Thank you very much, Madam Chair, for your warm invitation to this meeting, which we are holding on the traditional territory of the aboriginal peoples, on this International Day of the Francophonie.
Before we begin, Madam Chair, we want to thank you for the recent report on indigenous land rights, which you tabled yesterday. As you know, this is very relevant to the ongoing discussions we're having with first nations to identify fair and practical measures to improve the claims process.
We are currently reviewing the committee's recommendations to help inform our efforts to reform our approach to claims.
I can already point to the fact that, as recommended in your report, the government will be replacing the use of loans with non-payable contributions to fund indigenous participation on the negotiation of modern treaties and specific claims, which was in the budget.
More broadly, our government is committed to creating a new recognition and implementation of rights framework, which is currently being codeveloped through a national engagement. Your report is extremely helpful in the context of the new recognition and implementation of rights that was announced by the on February 14.
Also, in terms of your ongoing study of Bill , we are also wanting to ensure that federal laws are consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so it's all very timely. As you know, the government is supporting this bill, and we believe that the comprehensive study that you're undertaking will also inform this broader work on rights recognition and implementation.
I'm appearing today to discuss crown-indigenous relations and northern affairs, lovingly now referred to as CIRNA, our supplementary estimates (C), and, for the first time, the interim main estimates.
These estimates (C) show a net decrease of approximately $46 million, which reflects $63 million in net transfers of existing funding to the new Department of Indigenous Services.
We know that relationships built on colonial structures have contributed to unacceptable socioeconomic gaps.
That is why, in August of last year, the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of INAC, as recommended in RCAP 21 years ago, to create two new departments, Indigenous Services Canada and CIRNA, so following the order in council last fall, there was a transfer of resources from our department to create the Department of Indigenous Services Canada.
The final structure of these two new departments will be determined in partnership with indigenous people, and we've been meeting with our partners from coast to coast to coast about how, as they say in architecture, form follows function, and how we can make sure there is a distinctions-based approach in design and processes of these two new departments.
Together, we will chart a path forward that advances reconciliation and builds a stronger future for indigenous people and all Canadians alike.
Supplementary estimates (C) also includes new funding of approximately $17 million for initiatives, including the Canadian heritage rivers Inuit impact and benefit agreement, the Nunavut devolution agreement-in-principle, the Anishinabek nation education agreement, and indigenous tourism.
I would be happy to discuss these important investments in more detail during the question and answer period.
Supplementary estimates (C) also re-profiles approximately $600,000 of the nutrition north program funding to this year, which is less than 1% of the annual budget. This is related to our government's investment of $65 million over five years to expand nutrition north Canada food subsidies to 37 additional communities. Re-profiling this money will ensure this funding is preserved for our government's ongoing support for northern families to have affordable, healthy, culturally relevant foods; however, we know much more needs to be done. That's why the government is also continuing to work in partnership with northerners to overhaul the program to ensure it better reflects the needs of northerners.
Our appearance today is in the context of an evolving estimates process, as our government moves to increase transparency and modernize how estimates are presented and approved. Parliament recently approved a change in the main estimates approach in which the 2018-19 main estimates will be divided into two distinct exercises: interim estimates and main estimates. The interim estimates will provide the department with funding for the first three months of the fiscal year, while main estimates will provide the remaining funding for the entire fiscal year as well as incorporate some budget 2018 approvals.
This will better align the federal budget and the main estimates.
I am pleased that we are able to review these documents in the context of Budget 2018 investments. This will allow for a much more comprehensive discussion about my department's planned spending in the coming year.
Budget 2018 invests an additional $5 billion over five years to close significant socio-economic gaps, move towards recognition of rights, and build capacity for indigenous self-determination.
This is our government's third budget. I believe it's important to highlight that it builds upon the historic investments of $8.4 billion in budget 2016 and $3.4 billion in budget 2017, for a total commitment to date of almost $17 billion of additional funding for the priorities of indigenous peoples, a commitment recognized by our partners.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde commented on budget 2018 saying, “the long-term investments in First Nations governments and infrastructure sets a strong foundation for re-building our nations.”
Manitoba Metis Federation President Chartrand said that budget 2018 “finally addresses the needs and aspirations of the Métis Nation.”
The president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Natan Obed, characterized budget 2018 by saying, “That is a game changer, if you will, for self determination.”
