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David Manicom
View David Manicom Profile
David Manicom
2019-01-30 15:53
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My name is David Manicom and I am the Assistant Deputy Minister for Settlement and Integration at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
I am joined by Corinne Prince, the Director General for Settlement and Immigration Policy, and by Laura Di Paolo, the Director General for the Settlement network.
We hope that our testimony will be helpful to your study.
Immigrants from every corner of the world have made significant contributions to all spheres of Canadian life, and they continue to make influential contributions to science, business, and technology.
Through new perspectives and diverse insights, immigrants also help to drive our country's intellectual and artistic capital. Many of our immigrants also bring with them an entrepreneurial spirit, creating jobs and becoming important drivers of innovation and investment.
Immigration benefits Canada's economic and demographic growth, our innovation and prosperity and our efforts at nation building. With Canada's aging population and growing labour force needs, I think we can all agree, Mr. Chair, that immigration will be vital to the continued growth and success of our country's economy and society. This statement is also supported by research.
Statistics Canada reports that the lion's share of national employment gains, 66% of gains between 2016 and 2017, was directly accounted for by immigrants.
And the most recent labour force survey for December 2018 shows that immigrants' employment rates are broadly in line with the national average.
The unemployment rate for core working-age immigrants stood at 5.7% in 2018.
This is the lowest unemployment rate for this group since at least 2006. This bodes very well for the future of immigration in Canada and suggests that our settlement program is doing a good job of helping newcomers to integrate. This is key, because ensuring that immigration remains advantageous to Canada in the future means that all newcomers are integrated and supported so they may contribute to various aspects of Canadian life.
Settlement services are a key to newcomer success, and investing in that success will be key to our nation's future prosperity and inclusiveness.
By the end of fiscal year 2019-2020, this will represent a 32% increase in settlement funding since 2015-2016.
In 2018-2019, our department has funded over 500 organizations and provided services to approximately 460,000 clients. Of these clients, more than 100,000 accessed language training services, reflecting the critical importance of English and French language skills for successful settlement in Canada.
Looking ahead, the ongoing success of our settlement programming will continue to depend critically upon our partnerships, which go well beyond the Government of Canada. This year we developed a shared national vision on settlement and integration with our partners, including the provinces, territories and stakeholders. That shared vision is that the successful settlement and integration of newcomers benefits Canada by building a more inclusive, diverse and productive nation. This is achieved through a shared effort that helps all reach their economic and social potential.
As you know, improving the delivery of settlement services is one of the commitments identified in Minister Hussen's mandate letter and is a priority that our department is intently focused on.
Our goal is to offer services that will best meet immigrants' needs and produce the best settlement outcomes possible. Our outcomes-based programming will be informed by our research, analysis, evaluation findings and the results of our new pilot projects.
To assess the effectiveness of our services, the department conducted a formal evaluation of the program, completed in May 2017. This incorporated a wide range of perspectives, including program clients, stakeholders and program officials, and comprised the largest-scale survey of newcomers ever conducted to that point, with almost 15,000 respondents. Overall, the evaluation found that our program has been effective at meeting a growing demand for settlement services. A clear majority of clients—96%—reported positive outcomes, such as improving their language ability finding employment, participating in their communities, and so forth.
We also conducted separate evaluations of the pre-arrival services and immigration to francophone minority communities.
The evaluations made several recommendations to improve our settlement program. The department has developed an action plan that is addressing those gaps. This plan will guide future program improvements, and inform the next calls for proposals with service providers, which will launch next month.
To date, improvements to our settlement program have included streamlining our pre-arrival settlement services for newcomers who are still abroad.
A number of projects are also under way to experiment with and assess potential new service delivery improvement projects. This year we will devote $32 million toward a dedicated funding stream for service delivery improvements and innovations.
One of the first of such innovative pilots is employing newcomers in stable, good-paying hotel jobs. This pilot will connect as many as 1,300 unemployed or unemployed newcomers with jobs in the hotel industry while they strengthen their language skills in the workplace.
Our program evaluation shows that combining employment and language training is effective and ultimately improves settlement and integration.
As such, the department is exploring more of these types of projects that combine workplace experience with language training and other supports. The Atlantic immigration program pilot is another example of this type of innovation.
IRCC is also launching other innovative settlement programs to target more vulnerable populations, such as refugees and women. We launched a pilot project this past December to support visible minority newcomer women in gaining access to and advancing in the labour market. Through this project, we aim to support the employment of visible minority newcomer women by increasing existing services, establishing new partnerships and testing the effectiveness of different combinations of employment services.
In addition, we are looking at improving the services that we offer to French-speaking newcomers who settle in francophone and Acadian communities outside of Quebec.
As announced in Budget 2018, and included in the official languages action plan, the department will invest more than $40 million over the next five years on a francophone integration pathway.
