I would like to welcome everybody to the 27th meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I call this meeting to order.
Before I get started, I just want to commend everybody. We are finishing up our session today on the status of women, and today we've had the IVP report tabled. Thank you so much to Sonia for making sure that was tabled. Moreover, Bill was introduced. I just want to say congratulations to everybody and great work on collaboration.
Today we are returning to this very important study as well.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted on Tuesday, February 1, the committee will resume its study of resource development and violence against indigenous women and girls.
Today's meeting is taking place in hybrid form.
Pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021, members are attending in person in the room, and remotely using the Zoom application. Per the directive of the Board of Internal Economy on March 10, 2022, all those attending the meeting in person must wear a mask except for members who are at their place during proceedings.
I would like to make a few comments for the benefit of the witnesses and members.
Please wait until I recognize you by name before speaking. For those participating via video conference, click on the microphone icon to activate your mike and please mute yourself when you are not speaking. On interpretation, for those on Zoom you will the choice at the bottom of the screen of the floor, English, or French. For those in the room, you can use the earpiece and select the desired channel. I remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
Today I would like to welcome our witnesses.
As an individual, we have the Honourable Michèle Audette, senator and former commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. From Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtones du Québec, we have Jennifer Brazeau, executive director. From the Department of Natural Resources we have Kimberley Zinck, director general, reconciliation.
From the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we have Christine Moran, the assistant deputy minister, indigenous secretariat; Mélanie Larocque, director general, program development and intergovernmental affairs, crime prevention branch; and Michelle Van De Bogart, director general, law enforcement and border strategies.
And from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, we have Patricia Brady, vice-president, external relations and strategic policy, and Brent Parker, director general, external relations and strategic policy.
Everybody, we have a big day today. So, to all of you we will be granting you five minutes for your opening statement. I will be putting up a notice for your one-minute reminder, indicating that you have 60 seconds to go. I will give you maybe 10 seconds over that, but because we have such an extraordinary panel today, we want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to hear from all of the witnesses and that all of the questioners get their opportunity to speak as well.
I am going to pass it over for the first five minutes to, as an individual, the Honourable Michèle Audette, senator.
[Witness spoke in Innu
I thank the Anishinaabe Nation very much for welcoming me every day to their territory and for allowing me to continue every day this portage that is dear to my heart and mind.
I thank everyone here, as well as those who are participating in the meeting virtually from the indigenous territories where they are, for taking part in this very important and urgent exercise. This study on the rise of violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada in the context of resource development also reflects calls for justice 13.4 and 13.5 of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. So you can see from the outset why it was critical for me to be here.
In all sincerity, I confess my impatience and dismay at the lack of information we are receiving on the implementation of the calls for justice and all the proposals contained in the report tabled on June 3, 2019. Recently, we celebrated the third anniversary of the tabling of this report as well as the first anniversary of the National Action Plan for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2ELGBTQIA+ Persons. However, as you have all noticed, after reading the progress report on the national action plan, it is clear that very little has been implemented. This demonstrates the importance of a study such as the one undertaken by your committee.
What I feel most strongly about is the whole issue of coordination mechanisms, the establishment of a national emergency hotline, the establishment of a guaranteed minimum income, and the establishment of 24‑hour support services for people who are vulnerable or at risk. There is a great lack of such services across Canada.
Let me quote The Globe and Mail:
Nearly two years after the federal Liberals announced a $724.1-million fund to support Indigenous women and girls facing gender-based violence, the money sits largely untouched, according to government figures as of May 31.
More than half of the fund is allocated to the construction of at least 38 new shelters and 50 transitional homes across Canada, but none of that money has been allocated. The fund’s remaining $304.1-million is intended to support the running of the new shelters, as well as violence prevention activities. The lack of construction means no operational funding has been spent, but the government has spent $12.6-million on prevention activities – representing less than 2 per cent of the total fund.
So, as I've mentioned many times, all of the calls for justice are important, but we need to push forward with call for justice 1.7, which calls for a national ombudsperson and a national indigenous and human rights tribunal, and call for justice 1.10, about the reporting that needs to be done. As we saw the day before yesterday, transparency and accountability on the status of the work is paramount. So I hope you will also heed these calls for justice.
In 2022, far too many indigenous women and girls feel unsafe and less secure. As you can see, the data speaks for itself. Last month, in the space of two weeks, three indigenous women were murdered in your territory, Ms. Gazan. Now we understand that it's more than that. For me, this is an urgent and unacceptable situation that everyone must address. Of course, every time we hear sad news like this, we think of the families and send them all the love we can, as well as our condolences.
