Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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Bob Hamilton
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Bob Hamilton
2019-06-11 11:24
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning.
Thank you for the opportunity to present the Canada Revenue Agency's 2019-20 main estimates to the committee, and to answer any questions you may have on the associated funding.
My understanding is that you have a copy of my full remarks. In the interest of time, I will just hit some of the highlights as I go through.
As you are aware, the CRA is responsible for the administration of federal and certain provincial and territorial programs, as well as the delivery of a number of benefit payment programs. Last year the agency collected approximately $526 billion of tax revenue on behalf of federal, provincial and territorial governments, and distributed over $33 billion of benefit payments to millions of Canadians. The CRA also offers help and information to those who need it, and is working hard to reach Canadians who might not be receiving the tax credits or benefits to which they are entitled.
In order to fulfill its mandate in 2019-20, the CRA is seeking a total of $4.5 billion through these main estimates. Of this amount, $3.5 billion requires approval by Parliament, whereas the remaining $1 billion represents the forecast statutory authorities that are already approved under separate legislation. The statutory items include the children's special allowance payments, employee benefit costs and, pursuant to section 60 of the CRA Act, the spending of revenues received for activities administered on behalf of the provinces and other government departments.
These 2019-20 main estimates represent a net increase of $297.7 million when compared with 2018-19 main estimates. Of this change, $236.8 million is associated with previous funding announcements, with the balance of $60.9 million related to proposed budget 2019 measures. The largest component of this change is an increase of $110 million for measures to crack down and combat tax evasion and tax avoidance, at $61 million; enhance tax collections, at $22 million; and improve client services, at $27 million. This represents the amount of incremental funding received in 2019-20 as a result of measures announced in budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018.
To give you a sense of the kind of programs supported by this funding, allow me to touch on some specific initiatives.
Increased reporting requirements for trusts, which will seek information on beneficial ownership, will help authorities to effectively counter aggressive tax avoidance, tax evasion, money laundering and other criminal activities.
We are addressing commitments to service excellence in three key areas. The first is improving telephone services, including reducing wait times for callers and improving the accuracy of responses provided by call centre agents. The second is enhancing the community volunteer income tax program, where community organizations host tax preparation clinics and arrange for volunteers to prepare, free of charge, income tax and benefit returns for individuals with modest or low income. The third is strengthening digital services by updating and modernizing the agency's information technology infrastructure to deliver a more user-friendly experience, allowing Canadians to easily find the tax and benefit information they need.
Other items contributing to the year-over-year change include adjustments for collective bargaining increases of $64.8 million and the implementation of the federal fuel charge of $56.4 million.
The CRA's 2019-20 main estimates also reflect about $60 million in proposed incremental resources for the announcements made by the Minister of Finance in the March 2019 budget. The largest component, at nearly half, is a proposed increase of $29.3 million to improve general tax compliance. These funds will be used to hire auditors, build technical expertise and improve the agency's compliance IT infrastructure.
A further $9.5 million is proposed to take action to enhance tax compliance specifically in the real estate sector. The proposed funding will be used to create four new dedicated residential and commercial real estate audit teams in high-risk regions, notably in British Columbia and Ontario, to ensure that tax provisions regarding real estate are being followed.
Other examples of items relating to budget 2019 include about $9 million proposed to stabilize Phoenix-related activities by the CRA in our role as administrator of the tax system;
$8.5 million proposed to support the agency's ongoing service improvement efforts;
and $3.5 million proposed to improve access to the Canada workers benefit throughout the year.
In closing, the resources being requested through these estimates will allow the CRA to continue to deliver on its mandate to Canadians by making it easier for the vast majority of taxpayers who want to pay their taxes, and more difficult for the small minority who do not, and by ensuring that Canadians have ready access to the information they need about taxes or benefits.
Mr. Chair, at this time my colleagues and I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have. Thank you.
Serge Beaudoin
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Serge Beaudoin
2017-11-02 11:00
Good morning, Madam Chair and honourable members. Thank you for inviting us here today.
I am accompanied today by Lyse Langevin, Director General of the Community Infrastructure Branch of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
I am here today to provide information on this year's wildfires affecting first nations communities, emergency management on reserve, and on-reserve fire protection. I will also talk on our department's work on partnering with first nations and supporting their efforts to advance community resiliency.