We are also looking at improving our settlement services for refugees, which have been especially important for Syrian refugees. This spring, IRCC will issue a major report on the 52,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada. We have already compiled much data from various sources. Most notably, 57% of Syrian refugees reported that they were employed, a marked increase since our 2016 rapid evaluation findings and, I think we can say, exceeding our expectations. What a wonderful collective effort from Canadians and these newcomers.
Once our report is complete, we expect the overall findings to the positive. More importantly, this will also help guide future improvements to our settlement services for refugees.
The call for proposals process that we will launch next month also will place an increased focus on key areas, including the integration of vulnerable populations, such as youth, refugees and LGBTQ2+, a greater focus on mental health supports and further enhancing our services for francophone newcomers.
The department recognizes that we must continue to assess what is working and what must be improved, and to continuously adapt our settlement programs to the changing needs of newcomers.
Going forward, with true co-planning with the provinces and territories and close co-operation with our partners and stakeholders, we can create a clearer picture of what newcomers need and determine how to collectively meet those needs. Our aim is to maximize the social and economic contributions of all immigrants to Canada, regardless of how they arrive.
As one of our service providers said today at a meeting I was at, it's about building a better Canada one newcomer at a time. With that in mind, Mr. Chair, we look forward to the findings of the committee's study.
Thank you very much.
View Colin Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Colin Fraser Profile
2018-05-08 12:53
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Gentlemen, thank you both very much for being here and for the good work you're doing in Saskatchewan. It's really appreciated. Your testimony here today will, I'm sure, lead to some recommendations that we can make to the government to ensure that indigenous veterans are getting better services and more recognition for the incredible military service that indigenous people have given to our country.
Mr. Highway, I'll start with you. You mentioned some of the new programs that are now in place for veterans that were not available when you left the forces back in the 1960s, or whenever it was you were in the service and then left.
You mentioned education and training benefit, help with resumé writing, career assistance, help for families, and the caregiver recognition benefit. All of this is important work. Is there any difference that you see with the delivery of those types of services for indigenous veterans in particular that we should be aware of? Do you think it's just as important to make sure that every person, whether they are an indigenous person living on reserve, off reserve, or Métis, is aware of those services? Do you think there's any difference in how the government should be delivering those services to indigenous people?
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Chairman Ellis and fellow members of Parliament, good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs today. I am always glad to meet with you because I know that we share the same goal, supporting the veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.
Our shared mandate it to ensure that Canada lives up to its duty to provide the care, support, respect, and economic opportunities that veterans deserve for their services to the country.
Before continuing, I would also like thank the committee for its dedication to ensuring that we keep that promise.
When I first appeared before the committee this fall, I was a newly appointed minister, and a lot has changed since then, including December's announcement of the pension for life. It will become another integral part of the package we provide for the well-being of our veterans. The pension for life provides three new benefits.
The pain and suffering compensation recognizes and compensates veterans for the pain and suffering they experience as a result of service-related disability. Additional pain and suffering compensation will be provided for those with severe and permanent service-related impairments causing a barrier to re-establishment in life after service. Veterans will be able to choose to receive those as tax-free monthly payments for life or as a single, non-taxable lump sum, whichever is right for them and their family.
The second component of the pension for life is the income replacement benefit that will provide up to 90% of the veteran's salary at the time of their release from the Canadian Armed Forces. This is for veterans who face barriers to re-establishment caused by health problems resulting primarily from service.
These components will be combined with the wellness benefit included in the New Veterans Charter in order to provide better support to ill and injured veterans as they begin their life after military service.
These components will build on our government's investments in budget 2016 where we increased the amount of the disability award; and as of December, veterans received $650 million. You can see that increase reflected throughout Veterans Affairs vote 5 in the 2017-2018 main estimates and throughout this year's supplementary estimates for the department.
We also increased the earnings loss benefit, which veterans receive while in rehabilitation, to 90% of their pre-release salary. We re-opened the nine offices closed by the previous government and opened a new office in Surrey, as well as expanding outreach to veterans in northern Canada, and we hired more staff.
Going live in two weeks are our budget 2017 initiatives, including the education and training benefit; career transition services; veteran emergency fund; caregiver recognition benefit; the expansion of our successful military family resource centre pilot; the veteran and family well-being fund; the centre of excellence on PTSD and mental health; and the elimination of a time limit on the rehabilitation services and vocational assistance program. I look forward to reporting back throughout the year on the progress in each of these.
The key to these benefits and programs is how we deliver them. Since December, I've had the opportunity to meet with hundreds of veterans, their families, and serving CAF members at town hall meetings. I can tell you how we deliver services and, in many cases, how services are not being delivered comes up loudly, and it comes up often, and for good reason.
When I was here last, I spoke about this committee's reports, “Reaching Out: Improving Service Delivery to Canadian Veterans” and “Mental Health of Canadian Veterans: A Family Purpose”. Many of your recommendations corresponded with what Veterans Affairs own service delivery review identified as key areas of need.