Human rights and women's rights must also be protected. We must put in place protection mechanisms that, based on laws and regulations, provide for severe penalties. I cite as an example the $15‑million fine just imposed on ArcelorMittal, a mining company convicted of environmental violations. Imagine what it would be like if we put in place similar mechanisms to protect indigenous women. This is the most recent and striking example, and I wanted to share it with you today.
Beyond physical and sexual abuse, resource exploitation has consequences across the board for indigenous women, and for women in general. I would suggest to you that it is important to link this issue to the spiritual, physical and mental relationship we have with water, nature, flora, animals and all that nature and the land allow us to honour. Holistic health and environmental health are also affected.
In conclusion, no matter where we are in this great land, we all have a responsibility to honour the truths of the women and girls, and, of course, the survivors and families who spoke out at the inquests.
I wish you a good study. I look forward to seeing your recommendations.
[Witness spoke in indigenous language
My name is Jennifer Brazeau. I'm the executive director of the Lanaudière Native Friendship Centre. I'm here today representing the Regroupement des centres d'amitié autochtone du Québec, which is a provincial association that has campaigned for more than 45 years for the defence of rights and interests of indigenous people in the urban centres, as well as supporting indigenous friendship centres in Quebec in frontline service delivery.
Across the province of Quebec, there are 10 friendship centres and one service centre. These friendship centres are there to serve indigenous people living or passing through urban centres in Chibougamau, Joliette, La Tuque, Maniwaki, Val-d'Or, Montréal, Québec, Senneterre, Sept-Îles, Trois-Rivières and its point of service in Shawinigan.
At the national level, I also represent the province of Quebec at the National Association of Friendship Centres as a board member. Just so that you know, there are over 100 friendship centres across the country that are also serving indigenous people living in urban centres. The RCAAQ and the NAFC are recognized as being the largest urban service infrastructure for indigenous people.
The friendship centre movement has been working for several decades to support indigenous people in order to improve their quality of life. We also support indigenous people navigating through various systems put in place by the government by being corridors of services between our friendship centres and the public services in each of our regions. When the system has failed our indigenous people in our urban centres, the friendship centres are there for our people. We're there to offer them support, but, above all, we're also there to offer them a space that is safe and free from judgment.
Over the past decades, the RCAAQ has been a witness and has participated in several commissions and inquiries, parliamentary commissions, reports, testimonies and the development of recommendations and calls to action. We have proposed innovative solutions to issues brought forth by the government and by the population and by our members. We have worked hard, without denying our history, without erasing the trauma that our members have been living, and, above all, without forgetting the tragedies that are happening presently, even in 2022.
We will never forget. That's why we want to break the cycle of indifference and violence by offering concrete actions and solutions for indigenous people, and also through partnerships throughout our networks. Several decades of the status quo faced by indigenous people have left a chronic existence of a cultural barrier that has devastating effects on our people. We all know there are higher rates of criminalization and higher rates of victimization. We have individual and collective rights of indigenous people that are not being respected, and indigenous women are often at the forefront living this colonial violence.
I can continue and keep talking about the statistics of the violence that indigenous women are facing. You're going to have other experts who are going to come to bring that to you. But what I want to be able to talk to you about is how this violence is rooted in the Canadian culture of genocide through the exploitation of our territories, and how that reflects on how indigenous women view themselves and how their own bodies are being exploited by the systems that are put in place through systemic racism, through the continued displacement of indigenous people from their territories, through the rupture in being able to practise our cultural activities on our own territories, through the exploitation of mining companies that are well overrepresented in Canada. We need to be able to take a moment to pause and to question why we have so many extractive companies within our country. Is it something that's rooted systemically in how Canadians exploit our territories? But then we also send those companies to other countries, where they continue that exploitation and those systems of abuse and trauma in other countries.
I think it's important for us to note that, as indigenous women, when we witness these companies coming in destroying our natural areas, which we have a strong cultural connection to, where they're exploiting the nature around us, it has a severe impact on indigenous women because then we ourselves, our own bodies, become exploited, too. When you have companies that come in, you have a rise in violence that's associated with fly-in and fly-out. You have indigenous women who then flee those communities to be able to try to find safer spaces in the cities, and then who, through maybe self-medication, will end up having to use their own bodies to be able to pay for their own services.
Thank you, and good afternoon.
I'm Kimberley Zinck, the director general of reconciliation implementation at Natural Resources Canada. I'm joining you today from the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin and Anishinabe people.
I'm pleased to contribute to the committee's study on resource development and violence against women and girls. I'd like to share with you how the department is changing the way it works by weaving indigenous perspectives and opportunities into the fabric of what we do.
