Members of the committee, good morning.
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we come together on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
It is my pleasure to be here to discuss the 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B) and the 2020-21 main estimates for the Department of Indigenous Services.
From Indigenous Services Canada, I'm joined by Sony Perron, associate deputy minister, Philippe Thompson, chief finance, results and delivery officer, Valerie Gideon, senior assistant deputy minister of the first nations and Inuit health branch, and Joanne Wilkinson, assistant deputy minister for child and family services reform.
Since its creation in 2017, our department has focused on closing socio-economic gaps and working with partners to improve access to services for first nations, Inuit and Métis. The department works in collaboration with partners to improve well-being in indigenous communities across Canada and to support indigenous peoples in assuming control of the delivery of services in their communities at the pace and in the ways they choose, of course.
Over time, it is our goal that indigenous peoples will have the capacity necessary to deliver programs and services to their peoples, and this department, and my role, will be obsolete. We are working with partners to build this capacity.
To support this essential work, the department's 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B) detail initiatives totalling approximately $1 billion. This brings total appropriations for the department to $13.8 billion for this fiscal year.
More than half of this new funding—$588.3 million—is to support the ongoing delivery of the first nations child and family services program, bringing the program's overall budget from $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion.
Members will be aware that this committee served a vital role in addressing the overrepresentation of indigenous children in care with its study of Bill , an act respecting first nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, which came into force at the start of this year and empowers indigenous peoples to assert their inherent jurisdiction over child and family services and the well-being of their children.
Of the amount requested for this program, $414.9 million supports the implementation of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings from 2016 to September 2019 related to first nations child and family services by funding agencies based on their actual needs and focusing on activities and programs aimed at preventing children from being taken into care.
Our government believes in supporting a prevention-based system, where the needs of first nations children come first. Funding for the first nations child and family services program has more than doubled between 2016 and 2018-19. Since 2016, we've worked with partners to implement systemic remedies in support of the needs of first nations children. This means taking steps to keep children with their families to keep them connected with their communities and their culture.
The other two major items presented in the supplementary estimates (B) are funding to support Jordan's principle and emergency management service providers.
I'd like now to turn to the main estimates for 2020-21.
For the upcoming fiscal year, the department's main estimates are $12.8 billion. This reflects a net increase of approximately $538.7 million, or 4%, compared to last year's main estimates.
Further to these estimates, the department also anticipates funding from any investments announced in budget 2020, as well as future Treasury Board decisions. This additional funding is expected to be accessed through the supplementary estimates process.
This year, the department's main estimates reflect a net increase of $483.6 million related to the transfer of individual affairs and lands and economic development programs, as well as internal services from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
In addition to this, you will see increased funding related to some of the department's core priorities. For example, these estimates reflect an increase of $85.7 million for elementary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary education programs. From 2011-12 to 2018-19, actual expenditures in education have increased by about 41.7%. This is reflective of our government's commitment to ensuring that every first nations child has the best start in life and that first nations maintain control of first nations education.
You will also note that, in these estimates, $1.5 billion in funding is set aside in 2020-21 for first nations that have entered into the 10-year grant agreement, including 85 first nations that moved to the grant model last fiscal year, with additional first nations communities that will move to the grant in 2020-21.
The 10-year grant is a key initiative of our government's ongoing commitment to establish a new relationship that moves towards flexible, predictable and sustained funding for first nation communities.
I hope this presentation has provided insight into the department's supplementary estimates (B) and main estimates documents.
We have made, and are continuing to make, important changes in our relationships with first nations, Inuit and Métis. While there is still much work to do, our government's historic investments are making a difference in closing the gaps that exist and are improving the quality of life of indigenous peoples, all while advancing self-determination.
Before I end my remarks, I would like to briefly update the committee on COVID-19 as it relates to indigenous peoples in Canada, as I know you share my concerns about that. I thank those who attended the meeting with Valerie Gideon this morning for a more detailed briefing. In fact, I would invite further questions, should you so choose.
Our government is working with all levels of government, including actively supporting indigenous communities to prepare for COVID-19. This is a matter of the health and well-being of all Canadians. This is a time for jurisdictional co-operation, not divisions.
These efforts are supported through a federal-provincial-territorial special advisory committee for COVID-19 that is focused on coordination of federal, provincial, and territorial preparedness and response across Canada's health sector for all Canadians, including first nations, Inuit and Métis.
