I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 17 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
I would like to start by acknowledging that I am joining you today from the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabe and Chonnonton nations.
Pursuant to the motion adopted on June 9, 2020, the committee is meeting for the purpose of receiving evidence on the subject matter of the supplementary estimates (A), 2020-21.
Today's meeting is taking place by video conference. The proceedings will be made available by the House of Commons website. During this meeting, the webcast will alway show the person speaking rather than the whole committee.
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In this meeting, we will follow the same rules that usually apply to opening statements and the rounds for questioning of witnesses. Each witness will have up to five minutes for their opening statement, followed by the usual rounds of questions from members.
Now it's time to get to our witnesses: the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations; the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services; and the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs.
Minister Miller, I was informed that you will be starting. Please go ahead for five minutes.
As I am in Ottawa, I do want to acknowledge my presence today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
Kwe, good afternoon, bonjour.
Before I begin, I would like to say a few words on the current social climate. Right now, we are in a moment when Canadians are recognizing that there's unfairness built into our systems and that these systems have always been unfair towards indigenous peoples.
I look to my colleagues on this committee among others and across government to reflect and question ourselves on why injustice towards indigenous peoples still happens and how we can move forward in the short, medium and long term.
This is obvious. We need to ensure that there is accountability and that policing services are committed to ensuring that they are always worthy of the trust we put in them. Indigenous peoples and their communities are entitled to the best, and the best there is of the RCMP.
We need to constantly question and reflect on the issues of systemic racism in institutions, particularly those that hold exceptional powers, ones, at times, of life and death. The exceptional powers exercised by police services across Canada come with correspondingly exceptional responsibilities. We must keep fighting to remove systemic racism from these institutions, institutions that are meant to serve everyone living in this country equally and fairly.
With that, I welcome the opportunity to provide you with an update on our continuing effort to confront the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and to answer your questions on supplementary estimates (A).
As of June 15, Indigenous Services Canada is aware of 247 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in first nations communities on reserves. Of these, 208 individuals are considered to have recovered. In terms of Inuit in Nunavik, all of the 16 cases reported have recovered.
Our commitment to supporting communities in their response to COVID-19 has never wavered. That is why our 2020-21 supplementary estimates (A) reflect a net increase of $1.7 billion. This was essential to address the needs of indigenous peoples during this global crisis. These supplementary estimates include $950.5 million of statutory funding, mostly related to the COVID-19 response measures, in addition to new funding support for key programs such as Jordan's principle and child and family services.
To date, the Government of Canada has made roughly $1.5 billion in distinctions-based funding available to indigenous peoples and northern communities to support their efforts to successfully battle COVID-19. Specifically, these estimates contain more than $280 million to support Indigenous Services Canada's health response in first nations and Inuit communities. This is essential funding that will help to provide first nations and Inuit communities with additional health care providers; personal protective equipment; health infrastructure, specifically retooling existing community spaces or purchasing mobile structures to support isolation, screening and/or accommodations; and community-level infection prevention and control measures that are essential.
In addition to this, these estimates also reflect $305 million for the distinctions-based indigenous community support fund. Of this amount, $215 million was dedicated to first nations, $45 million to Inuit, and $30 million to Métis nation communities, plus $15 million in proposals-based funding for first nations off reserve and urban indigenous organizations and communities.
An additional $75 million was also sought for organizations supporting first nations individuals off reserve and Inuit and Métis living in urban areas, as well as $10 million in funding for emergency family violence prevention shelters on reserve and in Yukon.
As part of our COVID-19 response, we are also providing $260 million to respond to financial pressures on income assistance.
Outside of funding to support our COVID-19 response, these supplementary estimates also include $232 million to support the ongoing implementation of Jordan's principle, and $468.2 million to support the ongoing delivery of the first nations child and family services program. These investments demonstrate the government's ongoing commitment to fully implementing the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
This investment more than doubles the program's budget, bringing it to nearly $1.7 billion. Funding will be used to ensure that first nations children and families are getting the services they need.
You'll note that we have also made a few other announcements recently. These items will be reflected in future supplementary estimates. These include $75.2 million in new investments to support first nations, Inuit and Métis nations post-secondary recent graduates impacted by the pandemic, and $440 million in funding in support of indigenous businesses and the indigenous tourism industry in response to the hardships created by COVID-19.
