I call this meeting to order.
I start by acknowledging that I am meeting with you on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabe and Chonnonton first nations.
The committee is meeting today to consider the supplementary estimates (B), 2020-21.
Remember to select the language of your choice at the bottom of the screen for the interpretation version that you wish: “Floor”, “English” or “French”.
With us today by video conference for the first hour is Marc Miller, accompanied by the following senior officials: Christiane Fox, the deputy minister; Valerie Gideon, the associate deputy minister; Mary-Luisa Kapelus, the assistant deputy minister; Chad Westmacott, director general; and Philippe Thompson, chief of finances.
Welcome, everyone. It's time for Minister Miller to make his opening statements. We allow six minutes for that opening statement.
Minister, please go ahead.
Kwe. Unnusakkut. Boohzoo. Good evening.
I am speaking to you this evening from the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I'm pleased to join you virtually today.
I also want to note the presence, as the chair did, of Christiane Fox, deputy minister; Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister; and the senior officials from Indigenous Services Canada named by the chair.
I appear before the committee today knowing that, despite these very difficult days, we continue to make great strides in reducing socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. In these unprecedented times, we must not fail in our commitment to reconciliation or our efforts to address the inequality experienced by indigenous peoples.
Colonial practices and decades of inequality and discrimination have compounded the challenges faced by indigenous communities during the pandemic. Once again, we have witnessed the tremendous resilience and determination of indigenous communities and leaders all over the country, both during the first wave and now in the midst of the second.
As of November 18, we can confirm that there are 1,170 active cases of COVID-19 in on-reserve first nations communities, for a total of 2,890 confirmed cases. Of that number, 1,668 people have recovered and, unfortunately, 22 have died.
Nunavut has 70 confirmed positive cases. Nunavik, in Quebec, has 29 confirmed positive cases. Nunavik has one active case, and the rest of those affected have recovered. Nunatsiavut, however, has no confirmed positive cases at the moment.
Lastly, the Northwest Territories have 15 confirmed positive cases and 10 cases in which people have recovered, for a total of 25 confirmed positive cases. The Yukon has 25 confirmed positive cases, 22 of which are people who have recovered.
I remain convinced that, thanks to first nations, Inuit and Métis leadership during this crisis, lives will continue to be saved as the appropriate measures are taken and support is made available to community members.
I will now turn to the topic of today's hearing, which is closely related to the pandemic response.
These supplementary estimates include total authorities for Indigenous Services Canada in 2020-21 of $16.3 billion, a historical high in line with these unprecedented times. They reflect a net increase of $1.8 billion.
Of that $1.8 billion in new funding, $1.1 billion in both voted and statutory appropriations, or approximately 60%, is related to various COVID-19 responses, measures that have been integral to our response to date.
Most of the remaining funds, including $740 million in vote 10 grants and contributions, are providing further support to indigenous businesses impacted by COVID-19 as well as to maintain essential services through the non-insured health benefits program, child and family services, Jordan's principle and long-term care engagement.
Key programs and initiatives included in these estimates directly linked to addressing the impacts of COVID-19 include $305 million for the first wave of the indigenous community support fund, allocated directly to indigenous communities off-reserve or to urban indigenous service delivery organizations that were so key in fighting the first wave.
There is an amount of $298.3 million to address the specific needs of indigenous businesses impacted by COVID-19; $245.4 million in funding for a safe restart and reopening and for health and safety measures for schools and child care centres on reserve; $105.9 million to support students and youth, primarily delivered through the post-secondary education program and first nations and Inuit youth employment strategy; $82.5 million in support of surge capacity and adaptation of indigenous mental wellness services; and finally, $75 million for first nations, Inuit and Métis businesses and indigenous businesses in the tourism sector, which has been hit so hard.
To continue our effort to support children and families, $240.9 million has been assigned to child and family services in these supplementary estimates.
