final recommendation is that we finally, humbly request that the committee include the recommendation to engage with land claim rights holders to determine an adequate exchange where Canada intends to remove economic opportunities from land claim beneficiaries.
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thanks to everybody who presented here today. I know some of you have travelled quite a distance to be here to sit in front of our committee and talk about our study on specific claims and land claims.
I've heard, I think from all of you over the last while, as to some of the challenges, especially in Colville Lake, where we know the negotiator from the federal government leaves Ottawa on Monday morning, gets to Yellowknife, stays overnight, flies to Norman Wells the next day, overnights, and flies again. By the time he gets to Colville, it's Wednesday. He negotiates on Wednesday afternoon and part of Thursday, then he has to make his way back to Ottawa. It takes five days, and you get maybe a day out of it.
We have, certainly, a lot of challenges, but I'm very interested in how things are working, especially with the two land claims that were settled. I saw two in Inuvialuit. Has it done what you expected it to do? Has the framework that you negotiated this claim under allowed you to be where you wanted to be?
The second question is to all of you. What are you envisioning? Where do you expect to end up as a self-governing aboriginal or indigenous government? I keep hearing many, many things, challenges with aboriginal governments that have settled. They still have many issues over housing and economic chapters. There are so many things that seem to still be there, so maybe talk about the land claims, and then maybe talk about where you want to be with self-government.
We'll start on this end and just work that way.
Let's get the meeting started.
We have a special session. Normally we don't have four presenters, but we're going to extend the length of time because one of the presenters from the first panel couldn't make it, Chief Erasmus, and we would like to hear from him, so there will be an extension of this session.
Welcome to this standing committee of Parliament. We are here to study land claims, both specific and comprehensive. We're interested in your views on modern treaties and self-government. It's a complicated study.
This is our final outward tour. We've gone to Vancouver; Winnipeg; Belleville, Ontario; and Quebec, and now we're here, compliments of MP Michael McLeod, who said we must come up and hear from you. We're so pleased for the invitation.
Let's get started. We're going to call on the national chief of the Dene Nation, Bill Erasmus, to start us off.
You have 10 minutes and then the other presenters will also speak. After that there will be rounds of questioning. I would ask MPs to be specific as to who they're addressing their question to.
Please, go ahead.
She said she's even willing to go to Ottawa if that were the case.
The Dene go back a long ways in this whole business of land claims. In the early seventies, we took the federal government to court because of the interpretation of Treaties 8 and 11. Canada's version was that we gave up our treaty and aboriginal rights, either through our treaties or through legislation. Our leadership decided to take that to court, and in 1973 Justice Morrow ruled that we did not give up our rights. Treaties 8 and 11 were peace and friendship instruments, so they were not treaties that gave up our lands, our rights, or our resources. As well, those rights were aboriginal rights protected under the Canadian Constitution, and Canada had an obligation to deal with them and protect them.
At the same time, there was the case from British Columbia involving Frank Calder of the Nisga'a. They negotiated. They were people who never had a treaty. They went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, and they also won their case, which proved they had aboriginal rights. For the first time in Canada, we were told that we had rights. That's where the land claims came from, those two court cases.
As the Dene, we were invited to participate, so we were at the table up until 1990. We also included the Métis with us. You heard some of the Métis here earlier today. At one time, we were all together at one table. We signed an agreement in principle, and we also signed a final agreement. Canada chose to continue to negotiate with us, and they chose to change the policy that guides them so that they could deal with people on a regional basis. Then you had the Gwich'in agreement, the Sahtu agreement, the Tlicho agreement, and the Déline agreement, which comes out of the Sahtu agreement.
At one time all of us were together. Then it went regional. You also have some communities like Fort Liard that are at the table on a community basis. So the policy has changed quite dramatically without our involvement. That's a unilateral imposition on the part of Canada, which really is not the best way to approach things.
Along with that, we have a number of reserves now. The first one was set aside in 1973, the Hay River Reserve. It was set up so they could protect their interests, because NTCL was going to take over their land and they found that the best way to protect their interests was to set up a reserve. The reserve has been set up since then. The problem is, in terms of implementation, that they don't get the same services the reserves in the south get, and most of the financing for their reserve goes through the territorial government, which they have a huge problem with.
In speaking with Chief Martselos this morning, this is part of the big problem. She says, in her words, the federal government is not committed to implementing their agreement. Their agreement was put in place in 2002, and they still don't have water and sewage on their reserve. They have had to use their own dollars to set up what water and sewage there is. Rather than use the dollars outlined in the agreement, they have to resort to their own financing.