In the spirit of reconciliation, the Government of Canada is committed to partnering with indigenous people in building resilient communities. It is really through this partnership that we action our shared priority of ensuring the health and safety of first nation residents. A critical component in ensuring the achievement of our shared priorities is departmental support of indigenous communities to effectively respond to and recover from emergency events, such as the wildfires that occurred this year.
As with any community in Canada, the responsibility for emergency management on reserve starts with the first nation communities themselves as the first level of response. When an emergency event exceeds the capacity or capabilities of the communities, they seek assistance from the provincial or territorial government, and if necessary, from the federal government.
Currently, the department supports first nation communities during emergency events through the emergency assistance program. This is a program that supports the four pillars of emergency management: preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery.
For response to emergencies, the emergency management assistance program reimburses first nations, municipalities, provinces, and territories, as well as third party emergency management service providers, up to 100% of eligible response and recovery costs, including costs of evacuations. Eligibility is determined according to the program's terms and conditions.
In recent years, events such as wildfires and floods are increasing in frequency, severity, and magnitude. This is a global trend, but this trend is also true in Canada. These events can result and have resulted in severe social, environmental, and economic consequences for both indigenous and non-indigenous communities alike. However, due to their relative remoteness and isolation in fire-prone areas, many first nation communities are more vulnerable to emergency events and the vulnerability can be exacerbated by remoteness or access to services during emergency events.
Thus, despite making up less than 1% of Canada's total population, one-third of wildfire evacuations over the last three decades in Canada have involved on-reserve indigenous communities. This year, 2017, has seen highly significant wildfires in four provinces affecting indigenous communities, including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. During this period, first nations experienced the largest ever number of wildfire emergencies, 49 in total, resulting in their second largest ever number of evacuees. We're looking at over 12,800 people evacuated from first nations.
Alberta saw almost 500 evacuees as a result of wildfires in the southern part of the province. Statistically, this year, British Columbia experienced the largest ever provincial state of emergency. They experienced a record-breaking burnt land mass and approximately 3,200 first nation community residents were evacuated. In Manitoba this year, close to 7,000 remote indigenous community residents were evacuated and in the case of Wasagamack First Nation, community members resorted to using locally owned boats due to the immediacy of the wildfire threat. I'd like to emphasize that this was an extremely high-risk evacuation for the residents and demonstrates how quickly an emergency event can evolve and impact communities. Finally, in northern Saskatchewan, close to 2,300 indigenous community residents were evacuated from Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation.
Overall for 2017, the estimated departmental response costs to support first nations communities in emergency events have been identified at just over $34 million.
During the immediate response phase of an emergency event, communities leverage existing service delivery capabilities within first nations, municipalities, provinces, territories and third party emergency management service providers such as the Canadian Red Cross.
Access to the services beyond the first nations capacity is secured through comprehensive emergency management service agreements between the department and the provinces or territories. Five such agreements are currently in place, and where an agreement is not yet in place, historical arrangements are in place, or other mechanisms to ensure a comparable level of service to those offered elsewhere in the province or territory.
However, the service agreements formally ensure that first nation communities have access to comparable emergency assistance services to those provided to neighbouring communities and non-indigenous communities.
In the spirit of partnership, the new agreements are being negotiated with the full participation of regional indigenous organizations. In the recovery phase of an emergency event, the department supports the repair or restoration of critical infrastructure on reserve to a pre-disaster condition to allow evacuees to return home. With the increase in wild land fire activity and increasingly strained fire suppression efforts, ensuring sustainable community recovery is becoming more and more critical.
In recognition of this, the department is also focusing efforts on the mitigation and preparedness pillars of emergency management. For preparedness and mitigation efforts, the department, in partnership with first nations, invested approximately $12.5 million in non-structural emergency mitigation and preparedness projects. These first nations community-led projects enhance capacity, placing emphasis on indigenous knowledge and practices. For example, since 2015 the department has funded regional partners to a total of $6.9 million to support FireSmart projects in indigenous communities.
To support the protection of first nation communities from the threat of wildfires, the department provides $16.5 million to provinces and territories annually under the emergency management assistance program for wildfire management agreements. Services provided in these agreements range from prevention to pre-suppression to suppression costs.