I will close by saying that while our commitment to sustained attention and action to address the challenges faced by first nations, Inuit and Métis during this pandemic will be maintained over the course of the next several months, we're not losing sight of the broader need to advance on our government's and Canada's shared priorities with indigenous leaders. These include infrastructure;supports for children, women and families; health legislation and transformation; new fiscal relationships; economic development; and the recent universal broadband fund announcement, under which $50 million will be dedicated to mobile Internet projects that primarily benefit indigenous peoples.
As COVID-19 continues to progress, we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that indigenous peoples have all the supports they need to protect their health and safety in both the immediate and the long term.
I am encouraged to say that tomorrow, along with the , we will be announcing support on this matter in light of the various surges, notably across the Prairies.
I look forward to taking your questions.
Meegwetch, nakurmiik, merci, thank you.
I want to thank Mr. Miller and his team for being here.
As I've said before, I know your worlds are very busy, and we appreciate your time.
Mr. Miller, it seems that you and I have had this conversation too many times over the last few months, with a serious outbreak in northern Saskatchewan.
I want to ask you about another serious outbreak we have, this time in the Athabasca region, and particularly in the Fond du Lac community where, according to a call I was on yesterday, they had 49 active cases and 233 people on their contact lists.
To add to that, they have a very significant water treatment plant issue. They had a breakdown of some pumps and whatnot in their water plant. Obviously, in a fly-in community, that's putting the front-line health workers and the whole community at a pretty significant risk, when they're trying to do swabs and make health calls and at the same time can't wash their hands in the middle of a pandemic.
I also had the opportunity to discuss this situation with the vice-chief of the P.A. Grand Council yesterday. We were on a conference call with the people from these communities yesterday, and you could hear the desperation in their voices. You could hear the trouble they're experiencing.
My question is pretty simple. What is the department doing to provide the leadership of these communities and the health care workers and the people in these communities with the help they need right away?
Gary, thank you for your question, and thank you for the briefings you took with my team to keep you up to date in real time about what is going on. Again, I'm willing personally to do it if you reach out.
I did have a chance to speak to Chief Louie Mercredi yesterday to ensure that he was getting the service that was due in this time of crisis. He identified a number of issues. The ones you identified, particularly the shutdown of the water services, is exceedingly alarming, for the reasons you mentioned. There are ways to work around it, but it's obviously unacceptable that this is the status quo.
There were talks about some pieces that would have taken a little longer to get into the community. We've accelerated that, in particular in relation to the pump and the service to the plant. Up to now, we're confident that it is either in the community today or will be tomorrow, with work being done to make sure that the water comes back on.
We've been assured that they do have enough water and we've ensured that they've had supplies of water shipped into the community. That's key, but so is the pandemic response. As you've alluded to, part of tracking down COVID is ensuring that those people you are doing contract tracing on are identified with very short delay, or else you just expand the number of people that positive cases come into contact with. We are hopeful that not all of those 200-plus contact cases will be positive, but we can't take anything for granted.
As part of that, we're are assisting in enhanced PPE and enhanced resources. The chief recently expressed concern with respect to food security, and we've employed some financial resources to assist with that on an immediate basis. Our teams are working around the clock in those communities that are affected.
Sadly, I suspect that these conversations you and I will be having on that response will continue. We're not through this second wave by any stretch of the imagination. If you look at the numbers that I identified in the introduction, they're essentially four times the total numbers that affected indigenous communities in the first wave. Therefore, this is hitting indigenous communities hard. The role I have, along with other ministers in government, is to deploy resources and funds as quickly as possible and allow communities to implement those pandemic response plans that they've been so good at implementing up to now.
Minister, I'm going to shift gears quickly.
I'm also hearing today from another first nation, not in my riding but just on the edge of my riding, the James Smith Cree Nation, where they're having a bit of an outbreak. They're locking down their communities.