As I said, she will put her concerns on paper for you.
In her words, also, she believes that Canada is stalling the negotiations, and we don't know exactly why. We know that Canada didn't want to have reserves north of 60, but the fact that they're here means they have to deal with them, and they should get the services outlined to them.
We know there is the other reserve just south of Fort Smith, on the Alberta side. They work with the Alberta government. It's like night and day. They get a lot of services that others on the N.W.T. side don't.
I have two more quick points. Canada is looking at setting up a fiscal relations table with the Assembly of First Nations, and we welcome that. It's looking at a whole new way of financing our communities. We feel that if we're able to sort out where the dollars are going—because right now we're not entirely clear; some of it goes to the federal government, some goes to the provinces, some goes to the territorial government, very little comes to us—if we're able to get rid of the middleman and have those dollars come directly to us, that will certainly help us. We support that fiscal relations table. We need you to understand it and to support it also.
The other point is on the review taking place that's looking at old, outdated policies. We want you to also look at the devolution agreement that was passed in the N.W.T., because it was under the other administration and it left out 15 or 16 communities throughout the Mackenzie Valley. It's happening without recognition of the actual negotiations taking place at the Dehcho and the Akaitcho tables.
Implementation is crucial to the parties in meeting their obligations under land claim agreements. There has been ample work done on it, and studies and reports through parliamentary committees and the Auditor General over the years, since land claims have been in existence. To the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, which a lot of us are part of, the key purpose is on implementation policy. Canada doesn't have a policy on implementation. LCAC drafted a model policy that we've been trying to get Canada to work with us on for quite a while.
One of the things that happened through a lot of our lobbying efforts, and I'm sure some of the leaders here will be touching upon the implementation challenges, is the creation of the deputy ministers' oversight committee and the modern treaty implementation office, which we think is a good step.
Tlicho is unique. As the grand chief said, Tlicho has a comprehensive civil land claims agreement and self-government combined. We have full jurisdiction and law-making authority on Tlicho lands; therefore, governance systems, structures, and operation are crucial. It requires adequate funding based on actual costs.
Over the last year and a half, our government has been engaged with the Government of Canada and other indigenous self-governments in a historic and unprecedented collaborative fiscal policy development process. Through the process, we are working together to develop a new fiscal policy for consideration by Canada that will have profound, positive impacts on our people's well-being. The process is a major step forward, and we are grateful for the leadership your government has shown in building a new and different relationship with us and other indigenous self-governments. Working together to develop these important policies is a fundamental aspect of reconciliation and key to a strong and prosperous relationship. It's time to make the changes real.
We now have a chance in budget 2018 to make concrete changes. The changes we can make now are on, first, new governance funding. A lot of work has gone into determining the actual costs of running our governments. Canada and the indigenous governments together have developed a model using data brought forward by the Tlicho government and the other indigenous governments on their needs and by looking at the cost of comparator governments.
For the Tlicho government, the new model is particularly significant as past policies have failed to account for the costs of our four communities, former Indian bands, coming together as the Tlicho Nation and under the umbrella of the Tlicho government. We call this “aggregation”. Failure to take into account the impact of this aggregation has resulted in a significant underfunding of our government and also acts as a disincentive for other indigenous peoples to come together based on collective identities as we have.
The new funding amount put forward should not be viewed as an aspirational ask from the indigenous governments. The amount represents what our governments actually required as determined through a rigorous and collaborative analysis.
We know there will need to be many discussions on cost-sharing mechanisms in the coming months, but those are separate discussions. Right now, it is important that the governance model developed be approved as is and that the full amounts identified make it into the 2018 budget. In this way, our future discussions on cost sharing will be based on a sound model and full picture of the governance costs.
In addition, in terms of closing the gaps, three proposals have been put forward setting out immediate measures to begin addressing significant gaps in infrastructure, housing, and social well-being in our communities.
An example of the type of initiative that the proposals would support is the Tlicho early learners program. The Tlicho government has identified a critical need to invest in our early learners. We are facing a significant challenge with those children arriving at school with a substantive gap in speech, language, and socialization levels.
We have developed a proposal for an initiative that would not only provide those kids with the support needed to catch up, but also do so by drawing on our culture and making that a fundamental aspect of the solution.