Budget 2018 outlines new steps the government will take to increase the number of modern treaties and self-determination agreements in the context of a recognition of rights approach.
This is at the core of my mandate.
Since 2015, approximately 60 discussions on the recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination have been launched with over 320 communities—a total of over 700,000 indigenous peoples.
To date, 19 negotiated agreements have been codeveloped and signed through the discussion process, and others will follow in the coming months.
Budget 2018 commits $51.5 million over two years to support these discussions and the codevelopment of agreements that advance a recognition and implementation of rights approach.
Budget 2018 will also help nations rebuild and accelerate self-determination and self-government with investments, including $105 million over five years to support the capacity-building efforts of indigenous groups that are seeking to rebuild their nations in a manner that responds to the unique needs and priorities of their communities; and $74.9 million over five years to provide permanent funding to support the permanent bilateral mechanisms with first nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation.
These sustained investments over multiple budgets confirm our government's ongoing commitment to reconciliation and to renewing Canada's relationship with first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
I look forward to discussing these issues with you and welcome your questions.
Yes. As you know, we are supporting the private member's bill, but we do believe, as a government, we need to actually be very clear about the unique way forward that Canada has to take in a distinctions-based way, but also for us to be able to right the wrongs and be able to move forward in a way that deals with the realities of colonization, the Indian Act. There are some very distinct things that we need to do that will accelerate the progress to self-determination.
As we've heard at this committee many times, there are not 634 nations. We have to help those nations rebuild themselves in a way that really got, as Lee Maracle says, “villagized” because of the Indian Act. How do we allow those communities to have the kind of conversation to build their governments and to build the control over their land and their people?
This journey to self-determination is very much one where, in some of the consultations—which we started the next day with the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet in Atlantic Canada, and we have been to British Columbia, and last week in Saskatchewan and Alberta—some of the comments have been that this is a conversation that should have happened 150 years ago. Another comment from a chief was, “There is hope that we will have our say.”
We are really building on the kind of goodwill that is, about now, a door open to self-determination, to undo the effects of colonization, but we know there's cynicism out there. There's no reason that, all of a sudden, people would trust what the Government of Canada would do, so we are working very hard to rebuild that trust and to be able to get back to that journey of self-determination, as it says in my mandate, and accelerate the process of self-determination. I think it has begun well.
A lot of people are saying that it's all there in volume 2 of the RCAP report, so just dust it off and get on with it. There's a fair bit of that, as well as people saying, “We want our say.”
Because we have taken extinguishment off the table, surrender off the table, and going forward with loans and obviously the previous decision on the own-source revenue moratorium, people are feeling that this is different. We actually have to deal with the idea that these are termination tables or that we're extinguishing peoples' rights. That's exactly the opposite of what we're trying to do. We've begun well, but we're going to need everybody's help.
Obviously the most important thing is the relationship. I think people see that our government is committed. It's the fact that the has been very clear that this is the most important relationship, I think from his speech at the UN, to the and us having been able to deliver on the two things, improving the quality of life, but also the understanding of self-determination.
I think our fight, with , for control over child welfare.... To me, that is what eats away at the heart of all indigenous people, that their children are being taken into non-indigenous families. It is a millennium scoop. I think the fight we're doing right now to have indigenous children— first nations, Inuit, and Métis children—raised as first nations, Inuit, and Métis is going to be the way we feel proudest of having turned this around. It's gone on for way too long.
In our progress on the truth and reconciliation calls to action, the fact that we can get going on our federal or shared.... There is also the way that there seems to be a movement now in terms of schools and universities. There is an understanding about the need to learn what we didn't learn in school, and I think Canadians are really coming with us.
There is still horrible racism that we have to deal with. There is horrible child abuse that we have to deal with. I think the fact that people see we are speaking out loud about these things and being able to move forward is what I feel proud of.
It's the young people who can see their way out of the colonial ways. They don't want to be part of the status quo. They can see that just being consultants and lawyers to communities instead of building capacity within their communities.... I think it's very exciting. For me to go to a convocation at Laurier University, with 23 indigenous students graduating with MSWs, those are the things that make me feel pleased. I won't take credit for it, but I am pleased to see the movement we're getting on this path and journey of reconciliation.
Good afternoon, colleagues.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend some time with you this afternoon.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for already acknowledging that we are meeting on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people, and obviously we're all very grateful for the opportunity to gather in this place.