In 2021, we merged the office for major projects management with the office for indigenous affairs and reconciliation, and in March of this year the resident elders we work with and who advise us gifted us with the name Nòkwewashk, an Algonquin word for sweetgrass. To our knowledge, we are among the first in the Government of Canada to embrace an indigenous name, and its meaning is impactful to the work that we do.
The imagery of braided sweetgrass reminds us of the connection among the land, resources and people.
Our work is focused on relationships with indigenous peoples, economic reconciliation, and regulatory innovation.
It is in this spirit that I am here before you today.
We acknowledge that the discrimination and violence experienced by indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people are a result of generations of racist, sexist and colonial laws and policies.
This is why we are working with federal partners to develop the United Nations declaration act action plan, and to implement the national action plan to end gender-based violence and the federal pathway to address missing and murdered indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people.
Indigenous people are the stewards, rights holders, and in many cases title-holders to the land upon which development takes place. The calls for justice tell us that more needs to be done to understand the impacts of resource development on indigenous women and girls and to ensure that indigenous people have equitable access to economic benefits.
By working with indigenous women's organizations like Pauktuutit, we are helping ensure the safety and well‑being of Inuit women in the resource extraction industry.
We are leading the way for Canada in the global Equal by 30 campaign, which is working towards equal pay, leadership and opportunities for women in the clean energy sector.
Through our programs and governance we ensure that the perspectives of indigenous people are considered, reflected and represented throughout the life cycle of projects, and that indigenous people benefit economically from resource development.
The indigenous natural resource partnerships program increases the participation of communities and organizations in major natural resource infrastructure development. Since 2019, we've provided $18 million in funding for indigenous-led projects like management and leadership training for indigenous women in the oil and gas sectors.
We work directly with communities through the indigenous advisory and monitoring committee for the Trans Mountain expansion project to address the impacts of temporary work camps and the influx of workers.
The mining industry has deep and long-standing relationships with indigenous communities. Canada's critical minerals strategy will ensure respect for indigenous and treaty rights, and meaningful engagement, partnership and collaboration with indigenous people.
By working with industry organizations like the Mining Association of Canada, we're helping to support intercultural awareness, human rights and anti-racism training for employees.
In closing, by acknowledging the mistakes of the past and changing how we work today, we're shaping how we care for the land, resources and indigenous people.
Thank you. Meegwetch. Merci.
Thank you for your time today. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today.
As you noted, my name is Christine Moran, and I am the assistant deputy minister of the indigenous secretariat at Public Safety Canada. I am joined by my colleagues, Michelle Van De Bogart, who is the director general of law enforcement, and Mélanie Larocque, who is the director general of program development and intergovernmental affairs. I will provide opening comments on behalf of Public Safety Canada, and we would be pleased to take your questions.
Public Safety Canada is a partner in advancing the federal pathway to address missing and murdered indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people, a key part of the larger 2021 national action plan that was developed with indigenous partners and provincial and territorial governments.
The federal pathway is organized in four themes, with Public Safety Canada’s contributions falling mainly within the human safety and security and justice themes.
Collaboration with indigenous communities, provinces and territories, police and other organizations is crucial to developing more culturally appropriate and socially responsive approaches to community safety.
Budget 2021 announced $861 million over five years, beginning in 2021-22, and $145 million ongoing to support culturally responsive policing and community safety services in indigenous communities. This includes funding to support the co-development of federal first nations police service legislation. Virtual engagement sessions with first nations have just taken place to support this objective and a “what we heard” report will be made publicly available shortly.
While efforts to co-develop federal legislation for first nations police services are ongoing, Inuit and Métis groups are also being engaged to better understand and identify their unique policing and community safety priorities.
We are also enhancing RCMP services funded through the first nations and Inuit policing program, increasing access to dedicated and culturally responsive policing services in areas often impacted by natural resource development, including the territories.
In addition to our investments in indigenous policing, budget 2021 announced up to $64.6 million over five years and $18.1 million ongoing to enhance indigenous-led crime prevention strategies and community safety services, including through the aboriginal community safety planning initiative, the ACSPI.
The purpose of ACSPI, created in 2010, is to directly support indigenous community healing through a facilitated community-driven process that works to address multiple safety and wellness issues as determined by the community, using a community safety plan process. The plans reflect community safety challenges, community strengths, resources and goals.
In addition, ACSPI coordinates with government, provincial and territorial partners, local municipal governments and services and industry partners to address issues raised in the safety plans. For example, Public Safety, Natural Resources Canada and Trans Mountain Corporation recently worked together to support indigenous communities to mitigate risks posed by the proximity of industry work sites to their communities, including impacts on indigenous women and girls.