We would be pleased to provide you with the details of the opportunities and proposals, if you would like.
These are important proposals that have the potential to result in real and significant changes on the ground in Tlicho communities. I would like to really stress that it is important that the proposals make it to the 2018 budget as proposed because they represent what is really required by our governments and by our treaties.
Vahn gwiinzii, Madam Chair and distinguished members of the committee.
This is my first time in my capacity as the grand chief that I am presenting to the committee, and I realize that time is very short here. I know I'm not going to get through everything, but I'll do my best. I'd like to give a little background and then perhaps share some of our successes, our challenges, and then of course end by giving you some of our recommendations.
For those of you who don't know Gwich'in, our traditional territory extends through parts of Northwest Territories, the Yukon, and Alaska, where our people have lived for time immemorial. We are signatories to Treaty No. 11, which was signed in 1921 as you have heard. We're also signatories to the 1992 Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement. I was only 15 at the time when our claim was signed, and now, in my capacity as the grand chief and president, it hasn't taken too long to see that we are not where we should be 25 years later.
There have been some successes, I must say. Some of those successes include, after the claim was settled, the development of co-management boards, such as the Gwich'in Renewable Resources Board, Gwich'in Land and Water Board, and community-level-designated Gwich'in organizations in each of our communities. We have a board of directors in place that gives the direction to the Gwich'in Tribal Council. In 2003, we also had the land use plan finalized for the entire settlement region. We did, in April, celebrate in each of our communities that 25-year milestone. We do recognize there are things to celebrate, but there's also a lot of concern in terms of implementation and how the government has been failing in some areas, in our perspective.
The Gwich'in claim is unique for many reasons. One of the reasons is that we look at it as a land claim within a land claim in regard to the Yukon Transboundary Agreement, which is appendix C. I'll touch on this again later if I have time, but for now, the committee should be aware that the Gwich'in traditional territory and now the land claim itself straddles the Yukon-NWT border, and this leads to a variety of challenges for us, complications that remain not well understood by key government officials and departments.
I recognize that many of the submissions you will receive will focus on some negatives and there's always room for improvement. Let me get right into some ways we think we can improve here.
The situation and examples bring several of our concerns to the surface. First, there is a need for government to be more active partners in the implementation of modern treaties, a partner that recognizes the extreme resource and capacity constraints of indigenous organizations, and steps up with leadership assistance and genuine interest in making this progress with us—again, a step towards reconciliation. Failure to shift thinking and action in this manner pushes modern treaty holders to what has been referred to as “implementation by litigation”. Such an approach would be, in our view, a win-lose at best, and more likely lose-lose for Canada and indigenous groups.
There's also clear accountability gaps with respect to the implementation of our modern treaties. The government is slow to act because there are minimal accountability mechanisms in place. The government, to us, seems slow to act for those reasons. Government systems and structures need to be improved to ensure that officials are vested in the joint projects of implementing these agreements. There needs to be a recalibrating of departments' and officials' interests and incentives to ensure accountability and motivate action.
In regard to consultation, as the committee would be aware, Canada has come a long way, largely through court decisions, in clarifying consultation roles and duties of government and industry. The progress continues and we welcome much of this. However, we do feel there is an urgent need.
In just the past year alone, it's very obvious that an organization such as the Gwich'in Tribal Council lacks capacity in certain areas. Just in the past few months, for example, we have been engaged in 10 different legislative reform initiatives being moved forward by the GNWT, many of which will affect core protection and interests in our land claim agreement. There are currently no less than six federal legislative reform initiatives that also affect our core rights in respect to fisheries, navigation, energy, environmental assessments, and more.
This does not include any of the many matters on the Yukon side that I have mentioned, nor does it include broader policy framework engagement, nor does it include specific project development consultation, to say nothing of ongoing social issues in areas such as health, education, early childhood development, and justice.
As the committee would be aware, Canada has made several changes in recent years to the system's structures and processes dealing with modern treaties, including a statement of principles on the federal approach to modern treaty implementation and the cabinet directive on the federal approach to modern treaty implementation. However, we feel there's much more room for improvement.
In our view, we'd like to align with the Land Claims Agreements Coalition's position that it would be more appropriate for all of this to be embedded in an overarching federal policy. Creating such a policy is an opportunity for Canada to set out clearly what its intentions and goals are, and how all the recent changes and structure coherently work together to reach stated objectives. Without such policy with everyone involved, including government departments, officials, industry, and modern treaty holders, this will continue to operate in a context of wasteful time.