I also said that the department has an action plan to address those recommendations. Among the 91 specific measures to improve veterans' experience, the department has already responded to nearly half of them and I am committed to continuing to implement them by the end of 2020-21.
To accomplish this, we've made a number of fundamental changes to the way that Veterans Affairs works. The most significant one is completely turning around the approach to delivering services. Previously, it was up to the veteran to apply for benefits and services. Our service delivery review report called this the “pull” model. The problem with it was that veterans often did not have enough information to be able to ask the questions that would enable them to apply for benefits. Again, this is something that has come up over and over again with the veterans that I meet.
Therefore, we've flipped that to a push model. Now, Veterans Affairs staff take the initiative to give veterans all the information they need about the services they're eligible for. Let me take a moment to tell you a little more about that.
This month, the department is wrapping up a six-month pilot called guided support. The program assigned a veteran service agent to be the main point of contact at the department for a veteran. The agent gets to know the veteran, their family situation, and their needs and then determines what programs, benefits, and services they're eligible for. The agent helps the veteran navigate through the department's application and delivery system, and coordinates services.
The reactions of participants in the pilot study have been very encouraging. Veterans and families liked the fact that they only had to communicate with one person at the department. They appreciated the support they received in learning about services and benefits and in filling out the right forms to apply for them.
Veterans service agents were also enthusiastic. They like being able to visit veterans at home, getting to know them better, and developing a plan that is tailored to their individual needs. We are about to implement this level of support for all veterans who do not need a case manager, but need more than just a phone call.
However, it's important to realize that the fundamental changes the department has made to the benefits and services, and to the way it delivers them, are having an impact right now on the lives of veterans and their families today.
It's not only through the pilot project that veterans are getting more and better information about the services and benefits they're entitled to; the whole department is adopting the push model. It has made significant progress in improving communications to veterans, families, advocates, and stakeholders, whether in person, by phone, over the Internet, or even by mail.
As a result of these efforts, the number of applications for disability benefits has increased 32% over the past two years. We will ensure that every veteran who comes forward receives what they're entitled to, whether that's 10 veterans or 10,000.
I am here today in regard to supplementary estimates (C). As you can see, Veterans Affairs Canada is seeking $45 million in increased operating expenditures and $132 million in grants and contributions.
Our programs are driven by demand, which is why the bulk of these supplementary estimates will pay for benefits and programs that go directly to veterans, their families, and caregivers. They also include increases to disability awards and allowances, a doubling of the critical injury benefit, money for educational assistance for children of deceased members or veterans, payments for housekeeping and grounds maintenance for veterans, and funding for treatment benefits and operational stress injury clinics.
Chairman Ellis and members of the standing committee, we share a common goal to ensure that Canada's veterans get the support and services they need. Veterans Affairs Canada is working hard to enhance the well-being of veterans and their families.
With further improvements planned for the coming fiscal year and the reinstatement of a pension for life option in 2019, we are making real strides. With the support of this committee, we can continue making progress.
Thank you very much.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I will start, Madam Chair, as the returning regular here.
I'm pleased to be back here today, on the traditional Algonquin territory, to present the department's supplementary estimates (B) for the 2017-18 fiscal year. As you know, this is my first appearance before your committee, as the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, so I'm also looking forward to discussing my mandate letter with all of you. I'm also very pleased to be joined by my colleague, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, whom you will be hearing from shortly.
I am joined by Hélène Laurendeau, the deputy minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs; Joe Wild, the senior assistant deputy minister for treaties and aboriginal government; and chief financial officer Paul Thoppil.
In supplementary estimates (B), we are requesting a total of $445 million.
Supplementary estimates (B) represent a net increase of $445.1 million. It comprises mainly the $200 million payment for the Crees of Eeyou Istchee settlement payment; $91.8 million for comprehensive land claims, treaty-related and self-government agreements; $52.2 million for specific claims settlements; $23.7 million for urban programming for indigenous peoples; and $21.6 million for Métis rights and Métis relationships with the federal department. This brings the total investments for the department to approximately $11.3 billion for 2017-18 to address the needs of indigenous peoples and northerners.
I would be very happy to provide a more detailed breakdown of these expenditures during the question and answers, but in my opening remarks I would like to just highlight a couple of things.
Last summer we signed the historic agreement on Cree nation governance, a true nation-to-nation effort based on partnership and respect for the traditional way of life of the Crees. This agreement is an important step forward in expanding the existing governance regime of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. As I noted, these supplementary estimates include $200 million to make the final settlement to the Crees of Eeyou Istchee in accordance with the new relationship agreement. The payment is conditional on corresponding legislation being passed. We are currently working with the Cree nation on the draft legislation. We anticipate having legislation ready in the winter. We are requesting the money through supplementary estimates (B) so that we can move expeditiously when that legislation is passed.