The federal government, including Indigenous Services Canada, has multiple systems in place to prepare for, detect and limit the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
In budget 2019, I would note, our government invested $211 million over five years, including $79.86 million, as the first-ever investment in health resiliency and health emergency preparedness on reserve. These investments have enabled first nations to strengthen their capacity, have allowed us to establish effective inter-jurisdictional networks, and are supporting us in our work to monitor and manage COVID-19.
My officials are working very closely with first nations communities to support them in implementing their pandemic plans, to provide surge capacity where needed, and to offer technical assistance as required.
The importance of clear, concise and timely communication and information-sharing can't be overstated. We all have a role to play in ensuring that our communications are based on the best science and the clearest recommendations. Factual, practical and clear information is essential. We're working with partners to make this information available in indigenous languages through print, radio and social media.
We have learned from past outbreaks. Accurate information is critical, and we all have a role to play in making sure that people are referring to information from trusted sources such as governments and community leadership.
My officials are working with local health directors, health workers and nurses through various social networks including with regional medical officers of health. These medical officers of health are also working with provincial partners in ensuring that supports to first nations, whether they live on reserves or not, are fully integrated into provincial plans.
The department has a network of regional emergency management and communicable disease emergency coordinators, as well as regional medical officers. Together, they advise and support first nations across provinces and lead public health emergency preparedness and response as required.
While recognizing that, in the territories, primary health care is delivered by the territorial governments, my department is working closely with indigenous partners and territorial governments to share information and prepare for COVID-19 and will be available to provide surge capacity support in a timely manner if needed.
While we have in place solid planning, monitoring and surge capacity, we also need to be very vigilant.
Proximity-related factors, such as overcrowding, and other determinants of health can increase the risks for some populations, including indigenous peoples. This is why we need to be focused on supporting communities on an ongoing basis and ensuring that we are able to reduce risks where possible.
I would now be happy to answer any questions that the committee may have.
I will split my time with Valerie Gideon because I think she would have some important elements to add on this.
The budget that this department administers resembles and mirrors that of a province. It administers health care, education, emergency management and infrastructure. The key areas, to your point, are the social determinants of health. They guide everything that underpins the unacceptable socio-economic gap that exists between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. This is a multi-pronged approach that has to be done in partnership with indigenous communities. When it comes to health care, there are specific needs, as we well know, in indigenous communities. There is, frankly, well-deserved and proven skepticism as to how indigenous communities have been let down.
Working in partnership with indigenous communities to make sure that the health approaches are culturally sensitive is not only important policy, but also affects the scientific outcome of the health benefit and is key in a lot of areas. It's also why the has asked me to put forward distinctions-based health legislation, because we know that the outcomes are better when indigenous peoples have input into their own health. It's almost axiomatic.
The investments that we've made in the last four budgets are enormous, but as you mentioned, there is an enormous gap to close by building hospitals, making sure there are health workers in place, making sure there is access, particularly in remote areas. If there are specific needs in those remote communities, whether you need to fly someone in or out, it is very expensive, but meeting them is key to ensuring that the health outcomes are at par, if not higher than for non-indigenous peoples.
I would just ask Valerie to add a bit of colour on that, please.
MP Battiste, you raise a very important aspect of the mandate that isn't necessarily written in my mandate letter, which is making sure that non-indigenous Canadians are part of this and educating all of Canada as to the issues that have underpinned and marred the relationship and prevented it, in some ways, from moving forward. Education and communicating to non-indigenous Canadians that this is part of who we are and part of our identity is key.
I want to salute your initiative and your dedication to doing this, even before you were an MP. It is key to moving this forward. If we're only doing it among leadership, we're not exactly succeeding. We may be advancing, but we're not succeeding. It has to be among peoples. That's the main reminder that all of us need to take home.
In terms of funds, I think you'll note that in the 2021 main estimates, the amount for elementary and secondary education was $2 billion. Financially, as I mentioned in my introductory remarks, we've closed the gap in education. It's a very important social determinant of health, and key to closing the educational aspect of the socio-economic gap. With that, the success rates are amazing. There are amazing stories about indigenous children—who should never have been in that situation—in control of their educational system. You highlighted that.
There's a very tainted history, as everyone knows, with the educational system and residential schools for indigenous children. When controlled and administered in a culturally appropriate way that is sensitive to community needs, the outcomes are the same if not better. The experience with the Mi'kmaq is one example—hopefully, one of many.
These are key to who we are and key to whom we believe we are as a nation, but more importantly also as a community, making sure that we don't fail another generation of indigenous children.
I mentioned the financial support. I think it's for all to see in the main estimates. I won't go on further about that, but it's making sure that education is done in the language and is culturally appropriate. It isn't simply something you do on a Friday afternoon when everyone's tired. It's a core part of the education. It's key.