We further suggest that an independent modern treaty implementation oversight office be established, either within or in addition to the overarching federal policy. We see a strong and urgent need for an independent oversight office, as the Nisga'a mentioned in their submission to this committee. A detailed proposal on this will be forthcoming from the LCAC.
I strongly believe that this structural change is the key component that would benefit all parties and ensure that any progress being made today can withstand any setbacks in the future. The time for this is now, and the change is a relatively easy one as the proposal will detail. This would be a key institutional cornerstone of reconciliation for us all going forward.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest you consider the following suggestions. First, address the accountability gap through the creation of the independent oversight body. Second, address unmanageable consultation burdens through new creative approaches. Third, improve coherence across new and old federal system structures and practices through the creation of the national overarching policy. Enhance measures to sensitize departments and officials to modern treaties in the context of modern treaty holders, including the aligning of incentives and attitudes.
I have more to say but I know I'm out of time here. Mahsi cho for listening and considering our perspectives.
[Witness speaks in North Slavey]
Thank you for coming to our territory. You're on the territory of Treaty No. 8 and the Métis people of this area. Welcome.
I'm from up north. I'm from the Sahtu region. I want to say a special hello to my MP, Mike McLeod. I've known Mike for many, many decades.
That makes us sound old. I'm old, Mike, but you're good and new. You're okay.
I want to thank him for the work he does for us and for how well he advocates on our issues.
I appreciate the invitation to make a submission to the standing committee on behalf of the Sahtu secretariat with respect to our regional land claim agreement and our comprehensive land claim experience over the past 25 years. I encourage this committee to undertake a thorough study of comprehensive land claim implementation in Canada and that federal systems support the full implementation of those agreements and the realization of the objectives of those agreements.
When I left federal politics in 2006, I went back to work for my people. That too is the highest calling and honour, including being in the public service. I've learned a lot. My name is Ethel Blondin, and I'm the chair of Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated. I work with the Sahtu secretariat board, which consists of the presidents of the Sahtu land corporations, to represent the Sahtu, Dene, and Métis land claim participation. A delegation of the Sahtu leadership preceded us. They were from Colville Lake.
Our seven land corporations are very, very busy. We essentially take on all of the responsibilities that any government would. We look at economic development, social programs, and any new amendments to territorial or federal laws. I was just at a meeting on Friday with , , and on changes to legislation and how it affects women, basically, and our communities in general. Some of what I say here I will have said there.
The SSI was established by seven land corporations to implement the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement on behalf of the Sahtu, Dene, and Métis in the Sahtu region. In most land claims, even if you have Métis and Dene, they subsume each other. They come together. Ours didn't. We have three Métis communities and we have four Dene communities. They went side by each and stayed that way. They did not subsume each other.
What usually happens is what happened in the Tlicho region, where the chiefs formed their organization. We in the Sahtu have two organizations. We have the Sahtu Dene Council—you saw Chief Wilbert Kochon, who belongs to that council—and we have the seven presidents under SSI. We have two major organizations there.
The one that's responsible for the land claims implementation organization is SSI. We work together. We try to find accommodation on very complex, very critical, and sometimes very juxtaposed issues. We try to come together and find accommodation. We have a joint assembly, which I think is good. We've come to that. They vote their own resolutions and we vote ours. The chiefs vote on their own stuff and we vote on our own. We come together on economic issues because it affects everybody.
The primary organization in terms of implementation is the organization that I chair. My main job, as the implementer, is to work with the federal government and territorial government. We're about to go into a meeting pretty soon on that. We go to Ottawa and we meet in Yellowknife. Sometimes we even meet in different regions.
SSI was assigned certain implementation responsibilities under the land claim agreement, including the management and administration of capital transfer payments and certain resource royalties from Canada. These funds were assigned to the Sahtu Trust. We have two trusts. We have a huge trust that has been making money.
Making money is not always good news. People like to fight over money. You'll know that it's not the hard times that bring the acrimony. It's usually when you're debating over per capita payments and when you're debating over who gets what. So we have good news and we have challenging times.
We also have another one, which is called the Sahtu Master Land Agreement. It's kind of like an equalization formula. It works really well when we have a lot of development. Every land corporation that makes above $400,000 puts the balance of that into a common kitty and then it's redistributed in a financial formula. On an equalization, even those that don't do well that season get money, and those who do well are helping others, but they get more than their share. So it works out differently.