It is a pleasure to be before this committee to spend a moment to thank you again for the important work you are doing on a number of critical studies. I want to particularly comment on how I'm looking forward to the upcoming report on wildfires and fire safety on reserve.
I understand you have recently completed your study, and will bring forward a report with recommendations that we will give the utmost consideration.
Today I want to briefly outline our department's supplementary estimates (C), interim estimates, and explain how, along with new investments in budget 2018, we want to continue to work to close existing socio-economic gaps and to ensure that indigenous peoples have control over their services and programs.
As I have stated before; ours may be the first government department ever created with its own obsolescence as a goal.
With this in mind, I strongly believe, as demonstrated through Minister Bennett's ongoing work—as she's probably discussed with you—in the development of a recognition and implementation of rights framework that not only the recognition but the implementation of inherent indigenous and treaty rights is essential to address the broad socio-economic gaps that exist between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.
My job as Minister of Indigenous Services is to improve the delivery of services in a distinctions-based fashion in partnership with indigenous peoples.
Together we will advance indigenous self-determination and over time transfer the delivery of government services to indigenous communities.
Indigenous Services is working toward a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples, based as you know on a recognition of rights, and on a relationship of respect, co-operation, and partnership with first nations, Inuit, and Metis.
We have selected a focus on five interconnected priority areas where Indigenous Services plays a critical role in advancing the agenda. They are health, education, children and families, infrastructure, and economic development, including a new fiscal relationship.
At the centre of these five priorities is of course people. These are individuals whose well-being depends on undoing the damage of more than a century of paternalistic policies that have led to broken families and communities and have damaged the trust of indigenous peoples in their relationship with government.
I am talking about people like Gerry, who has paid a high price for those policies.
Gerry is a 25-year-old Métis youth who I met some time ago. He was a youth in foster care from the age of eight to the age of 14. During that time, he lived in almost 40 different homes. Gerry suffers from dyslexia and ADHD. His mother was not able to care for him because of her mental health issues and her experience with residential schools. His grandparents wanted to take him in, but couldn't afford to do so. Gerry said to me, “It's not that I lost my identity in foster care. My identity was stripped from me. They see us numbers, not people. You get lost. You slowly lose everything that made you.”
Gerry's story is one of intergenerational trauma, poverty and disconnection from his culture.
It's a story about people who were denied control over their own lives, factors that are directly linked to these broad socio-economic gaps and poor health outcomes in indigenous people's experience.
I'm pleased that budget 2018 takes bold steps in supporting a new approach to closing these gaps. For instance, it proposes an additional $5 billion over five years to ensure that indigenous children and families have an equal chance to succeed in life.
This builds upon already significant investments made through Budgets 2016 and 2017.
As some of you know, we were particularly delighted to see in the budget $1.4 billion in new funding over six years for child and family services. This investment will enable concrete progress on the federal government's six points of action, which we announced at an emergency meeting on indigenous child welfare in January, as well as allowing us to fully implement the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
This is the first time that budget investments will go directly to communities for prevention and early intervention, a major step in child welfare reform. Together with our partners we're working toward reducing the number of indigenous children in care and supporting children growing up with strong connections to their language and their culture.
As well, the budget provides an additional $173 million over three years to support the work on clean and safe drinking water on reserve. This is in addition to the $1.8 billion provided in budget 2016.
These investments are going to allow us to accelerate the pace of construction and renovation where possible to pay for repairs to high-risk water systems and to prevent additional long-term drinking water advisories.
These investments will also be used to assist efforts to recruit, train and retain water operators under first nations-led service delivery models.
We're on track with our commitment to lift all long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve by March 2021. Since November 2015, now 54 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted.
Equally important, funding has been provided to support the implementation of three distinctions-based housing strategies. A total of $1.5 billion is earmarked to improve housing conditions and support the codevelopment of a first nations housing strategy, an Inuit-led housing strategy for the regions of Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, and Inuvialuit, as well as a Métis Nation housing strategy. This is in addition to the $240 million over 10 years that was announced in budget 2017 to support housing in Nunavut through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
We all know that adequate housing is a key determinant of health. Overcrowding is a crucial factor in the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis.