I talked to the chief today, and he expressed a very significant level of frustration with his interaction with the department. He expressed a concern about not getting answers to questions and not being engaged. They have not had any meaningful response or dialogue from the minister and from the department to address their requests and they remain without PPE to protect their community.
Can you maybe explain, in the time you have left, why this chief would feel that he has such frustration and lack of response?
A lot of the supplementary estimates money is going to the COVID response. So far in northwestern Ontario, there hasn't been a substantial number of cases in the indigenous community, but I think it's pretty inevitable that this is going to change, since we seem to be in the process of an outbreak at the moment. I think we've had something like 100 cases in the last week, whereas we were getting one or two cases per week up until then.
Certainly there's a concern that it's going to spread to first nations communities, many of them in Mr. Melillo's riding, like the Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities, the NAN communities, but Thunder Bay is the conduit. People fly from Thunder Bay to those communities. A lot of the medical services are in Thunder Bay. If for whatever reason people come down to Thunder Bay, get it and go back to those communities, there's certainly a concern.
You're probably not going to be able to answer my first question because it's a medical question, but I found your numbers interesting. I think you said that so far in first nations communities, there have been 28 deaths and over 1,700 cases. This is somewhat reassuring, because there was a concern that in the indigenous communities the death rate would be above the national average, especially based on the fact that H1N1, an influenza, seemed to hit those communities particularly hard, with higher rates of mortality.
From the experience so far, is the mortality rate higher in the indigenous community than in the non-indigenous community? That was the first question.
If there is an answer to that, my second question is, what have we done to try to protect those communities? They have largely, shut down, but the risk has certainly gone up as of the last couple of weeks.
Members will note that a Liberal member has posed a question that he knows I can't answer with the proper expertise. I think during this pandemic, those of us who are called upon to act quickly have all become armchair epidemiologists and have been diving into some of the numbers.
What we do see when we look at comparables in the U.S. is that indigenous communities there are being hit 3.5 to 5 times more, if you look at Alaska, than the already soaring rates that exist in the U.S. If you look at the numbers from the first wave, they're much lower in comparison to those among non-indigenous Canadians. It's not really something we look at so we can pat ourselves on the back. Particularly when we look at how severely the second wave is hitting, we're still under the national non-indigenous averages, but what we are seeing is really, really dangerous. The trends are alarming in a number of ways.
We know about the leadership and work that's been done in indigenous communities, most notably on reserves, to shut down and take these things seriously. Indigenous people have faced historic epidemics over time. Tuberculosis is not only present but still fresh in their minds in the communities that have been hit in the recent past. The Inuit still have rates that are 300 times the national average, and they're 60 times higher in first nations communities. There's also pulmonary disease, with very much the same symptoms and the same comorbidities. Overcrowding in housing has been a source of that. These things aren't going away because of the pandemic, and the risk still remains.
The alarming numbers that I see are now in urban areas in Manitoba, where you see higher rates of hospitalizations and higher rates of people in intensive care who are indigenous. That is very alarming to me. It challenges the borders of our effective capacity of execution in our jurisdiction in Indigenous Services Canada, which is to help the urban populations that are hit harder.
Now, there are things that have been done well. Communities have stepped up. We've supported them with funds. We know about COVID as it's developing, but we're not out of the woods yet. There is no magic to keeping COVID out of the community. When people let their guards down, mostly at emotional events like funerals and weddings or at large social gatherings, COVID will hit and hit hard, and it will affect indigenous populations in a disproportionate fashion.
First, I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment, as well as the recent briefing with my team on Bill , which I know is near and dear to everyone's heart on this committee.
This is an exceedingly difficult topic, and particularly because of what we've seen in the last month or so with respect to indigenous people. While it was a shock to non-indigenous people in Canada, it was not shocking, but a repeating pattern of a lived experience to indigenous people, who are treated badly and poorly and are subject to systemic racism across the health care system.
This is something that, as you well remember, was announced in the Speech from the Throne. COVID, again, like many things, has just exacerbated the reality.