When the master land agreement is challenged, when there's no activity, it becomes very difficult because what we get depends on what the federal government gets, because our revenue stream comes from them under different arrangements, through our claim.
The SSI is the trustee of the Sahtu Trust and the master land agreement trust, which facilitates the sharing of resource revenue generated from the surface of the lands and mines on settlement land amongst the Sahtu, Dene, and Métis, and it administers the trusts on behalf of 3,500 participants of the land claim agreement. This is a mixture of Métis and Dene.
The Sahtu, Dene, and Métis have lived in the settlement area since time immemorial, and now live primarily in the communities of Norman Wells, Tulita, Deline, Fort Good Hope, and Colville. The Sahtu, Dene, and Métis in Canada signed the land claim agreement on September 6, 1993. On June 23, 1994, it was ratified by Parliament. Oddly enough—it's kind of strange—I was there. I was asked by the minister at the time to do the honours on that claim, on the Sahtu claim.
Under the land claim agreements with the Sahtu, Dene, and Métis, Canada committed to meet broad but focused socio-economic objectives, including the following objectives. The first was to encourage the self-sufficiency of the Sahtu, Dene, and Métis, which is based on the cultural and economic relationship between them and the land
The second objective was to provide the Sahtu, Dene, and Métis with the right to participate in decision-making concerning the use, management, and conservation of land, water, and resources. We do all that. We're very challenged for resources, but we step up to the plate and we respond to all those issues. We have people from our area representing us on tracking change, and stuff to do with water. We participate in the water management strategies.
We also deal with SARA, all of the legislation that deals with species at risk, and we also have people on park management and park creation. We created a park in our tenure, in these last 10 years. In my tenure we've created a brand new park called Nááts'ihch'oh, and a lot comes along with that. To provide the Sahtu, Dene, and Métis with wildlife harvesting rights and the right to participate in decision-making concerning wildlife harvesting and managing, that's a big issue.
I think sometimes we undersell the importance of things like this. In the recent months—
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to everybody who presented here today. Of course it's always a challenge to try to get everybody's comments and opinions.
Today we're talking about a very important subject that I was very adamant we start to take a look at. That's the whole issue of specific claims, comprehensive claims, self-government, and what we need to do. We are working on trying to get the right relationship between Canada and its indigenous peoples.
We've already had a number of presentations from aboriginal governments that have settled land claims. We have heard about implementation, some issues with self-government.
I'm trying to get a read on what needs to change. We have settlement areas, but we still hear about housing, health, and economic development. Some of the claims seem not to address these issues at all, and we have some areas of the territories that have no land claims. The issue is still the same there. Should we, as a government, be changing the mandate of land claims, or is it okay and we should focus and put more emphasis on implementation? Will self-government solve those issues, or should that policy change also?
It's broad. We don't have a lot of time, but can you give me a snapshot? We'll start over here.
As you know, the Tlicho are self-governing, and with governments you have jurisdictions. When it comes to the issues of health, education, and housing—the question you're asking—a lot of that is within self-government agreements and the shared jurisdiction. The Tlicho have an intergovernmental services agreement with GNWT. This agency delivers health and education within the Tlicho region, and the GNWT retains jurisdiction over housing. Self-government includes those things, but if the Tlicho government decides to one day draw down the jurisdiction, it would require negotiation. Again, though, a lot of these programs are not adequately funded, so the question is why would the Tlicho government draw down on housing when the funding level for housing is wholly inadequate?
This takes us back to my earlier presentation, about those three proposals that we submitted to Canada that deal with social housing and education. Now, and this government have been talking about closing the gap, right? What is the gap between indigenous peoples and the mainstream, and how do we address that gap? One of the first things we want to do with this proposal is find out the baseline: where are we in our communities on these social issues and the well-being, and what is the gap? What do we need to close that gap, so we're on the same level in comparators?
That's the stuff that's done through the fiscal work and the work that the Land Claims Agreements Coalition has been doing for numerous years. We're all partners, we all work together, and we all develop these policies and the work that the coalition has been pushing for years. We need the coalition to be taken seriously by this government on the ample amount of work that is done on implementation issues and policies, and on our concerns.
Madam Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to present to you today in relation to your study on modern treaties and self-government throughout Canada.
The Government of the Northwest Territories has made it a priority to advance, finalize, and implement land, resource, and self-government agreements, including post-devolution initiatives. We appreciate this opportunity to participate in your committee's study, and hope that it will contribute to continued progress on this important initiative for the people of the Northwest Territories.