I will close by saying that we are committed to responding to the needs of first nations, Inuit and Métis and to stopping the spread of COVID-19. We're committed to getting more nurses, paramedics, nursing stations and health centres to help those who need it most.
I want to take a moment, as I close, to thank all health care professionals working in indigenous communities for their continued dedication and determination to ensure that quality and culturally appropriate care, testing and treatment are provided during this pandemic.
I want to thank members for this opportunity to meet with you today, albeit virtually.
Again, I am happy to answer any and all questions.
Meegwetch. Nakurmiik. Merci.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I am joining you today from my home in Toronto, on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. I would also like to recognize the traditional territories from which all of you are participating.
I am pleased to be here today to speak to the supplementary estimates (A) for Crown-Indigenous Relations.
Officials from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs are also online to help respond to your questions, led by our deputy minister, Daniel Lee Quan-Watson.
This has been an emotional time. We have all been upset by the images on our screens and the undeniable evidence of systemic racism in Canada. It is the basis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls and the over-incarceration of first nations, Inuit and Métis.
I know that everyone on this committee wants to ensure that Canada is investing in making amends for the past and in putting in place the concrete actions to make real change.
The estimates for CIRNA include key initiatives and new funding totalling approximately $748.7 million for Crown-Indigenous Relations.
This funding will ensure that we can continue the concrete work to renew the relationship between Canada and first nations, Inuit and the Métis nation, to support their visions of self-determination and to advance reconciliation.
The estimates re-profile $481.2 million for the Federal Indian Day Schools Settlement Agreement and $260 million in sixties scoop funding to ensure sufficient funds are available for individual compensation and to support ongoing administration costs of the settlements. In both cases, the re-profiled funds will ensure that there is no funding shortfall and that Canada can promptly make payments to survivors.
As you know, the McLean implementation date was delayed as a result of several court appeals.
The sum of $500 million has already been transferred to the sixties scoop claims administrator, and the transfer of an additional $250 million of compensation will be determined once the total number of eligible claims is known. Eligible class members have now already started receiving partial payments of $21,000 each.
The estimates also request $6 million to support the co-development of a national action plan in response to the issues identified in the final report and the calls for justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Our hearts are with the families of the missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and two-spirit and gender-diverse people and the survivors. Our government, indigenous leaders, survivors, families and provincial and territorial governments are working hard to co-develop the national action plan that will set a clear road map to ensure that indigenous women and girls and two-spirit+ people can be safe wherever they live.
We will not let the families and survivors down. We have already put in place concrete actions to end this national tragedy as documented on my department's website. We are grateful for all the work of all of our partners towards a national action plan. As you know, prior to COVID-19, work to develop the plan was well under way, and indigenous women's organizations had received funding to engage their communities.
The funding in the estimates will further support national and regional indigenous organizations and groups to engage with their members, and families to engage in ensuring that the national action plan is accountable.
As we have seen with COVID-19, better data is essential in being able to assess results. We are working to determine the appropriate indicators and reporting by partners to ensure an effective plan. This money that is in the supplementary estimates today will ensure that we will be able to measure, adapt, measure, adapt for the next five years.
We cannot let the families and survivors down. We promised concrete actions to stop this national tragedy. We owe it to them to be accountable for the results.
I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, merci, meegwetch.
. Greetings and bonjour
I want to acknowledge that I'm speaking to you from my office in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, Treaty 1 territory as well as the traditional homeland of the Métis Nation, and a city that is now home to many Inuit.
I'm happy to be here today with Minister Miller and Minister Bennett to clarify and contextualize the actions the Government of Canada has taken and continues to take to assist indigenous nations and all northerners during this COVID-19 pandemic. I also thank you for this opportunity to discuss the important work Northern Affairs is doing to confront and mitigate the situation in regard to COVID in the north.
I'd like to take the time to thank the public service for their adaptability and professionalism. They have been working under very difficult circumstances these last few months in their commitment to serving Canadians.
We recognize that many Canadians are facing financial hardships, and they are concerned for their health, their jobs and their families. This is especially true in Canada's north, but there are exceptional challenges in meeting the unique needs of northerners in this pandemic.
The supports I will speak to today augment ongoing funding and programs to help those living in remote and northern communities.