I also want to thank the committee for looking at both specific and comprehensive claims policies through your ongoing study. I look forward to reviewing your recommendations, as the government is absolutely committed to significant reform in both areas. These supplementary estimates include a re-profiling of $52.2 million from 2016-17 to 2017-18 for specific claims settlements. As we have discussed at this committee before, this is part of the government's usual practice of maintaining an ongoing source of funds by rolling it over, year over year, so that the money is available as soon as a claim is resolved.
I want to make it clear that this is not a matter of lapsing money. It's a matter of prudent policy. It was always the intention of the government to maintain a claims envelope over a number of years to fund this process. Having the money earmarked for this specific purpose underscores the government's commitment to resolving these claims in a fair and respectful manner.
Our government has also heard the concerns that first nations have with the specific claims process. We share those concerns and are working in partnership to identify fair and practical measures to improve the process. We are currently engaged in ongoing discussions with first nations and first nation organizations to identify and implement measures to improve the specific claims process. A joint technical working group with the AFN has been working on specific claims process reform.
This work, and your recommendations, will inform our efforts to reform and improve how we resolve specific claims.
We are committed to increasing the number of modern treaties and new self-government agreements in a manner that reflects a recognition of rights approach for individual first nation communities. I look forward to receiving this committee's recommendations on how we can improve these processes as well. We are already engaging in discussions with indigenous groups through the recognition of indigenous rights and self-determination discussions. These are more flexible discussions about finding areas of jurisdiction that indigenous communities or groups can draw down to move them closer to self-determination.
These initiatives are at the core of my new mandate. We know that strong governance and self-determination are the greatest contributing factors to the social and economic health of a community.
That brings me to the second topic of today's meeting, which is my new mandate.
A little more than 20 years ago, RCAP recommended that Canada dramatically improve the delivery of services to indigenous people while accelerating a move to self-government and self-determination. We agree with RCAP that rights recognition must be an imperative. We know that relationships built on colonial structures have contributed to the unacceptable socio-economic gap. That is why the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of INAC and the creation of two new departments.
Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs will advance reconciliation objectives and will lead on northern programming and Arctic policy. We must continue to address the day-to-day realities in indigenous communities directly, but we must also build a path to systemic change. The creation of two new departments is about dissolving a patriarchal, colonial structure that was designed to support the Indian Act.
This will allow us to focus our efforts on building strong, respectful, collaborative relationships between the crown and indigenous peoples. It's about understanding that we have to work together in a new way. We now get to rebuild two new departments in a way where form follows function.
A key part of my mandate is to lead a consultation process to determine how to achieve this goal.
In building this new system, we want to hear from indigenous people, people whose communities and nations existed in this land since time immemorial. We are listening to what indigenous groups have to say about their own vision of reconciliation.
Jane's department, which you will hear from in a moment, is focused on closing the gaps in the socio-economic outcomes, but we have to go beyond the federal government delivering services to indigenous people.
We must work to ensure that those services can be delivered and controlled by indigenous communities themselves.
We are working to achieve the goal of services being delivered and controlled by indigenous communities and indigenous-led institutions. My job is to help build indigenous governments and indigenous institutions that will deliver those programs that were once delivered by INAC.
Self-determination—the right to make choices about your community, your government, and your future—is a fundamental right. We know that if we truly want to move forward in partnership and reconciliation we need to look differently at the way we build crown-indigenous relationships. Part of my job is to make sure there is a whole-of-government approach—a sustainable approach—to these relationships to ensure all government departments are doing their part on the path to reconciliation and achieving the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I look forward to answering your questions.
View Jane Philpott Profile
Ind. (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thanks to all of you for welcoming me here today with my honourable colleague, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs. I very much look forward to discussing the supplementary estimates (B), as well as my mandate, with the members of this committee.
I also want to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I want to thank this committee for your excellent work on a number of issues, including, of course, your important work on the study of the suicide crisis in indigenous communities. I want to thank you also for your work on the matter of third party management systems. Most recently, I know that you are doing a study on wildfires and fire safety on reserve, and I very much look forward to hearing the results of that study.
I look forward to building a positive working relationship with the committee as we work together to chart a path forward and advance reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
I'm privileged to be here today as Canada's first Minister of Indigenous Services. As Minister Bennett has already explained to you, the former Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs has been replaced by two distinct departments that are part of our transformative work in relationships with indigenous peoples.
Transforming how we structure ourselves, how we're sharing information, and how we're working with our partners and clients is helping to advance the nation-to-nation, Inuit-to-crown, and government-to-government relationships. The creation of this new Department of Indigenous Services is an important step in forging that renewed relationship with indigenous peoples that is based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. You'll have heard those words before, to the point that they may sound to you like buzzwords. Each of them carries deep meaning, and they are very intentional, such that we repeat them on a number of occasions.