It's key to—what people use as a catchphrase but a very important one—“decolonizing”. It's about realizing what the history of Canada and indigenous peoples is. With that comes power. With that comes confidence and success, in the way that first nations dictate the pace. Obviously, uncertainty comes with that, but that's fine. It's a sign of who we are and how we move that relationship forward.
As well, educating—and you touched on that—non-indigenous Canadians is essential. It's why some of the truth and reconciliation reports touched on private actors like institutions—university institutions—in endorsing language courses. Everyone needs to realize that we're all on the same land, and no one's going anywhere, but if we want to advance the relationship, it has to be done with mutual respect, co-operation and friendship.
You talk a lot about historic investments. I want to make it clear that I'm not opposed to making investments in indigenous communities. My concern is that we have accountability and that we are doing the best that we can, when I talk about the measures, the indicators and some of those kinds of things.
In the 2018 departmental plan, FTEs for 2021 were planned to be 3,740 people. In 2019-20 that increased to 4,248, and now for 2021, it's up to 5,538 people in your department. That's almost 1,800 FTEs, or a pretty significant percentage.
In your departmental plan, you also talk about your work supporting self-determination of indigenous peoples so that in the future the services you offer are developed, governed and delivered by indigenous peoples.
Again, this morning I heard you talk about working yourself out of a job, and I totally get where you're coming from on that.
Included in this increase in FTEs is an increase for internal services, from 685 people to 1,366. That's like doubling the internal services FTEs. I would suggest to you that Canadians who are struggling to make ends meet would consider that excessive, especially given your goal of working yourself out of a job. I'm not sure many would object to the fact that those resources got to the ground in first nations communities, but when we're doubling our FTEs within the bureaucracy in Ottawa, that would be my struggle. I'm just curious to see if you think that's appropriate and what your response to that would be.
However, if I go to five minutes and 10 seconds, you'll understand?
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. Carolyn Bennett: Okay.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's good to be back.
Again, as we gather here today, we want to begin by acknowledging that we come together on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
Today, as you know, we're presenting on the 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B) and the 2020-21 main estimates for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, CIRNAC.
I will present on portions related to my work as Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations.
I'm joined by Daniel Watson, deputy minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada; and Annie Boudreau, our new chief of finance, who is also a results and delivery officer.
As you know, CIRNAC is focused on renewing the nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government relationships between Canada and first nations, Inuit and Métis. At the core of my mandate is redressing historical wrongs and supporting the acceleration of first nations, Inuit and Métis visions of self-determination.
The department's 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B) presents initiatives totalling approximately $1 billion, and this brings the total appropriations for the department to $7.1 billion. Almost all of this funding—$919 million—is dedicated to the forgiveness of indigenous groups' outstanding comprehensive land claim negotiation loan debt.
Eliminating this loan debt removes a long-standing barrier to concluding comprehensive land claim agreements.
This also signals Canada's commitment to furthering a rights-recognition approach and to concluding these processes in good faith. In fact, indigenous groups that go on to conclude comprehensive land claim agreements will benefit from increased settlement amounts, as these loans would no longer be deducted from the final settlement. Forgiveness of this debt will also provide additional funds, which can be invested in community priorities, such as closing the socio-economic gaps or supporting economic development initiatives.
These supplementary estimates also access $17.5 million to implement the recommendations of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission's report. This funding will support the design, initiation and long-term viability of programming by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to implement the Qikiqtani Truth Commission's final report recommendations.
I'll now move on to the main estimates. CIRNAC's estimates for 2020-21 will be approximately $4.9 billion.
I do want to highlight that the main estimates, as I think most of you know, are the total of all funding that has already been approved by the Treasury Board.
This is not an estimate of the total spending for the year. It's just what has already been approved by Treasury Board. For instance, we have yet to see the spending that will be outlined in budget 2020.
The Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Act came into effect on July 15, 2019, establishing CIRNAC. The fiscal year 2020-21 will be the first main estimates for the new department. The former department's 2019-20 main estimates were $7 billion, while CIRNAC's total main estimates budget for 2020-21 is $4.9 billion.
The apparent net decrease of $2.1 billion reflects a number of settlements that were paid in the current fiscal year with one-time payments and a transfer of $483.6 million to Indigenous Services Canada, which now is primarily responsible for individual affairs and lands and economic development programs.
This actually reflects a tremendous success with the resolution of long-standing historical wrongs, including the sixties scoop and the McLean day school settlements.
You will see from our main estimates that, for 2020-21, we are putting forth a strong focus and increased spending on negotiation, settlement and implementation of comprehensive claims and self-government agreements.