These estimates include key initiatives and new funding totalling approximately $879.5 million. Of that amount, $130.8 million is for Northern Affairs. This includes $15.9 million in vote 10 grants and contributions for the north, of which $10 million is to support research and higher education in Canada's north, and $6 million is to support planning activities led by the Government of Northwest Territories for the proposed Taltson hydroelectricity expansion project.
In response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, we have committed to additional investments and expanded measures and support for the north, which are included in these supplementary estimates. Our government's objective is to provide needed support to address the concerns facing the north, including support for health and social services and nutrition, as well as air transport. This is based on critical priorities identified by the territories in order to prepare for and respond to the pandemic and to avoid the spread of the virus.
We also recognize the increased costs of many essential goods in the north. Families are facing increased financial pressures and should not be worried about how to pay for nutritious food or essential household items. That's why we have committed up to $25 million to support enhancements to Nutrition North Canada, further safeguarding food security for people living in the north.
This funding will help ensure that Nutrition North Canada fulfills its mandate to improve access to healthy foods through nutritional education and subsidies. By doing so, we will help to alleviate the costs of food in isolated communities. We have seen recently what this means on the ground in cutting the cost of flour in half and making milk more affordable so that people can afford a four-litre bag rather than the one litre that they may have previously purchased. This support is in addition to the harvesters grant, which was developed in direct collaboration with indigenous partners. This grant is helping northerners access traditional foods by lowering the cost of getting out on the land.
We have invested up to $72.6 million to address urgent health care and social service needs in the territories in response to COVID and, as you know, airlines are a critical link in maintaining the supply chain for the movement of essential goods and services. That's why we have provided up to $17.3 million to enable the continuation of northern air services supporting essential resupply and medical services in the north. We recognize the essential role that a focused and reliable air network plays in enabling the movement of essential goods and services in response to the pandemic.
Funding has been disbursed already for the urgent healthcare and social support needs in the territories in response to COVID-19 and to enable the continuation of northern air services supporting essential resupply and medical services in the north.
We continue to work closely with indigenous partners as well as provincial and territorial governments to ensure that northerners get through this difficult time.
I want to thank you again for this opportunity to be here today. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you for that, Minister.
I know it's urgent. Coming from the mouths of the chambers themselves, they said that short of tourism, mining is the industry and they really need help.
I want to ask you about a specific line item in the estimates. It's on page 2-20, and it's “Contributions for promoting the safe use, development, conservation and protection of the North's natural resources, and promoting scientific development for Indigenous Peoples and the North”. The estimate to date is $147 million and the supplementary estimate is another $6.6 million on top of that, so the revised and total estimate is $153,792,914.
With that kind of money, Minister, we're wanting to know where that is going and what that's being spent on.
To get to the nitty-gritty of the racism that is at the root of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, we have to take a look at the fact that it's partly about respect.
For one thing, women are not seen to be respected as equal citizens in the eyes of some men, and then when you add on somebody who is racialized, it's even more difficult for them. Anybody whose ever gone through a sexual assault of any sort, which many of us unfortunately have, know what it's like to be just an object and not actually thought of as a human being.
What are your thoughts about what we can do as a government, as individuals and as members of Parliament to change that old-fashioned and just really despicable mentality?
Thank you to the witnesses who are participating in our committee meeting. I also want to thank the technicians and the interpreters, who are essential.
I am on the traditional territory of the Algonquin, Anishinabe and Cree of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.
My question is for Minister Bennett.
Ms. Bennett, in your mandate letter, you were tasked with drafting legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the end of 2020. The deadline is approaching and time is running out.
Will you commit to introducing a bill as soon as Parliament resumes in September?
Thank you, Chair, and a shout-out to the IT team and translation for always being so great with all of us.
Thank you to the ministers for being here today. With my time crunch, I'm going to ask that you keep your responses to about a minute .
My first two questions are for Minister Miller.
First, the Inuit child first initiative was meant to assist Inuit children and parents. Instead, we hear stories of unbelievable hoops that parents need to jump through. A woman from Iqaluit told the Nunatsiaq News she had applied seven times, writing over 25,000 words, with over 50 appointments with qualified professionals and over 40 supporting letters, among many other items, just in the application process.
That is completely outrageous. We need to ensure Inuit children have access to fulfill their needs. What is being done to make this initiative work for children and parents?
Thank you to our guests and witnesses for being here today.