I have been given a mandate to overhaul the way that programs and services for indigenous peoples are designed, developed, and delivered, and to do that in partnership with indigenous peoples.
With indigenous partners, we will ensure that our significant investments will produce real and improved results. Together we must close the unacceptable socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada.
Madam Chair, we made a commitment to Canadians to pursue reconciliation with a renewed sense of collaboration, so I will be engaging and working productively with indigenous leaders and communities to identify and realize the systemic reforms that we all acknowledge are long overdue.
Much more than a name change, establishing a department whose sole purpose is to improve the quality and delivery of services in partnership with indigenous peoples underscores a desire to implement transformative change.
As the Prime Minister has said, “No relationship is more important to our government and to Canada than the one with indigenous peoples.”
The entire reason for this change is to enable first nations, Inuit, and Métis people to build the capacity to make their own decisions and deliver their own programs and services to fully implement their right to self-determination. That includes everything from family services and community infrastructure to health and education programs.
Once that is achieved, it is our hope and plan that there will no longer be a need for a Department of Indigenous Services. That won't be accomplished overnight, of course. In the meantime, the department has an ongoing responsibility to ensure the high-quality programs and services that indigenous peoples need, including improved access to services for indigenous children through programs such as Jordan's principle.
I want to take a few moments to elaborate on that. As this committee knows, the principle is named after Jordan River Anderson who died at Norway House Hospital in 2005 at the age of five after a dispute between federal and provincial governments as to who was responsible to pay for his care. In 2007, some of you were in the House of Commons, and others know that the House of Commons passed a motion declaring that jurisdictional disputes should never interfere with first nations children getting care. That motion was passed in 2007, but it was not implemented. Up until 2015, there were zero cases in which children received care based on this principle. Last year, we broadened the definition of Jordan's principle. We reiterated our plan to fully implement it, and we set aside enough funds to do so.
To date, we have approved more than 24,000 cases under that principle. These are children who were previously denied care and are now receiving mental health supports, respite care, medical equipment, physiotherapy, speech therapy, and more. Jordan's principle is being implemented to ensure that no child who requires care will go without it. No one should be left behind, no matter who they are or where they live.
In that spirit, I am very pleased this morning as well to announce that, along with the parties to the cases before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, an agreement has been reached to amend two aspects of CHRT's orders. The amendments address the CHRT's May 2017 ruling that the Government of Canada was seeking to clarify in a judicial review application to the Federal Court. As a result, Canada is withdrawing the federal application.
Madam Chair, I want to be very clear that how and by whom programs and services for indigenous peoples are developed and delivered must and will change. We know we must do more and do better. There is still criticism that we are not doing enough and not doing it fast enough. Let me respond in this way. Turning around the effects of generations of historic injustice and systemic discrimination against Canada's indigenous peoples could never be done fast enough.
In my mandate letter, I was directed to “leverage the ingenuity and understanding of Indigenous Peoples as well as experts from the private sector, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments and international experts on service delivery.” Working closely with indigenous peoples and these other important partners, my departmental officials and I will promote innovative approaches to all programs and services that increase equality of opportunity for indigenous peoples.
We intend to move forward on several key fronts. I'd be happy to elaborate on any of them. Let me itemize a few. We are taking an approach to transform the way health care is delivered in first nation communities. We are working with first nations to develop and enable their own solutions to address critical issues that are directly impacting their communities. We're developing and implementing an improved response, along with our partners, to child welfare to make sure the best interests of the child always come first. This requires a holistic approach focused on prevention, family preservation, family well-being and reunification, and community wellness. We will be discussing this with our partners at an emergency meeting on indigenous child and family services in the new year.
Improving essential infrastructure for indigenous communities, including housing, is another of our priorities.
We're also supporting the implementation of a distinct indigenous framework as part of a national early learning and child care framework that takes into consideration the unique needs of first nations, Inuit, and Métis children.
We're undertaking a review of all current federal programs that support indigenous students pursuing a post-secondary education to ensure the programs meet the needs of individual students and lead to high graduation rates.
We're leveraging investments in indigenous youth and sport, and promoting culturally relevant sport to strengthen indigenous identity and cultural pride.
We are promoting economic development opportunities in indigenous communities that improve the standard of living and quality of life of local residents.
Through supplementary estimates (B) this year, we have funded the new urban programming for indigenous peoples initiative, which has been designed to assist first nations, Inuit, and Métis living in or transitioning to urban centres. I would be happy to discuss the programming in detail.
In every instance, we will adopt a rigorous results-and-delivery approach that translates into real and meaningful changes in the lives of indigenous peoples. We have an obligation to seize this opportunity for bold change.
Madam Chair, rest assured we will engage and cooperate with indigenous peoples to determine the best way forward before we take action in these priority areas.