I know that you've previously heard testimony about transient natural resource development camps and the clear link between these camps and sexual violence against indigenous women and girls, including human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a complex and highly gendered crime, with root causes including poverty, gender, racism, wage inequality and lack of education and employment opportunities, which we know indigenous people experience disproportionately. In September 2019, the launched the national strategy to combat human trafficking, which brings together federal efforts under one strategic framework. The national strategy is based on the internationally recognized pillars of prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships and adds a new pillar of empowerment, which focuses on enhancing supports for victims affected by this crime.
Through the national strategy to combat human trafficking, the Government of Canada invested up to $22.4 million for organizations that are working to prevent human trafficking and support at-risk populations and survivors. Half of these organizations serve indigenous people and 10 are indigenous-led. These projects have increased and will continue to increase access to services and supports for victims and survivors, raise awareness of human trafficking among youth at risk and develop innovative technological ideas to combat human trafficking.
Raising awareness of human trafficking among Canadians is critical. Public Safety launched an awareness campaign, “Human Trafficking: It's Not What It Seems”, to educate the public, especially youth and parents, about human trafficking, which included indigenous-specific focus groups. We are also working to develop and support guidelines and training tools for frontline service providers, including specific guidelines to support indigenous survivors.
With these efforts, Public Safety Canada is working with indigenous survivors, communities, organizations and police services to strengthen the safety and security of indigenous women and girls.
Michelle, Mélanie and I would be happy to take your questions.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon. My name is Patricia Brady. I'm the vice-president of external relations and strategic policy at the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. I'm joined today by my colleague Brent Parker, director general of strategic policy at the agency.
We're both grateful to be joining the committee today from Ottawa, the traditional unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the committee's study on resource development and violence against indigenous women and girls.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls brought to the fore the devastating scope and scale of the issue, and provided direction to address it. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, in its role leading federal assessments of major projects, is committed and actively working to address the calls to justice relevant to our work.
The Impact Assessment Agency is responsible for assessing major projects, such as certain large mines, oil facilities and dams, for their positive and negative environmental, economic, social and health impacts, supporting the and the Governor in Council in making decisions on those projects. Assessments identify in advance the best ways to avoid or reduce a project's negative impact. They also look to find ways to enhance the positive aspects of a project on health, social or economic outcomes.
The Impact Assessment Act, which came into force in August 2019, replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act of 2012. It governs our work and includes important provisions and process steps that are relevant to the committee's mandate, which I'll highlight now.
First, the Impact Assessment Act's preamble includes the Government of Canada's commitment to reconciliation, to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to ensuring that the rights of indigenous peoples are respected throughout federal impact assessments.
Second, on an assessment and decision-making level, the act requires that a project's impacts on the rights of indigenous peoples and effects to indigenous health, social and economic conditions be considered. The act requires that indigenous knowledge be considered. It specifically requires that indigenous women's knowledge be considered in strategic and regional assessments. We must publicly report how this knowledge is considered while protecting confidential knowledge from disclosure.
The act also requires the application of gender-based analysis plus to understand the disproportionate effects that major projects have on diverse subgroups of people. To support this requirement, we draw on expertise and advice from Women and Gender Equality Canada. The application of gender-based analysis plus means that the disproportionate effects, including impacts to indigenous women's rights and their safety and security, and the mitigation measures can be identified in advance. The decision-maker must take these disproportionate effects and mitigation measures into account in decision-making.
On a process level, to facilitate meaningful participation in an assessment, we require an indigenous engagement and partnership plan to be developed at the outset in order to help guide the assessment. The agency also has an indigenous capacity support program that offers financial supports to indigenous groups so that they are prepared to engage in assessment processes in general, and a funding program to facilitate participation in specific project assessments.
For each project assessed, tailored impact statement guidelines are issued by the agency. These outline the information that proponents must provide in their assessments. To date they have included a requirement that risks to indigenous women's safety and security be considered. The agency has dedicated guidance for proponents on GBA+ in impact assessments, which includes specific reference to calls to justice 13.1 to 13.5.
The process also requires that the proponent mitigate adverse effects to the greatest extent possible. If the project moves forward, these mitigation measures are included as enforceable conditions in the decision statement issued by the minister, and the proponent must comply with them. These would include measures to help protect indigenous women's safety and security.
Finally, in order to improve our processes, over the last number of years, we have been actively working with partners, such as the Native Women's Association of Canada, to better understand the issues and strengthen impact assessment for indigenous women.
The agency has also funded research on gender‑based analysis and impact assessment, including reports on specific impacts of major projects on indigenous women and girls.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to the committee and contribute to this important work.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank everyone here very much for their testimony and their leadership in this area. I could spend a lot of time with each of the witnesses, but unfortunately I only have six minutes, and the chair would call me to order if I went over my time.