I also want to thank Mr. Powlowski for giving us a great tour of his house when trying to find some headphones earlier. I appreciate that too.
My questions will be directed to Minister Bennett. Thank you for being here.
With 14 first nations in my riding, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls matters a lot to many of my constituents. One of the chiefs, Chief Billy Joe, lost his youngest daughter, Bella Laboucan-McLean, a few years back in Toronto. Initially, the Toronto police called her death a suicide, and then later that was changed to a suspicious death. To this day, the family doesn't have any answers, and we continue to look for answers. We're looking to have the response to the national inquiry help out with that.
Your mandate letter calls for you to lead the response to the inquiry, but it appears that the national action plan launch has been postponed. Minister Bennett, can you confirm that it has indeed been postponed?
Thank you for the question.
The story of Chief Laboucan and Bella is one that really underlines how much work we have to do. This was a tragedy that happened here in Toronto. I think we are feeling now that the family liaison units that were set up at the launch of the commission itself are helping families to navigate the justice system in a better way and to access healing.
I think there have been families where.... The FILU here in Ontario commissioned the documentary Audrey's Story, where the chief coroner has reopened the case. I think, again, this is about justice for the families, healing for the families and survivors, as well as putting in the concrete measures to stop this tragedy.
Because this is the first-ever national inquiry, it means that all the provinces and territories are working on their plan, their chapter, as well as the distinctions-based lens that will allow first nations, Inuit, Métis and two-spirited and gender-diverse people to have their own views in a national action plan.
Arnold, I think the thing that really matters is that it works. It can't be a national action plan that sits on a shelf. That's why the money in the supplementary estimates today is so important. It will allow us to choose the indicators, work with families and survivors, and make sure that we're measuring/adapting, measuring/adapting, and getting the results. We cannot let those families and survivors down.
Thank you, MP Battiste, for what is really an excellent question that goes to the heart of some of the work that Indigenous Services Canada does.
Mr. Chair, at the end of my statement I will pass the microphone over to ADM Valerie Gideon to show some of the daily work that we do at Indigenous Services Canada. I'm going to quote numbers, but behind those numbers are kids whose lives are being transformed by the implementation of Jordan's principle by this government. It's key, as part of our work with first nations, to ensure that this principle is being.... It's a sacred one to be upheld. The children really have access to products and services that they support, need and have the right to have.
The member has noted that supplementary estimates (A) provide $232 million in new funding to support the continued implementation of this principle. It brings the total budget for Jordan's principle up to $668 million. This ensures that children receive access to the health, social and educational products, services and supports they need, as well as speech and language pathology, physiotherapy, mental wellness supports, education assistance and mobility aids.
During this COVID period, those needs have become more acute as schools are shut down. As those needs become more specific, it's tailoring critical needs within the home. That has put pressure on the system, but it's welcome pressure because it is something that we need to fulfill as part of our duty to indigenous peoples.
On that note, I will pass the microphone over to Valerie Gideon.
I as well want to thank you, ministers and all officials appearing at committee today. I know your time is valuable and you're busy.
I firmly believe that one of the primary functions of a member of Parliament is to provide financial oversight. Scrutinizing government spending has become very difficult under the circumstances. In fact, this morning the Parliamentary Budget Officer issued a report in which he raised many flags about the government's lack of transparency and accountability, and identified how difficult it was for parliamentarians to do their job in light of the current conditions. I want to make the best use of the time we have today, and again, I do thank you for being here.
My first question is for Minister Miller. Minister, Saskatchewan is currently in its third phase of reopening, and in fact, this morning, announced the date for phase four of its opening.
The government started announcing measures to help Canadian businesses way back in March, but unfortunately, many indigenous businesses, indigenous financial institutions and urban indigenous organizations were left out of those original announcements.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with the general manager of a community futures organization that also acts as an AFI in northern Saskatchewan. Because of that, many of the businesses he serves are indigenous businesses. He indicated to me that he finally received his community futures funds last Thursday, and only this week will he be able to actually disburse the funds to those businesses that truly need this help.
Can you identify for me why it took so long for the funding to actually reach these businesses after the announcement on April 17?
Before answering, I want to highlight the excellent work you've done in communicating with our office as to some of the things you're seeing in northern areas of Saskatchewan. You have done excellent work with our teams in supporting all the work that has been done in La Loche, which is an extremely concerning situation.