As we implement this ambitious agenda together, I have little doubt that together we can make great progress resulting in a measurable difference in the lives of indigenous peoples. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much. Meegwetch. Nakurmiik.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Chairman, fellow members of Parliament, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for the first time. I appreciate the good work that members do on behalf of Canadian veterans and their families. I want to thank you for the hard work that went into your most recent reports, “Reaching out: Improving Service Delivery to Canadian Veterans” and “Mental Health of Canadian Veterans: a Family Purpose”. The former already precipitated a great deal of change since it was tabled a year ago and the latter is very near to my heart as a long-term advocate for mental health awareness.
We have been taking action on your recommendations to ensure the programs that we deliver are efficient, valued, and meet the needs of our veterans. As I'm sure you're aware, our own internal report, “Delivering Service Excellence”, released earlier this year, complemented many of the recommendations that you made. We are committed to improving our current system. We have a plan in place to address the recommendations. We are hard at work implementing them. We are overhauling how we deliver services. While it will take five years to successfully complete the transition, 90% of the recommendations will be completed within three years. A few of the things that will take longer rely on other government departments or policy changes that are outside our authority.
Those changes are key improvements to the many systems, services, support measures, benefits and programs that veterans need to successfully transition to civilian life. I am proud to take office during this pivotal time in order to help implement them.
I talk many times about my own connection to the Canadian Armed Forces: the fact that I grew up at CFB Goose Bay, and that my brother Danny is a lieutenant commander in the Royal Canadian Navy. Actually, growing up at CFB Goose Bay—I don't know if I've ever told you, Mr. Chair—I was taught at a very early age that Trenton was nirvana. All the CAF forces at CFB Goose Bay couldn't wait to get back to Trenton. I said, “Someday I have to visit it.”
In discussions with my brother, he made me aware of some of the challenges even before I came into this role. It was quite fitting and an honour and a privilege to be named Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Associate Minister of National Defence, and to work alongside members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, veterans, and their families. This has given me the opportunity to take on these essential tasks of improving service delivery, closing the seam between the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada, and ensuring financial security for the most seriously ill and injured veterans.
We are here today to talk about what my department is doing, how the supplementary estimates reflect our approach to veterans' well-being, our accomplishments, and the work that remains to be done. Specifically, Veterans Affairs will receive an additional $26.1 million in these supplementary estimates, a 0.6% increase to $4.7 billion.
Before I speak to where we increased our estimates for new programs, it's important to point out that 90% of that budget figure represents payments directly to veterans and their families. For many veterans, this means the pain and suffering disability award in recognition of her or his injury. More than that, though, it goes to the earnings loss benefit of 90% of their pre-release salary, paid out during vocational rehabilitation. It also goes to the vocational rehabilitation that works with the veteran through the injury, which might be a barrier to finding her or his new normal.
If that veteran cannot re-establish after rehabilitation, it provides through the extended earnings loss benefit of 90% of pre-release salary paid out until the age of 65. It also goes to the career impact allowance if the veteran has a severe and permanent impairment, and to the career impact allowance supplement if that impairment results in a diminished earning capacity.
When a veteran turns 65, it goes to the retirement income security benefit or the supplementary retirement benefit.
Ultimately, all veterans who come to one of our many area offices can now be assured that most of our funding is used to recognize their pain and suffering and to set up and maintain wellness programs that provide a safety net during their recovery.
Let me say this again because it's an important point. Ultimately, for any veteran who comes to the door of one of our many area offices today, they can rest assured that the majority of our funding is going towards recognizing their pain and suffering, and establishing and maintaining the well-being programs that provide a safety net while they are mending.
But we still have work to do. We are enhancing the financial security and wellness elements of the new Veterans Charter to help veterans and their families transition to civilian life and make choices about what they want to do next, whether it be work, education, or other activities.
These supplementary estimates (B) primarily include funding for several budget 2017 initiatives. This funding and our overall guiding focus is about improving the lives of Canadian veterans, whether it be through enhanced education and employment services, the new caregiver recognition benefit that will provide $1,000 a month tax-free to the informal caregiver, or other critical programs we introduced in budget 2017, which will be implemented on April 1, 2018.
Of course, some of the funding went to the Invictus Games Toronto 2017, where veterans and active military members alike embraced the power of sport as they pushed through barriers and proudly represented our country. While it was an incredible event for the millions of spectators, I know there are many veterans who need more support from us, and that's why we're here today.
We are on the right track to improving our support for veterans. For example, of the 67,000 individuals who received the disability award increase reflected in these estimates, which put approximately $700 million in the pockets of our veterans, around 37,000 received their amended payment immediately, as a result of our move towards a fully automated system.
Having already done so much in reinforcing the benefits that make up our wellness model and bolstering the successes of the new Veterans Charter, we will announce more details on our monthly pension option for veterans shortly. We know this is an eagerly awaited announcement. We are committed to giving veterans and their families the best options to ensure their financial security and getting them the best possible support in their post-military lives.