In addition to wildfires, community fire protection is an essential service that can make the difference between life and death for community residents.
First nations manage fire protection services on reserve. Community officials make the decisions regarding fire protection services under the annual core capital funding they receive from the department. To this end, first nations may establish their own fire departments or contract fire protection services from nearby communities.
Since 2008-2009, the department has provided almost 27 million dollars per year for capital investments, operating and maintenance costs, as well as firefighting training.
The department also funds the Aboriginal Firefighters Association of Canada to support them in coordinating a number of fire prevention awareness and training activities, and advising on implementation of our joint first nations fire protection strategy. This strategy promotes initiatives that focus on fire prevention in order to support indigenous communities in reducing the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries, as well as losses to critical infrastructure.
The department is also committed to the creation of an indigenous fire marshal office. This would provide support to indigenous communities in their efforts to improve life safety and protection of residents, property, and environment. It would also support the development of appropriate indigenous fire services and relevant programs and services. We will continue to work in full co-operation with the Aboriginal Firefighters Association and other key partners on these and other critical elements that we know are needed to enhance fire safety for first nation communities across Canada.
The Government of Canada recognizes that a greater focus on fire prevention is absolutely critical to keeping people and communities safe from fire. This is not just about raising awareness of the importance of smoke alarms and fire safety, but also increased investments in first nation housing to help make homes on reserve meet applicable building codes and regulations.
I'll conclude by emphasizing that the department remains absolutely committed to partnering with indigenous organizations and communities in ensuring the health, safety, and resilience of their communities.
Finally, we will continue to work with them and other partners to ensure that indigenous communities receive comparable services to those of non-indigenous communities in Canada.
Thank you for your time. Merci.
View Terry Beech Profile
Lib. (BC)
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
I'd like to start by thanking everyone on this committee for their hard work and for the relationship that we've been able to develop over the last number of months. Everybody on all sides has been very good about making sure that not only your riding issues are brought to the floor but also that we can work together on issues that affect the whole country. It has been a very positive relationship and I've enjoyed it greatly, so thank you.
Since the chair already introduced the staff, I'm going to move past that, but just know that there is a small army here as well, so if you have any specific details that you'd like to get into, we're well suited to get into the fine details.
I am here today to discuss the supplementary estimates (A). Specifically Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard are seeking Parliament's approval on $359.4 million for the following items: $166.7 million to maintain mission-critical services to Canadians, $145.5 million for the oceans protection plan, $32.2 million for the renewal of the Atlantic and Pacific commercial fisheries initiative, and $15 million to support negotiations on fisheries and marine matters.
Today, on behalf of the minister—and Minister LeBlanc sends his regrets for not being here today—I am pleased to share that our government has invested approximately $3 billion into the core operations for Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard through budget 2016, budget 2017, the oceans protection plan, and following a comprehensive program review. With these investments, Canadians will soon see a noticeable difference in the services they receive from Fisheries and Oceans and the Coast Guard. These important investments will improve the scientific evidence that decisions are based on, modernize aging infrastructure and IT capacity, renew efforts to restore habitat and rebuild depleting fish stocks, expand marine conservation and protection measures, create safer waterways for marine navigation, speed up response time for search and rescue missions, and strengthen our environmental response capacity.
These new resources will do more than just replace programs that have been lost in years past, as our oceans today face new threats with climate change, including flooding, droughts, and severe weather storms on every coast.
Our economy depends on safe navigation through waterways and ports that are busier than ever before. Our government has new priorities pertaining to reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people, working with municipal and provincial partners, and becoming global leaders in sustainable development.
The new investments will help DFO and the Coast Guard build the programs and services that Canadians need into the future. We know how much Canadians value DFO and Coast Guard programs. We understand how important these services are to Canadians. On the minister's behalf, I want to assure you that we are committed to maintaining those services related to Coast Guard's presence in inland waterways, that the Coast Guard dive team will remain at the Sea Island base, and that all elements of the salmon enhancement program will continue.
With significant, new investments in DFO and the Coast Guard, we will, in fact, be enhancing search and rescue services on all coasts and working with community partners on a number of ecosystem restoration projects. As you know, there are more demands on Canada's oceans and coastal areas than ever before. It is therefore vital that Canada have a plan in place that protects our oceans in a modern and advanced way and that ensures environmental sustainability, safe and responsible commercial use, and collaboration with coastal indigenous communities.