In terms of putting forward health care legislation, we have to do this in proper consultation with indigenous communities. I have asked my team, conscious of the fact that we are operating in COVID times and have to observe physical distancing for people's health and well-being, to take the time to do the proper consultation with indigenous partners and treaty areas. A number of them have different perspectives on health needs and health engagement.
A number of the recommendations, as you'll recall, do exist in a number of reports. The one that comes to mind, obviously, is the Viens report. These issues are intermingled with jurisdictional challenges. The federal government has its role to play, which is unquestionable, but this is something we will need to do not only in partnership with indigenous people, first and foremost, but also in partnership with the provinces.
Thank you so much for the question.
As schools were shut down at the very beginning of the pandemic, particularly given the vulnerabilities that I've highlighted earlier on, people were very worried about their children not only getting COVID but also being vectors of spread within the communities. The portrait of indigenous education across Canada is obviously not limited to the on-reserve reality of schools, although it is one reality, and we continue to build schools on reserves where they're requested and needed.
To that end, a month ago the announced, as part of the school support packages, $112 million dedicated to helping kids go back to school as part of a safe return now. It should be an inescapable reality that there are enhanced needs with respect to communities that have taken the difficult decision to keep their kids at home. Not everyone can be plugged in to an iPad or a computer device to do online learning, so some of the supports we've given—for example, under Jordan's principle—have been precisely to give supports to indigenous students in communities that are keeping them at home.
There is also the reality that this has stressed the mental health of children. A lot of the funding support for the stress we see—funding on which the estimates touch—deals with that reality. It is bleak at times, but we're obviously there to help. Wherever communities see that need, we do our best to step in.
MP Blaney raised the issue of connectivity, and it isn't just the reality of remote communities necessarily. It is the reality, for example, in Six Nations, which is between Toronto and Brantford. It is a challenge across communities to deliver the quality service and quality education to which indigenous children are entitled. It is not one we've overcome completely yet, but we're working toward it.
We also have invested, as of October 30, about $200 million in additional funding to provide education-related supports to indigenous peoples in the community. When it comes to the older students, if you recall, I believe in May the announced education supports to all Canadians, and about $60 million or $75 million was dedicated specifically to indigenous students. That's an important aspect of it. This is coupled with the supports for post-secondary institutions, which had been suffering up to now, that we announced a few weeks back.
First of all, I want to thank you, Minister, for committing to working with my office on this 25% gap. I'm really thankful for that. If our office can do anything, please let us know.
Minister, the last question I have for you this evening is based on what we heard in committee earlier this week. We were told by the aboriginal financial institutions and the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association that there was a certain level of frustration—extreme frustration, actually—because they had to wait two and a half months for the indigenous business programs to get set up, unlike the non-indigenous business programs such as the CEBA. One of their concerns now is that they still don't know if their members will qualify for the additional $20,000 that non-indigenous businesses are already getting through the CEBA.
The biggest concern for them is that this is an issue of economic justice. Indigenous communities have been working to build economies, as you know, for a very long time. Continuous provincial and federal legislation has historically barred them from being a part of the system. They are now making their way, and there's a lot of success, but with COVID and having to wait an extra two and a half months to access resources that other businesses were able to access, they lost businesses during that time.
Here's what they're wondering: Will their next rollout be two and a half months later than everybody else's?
Kwe, bonsoir, good evening.
I am joining you today from my home in Toronto, on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. We honour all of the indigenous peoples who paddled these waters and whose moccasins walked these lands. We honour all the traditional territories on which all are participating today, as we continue to work so hard to keep our families and communities safe.
It is always important for me to appear before this committee. I look forward to a discussion on the 2020–21 supplementary estimates (B) for Crown–Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada.
I am joined today by the deputy minister, Daniel Quan-Watson; acting senior deputy minister of policy and strategic direction, Annie Boudreau; assistant deputy minister of northern affairs, Serge Beaudoin; and the acting chief financial, results and delivery officer, Jean-François Talbot.