My first question is for Senator Audette.
Thank you very much for your leadership on behalf of the indigenous community and for your work as commissioner of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I'd also like to thank you for your comments on the fact that we need to do better and need to continue our calls to action.
I would like to ask you to elaborate on your thoughts. You ended your opening remarks by saying that you were eager to see our recommendations. Since you have a lot of experience in the field, I would really like to hear your recommendations on the topic before us, which is violence against indigenous women and girls in the context of resource development.
Madam Senator, can you give the committee some specific recommendations?
Our committee works very well together. We work in a non‑partisan way, and we want to find solutions.
Thank you very much for your question.
The zero tolerance principle must be applied to all forms of violence, whether sexual violence, physical violence, discrimination or racism. It's up to you to develop the wording accordingly.
However, let's remember that the issue of resource exploitation and the rights of indigenous women must not be addressed in isolation. It's also important to think about the relationship with the land, the environment, and so on. All these things are interrelated.
Let's also remember that we have members of Parliament here who represent territories and regions where mining occurs, and this is an issue that involves provincial and territorial governments. The exercise must also be done with those who seem to be giving things away without necessarily listening to our voices on the land.
When it comes to safety, let's make sure that the mechanisms or spaces provided for reporting a situation of violence are known and that they are overseen by people with expertise. I will end briefly with this extremely important recommendation that the presence of an indigenous person is not enough to ensure the legitimacy of a mechanism. For their part, Canadian institutions have a wide range of experts to defend their interests. It's important to reach out to women who have experienced various situations or who have in‑depth knowledge of indigenous issues.
Thank you very much for the question.
There's so much that's being done within the organization to promote diversity and inclusion, particularly in terms of hiring and making sure that indigenous voices are represented at our own tables.
I spoke in my opening remarks about the change that we made as an organization by merging the major projects management office with indigenous affairs and reconciliation. By doing that, we are bringing that indigenous perspective to everything we do. We are organizing ourselves to work with partners across the federal family to deliver on UNDRIP and on the federal pathways.
We have an indigenous employee network, for example, and we have folks in the organization who are responsible for equity, diversity and inclusion. That's just the internal-facing work that we're doing, and it's not only within one sector of the department, but across all sectors.
Thank you for that answer.
I'd like to ask one last question.
Mrs. Brazeau, thank you for the work you do. Indigenous friendship centres, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, are so important.
Could you tell us more about the phenomenon of the many fly‑in, fly‑out trips to work at the resource development sites?
I'd also like to hear about your experience with the agreements negotiated with the communities on impacts and benefits. Do you have any experience with that? The natural resources sector sometimes negotiates with indigenous boards, some of which are entirely male. Do you have any experience or recommendations on how to enrich the negotiations on the benefits that are given to communities?
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Like my colleagues, I too would like to thank the witnesses who are appearing today to speak to us on this issue.
Recent events remind us that behind the statistics and numbers that show some disproportionate effects on indigenous women, there are sad faces, experiences and stories. For all of these reasons, we need to address this issue and work together to find solutions.
My first question is for Senator Audette.
You talked about the money that was promised to implement the recommendations. I would like you to tell us more about that. These are huge sums of money that are currently being withheld. What are the repercussions of withholding these amounts? Money is promised, but it still has to be put to use if we want to succeed in implementing various projects. Could you explain further why it is important for the money to be put to use?
Thank you for that important question, Ms. Larouche.
As to how to invest and spend money, Canada has long followed criteria that were rigidly complex for organizations on the ground, particularly those that were small or far from major urban centres and that, therefore, did not have access to consultants and experts who could write projects based on federal culture. COVID‑19 broke all that. We were able to save lives, support people, be creative and be in action rather than in reaction.
This is a national crisis, a national tragedy. Indigenous women are disappearing or dying every week in Canada. However, we realize that the rules and ways of drafting projects remain as rigid as before. How do you tell women who are saving lives on the ground that they have to meet the criteria set by a particular federal government program?
When it comes to investing in infrastructure to build buildings and spaces, for example, or to renovate or build houses to protect women, it's understandable that not all the money is spent right away. However, I don't understand why it's difficult to receive funding for some amazing initiatives that save lives or help people. That's a question that should be answered by the government.
Thank you so much, Chair.
My first question is for Madam Zinck from the Department of Natural Resources.
You spoke about how your department is trying to integrate indigenous perspectives in revamping your department, but here's the thing. In the last Parliament, this government put into law Bill to see the full implementation and adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so we need to go beyond perspectives to actually getting free, prior and informed consent. I want to define that for you: “free” means free of coercion and intimidation; “prior” means prior to development; and “informed” means knowing what the development is about and all of the impacts of that development. It's only when you have those three things that you actually have consent.