On your question—and it's an extremely important question—we've been rolling out measures and programs in record times. The last thing we wanted to do was leave indigenous communities behind, and that includes in terms of business support. These are things that ordinarily would go through a very long process. As you recognized, they've been compressed into a very, very tight time frame.
The importance for us, when announcing things, was to ensure that potential recipients knew they had the backing of the Government of Canada. We announced $306 million of specific indigenous funding, knowing that indigenous businesses were best served through the 59 AFIs across the country. As well, last week we announced an additional $117 million specifically in loans, and those that would be, for the most part, forgivable, to ensure there was that support in place.
The timing of these things can always be scrutinized. Again, this is something that this committee plays a key role in doing, and Parliament plays a key role in doing. In terms of timing and the ability of government to move on a dime, I'm quite proud of the work we've done.
I can speak to a specific situation that you're highlighting, and I absolutely would like to look at that with my team.
Communities know that the Government of Canada has backed them financially and will continue to do so as we chart the path of COVID-19, which most experts still don't have the capacity to fully predict. We do have to acknowledge that uncertainty as we take measures in a very precipitous fashion.
Thank you for that, Minister.
I would just comment that, from many of the people I've talked to, it seems that some of the support for indigenous businesses came almost as an afterthought and wasn't part of the original consultation. That's just some criticism I'm hearing from people on the ground. I pass that on.
I'm going to move on to my second question, also for Minister Miller. As you're well aware, northern Saskatchewan is home to many friendship centres that offer essential programs to urban indigenous people. In March, the government announced the application-based program for urban indigenous organizations to receive funding, which you referred to in your comments today.
The concern I heard from friendship centres was that it was weeks before they heard from the government, and then they received a small fraction of what they'd asked for. On May 21, you did announce some additional funding for urban indigenous organizations, but again, I'm hearing from these people on the ground, who could potentially be recipients and who have great work to do, but they've heard nothing from the government since the announcement. There's no idea of the timing or the outcome of this.
Can you clarify for us and for these organizations when they might actually get answers and when they might see some of this additional funding to support the urban indigenous people in their communities?
Before I start, I would like to acknowledge that I'm on the sacred territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Huron-Wendat and many first nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
My questions will focus on youth.
Minister Miller, we know that when indigenous communities and indigenous nations move toward self-governance and self-determination, they have better outcomes across the board, whether that's in health, education or other ways, but part of this involves supporting effective community governance in first nations. How will the $24 million allocated to the band support program in these supplementary estimates help these first nations move toward self-determination and better outcomes for kids?
When we speak about self-determination, the tendency in government is to speak in broad, almost philosophical brush strokes. We speak of the critical importance of UNDRIP, but you brought it to its core, and I spoke earlier to it when I addressed issues on Jordan's principle.
When you talk about building nationhood, you speak about a number of pillars: security and control over land, over people, the ability to have control over your health care and your education. Those are the pillars you look at as part of nation building, on the terms told to us by the indigenous people who are renewing that nation-to-nation relationship with us.
Kids go to the heart of that painful realization. When we talk about reforming child and family services, we talk about care, control and custody over things that somebody like me would take for granted, which has been taken away from indigenous peoples. It is a difficult topic for all of us to speak about, but most certainly for indigenous peoples.
Making sure that families have the supports they need, making sure that within government and its process, which you alluded to, we continue to support self-determination and continue to support the governance tables that Minister Bennett is in charge of, is so important in being able to speak to issues that I take, with respect to government, as granted, which are looked at in a different perspective in an indigenous community.
Indigenous children are an immensely growing part of the population, and it is a generation that cannot be left behind, but I don't dictate those terms. The terms need to be told to me, to us, and we need to work in partnership. Perhaps sometimes it makes things slower and more difficult, but it is the right way to proceed.
I want to conclude by thanking you for that important question.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I thank the witnesses. It is always nice to welcome ministers to committee meetings.
I would like to state that I am on the traditional Mi'kmaq territory in my hometown of Amqui. In the Mi'kmaq language, Amqui means “where people have fun”. It is a lot of fun to be here tonight with you.
My question is for you, Minister Miller.
In your opening remarks, you stated that the public is becoming more aware than ever of the injustices indigenous peoples face in the system. I am sure the government has the best of intentions, but many people are still being left behind.