The 2020-21 supplementary estimates (B) reflect a net increase of $936 million, which includes $790 million of re-profiling funding, $138 million in new funding and $8 million of net transfers with other government departments. The total budgetary authorities for 2020-21 will be $6.7 billion.
These funds will contribute to our government's ongoing work to advance reconciliation with indigenous peoples and to support and accelerate first nations, Inuit and Métis in realizing their inherent right to self-determination.
Acknowledging the limited time for my remarks this evening, I would like to highlight some of the key initiatives outlined in these estimates, and I look forward to discussing the supplementary estimates (B) in more detail through your questions. We have also provided the committee with a deck that I think will be helpful in outlining all the initiatives in the supplementary estimates (B).
I would also like to highlight for the committee that the re-profiling of funds reflected in these estimates is, as I think we have talked about here at the committee before, a common management practice. As I noted for the committee in the past, these re-profilings reflect expenditures for which timing cannot be easily predicted and ensure that funds remain available in future years for their intended purposes.
As an example, the re-profiling of $760.1 million for the specific claims settlement fund requested through these supplementary estimates will preserve the total amount available in that fund for 2020-21 at approximately $1.86 billion. The specific claims settlement fund is the source of funds for compensation for both negotiated settlement agreements and financial awards made by the specific claims tribunal. Because the pace of negotiations is difficult to forecast, the fund was set up with the flexibility to transfer monies not spent in a particular year to a future year. The re-profiling of specific claims settlement funding between fiscal years is a normal occurrence that helps ensure the availability of funds needed for settlement compensation in the year in a timely way, as soon as the settlement is reached.
Supplementary estimates also identify $28.6 million to support recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination tables. These tables represent a new and flexible way to affirm the unique rights, needs and interests that matter most to indigenous communities. It acknowledges that different indigenous communities or groups may want to assert jurisdiction in different areas at their own pace or incrementally.
I am really proud to report there are now over 150 active negotiation tables in more than 500 communities, involving almost one million indigenous people, to support them in realizing their vision of self-determination. We know indigenous self-determination is the most effective way to support improving health and educational outcomes and unlocking the economic potential in indigenous communities.
Despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, negotiations with participating indigenous groups have continued through virtual means. I have even been able to sign agreements virtually. The $28.6 million requested through these estimates will ensure continued progress through these important discussions.
The supplementary estimates also include requests for funding to support a number of other initiatives, including further progress on the TRC calls to action; the development of a national action plan for missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse peoples; interest payments for the first nations with loans through the First Nations Finance Authority—that was the relief for that; the ratification of the Anishinabek Nation Governance Agreement and funds to ensure that Canada can resolve outstanding litigation.
I urge the committee to vote in favour of these requests for essential funding and I look forward to your questions.
Meegwetch. Marsi. Nakurmiik. Thank you. Merci beaucoup.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chairperson.
The supplementary estimates also reflect $10.9 million of re-profiled funding for phase III of the federal contaminated sites action plan. It is the government's priority to protect the health and environment—
Tansi, bonjour, and greetings.
I want to begin by acknowledging that I am speaking to you from my office here in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, Treaty No. 1 territory, as well as the homeland of the Métis nation.
I am pleased to appear before this committee today to discuss the important work the department is currently doing in the north and in the Arctic and to answer your questions on supplementary estimates (B).
We also recognize that this is a particularly difficult time for many regions across Canada as we all continue to work together to curb the spread of COVID-19 and keep people healthy and safe across our country.
These estimates reflect our government's commitment to creating greater economic growth and a higher quality of life in the north and the Arctic. I am confident that these estimates demonstrate our government's plan to continue working towards renewing the relationship between Canada and indigenous nations, tackling the impacts of climate change, promoting economic development and creating jobs for those living in the north and the Arctic.