I'm going to give you an example. In Wet'suwet'en territory, the RCMP came in and took down the door of two unarmed women on their unceded territory with an axe, a chainsaw and an attack dog. Do you think that kind of behaviour is consistent with FPIC, going back to free of coercion and intimidation, yes or no?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I think we can all, certainly, acknowledge that there's a lot of content that is disturbing but 100% very necessary to speak to.
My first question will be posed to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I believe it's Madam Moran.
One initiative of the national strategy to combat human trafficking from 2019 to 2024—and I'll just recap it quickly—was to develop multi-sectoral training tools that are culturally relevant and gender-responsive for frontline service providers and targeted groups from a variety of different sectors, such as hospitality and transportation, to increase awareness of the indicators and signs of human trafficking and enable employees to effectively identify victims.
The first part of my question is what progress has Public Safety made with regard to developing these tools that are spoken about in that?
Thank you very much for the question.
I can tell you that this is one activity we are currently working on. A contract has been awarded and we are working on the guidelines themselves.
You mentioned it's to train people who are in industry or in business. We are focusing on four key areas. In hospitality, we're focusing on people like front-desk workers or those who are cleaning hotel rooms. In the health centres, we're focusing on nurses, because we know that many people who are victims of human trafficking enter the health care system through the ERs. From a transportation perspective, we're focusing on the aviation sector. The last area we're targeting is foreign workers. As we know, while many of the victims of human trafficking are for sexual exploitation, human trafficking does exploit those who are working as well.
What I can tell you is that work is well under way.
Just one last thing I want to add is that the materials for the tools will be informed by survivors of both sexual and labour exploitation in Canada.
I'd like to take us back to before the action plan or the strategy was created. Prior to that, we did extensive stakeholder engagement, which involved engagement with indigenous individuals, those with lived experiences, a lot of NGOs, academia and FPTs.
Also, as we've been launching different parts of our action plan or the strategy, we've been continuing to reach out to engage with those with lived experiences, including indigenous peoples. Once again, as we are developing these tools, as I mentioned, they will be informed by the survivors of sexual and labour exploitation. We know that these survivors, at a disproportionate rate, tend to be indigenous people.
It's very key for us, under the empowerment pillar, that we ensure that the voices of those who have been victims and survivors of human trafficking be taken into consideration at each and every step of the implementation of our national strategy.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I was going to wipe my eyes. I realize that today's debate is making me particularly emotional. This is the last meeting of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women this session. For me, this session has been marked by the birth of my first baby girl. When we talk about violence against women, I am particularly affected at this time. I'm sorry, I'm a bit emotional today.
On the subject of violence against women, I wonder how we can increase women's sense of confidence in the communities. This is a determining factor, which can lead these women to denounce certain situations. That's what I was saying at the end of my first round.
Ms. Brady, you touched on this issue quickly. I would like you to tell me what more could be done at present to increase this feeling of safety.
Thank you very much for that important question, Ms. Gazan.
We have heard initiatives from members of the government. But initiatives go hand in hand with political will or political colour. The day we have our own autonomous governments, that will be another answer.
Before we get to that point, the federal, provincial and territorial governments have responsibilities. We need to change the culture and the way things are done in government. If there are no laws that impose accountability, transparency and forms of penalties to ensure respect for human rights, particularly in the areas of public health, individual health and safety, and if these rights are only taken into account in one-off initiatives, we will unfortunately see the same thing next year and in 10 years.
We don't know the laws and we don't see them. They need to have teeth, so that there is zero tolerance for any form of violence.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I would like us to take a greater interest in the companies that exploit resources on the territory, which have all the permits to do so, and which take in employees who come from far away, for short periods at a time. These men go to work for these companies, leave and come back later, with money in their pockets, of course. We know what happens next. I would like us to look at the responsibility of these companies.
Ms. Zinck, you work for the Department of Natural Resources. Ms. Audette was talking about laws and the need to change mentalities. On the government side, but particularly in your department, what are the connections with companies? Do you have a certain clout? Are you able to follow up with businesses, to impose things on them or to ensure that they are good corporate citizens, that they adequately assume their responsibilities, that they apply zero tolerance to violence against women living in the environment where the businesses are located, that their employees are well informed and that they know the consequences they face?
Can you give me a quick answer, please?
Thanks for the question.
I did speak to mitigation measures.
First, as I mentioned, GBA+ analysis now is a required part of the impact assessment of a project. Projects that come under the federal system will be required to do a GBA+ analysis. Proponents will be required to consider and study the issue, including mitigation measures, in advance.