Do you feel the amounts provided to date are sufficient, not only to begin reconciliation but also to restore balance to the system? In times of crisis, such as the one we are currently experiencing, inequalities are only increasing, particularly in certain communities.
With particular reference to the indigenous community support fund, are the amounts that have been invested sufficient?
First and foremost, I would like to acknowledge your leader Yves-François Blanchet's speech this morning on behalf of Regional Chief Ghislain Picard about matters such as the importance of helping indigenous police. It is very much a key point to make to Parliament.
As to whether the amounts are sufficient, I will give you a qualified answer. We admit failure with regard to the inequalities that indigenous communities have been facing since the beginning of the crisis.
The demands we received were related to overcrowding and low capitalization of indigenous housing, and lack of investment in housing, education and healthcare. The demands were also directed at provincial governments.
Faced with this failure, we had to deploy resources in some communities that would not have needed them if they were not indigenous. Mobile equipment was needed to be able to isolate people and do tests, and we had to increase the number of nurses. We deployed resources based on the cards we were dealt.
Are the many resources we deployed in these communities sufficient? We will not know until later. It has worked on reserves because not many people there have been infected with the virus. We are facing an unpredictable epidemic. We must therefore always remain vigilant and deploy the necessary resources. There is a very real danger of several successive waves.
My question is for Minister Bennett.
As we look to rebuild after COVID-19, we are looking to build back better. We've heard from many witnesses that the normal on reserve is far below the Canadian standard. Many witnesses stated that in order for first nations to grow and not rely on government, they need to access financial capital and loans to be able to grow their economies.
I'm wondering, as part of our efforts to move forward, whether there is the ability for us to also include first nations government in that, in terms of their ability to grow through forgivable loans, interest-free loans, as we've seen as part of the COVID money.
MP Battiste, I think we've seen a real increase, particularly on the west coast but moving east, of the use of 10-year grants. They are very important in creating that predictability and ability to look over 10 years as to what the needs in communities are. My mandate letter, as well as a number of other ministers', contained undertakings toward indigenous people in closing the infrastructure gap.
We work with communities. Our regional directors work on the five-year infrastructure plans that are key to the planning of communities. It's something that I think we need to take a look at as we take stock and ask, “What is the new normal? What are the needs within communities to ensure that they thrive, that they grow and that we can continue the nation-to-nation relationship?” That includes looking at financial instruments that non-indigenous communities take for granted or that are available and haven't necessarily been available.
A number of the issues that we face on a daily basis.... Communities choose to get out from under the Indian Act. Again, these are slow discussions, but they are deliberate ones. They are very important in order to make sure that community decision-making, nation decision-making, is not made from Ottawa but, indeed, made by the peoples and the nations that we are trying to improve our relationship with.
In addition to the limited scrutiny and transparency that I talked about in my earlier round of questioning, as identified by the PBO this morning, the House of Commons is no longer actually sitting, and because of that, I'm not able to ask or submit order paper questions. This question might be one that I would normally have as an order paper question, but I'm going to ask it in this forum. It's for Minister Miller.
Last week I spoke with Chief Peter Bill of the Pelican Lake First Nation in my riding. He expressed his concern that the carbon tax is raising the cost of fuel, heating fuel and other goods in his first nation, and is making life more expensive for members of his first nation.
Minister, can you tell me how much carbon tax revenue the Government of Canada is collecting directly from first nations across Canada?
Thank you so much, Jaime. That's a great question.
First of all, I want to say clearly that the images we've been seeing on television for the last couple of weeks—whether it's in Nunavut, Alberta, the Maritimes or Minneapolis—are absolutely unacceptable. For me personally, they are revolting. It's something that our country, our society, can really no longer put up with.
I'm talking to you from Winnipeg, and when I first started getting involved in community issues and politics, there was something called the aboriginal justice inquiry that kicked off in the late 1980s. Judge Murray Sinclair presided over it. Three years or four years later, there was a big book of recommendations on how we work ourselves out of it. Successive governments since that time have done something; others have not done anything.
The bottom line is that 20-some years later, there is not a lot of change in the city of Winnipeg. We've had three shootings of young indigenous people in the last six months. That is unacceptable.
Since then, of course, we've had the calls to action from the truth and reconciliation commission. We've had the inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous girls and women.
I think that all levels of government have been shown the way over successive years. What we really need to do is to act, to do something more dramatic, which hasn't been done in a long time.