The 2020-21 supplementary estimates (B) reflect a net increase of approximately $13.4 million in re-profiled funding for the Department of Northern Affairs. This funding will primarily support the federal contaminated sites action plan, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station project and research and higher education in Canada's north.
Access to high-quality education and research for everyone is critical to not only individual success but to local economies and to our country. Canada's Arctic and northern residents, especially indigenous people, have not had access to the same services, the same opportunities and the same standard of living as those in the rest of Canada. That's why our government is making substantial investments and working in partnership with northerners to develop long-term opportunities while building healthier communities, respecting the rights and interests of indigenous nations and supporting a sustainable and dynamic economy.
To support this priority, our government has invested $1 million to establish a task force on post-secondary education in the north and the Arctic. The task force's mandate commits to seeking the perspective of northerners. It will engage indigenous partners across the Arctic and the north, including young people, other governments, post-secondary institutions, and leaders, on how the federal government can improve post-secondary educational opportunities. We need to close the gaps that exist in education in the north.
In addition, the supplementary estimates (B) include re-profiled funding for the Canadian High Arctic Research Station project that totals $2.4 million. Based out of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station will become the headquarters of Polar Knowledge Canada, which is responsible for advancing Canada's knowledge of the Arctic and strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology.
The re-profiled funding requested through these supplementary estimates is required for the construction and other anticipated expenses to close out the construction contract, including those related to the Inuit benefits agreement and the extension of the duration of the contract. The outcome of the investments in post-secondary education and in the Canadian High Arctic Research Station project will undoubtedly help northerners close the gaps in education outcomes, provide ongoing learning and skills development opportunities, advance our nation's knowledge of the Arctic and strengthen Canadian leadership in polar science and technology.
It is the government's priority to protect the health and environment of Canadians by minimizing threats of pollution. My department is also committed to managing contaminated sites in a cost-effective and consistent manner to reduce and eliminate, where possible, risks to human and environmental health and the liability associated with contaminated sites.
COVID-19 continues to affect our daily lives, and northerners should not have to worry about putting food on their table or ensuring continued supply of essential items. Earlier this year, our government provided additional investments to nutrition north Canada, to increase the federal subsidy rate in all eligible communities.
By providing additional subsidies on a broad range of items and helping with the costs associated with hunting and harvesting, residents of isolated communities will be better able to afford to feed and protect themselves and their families. We've also provided supports to maintain critical air supply routes, as well as funding for testing and contact tracing, sick leave, income supports for individuals, and support for businesses.
Thank you, and I would be pleased to answer any questions you have.
Thank you, ministers, for joining us here tonight. Of course, it's always a very important discussion.
I have a number of questions, but there's something that came to my attention this morning. I want to follow up on this particular issue.
As we know, as we have these settlements, as we resolve these long-term injustices, there are other people who are impacted. It's often third parties that are impacted by the settlements.
I know that my colleague from has worked through your office, and in August was promised a phone call and a conversation with a number of tourist operators who, in many cases, have put their life savings into their businesses. They have not had that call.
Today one of them got a letter from the Xeni Gwet'in indicating that they will not continue with the permit he has to run his business, so essentially his business is over. It's a huge issue.
Again, I know that we have to solve these issues, the long-standing injustices, but when we create some new injustices, I don't think we do. We create more problems.
Would the minister commit today not only to following through with that phone call that I understand her staff committed to, but also to working with the province to see if we can ease the transition for the people who have been impacted by a significant decision?
Thank you so much, Jaime. We thank you for your career of work, having all Canadians understand the importance of treaties and these kinds of agreements—modern treaties and constructive arrangements with first nations.
We know that there are better health outcomes and education outcomes when first nations, Inuit and Métis are in charge of those decisions. You lived in Nova Scotia with the Mi'kmaq. It went from 30% finishing high school to 95% when the Mi'kmaq were in charge of their education system. The results speak for themselves. It's very important.