To keep indigenous families healthy, budget 2018 has announced $1.4 billion over five years and $145 million ongoing for health. These monies will be helping with acute health problems such as tuberculosis in Inuit communities as well as matters like opioid addiction in first nations communities.
In the meantime, we continue to require immediate funds to continue to deliver our mandate. The interim estimates for 2018-19 will be approximately $2.9 billion. This funding will ensure that Indigenous Services can carry out its activities in the first three months of the fiscal year until the main estimates are approved in June.
The total of the supplementary estimates (C) for Indigenous Services Canada is $359.6 million. This reflects new funding for emergency management service providers, non-insured health benefits for first nations and Inuit, as well as the Indspire and post-secondary student support program.
This also reflects transfers with other government departments, including a transfer from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples.
These funds are an important step forward as we replace the previous colonial-era department with new organizations that are committed to reconciliation. These investments, coupled with the infusion of billions of dollars in budget 2018, will go a long way to closing the gap between the living conditions of indigenous and non-indigenous people. This will help us to realize our shared goal of building fully healthy, prosperous, self-governed communities that offer indigenous children, youth, and families a bright future.
I would be pleased to take your questions.
Thank you very much.
You are right to point out that this was a well-received budget from the point of view of the Métis Nation of Canada. I certainly received positive feedback, and I think, as you indicated, that part of that is that this is a distinctions-based approach.
One of the things that I think has been quite successful over the past two and a half years is the development of something that we call the permanent bilateral mechanism. This is a format where the and cabinet ministers meet on a regular basis, a minimum of three times per year, with our counterparts who are leaders in first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities. Through that Métis-Canada permanent bilateral relationship, they have come forward very effectively with the kinds of priorities that they want to work on, and you see that reflected in the budget. They didn't necessarily want for our relationship going forward to be exactly like it would be with first nations or exactly like it would be with the Inuit. Again, that's reflected in the investments.
There were significant investments in the budget for the Métis nation. Probably the largest of them would be the investment in housing of $500 million over 10 years. It is an incredible opportunity to have long-term housing made available.
I've had the opportunity to see the things that happen when indigenous organizations have access to resources like this. The Métis Nation of Alberta, for example, has done some incredible housing projects that have made a real difference in addressing homelessness for families, so this will be very helpful. They've already done a lot of the work in preparing a housing strategy.
In other areas, the investments are more modest. They are, in a sense, a down payment in areas like education and health. There's more work to be done to understand exactly what that relationship should look like going forward in the future, but there were certainly investments in those areas that were well received.
I might add that outside of my department, with , as you may know there's an investment in employment and skills development.
I will try to be brief, but it's a very big topic. You mentioned the fact that I had described what I learned about the overrepresentation of indigenous children in child and family services in this country as a humanitarian crisis. I was perhaps teased a bit afterwards that I was being overly provocative in using terminology like that. However, since I said that, I can't tell you how many times indigenous leaders have thanked me for drawing attention to this issue, which they've been trying to raise for some time. It's something that was highlighted in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The first five calls to action relate to child welfare.
You're absolutely right that in Manitoba the circumstances are very severe, but they are also quite dire across the country. I already mentioned the money, and you're absolutely right that that's extremely helpful, not only to meet the requirements of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, but to get money that will support prevention. As you know, there are these perverse incentives, in which, in many cases, funding flows according to the number of children who are apprehended from their families, yet there's no money that flows to families who say, “Could we get some support to keep the child with us or with an aunt or grandmother?” Changing those funding policies has been shown to be very effective in a number of places.
At our January meeting we outlined some of the things that we felt the federal government could do. We put it out as a six-point plan, which has been well received, and it speaks to that, changing the funding mechanisms and channelling them more towards prevention. One of the things we've also talked about is whether there is perhaps a role for federal legislation. This is a sensitive topic, and we are having ongoing conversations about that. It was something that was a call to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, so we're having conversations with first nations, Inuit, and Metis about that possibility and whether it might support the work to draw down jurisdiction on child welfare to communities that want to be able to control child welfare services themselves.
The other thing I'll say—again, we could go on at some length on this topic, but I know there are other things you want to bring up—is that in each part of the country we've established tripartite working groups because every province is a little bit different. The provincial legislation is different in different places, the way that money flows is different, and we're trying to deal with those regional differences.
Well, thank you for raising this really important issue.