There are no simple solutions. There is no silver bullet that's going to turn all of this around. We have to take collective action. We have to take a whole-of-government approach and a whole-of-society approach. That's the way to do it.
In trying to answer your question, I know that our government has spent unprecedented amounts, at least $25 billion in new money, to try to change education, health care and infrastructure, to try to change those social determinants of health to let young people have a better chance out there.
However, it's not just the indigenous population; it's the non-indigenous population that has an even greater responsibility. It is really built into our colonial system, where the first three policy objectives of the Government of Canada were to civilize, to Christianize and to assimilate indigenous people into Canadian life way back when Canada was formed. That is really the basis of the racism. It needs to stop, and it needs a dramatic government intervention.
I hope that our government will be able to lead the way, because the images we saw of police brutality are absolutely unacceptable. We need to stop the hate, the violence, and we need to stop the racism.
Earlier, I ran out of time before I could thank Mr. Miller for his kind words about my leader. I will certainly pass them on to him.
The key message in his speech, of course, came from Mr. Picard. He said that in three months, police operations have claimed more victims than COVID-19 itself, which is quite unbelievable.
This brings to light several issues. Since the 1960s, 14 commission of inquiry reports have been released, all with the same damning conclusions. We have been aware of problems, inequalities and injustices for a long time, but it seems only now that people are thinking of going into solution mode.
Beyond funding, what has been done so far to address these issues? It is not just a matter of putting money on the table to fix them. What has been done so far?
We are all becoming aware of the situation and we are outraged. Over the past few weeks, you may have seen me express my outrage on television. As you have pointed out, now it is time to act.
When the MMIWG report came out, we did not delay in taking action, especially with regard to the findings on police forces.
These measures are not only the responsibility of the federal government, but also of the provincial governments, as they also control their own police forces. There is work to be done in the short, medium and long term.
First nations have long called for policing to be under their own control and managed by their communities. I know many indigenous people who have served in the military and have been part of a non-indigenous police force. They, too, would like to have an indigenous police force in their communities because the situation is unacceptable.
As ministers—three of us are here at today's meeting—we feel that now is the time to act. This will not happen overnight. We can take action in the short term, but it is a job, as Minister Vandal pointed out in English a few minutes ago, that will also be done in the medium and long term, even if it means reforming a police force. This promise was made two years ago.
My question is for Minister Bennett.
On April 11, 2016, you promised this very committee that your government was committed to putting an end to long-term boil water advisories on reserve within five years. On June 11, 2019, you promised that boil water advisories would end by 2021. Clearly, your government is going to be breaking another promise to indigenous people.
I looked on the website. It has not been updated in terms of boil water advisories since February 15, 2020. That was prior to COVID.
In the estimates, you've allocated approximately $6,832,500 for capital investments. How much of that $6 million will be invested to end boil water advisories?
If you could you limit your response because of the short amount of time, thank you.
Thank you. Thanks, Ms. Gazan.
You will recall that we were very late getting started because of a number of technical issues. I said that I would ask the committee, because we need unanimous consent to continue after the hour.
Is it the wish of the committee to continue to fill out our round of questioning? Are there any comments? Does anyone have issues that would not enable them to?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: I'm going to ask that we carry on now for the remainder of the questioning round, which is a five-minute round, followed by a round of two and a half minutes.
Mr. Viersen, you are up for five minutes.
My questions continue with Minister Bennett.
Thanks, once again, for being here.
I also want to thank the IT folks for making this all happen. I'm definitely looking forward to doing this in person back in Ottawa soon.
Minister Bennett, the last time I had an opportunity to ask questions, we were talking about the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Over 50% of the victims of human trafficking in Canada are indigenous women and girls. Under the “Master List of Report Recommendations”, there are theme 14 and theme 14a, which is “The need to address human trafficking of Indigenous women and girls”. Are you familiar with those two themes?
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thanks again, everybody, for all of your questions. They are really good and respectful questions from the committee and very interesting answers from the ministers. I really appreciate it.
I want to talk again about self-governance. We know that when indigenous communities move towards self-governance and self-determination, they really have better outcomes right across the board. Jaime can tell us that is the case with education, for instance, and also with health care, and one would imagine with policing. If we can go in that direction and prevent all these terrible atrocities that are happening.... Two in New Brunswick just in the last while were health wellness checks, and people ended up with five bullets in them or two bullets in them. It's just terrible.