In the past, those agreements were very fixed. The minister would have a mandate. They'd go to the community. They'd say, “It's take it or leave it. See you in court.” Instead, we've moved to a very flexible system whereby communities are able to choose what area they'd like to assert jurisdiction in, and then we get an agreement on that. I think the Anishinabek agreement here in Ontario is a very good example. Now they are moving on to their full governance agreement, having had their education act passed.
It is, I think, at all of these tables. Child and family services, of course, is one for which we know that it's going to be so important for nations to be able to look after their children and youth and bring their children home.
I think this new flexible approach.... There's also no cede and surrender, no extinguishment of rights, and it's no longer based on loans. We would have negotiations that would last 20 years, and the nation would be $30 million in debt. That's over, as we move forward to a much better way of doing this.
Absolutely. I want to thank you for that very important question.
I can tell you that our government is seized with what is going on in Nunavut right now. We had a call this morning, as we do most mornings, with me, Minister Bennett, Minister Miller and public health officials, to get the latest information on what is occurring in Nunavut. They did such a wonderful job for the first several months to keep the virus out, and now it's an unfortunate situation. It appears that perhaps the virus came up from the city I'm in, Winnipeg, which is one of the isolation hubs. Manitoba, in and of itself, is going through a huge crisis.
At the public health level, I know our federal public health officers are in constant conversation with Nunavut public health officers, and they're talking about supports for contact tracing, testing and rapid response teams. We are also talking with the Government of Nunavut about resources for increasing isolation units and water delivery, as well as perhaps some more resources for making sure that fuel gets to where it needs to be.
Food insecurity is always a huge issue in Nunavut, as we all know. Our government officials, through the Department of Northern Affairs and through Indigenous Services Canada, are talking with Inuit rights holders and Inuit government about how we can provide them with more support to address the food insecurity issues.
On so many different levels, the public health level.... I've spoken to Premier Savikataaq over the last week, and I know the had a very good conversation with him yesterday, I believe. We're engaged at all the levels that we need to be to provide the support that Nunavut needs, and we are going to be there for Nunavut throughout this crisis.
Absolutely. That's also an excellent question.
I think if this pandemic has taught us anything, it's that the importance of connectivity is going to be even more important after the pandemic.
The connectivity limitations have been raised for a long time, and they have far-reaching impacts. Many communities rely exclusively on satellite for access to Internet services. They lack access to fast, high-quality and reliable telecommunication networks.
The numbers we recently announced are $750 million, on top of the $1 billion that was announced in budget 2019, to help connect all Canadians to high-speed Internet across the country. This investment will connect 98% of Canadians across the country by 2026, with the goal of connecting all Canadians by the year 2030.
I can tell you that I'm working with to engage the Government of Nunavut, as well as private stakeholders, in how to access this fund. We know that things get a little more difficult the further north you go. I think there's a potential there for low-earth orbit satellite capacity. We are engaging, and this money was recently announced—last week, I believe.
We are in the middle of a pandemic—Nunavut is actually seized with the pandemic right now—but if we've learned anything through the pandemic, it's that connectivity is so very important and will be even more important afterward.
Thank you very much, Chair.
I'm joining you from my home, from the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
I want to say thank you to both the minister and staff for joining us today. It's wonderful to have you here.
I also want to give a shout-out to my friend and colleague MP Battiste, whose insight, perspective and knowledge on issues like this are so valuable to this committee. If our friend and colleague Mumilaaq Qaqqaq were here, I would say the same about her perspective.
No offence, MP Blaney; you're wonderful, and it's great to be working with you here, but I know I speak for all of us on this committee when I say that we miss Mumilaaq and we wish her well.
My questions are for you, Minister Vandal.
I would like to focus on something that wasn't touched on too much in your speech, but I think I heard it, which is the post-secondary task force. I'm asking because I'm concerned about youth in the north. I want to make sure we are getting them the services that they need.