We are all here to serve Canada's veterans. At the end of the day, those who need our assistance now or in the future need to know that we are here to assist them, and that we will continue to expand and adapt to the needs of our growing and diverse veterans community, especially with the help of this committee.
Thank you for your time.
Susan Hart
View Susan Hart Profile
Susan Hart
2017-11-23 11:58
We evaluate the applications using the criteria in our application guide. There are essential criteria and relative criteria. Technology is an essential criterion. Most of the applications we receive are for fibre optic. We consider the applications we receive. I said earlier that satellite service is offered in Nunavut. The reason is that fibre optic service would be extremely expensive. Those applications that we received were therefore for satellite service.
We consider the cost-benefit ratio, the partners, and the other stakeholders who will be investing in the project. We consider various criteria to determine the most cost-effective way of achieving the program objectives. Moreover, it is not just fibre optic and satellite service. There are also other technologies, such as wireless networks. That said, most applications are for fibre optic service. We do not decide that one location will have satellite service and another one will have fibre optic. We consider what is submitted to us and what is best for the communities.
Perhaps Mr. Delorme would like to add something.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2017-11-23 9:47
Merci, monsieur le président.
I'd like to continue on the concern raised by Mr. Christopherson with respect to the comments you started and finished your statement with, Mr. Ferguson. I'll cite them:
I find myself delivering this message audit after audit, and year after year because we still see that departments are focused on their own activities, and not on the citizen's perspective. The audits we have delivered this week are no exception, as you will see.
Mr. Christopherson asked you, with respect, what more we can do to try to improve or change the way the government provides the services. From what I'm seeing, most of the time our public service is focused on delivering a program on time and on budget—basically, to deliver it and get results—and the lens of the citizen is not something that is taken into account.
I'm wondering whether you think it's a good idea that we bring the Clerk of the Privy Council to this committee and have that discussion as to how we can change or add that lens, to ensure that it is provided by the Clerk of the Privy Council to all deputy ministers.
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2017-11-23 9:49
I'll let the committee consider whether it should bring the clerk forward. What encourages me is certainly the committee's interest in trying to get the departments and the whole government machinery to understand the importance of this aspect.
This is just something that is coming to me right now, but perhaps some sort of a review of departmental performance reports could be done to look for any indicators in them that are dealing with services to citizens. In some of those you might see that at least on the surface some of them look good, but that some of the other ones weren't really telling very much about the service. You might want to do something like that.
I probably just created a whole bunch of work for your analysts.
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Paul Lefebvre Profile
2017-11-23 9:50
That's great, that's fine, because I'm looking at the macro level right now. We're going to have the time to deal with all of your reports one by one, and we will go through all of them. I hope we do.
That brings me to my second question.
In my observations in the past few years of being here, every time there was a transformational program or they were trying to transform something—and we saw it with Shared Services, and now we're seeing it with Phoenix, which are large projects and we all recognize that—it's as if there's an incapacity or a serious difficulty in basically getting the result that is aimed for. It's a concern that program after program and transformation after transformation, we're either off budget, or we're not on time, or we're not getting the results, or it's not at all what we thought it was because of various reasons.
What internal changes should be brought forward? If we keep doing the same thing in the next project when we're trying to transform or change something that we've done in the past, from what I'm seeing, we'll just get the same results.
How can you advise our public service and the deputy ministers? When they have a new project to transform or change something, what can be added? What has to be done?
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2017-11-23 9:51
I would suggest probably a couple of things.
One is that when there is the original acceptance of a project—if you're talking about a payroll system or about Shared Services, whatever you're talking about—the chances that the project sponsor will be able to come forward at the conception point of the idea and the acceptance of the project and give a precise number for how much that is going to cost, a precise date for when it is going to be delivered, and a precise number for the end impact in terms of whether there are going to be efficiencies are slight . I would say it would be extremely rare for somebody to be able to come in at the conception of these very complex projects and say this is going to cost x number of dollars, I'm going to deliver it on this date, and it's going to save you this amount of money.
Those things need to be updated during the course of the whole project, based on what is being learned through the course of the project. There will need to be some understanding that this is starting to look more complex than originally thought, so maybe it's going to cost more or maybe we need to delay it some more.
Those things will all have to be considered: “Maybe we can't do everything we thought we were going to be able to do in the first place, or maybe we can do this, but it's not going to provide all the efficiencies that we thought.”
Those things all need to be updated during the course of the project. I think what happens too often is that these projects get anchored on amounts that were established very early on. I think that's one part of understanding these types of projects.
I would say the other thing is to never underestimate the importance of a good governance structure on complex projects. It can't all be in the hands of the individuals or the team that is responsible for delivering the project. There needs to be some oversight by people who are not just the project deliverers. Then there needs to be some independent expertise that can advise the individuals charged with the oversight. That could be by internal audit or outside evaluators, but they should be reporting to the people with the oversight, not reporting to the people who are delivering the project.