The Government of Canada has made strong statements about the importance of a renewed relationship with indigenous people and the contribution of colonial structures to the unacceptable socio-economic condition in which too many indigenous people in Canada find themselves. We strongly agree on the importance of Canada renewing relationships with indigenous peoples. We also believe we have much to offer in terms of how to renew that relationship and support self-determination. We believe constitutionally protected agreements are the highest form of recognition of aboriginal rights. We also believe final indigenous rights agreements are the appropriate tool to codify those rights in the legal and constitutional framework of Canada.
The Government of the Northwest Territories believes that the certainty provided by final rights and self-government agreements is central to the health of our communities, our economy, and our environment. Our government has been committed to negotiating and implementing land, resource, and self-government agreements in the Northwest Territories for over 40 years. Today there are five settled land claims in our territory and two settled self-government agreements. Our government works in partnership with these claimant groups on a government-to-government basis, unlike those typically seen in southern Canada.
Our government-to-government approach is formally enshrined in our intergovernmental relations policy and reiterated in Respect, Recognition, Responsibility, our approach to engaging with indigenous governments, published in 2012. Canada's principles and our respect, recognition, and responsibility have many similarities, including a formalized recognition of the inherent right to self-government. Our approach respects and incorporates the commitments made in settled claim agreements, and is further supported by bilateral MOUs that we have entered into with several indigenous governments. It is important to point out that our policy doesn't recognize just those indigenous governments with a settled claim. We also formally recognize as governments those indigenous governments who are also currently in negotiations or have a right to negotiate.
In addition to the settled claims, the Government of the Northwest Territories is currently implementing negotiations to continue on with three other regional claims. Our government remains committed to seeing these three claims finalized and implemented. Settling these claims is a priority. We continue to look for new ways to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion. That commitment included the appointment of two ministerial special representatives, by me and by , to look closely at claim processes in the Dehcho, Akaitcho, and South Slave regions. As a result of that work, we were able to table innovative new offers with the N.W.T. Métis Nation and Akaitcho. The offers were designed to be as flexible as possible and allow indigenous governments to choose how best to pursue their own priorities through the claims process.
Another innovation of the GNWT to support the settlement of claims is looking at the option of negotiating a generalized interest in resource development. Generalized interest would allow indigenous governments to receive a share of revenue from the development of resources on all lands in their region, not just on settlement lands. Aboriginal rights and self-government agreements remove barriers to economic development, reduce legal ambiguities, and increase indigenous self-sufficiency. These agreements clearly lay out the responsibilities for public and indigenous governments, and define the modern relationships between them. Our interest and priority as a public government is in ensuring that our residents have fair and equitable services, no matter where they live or what indigenous government they may be a part of.
One of the distinctive aspects of the Northwest Territories is the central role of indigenous people in our society. It is important to understand that the GNWT has evolved alongside the negotiation of aboriginal rights agreements. The vision that established the GNWT saw a future where the public government and indigenous governments worked together to meet their respective priorities. Our government has always existed in the context of indigenous rights and been deliberately shaped by a determination to respect and recognize those rights.
The GNWT supports self-determination of indigenous people and indigenous governments in the Northwest Territories and has developed as a public government with self-government in mind. Our system of partnership and public governance in the Northwest Territories was designed to ensure that indigenous views and priorities are reflected in public policy decisions and the design and delivery of public programs and services.
Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories participate in both public government and indigenous government in implementing regulatory frameworks and in building capacity in communities. Twelve of the 19 members of the legislative assembly today are indigenous, including five of seven cabinet ministers. Every premier since division of the territories in 1999 has been Dene or Métis, including me. Before this division, only two non-indigenous people have been premier or government leader.
Settled claims have established new, unique institutions of public government that guarantee indigenous governments' rights to participate in decisions about land and resource development. The Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, passed as part of the implementation of settled claims in the Northwest Territories, provides that indigenous governments have the authority to name members to the land and water boards that oversee decisions about land and resource development here.
I need to be clear that this does not mean indigenous people have a right to be heard by decision-makers. It means that, in the Northwest Territories, indigenous people are the decision-makers. This unified approach, unique to the Northwest Territories, was not an accident; it was a deliberate choice to ensure that indigenous rights are respected here in a territory they have called home for generations. Indigenous governments across the Northwest Territories own economic development corporations, which are active players in important projects that contribute to our GDP. Close collaboration with indigenous governments and corporations is one way the Government of the Northwest Territories is working toward reconciliation.