My question involves the $24 million that was allocated to the band support program in the supplementary estimates. That was to help first nations move towards self-determination. Do you know yet—this is to any of the ministers—how that's being used? What else do we need to do to help first nations people and communities move towards self-determination?
Perhaps all three of you could give a quick answer; I'd really appreciate hearing from all three of you.
As an equally overarching comment, one of the observations I've had in the short time in which I've had the honour to serve as indigenous services minister is that at some point you realize that the pace has to be dictated by indigenous communities, and not the reverse. That means we talk on their terms and according to their priorities, and that we realize there's not a one-size-fits-all answer, which is so self-evident.
You may go into a particular community and say this framework we've proposed works perfectly. You may go into a different part of the country and hear “No, we have a treaty basis and we would like to proceed along those terms”, or in a different part of the country it might be rejected entirely and there's a different nature of discussion.
This is self-evident to the communities you're discussing, but perhaps not to a number of well-meaning, non-indigenous people, including me a couple of years ago, for sure. This is a long process. It is indeed sometimes frustrating, but I think this government has been dedicated to doing its best to get it right.
It requires patience. It requires dialogue first and foremost, but also recognition that it is key to support those pillars that I mentioned in response to Adam. They are pillars to identity and self-governance and nationhood that we take for granted, but they are very important in fostering and continuing to foster in the right way.
Thank you so much for that very important question.
If there's anything that we've learned through these difficult times, I think it's that we need to do a better job of making sure that we are constructing more Internet communications and fibre optics throughout the north. I know that's a priority. Since I've been minister—for about six months now—I've heard that quite often in my consultations.
I can tell you that our government is spending billions of dollars over a 10-year period to improve connectivity in the north, in the Arctic and in northern provinces. It's something that's absolutely essential. We're doing it in partnership with first nations, with Inuit, with Métis communities and with rural municipalities.
As I stated earlier, the benefit has really become apparent through these difficult times. When you look at the opportunities for education and the opportunities for provision of health services to isolated communities, this can't happen fast enough. I know that several ministries within our government have prioritized this, and there are literally billions of dollars over a prolonged period that are going to be invested in this service.
I could say a few things.
You're right, Adam, that it isn't necessarily a remoteness issue. We've seen that in the Six Nations, and Pam has been instrumental in making sure we're aware of that and that there is a response.
This isn't necessarily for our ministries. Minister is in charge of ensuring that we move forward on connectivity. Clearly, when it comes to education, and being able to study at home and have more people connected at the same time, the needs are more acute and the disparities are greater the further north you go, but it isn't limited simply to more northern areas, although that need is acute as well.
There are reflections that we need to have as we deploy, as part of our governmental undertaking in prior budgets, connectivity solutions to communities and get people wired, particularly in a COVID environment, where there are issues with making sure contractors are observing the proper protocols. That will be largely insufficient, and as we move forward, we have to continue having that reflection and making sure that people do have access to connectivity solutions.
I will provide a two-part answer.
With respect to the first question, which concerns the similar amounts that are part of the allocations to communities, this is that good old $300 million plus allocated at the very beginning. The Government of Canada gave the money to the communities to ensure that they had the financial means to make their own decisions and to mitigate a potential outbreak of COVID-19. It worked well.
Of course, since nothing can be taken for granted and we need to prepare for a second wave, an additional fund of over $200 million has been allocated specifically to mobile solutions for screening and isolation. These are internal resources that can be strategically deployed in communities.
Now, since we cannot predict how the pandemic will evolve, we are trying to determine what support communities need so that we can target it better than before. We have been asked for resources, for additional security, for example, or envelopes for better preparations; these are not financial choices made at the expense of decisions that should always be health-focused first and foremost.
With respect to the first part of your question, it remains to be seen, but we are always prepared to reevaluate envelopes that were previously allocated.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Minister.
Thank you to all of our ministers for appearing today.
Thank you to the staff, as well, and I also want to thank our clerk and the technical people who helped get us through a very difficult day. I used to run marathons, and this is a little tougher than Boston, trying to juggle everything today, but it all worked out for the benefit of broadening our knowledge, and that's why we're here.
Thank you to all. That will conclude our meeting today.
The meeting is adjourned.