It happens that world tuberculosis day is this Saturday, which hopefully we will all acknowledge. We, in Canada, have a shameful story in terms of the severe rates of tuberculosis among Canada's Inuit. In fact, if you look at 2016 data, if you compare the rates in Inuit to the non-indigenous Canadian-born population, they are 300 times higher, and as you described, these teenagers are dying.
What are we going to do? This has been one of the priority areas of our Inuit-crown partnership relationship, so I'm working very closely along with my officials and my other colleagues, like , with the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami on a TB elimination task force. We have put together a plan that is still being finalized to work on the elimination of tuberculosis. Some of that work has already begun. In fact, very recently in Qikiqtarjuaq Nunavut a clinic took place that screened almost everyone in the entire community. I can get you the data in terms of the number of active tuberculosis cases and latent tuberculosis cases that were detected.
There's a very broad-based plan that involves screening, addressing, obviously, using new medical treatment, as well as things like housing and so many of the other social issues.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Minister.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague, Georgina Jolibois.
I would like to raise two key points, ones where we're very concerned that the government isn't going nearly far enough.
First of all is the crisis that is housing on reserve in particular. While we recognize that there's some fancy new language around distinctions-based housing strategies, the reality is that the funds simply aren't there.
Last week I was at Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. I was told that there are 500 people on a waiting list for housing, yet this is a community that is moving ahead. They have an innovative program to build housing in the community. It brings folks on board to be able to gain their apprenticeship training, and it uses some new technologies to build these homes. However, they haven't received one cent of federal funding. This is a problem.
This is a crisis that impacts every single first nation. The money that has been committed—around $600 million a year—could translate to possibly one house per first nation, but the reality is that the further north you go, the more expensive it is to build housing. Certainly, we would like to register the inadequacy of federal funds.
What is the federal government planning to do with respect to this housing crisis on first nations? Why is it ignoring the reality and also ignoring innovative programs like the one NCN is pursuing right now?
Second, I had the pleasure of joining you in Cross Lake a couple of years ago where you announced the funding for the new health centre project that, unfortunately, has not moved forward. I was just there a few days ago. People are very concerned. Obviously, the demand for health services is huge, and we would like to move forward as soon as possible. We would like to see your department show leadership right now, given that this project has stalled.
Minister and officials, thank you very much for your presence here. It's important for our committee to have this opportunity to have fulsome discussions. The frankness is very appreciated as well.
I want to split my time between two issues. One is long-term drinking water advisories, and the other is the department itself and your experiences in that aspect.
There are two first nations reserves in the riding of Pontiac: Kitigan Zibi and Barriere Lake. These are two communities with very contrasting profiles, but in particular, Kitigan Zibi has had some major drinking water issues over the course of many years. Early on in our mandate, I was pleased that we could announce approximately $5 million in drinking water infrastructure. That was a big deal, but there's more to go.
With a significant sum of money—$1.8 billion announced in the 2016 budget and you mentioned the additional funding in the most recent budget of $172 million—there's good news in the lump-sum category. However, at the end of the day, this has to hit the ground. Could you give us some specifics on how this gets prioritized, how the work is unfolding, and where you're finding the challenges? I appreciate that there have been some successes, but there's a long way to go. Maybe you can go into that a bit, please.
I had the opportunity last week to go to nine communities on an eight-day trip to Nunavut. I've talked to Minister Bennett about certain things. One of the things we talked about was Bill , the marijuana cannabis bill.
They really haven't been consulted up there. I know that Natan Obed always has his door open to you, but let me tell you this, because I went into nine schools: they're scared as hell. There are addictions up north that you know about, family violence, and a shortage of homes. They're crowded.
Let me say this: there is not one addiction centre in Nunavut, not one. You send them to Selkirk; you'll send them to Winnipeg; you'll send them to Montreal. You'll send them everywhere but their own land. What are you going to do about that? I heard that. They don't want to leave Nunavut.
Do you see what I'm saying? You're coming with this bill. Everybody is scared up there because they're going to be shipped out. Many of these, all of these, are dry communities, and now you're going to add this marijuana to them but you don't have one addiction centre in Nunavut.
What would you think if you were living there today? If you were at Rankin Inlet today or Chesterfield Inlet today or Baker Lake today and I said to you, “We don't have an addiction centre available. You have to get on the next flight. I don't know when you're coming back, and I don't know where you're going”? What do you say to those people?