I would now be happy to take your questions.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss our government's supplementary estimates for the 2019-20 fiscal year, as well as the main estimates for 2020-21 for the Northern Affairs component of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs.
I want to begin by acknowledging that we are meeting on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
After a brief presentation, I would be happy to answer any questions from the committee members.
These estimates reflect our government's commitment to creating greater economic growth and a higher quality of life in Canada's north and Arctic in a fiscally responsible manner. I am confident that these estimates demonstrate our government's plan to develop long-term opportunities that protect Canada's rich natural environment and build healthier communities while also protecting the rights and the interests of indigenous peoples.
The supplementary estimates include an additional investment of $12.5 million for Nutrition North Canada, including $8 million to create a harvester support grant, which is designed to be indigenous led and will promote local harvesting of foods for distribution to more than 100 isolated communities.
We are continuing to work in partnership with key stakeholders and partners to ensure that the unique interests, priorities and circumstances of all northerners are acknowledged. In fact, we've seen first-hand how direct engagement with indigenous and community partners has resulted in significant improvements to the nutrition north program in 2018 and 2019.
We are always ready to listen to northerners on the importance of traditional food and on the way to better deal with the growing costs of hunting and harvesting in isolated communities. In addition to the health benefits of fresh local products, the participation in hunting and harvesting activities is an essential element of community well-being and cultural continuity.
In all, the main estimates include $530 million in spending related to the Northern Affairs component of the department. An amount of $108.5 million for Nutrition North Canada is included in the main estimates to continue this important initiative next fiscal year. This funding will address increased subsidy rates and a growing list of subsidized items that includes more culturally relevant and family-friendly items such as the ingredients important for making bannock, as well as infant formula and diapers.
Almost one half of the main estimates total—$253.5 million—is allocated to the ongoing work of the northern contaminated sites program. This includes the funding of the northern abandoned mine reclamation program announced in budget 2019.
As the committee is aware, the Government of Canada is responsible for the management of a portfolio of contaminated sites across the north, the result of private sector mining exploration and resource development activities that were abandoned by their former operators when they became insolvent. These complex projects present serious ongoing risks to the environment as well as human health and safety. The Government of Canada has accepted fiscal responsibility for this historical contamination and is legally obliged to manage these sites.
Together, these and other initiatives, including $52.1 million for climate change adaptation, clean energy and other measures to enhance environmental sustainability are intended to ensure northern lands and waters are healthy for future generations, while helping to secure jobs for northerners and indigenous partners.
In closing, I would note that $96.6 million for northern and Arctic governance and partnerships and $18.4 million for northern regulatory and legislative frameworks are also included in the main estimates. These funds will support the implementation of the Arctic and northern policy framework, including co-development and implementation of an Inuit Nunangat policy as we work towards the full implementation of Inuit land claims agreements.
I thank you for the time you have given me this morning, and I would now be pleased to answer any questions from the committee members.
The people of Yukon are expecting that project to be delivered.
I'll move on to my next question.
I asked a question in the House of Commons, Minister, about the devolution in Nunavut. We saw the comment a few weeks ago by Premier Savikataaq. I want to read his quote; it really says it all. It reads:
The creation of any new conservation and protected areas in Nunavut would have a significant impact on our ability to manage our lands and resources, and carry out negotiations for decision-making, leading to potentially very serious consequences.
That was on February 20, so it's fairly recent.
The reason this matters so much to the premier, and I can relate to that, being from northern B.C., is that we had a recent announcement of a caribou closure that's dramatically affecting our region. The rationale was that if we were to close an area to industrial development and maybe other things such as skidooing, ATVs and those sorts of things, that would somehow increase the population of caribou. It sounds like a great idea. I think two million acres have been closed.
But we saw and heard from experts that it wasn't necessary. They're saying that in certain areas, such as Tumbler Ridge, the caribou populations have been increasing, without any closures to change that. We also saw that industrial development isn't even there in two areas in British Columbia. Tweedsmuir Provincial Park is an example—no industrial development, but no caribou.
I understand the premier's concerns that closures don't necessarily do anything, whether it's closures of marine areas or interior land areas. I think what the premier and I are concerned about is the ever-increasing number. Right now I think the total closures amount to 12%. Your government and your have said that you want to move to 30% closures across the country by 2030. That's in 10 years. They want to more than double the protected areas. Guess where those areas come from? They aren't in Toronto or Vancouver; they're in my backyard. We produce natural resource development jobs. Indigenous jobs and prosperity come from all of that.
I want to give you time to answer the question.