We haven't had a project go through the new act yet, but we expect that conditions such as physical site and security measures, employee support programs, employment policies and conditions related to harassment or anti-harassment, education awareness programs and support for community social infrastructure could be among some of the mitigation measures put in place as binding conditions. Those conditions are binding and subject to monitoring and enforcement under the act.
Senator and Ms. Brazeau, I also invite you to respond and give us your point of view.
I saw your reaction to Ms. Vien's proposal. Once again, it comes back to the importance of having a form of consultation. Besides, this is a characteristic that we find a lot in the community world and that comes from the aboriginal communities, which consult each other and engage in dialogue. This may be a possible solution.
On the question of firearms, we suggested setting up a joint squad to work on the problems of violence. This idea could be expanded to include violence against women, which they may even experience in the context of resource exploitation.
Senator, I know that you have already reacted to this proposal for better consultation.
Ms. Brazeau, I don't know if you have anything to add.
There is another issue I would like to address. It is for department officials, but Ms. Brazeau and Ms. Audette can also speak if they want to.
Many of the resource projects are in remote and isolated communities. Isolated communities were also discussed in a previous study by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on intimate partner violence. We also talked about it in the last Parliament, when we were doing a study on the difference in services for women in rural and urban areas. So it's already been addressed in several other studies.
I invite any of the department officials present to answer my question, which concerns access to help and support resources for women who are victims of violence and live in remote areas. The fact that these businesses are often located in areas far from major centres creates isolation, which is an aggravating factor.
Do these communities have special needs? How is the government responding to this very real problem?
Thank you very much, Ms. Gazan.
I do not consider the issues and topics that affect first peoples to be strictly aboriginal issues. These are cross-cutting issues that concern or affect us as they would in the case of a person from Quebec or the Northwest Territories.
We must have independent and safe spaces, bringing together a multitude of human, scientific and theoretical expertise and experience, which will ensure that the truth is always maintained. I repeat that calls for justice are legal imperatives. If there is an injustice, we will denounce it in the right place and we know that it will be treated correctly and respectfully and that it will influence policies, laws or the way things are done in Canada.
For its part, the initiative or project approach does not work, as we have seen with the passing decades.
If those spaces I mentioned, whether it's an ombudsman's office or a committee, have the ability and the right to report to Parliament, that will also help you, whether you're in the opposition or the government, to honour the changes that are long overdue. Until we have that, Ms. Gazan, I will make it my "battle caribou."
It's a French expression.
Voices: Oh, oh!
I'm learning French. I'm trying my best.
My next question is for Madame Brazeau.
I know that you spoke a bit about your centre and what it does, but we have heard witnesses share about the barriers and trauma that indigenous women and 2SLGTBQQIA+ people face in reporting the violence they experience from “man camps”. However, even when survivors come forward and report the violence, they are faced with additional harm and violence from police. I know that I keep going back to policing, because the sad part of this is that even the systems that are supposed to protect us abuse us, so where are we to go?
We also know from the national inquiry that many indigenous women in Val-d'Or have suffered extreme abuse by the Sûreté du Québec. Certainly, because of the extreme violence being experienced by women who lived in surrounding communities, former premier Couillard put forward a complement to the inquiry. Also, that's certainly not just happened in Quebec. We saw that in the report that came out of Saskatchewan. It's across the country.
Do you have any recommendations to ensure that not only do we address the violence within the resource extraction sites and adjacent communities, but also that survivors coming forward are not further harmed by police?
I think we have quite a few recommendations that were already also given to the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
In Quebec, we also had a commission called the “Commission Viens”, which investigated the relationship following the events that happened in Val-d'Or, the relationship between indigenous people and those public services. There were many recommendations that were given.
I think it's a huge issue that we need to be able to tackle, because there is a lack of confidence toward the police and policing services by indigenous women. I see it with members who come to our centre who do not want to approach the police to make a complaint. Oftentimes, they don't feel, one, that they are taken seriously and, two, they have a fear of being criminalized themselves when approaching police services. Also, they may have had violent experiences, as you said, with the police services previously. There are many different barriers toward indigenous women being able to approach the police.
One thing we can do is to ensure that women who are going to make a complaint with the police are accompanied. I know there are a lot of different rules, too, on the level of accompaniment that women can have when they're filing a complaint, and which I think need to be looked at. If you're a woman who is making a complaint about sexualized violence, there are often systems put in place where you can no longer be accompanied by an intervention worker for fear of nuancing the testimony, but at the same time, a woman can't testify if she doesn't feel safe and secure.
My colleagues from NRCAN can speak to TMX and those conditions. They have mentioned them.