I also know that in your youth, and probably still, you were a great athlete, and you know that athletics and sport have a really positive impact. I talked to a good friend yesterday, Beckie Scott, who has a program called Spirit North, which brings endurance sports to a lot of indigenous youth across the country. There were 6,300 last year, actually—great numbers.
Could you elaborate a little bit on the post-secondary program?
First of all, let me set a little bit of the context.
Prior to the last election, the Arctic and northern policy framework was signed. Minister Bennett did a tremendous amount of work on it. It's a framework whereby the territorial governments and the indigenous nations are all signed on, as well as several provinces, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, I believe. It is a policy framework for all the leadership in the north to sit at the same table to hammer out priorities.
One of those priorities is education. One of the ideas that came out was to form a task force with the best and the brightest of the north to look at the post-secondary education systems and consult with people who work in the sector and with other leaders, look at traditional indigenous knowledge and make recommendations to our government on how we can improve.
We reached out to those people who are on the framework—the territorial governments, indigenous nations, Inuit leadership, first nations and Métis leadership of the north—and they have submitted several names that we were able to choose from to put on the task force. Their work started last week. In fact, I had my first meeting with all 13 members, I believe, last week, and we talked about the challenge they have.
They're such a dynamic group. It's a good mix of experience and youth, indigenous and not, and they're going out there. They're going to submit a report to government by...I believe it's March 2021, so it's not a lot of time. They have a lot of work to do, and it's something that is important to our government.
The initiative started before the last election. We've invested over $40 million in five years to improving post-secondary options in the north. This is something that is exciting, and I hope it's going to bear a lot of fruit in the future.
Thank you so much, Chair.
Minister Bennett, I recently had a meeting with some representatives from Kanesatake, and I understand that they met with your government not too long ago. The concern they have is that the development of their lands is continuing. They have asked, at the very minimum, to just pause the development so they can have those meaningful conversations in the community on how to move forward in the best possible way. As you know, that is not happening.
These are my questions to you: Why haven't you helped support them in making sure that this pause happens? Are you and your department going to do anything to support these very important discussions?
When we talk about moving forward and looking at self-determination, these are the key parts. One of the things that deeply concerns me is that so often these projects happen and continue to happen even when communities come forward and say that they need the time to have that meaningful conversation internally before a project moves forward.
I'm wondering if you could update this committee on those commitments.
Thanks very much, Minister. I know that you have to leave us immediately for another meeting.
Minister Vandal, thank you as well.
To the staffers and senior people, thank you for joining us.
Committee, I apologize for having to brusquely truncate the question period, but we are at the point now where we have to deal with the estimates.
I would like to ask if I have unanimous consent to call the votes as a group and adopt them on division.
Are there any thumbs down?
I believe we have unanimous consent to adopt the estimates on division.
I can't quite see everybody, because I can't see the room, but I'm told that we're okay.
Thank you very much.
DEPARTMENT OF CROWN-INDIGENOUS RELATIONS AND NORTHERN AFFAIRS
Vote 1b—Operating expenditures..........$114,527,175
Vote 5b—Capital expenditures..........$1,584,486
Vote 10b—Grants and contributions..........$810,294,236
(Votes 1b, 5b and 10b agreed to on division)
DEPARTMENT OF INDIGENOUS SERVICES
Vote 1b—Operating expenditures..........$250,366,759
Vote 10b—Grants and contributions..........$751,056,175
(Votes 1b and 10b agreed to on division)
The Chair: We have passed unanimously the supplementary estimates on division.
Having adopted the supplementary estimates, I must now ask the committee, shall I report the supplementary estimates (B) 2020-21 to the House?
I believe I have unanimous consent once again, so that is agreed.
Once again, thank you to all. These are tough meetings, but I appreciate the spirit in which they're conducted.
Thanks once again to our ministers and staff.
This meeting is now adjourned.