The Northwest Territories is in a more advanced place than many parts of the country in the area of settling claims and integrating programs and services for indigenous residents. Our system is integrated and considers the indigenous perspective as part of delivery. The conclusion of aboriginal land resources and self-government agreements has remained a priority for the GNWT. We are as eager as the federal government and indigenous governments to move forward with negotiations and implementation of self-government.
Canada has introduced several new approaches into negotiations. While on the face of it, these approaches should encourage innovative negotiations and more meaningful agreements, we have significant concerns. We understand the interests of all parties in advancing agreements. However, we feel that a lack of clarity in Canada's new approach is delaying rather than advancing processes—ambiguity around the newly released principles and other approaches that Canada seems to have discussed with indigenous organizations but haven't been explained to the Government of the Northwest Territories or other provincial or territorial governments. This is creating confusion and perhaps raising unrealistic expectations.
For example, Canada is now open to wide-ranging interest-based discussions, blending the specific claim and comprehensive claim models, broadening negotiations beyond existing agreements, and may no longer seek certainty in agreements. These developments run the risk of introducing delays into already lengthy processes as the parties assess new information, returning some negotiations to ground zero, wasting time and resources discussing things that are unlikely to be approved by any government, introducing uncertainty about the mechanics of implementation, and removing the ability of all governments to rely on final agreements. It's my understanding that the new principles have not been accompanied by changes to negotiating mandates, leaving parties to negotiations to try to guess at intents.
We are also concerned that Canada is in effect changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game. Indigenous governments with finalized agreements made calculated choices under the existing policies and rules. Clarity is required as to whether Canada will reopen negotiations in areas with settled agreements. Inequity may be created by allowing for increased flexibility only for those who have not been able to achieve agreements in the past.
Starting in the 1960s, the federal government began transferring program responsibility from Canada to the GNWT. The most recent of these devolutions was the transfer of responsibilities for lands, water, and resource management.
This last devolution was unique in that negotiations included not only Canada and the GNWT, but also indigenous governments. All indigenous governments were invited to the table, with most of them agreeing to participate.
Another unique feature of this last devolution was the creation of the intergovernmental council and the sharing of resource revenues. Now, in addition to the resource revenues included in settled rights agreements, the GNWT also shares 25% of the resource revenues from public lands with the Northwest Territories indigenous governments who signed the devolution agreement.
Aboriginal rights agreements affect every part of the way indigenous and public governments administer the Northwest Territories: the way we manage our lands, the way we deliver social services, the way we raise revenues, and the way we govern our communities.
Changes to the approach to new agreements create many questions for our government about how they will fit into our existing governance structures. This also creates a different kind of uncertainty for us. Our first priority is to provide continuous service to all our residents, with changes to those services focusing only on improvement.
We also want to make sure that existing work, both at the territorial government and at the community level, is not lost with change. As Canada considers changes to financial relationships, it is important that the unique program and service delivery models of the Northwest Territories be considered and, in our view, preserved.
We will continue to work within our government to advance self-government and support indigenous populations beyond negotiations, as well. The GNWT also continues to implement the relevant calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and support other efforts to address social and economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous northerners. We will also continue to engage with the federal government, with provinces and territories, and with indigenous governments as work around indigenous relations in Canada evolves.
Was that the bell?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Premier. I am glad you took the time to come and present to us. We heard from many of the indigenous governments this morning. Unfortunately, we didn't have anybody here from the Dehcho or the Akaitcho. We heard many issues being brought up, and many challenges that the indigenous governments are facing.
Having discussed this many times with some of the indigenous governments that haven't settled yet, I know they are concerned about the comprehensive claim policy. They are concerned about the self-government policy, and they feel it's outdated. We heard this morning that the models and the policies are outdated. We also heard that maybe it doesn't meet the United Nations declaration.
During my time in the Government of the Northwest Territories, we always raised the fact that the mandate was getting to be a bit old, and it presented some challenges when we tried to move forward, especially with some of the indigenous governments that hadn't made significant headway. It didn't give us a lot of flexibility.
We are now reviewing, as a committee, the comprehensive land claims agreements, the specific claims, and the self-government policy. Is there anything you could recommend that would help make things a little easier? What recommendations would you make to the government's policies, to the government's approach? Is there anything you could recommend?