I'm not saying that's what's happened in any of these cases. I'm saying that conceptually, those are the types of things I think are needed.
View Shaun Chen Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much. I want to start off by thanking the Auditor General and his team for their outstanding work and this set of reports.
I want to echo the concerns that have been expressed by my colleagues around the table, particularly Mr. Christopherson. He pointed to the Auditor General's opening statement in which he expressed the overall message that audit after audit, year after year, we still see that departments are focused on their own activities, not on the citizens' perspectives.
We've talked around the table today about the concerns of citizens, the experiences of citizens, the service to citizens. I want to start off by taking a moment to first deconstruct this terminology, because I believe it's very important that we are clear on who we serve. That, to me, is Canadians, in the most general, broadest, and most inclusive sense, whether we are talking about the oral health of first nations and Inuit children, or Syrian refugees who have now been welcomed to their new home, or indigenous women offenders who are not provided with culturally appropriate programs, or women offenders in general who are subjected to correctional programs designed for men, not women. To me, we need to be clear that we are talking about all Canadians and to understand who they are and be able to provide the types of services and programming that very clearly meet the needs of all Canadians.
With that said, I want to focus on the audit with respect to the Phoenix pay system.
Exhibit 1.2 on page 7 of the Auditor General's report shows a graph of the number of public servants with outstanding pay requests in 46 departments and agencies. This graph shows very clearly that over the course of two years, under the Miramichi pay centre, there were 15,000 public servants with outstanding pay requests. That number goes up to 35,000 in January 2016, when Phoenix was first adopted, and then we see an exponential increase in the number of outstanding pay requests, going up to the latest number, in June 2017, of 150,000.
If I were to take this graph at face value, I would understand it to be what it is described as—46 departments and agencies, the public services under those departments. However, reading the report tells me something a bit different. It points out that these outstanding pay requests were not capturing the information from all 46 departments over those two years, because some of them were not on board with those systems.
I'd like to hear the Auditor General's comment on what this means. To me, at face value, it means a significant and very worrisome increase in the number of cases. However, reading the report tells me that this increase can be attributed to departments that perhaps were not on the Miramichi pay system or the Phoenix pay system at certain points in time.
I'd like to hear the Auditor General's comments.
View Phil McColeman Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Walbourne, for your testimony today and for being here.
I read your latest report, and when I look at the things you're saying, it makes me wonder what you would do if you had a clean slate, if none of these barriers existed.
In other words, you're a painter and you have a blank canvas. How would you establish a system that would work for the best possible delivery of benefits for our serving members in that transition time to Veterans Affairs? What would it be? What would it look like?
Gary Walbourne
View Gary Walbourne Profile
Gary Walbourne
2017-11-02 8:57
It's a bittersweet thing, if I may say, because I do believe the mechanical pieces we require are in place in one form or another. I think the fundamental change that needs to happen first and foremost is that we must define what we want our programs of benefits and services to be. What ability we are trying to bring back to this transitioning member first needs to be determined.
I think the secondary issue that we're having is on who is responsible for what at any point in time. It's very convoluted now. I mean, there are various entities that can reach back to a member, so it's a little confusing on who's doing what. I believe there are programs that are running in duplication that could be sequenced. We could even see reductions in costs to the Government of Canada. There are many possibilities, but I think it's first and foremost, clear lines of responsibility and setting the program needs to our desired outcomes.
If we look at where the chief of defence staff is going, talking about the journey, he's talking about building some of these things. The JPSU needs to be the centre where these people are assigned, with a clear chain of command and one person responsible to decide when a member is being released and when Veterans Affairs Canada should be engaged.
The pieces are there; it's how we're exercising them, I think, is where we find the problem. Then we'll come up against some legislative...where there are certain authorities given to Veterans Affairs or not to the department, or they are given to the department. We need to decide who should have these responsibilities and who should be given this legislative right to implement these programs and services.
I think that the pieces we need are in place. It's a matter now of clearly defining what the programs are to be, who should be responsible, and giving that person the resources they need to do the job.
Gary Walbourne
View Gary Walbourne Profile
Gary Walbourne
2017-11-02 9:29
I've spent many years in the private sector also. I knew what my deliverables were, and if they weren't delivered, I knew my paycheques were going to be numbered in the future. If I have a public service standard that I've committed to meeting, and I'm consistently not doing it, there should be some questions. Why aren't we meeting this goal? Is this goal important? Is this the one we should be chasing? These questions, I think, are part of day-to-day business. They should be continuously answered, not addressed at a committee or in a report. These are things that everyone should be addressing every day.
If I'm not meeting 80% and I'm at 26%, what's the problem and what do I need to do to get there? No one is asking that question. I haven't seen any push or agitation in the system at all about the 26%. It seems to have flown under the radar.
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