As I mentioned before, under the Impact Assessment Act, GBA+ is new, but we have some experience under the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, where the Mikisew Cree were partnered in doing the impact assessment. Under their regime, GBA+ was required.
In that context, there's a project called the Rose lithium mine. The proponent considered GBA+ and indigenous women's safety, and put mitigation measures in place itself. In that case, there are mitigation measures in place. It committed and undertook to provide a healthy work environment where sexual harassment would not be tolerated. It included conditions of employment prohibiting harassment, as well as mandatory harassment and awareness training, rigorous follow-up of harassment cases and a monitoring program.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
For my last minute, I just want to start with Ms. Van De Bogart.
First of all, thank you to all of the witnesses.
Thank you, honourable Senator Audette, for your work and all that you do and for being with us.
My first question is for Ms. Larocque. Ms. Van De Bogart, you can also expand on this.
We all know that appropriate health and social services are much needed in indigenous communities. For increasing awareness, you said that engagement with the NGOs is very much needed too. What kind of awareness campaign is going on? Can you expand on that?
I would say that under the national strategy we do have a national awareness campaign. What we heard from our stakeholders was that people need to understand what human trafficking is in order to be able to deal with it. We do have a national strategy of awareness that's aimed at young people and parents to better understand.
But we've gone one step further, and that's about the tools we're currently creating to be able to provide to industry providers. As I mentioned, one of those areas is the health sector. The tools will be given to people so that they can understand. For instance, nurses will be better able to understand some of the signs of human trafficking. If they believe that someone is a victim, they'll know what they can do, who they can inform and how they can intervene. Our approach is multi-faceted and is one of is national awareness, which we are going to be continuing through various means, but it will also involve that specific awareness.
We know that NGOs also deal with lots of individuals who are victims and survivors of human trafficking, and one of the things we heard through our stakeholder engagement as well was that one size does not fit all. We need to be able to embrace and support the communities who are dealing with these individuals.
That's where we have funded 20 community-based programs. Those programs are under two pillars of empowerment—support for victims and survivors to help them regain control and independence through a victim-centred approach and then prevention, to be able to target youth who may in fact be at risk of being trafficked. Again, there are 20 community-based programs.
I may just finish with the fact that out of those 20, 15 serve indigenous communities, and two of those are indigenous-led. I hope that responds to your question.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Senator Audette, it has been a pleasure to have you with us.
Ms. Zinck, Ms. Moran, Ms. Van De Bogart, Ms. Brady and Mr. Parker, thank you very much for being here.
Thank you to you as well, Ms. Brazeau. In the summer of 2020, I was supposed to visit an indigenous friendship centre, but then COVID‑19 struck. I will have that opportunity again in the future.
As part of this study, we saw that there is money, but that it is being held back in Ottawa right now. There are calls to action, which are well known, but they have not all be implemented yet. We have gender-based analysis plus, a tool that could help measure the disproportionate effects of natural resource development projects on indigenous women and girls. Finally, we already have a number of things in place. There are solutions that are known. I am part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Combatting Modern Slavery and Trafficking in Persons, so I know what I am talking about.
In light of everything we already know, what is missing and what could we recommend in our report to make it even more constructive?
Anyone who wishes to answer may take a few seconds.
Senator Audette, I think you can sense my frustration. It's hard to continue to watch indigenous women pn particular experience violence, even from the very systems that are supposed to protect us. It's hard to build relationships at the end of a gun, as we continue to witness in the news.
I want to share a quote you gave to Al Jazeera, where you said, “We cannot keep doing [it] the way it has been done. If Canadians, politicians and industr[ies] want to include us, speak to us, create a safe space where we can have our say, then we can bring back that balance.”
Could you please suggest some ways to ensure that a safe and transparent place can be created to hold conversations and build relationships between indigenous women and girls, 2SLGBTQQIA+ individuals, the government and industries?
Our time is over, but what an excellent way of ending it.
Thank you so much for that, Senator Audette.
I would like to thank all of our witnesses.
Senator Audette, Jennifer, Kimberley, Christine, Mélanie, Michelle, Patricia and Brent, thank you so much for joining us today and providing us your testimony.
I have a few notes, as today is our very last meeting of this session and we'll only be joining one another in the new session. Thank you, guys, for such a great spring term.
What notes do I have?
I have “excellent work” as number one.
I would like to thank the interpreters and translators and, of course, Clare and Dominique, and all the hospitality, and of course our clerk, who always keeps us on track and on the ball.
Thanks to everybody for such a successful session. I wish everybody an excellent summer.
If anybody wants to put their mikes on to say goodbye, that's fine.
I will adjourn the meeting if I can get approval from all.
An hon. member: Thank you, Madam Chair.