In order to meet these objectives, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $1.5-billion national oceans protection plan last fall. I'm pleased to report that DFO, the Coast Guard, and other federal partners are making steady progress on key elements of this plan. For example, from a Coast Guard perspective, we are increasing search and rescue capabilities by investing in seven new lifeboat stations, four in British Columbia and three in Newfoundland and Labrador. A 24-hours a day, seven days a week emergency coordination capacity has been created within existing regional operation centres in Victoria, Montreal, and St. John's, complementing the new 24-7 emergency coordination capacity with the national command centre in Ottawa.
We are purchasing and installing emergency tow kits on 25 of the CCG's large vessels and leasing two new vessels on the west coast with the ability to tow large commercial ships and tankers.
We are creating four primary environmental response teams, which will strengthen the Coast Guard's on-scene capacity during marine pollution incidents. We are partnering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary to expand its network of over 400 search and rescue volunteers who engage in environmental response. We are also partnering with indigenous groups, coastal communities, and the private sector to ensure a faster and more efficient response to marine pollution incidents.
We are strengthening the Coast Guard's marine communications and traffic services centres to ensure uninterrupted communications with mariners.
The Canadian Coast Guard's efforts to deal with abandoned, derelict, and wrecked vessels, such as the ongoing operations related to the Kathryn Spirit and the upcoming work to be done to the Farley Mowat, speak to the organization's commitment, and that of its partners, to ensuring that such vessels of concern don't pose immediate risks to public safety or the marine environment.
This level of commitment will be enhanced by the oceans protection plan. Our government will continue to work in collaboration with provincial, territorial, municipal, and indigenous organizations to support the cleanup of smaller vessels that could potentially pose risks to Canadian coastal communities, while implementing a robust polluter-pay approach for future vessel cleanups.
In addition to this work, we have created a national, $75-million coastal restoration fund, which will be used for the preservation, protection, and restoration of marine environments and coastal habitat over the next five years. DFO scientists are undertaking a science-based review of three endangered whale species in Canada: the North Atlantic right whale, the St. Lawrence estuary beluga, and the southern resident killer whale. Online public engagement will be available soon. Harbour authorities, along with other eligible recipients, will have access to $1.3 million under DFO's small craft harbours program for the removal and disposal of abandoned and wrecked vessels from federally owned commercial fishing harbours.
Our government is committed to the long-term health of our oceans. In order to deliver on the minister's key priorities and commitments, a historic $1.4 billion is being invested in DFO and the Coast Guard over the next five years. Just to be clear, that is on top of the oceans protection plan. This will help shore up a number of key program areas, including an aging Coast Guard fleet; a wide range of communication towers, buoys, and maritime radars; search and rescue training; sustainable fisheries; conservation and protection activities; and the physical infrastructure and information technology the department needs to carry out its mandate.
The latest investment in DFO and the Coast Guard will also provide the resources required to support sustainable fisheries management, which includes the development and update of integrated fisheries management plans, or IFMPs. This will help address some of the concerns that were expressed by members of this committee and by the Auditor General. It will enhance DFO's capacity for conservation and protection, while investments in infrastructure and information technology will give employees the facilities and tools they need to do their jobs.
Before closing, I want to mention that the historic investments being made across DFO and the Coast Guard will result in the hiring of approximately 900 new staff, who will help deliver our ambitious mandate. DFO is working hard to accommodate this growing workforce.
Mr. Chair, this year Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, but this is also a milestone year for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, whose heritage dates back to Confederation. While steeped in history, DFO is at the forefront of shaping Canada's domestic and global responses to very modem challenges. The historic investments I spoke about today will help ensure that Canada remains a world leader in all matters related to our oceans.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
François Boileau
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François Boileau
2016-10-20 9:14
Yes, of course. Thank you for reminding me.
The centres offer services at all levels—federal, provincial, municipal, and even community—under the same roof.
More importantly, it creates places where the language at work is French and where francophone clients can, without a doubt, receive services in their own language.
That kind of formula could certainly facilitate active offer of French-language services in areas where the French-speaking population is concentrated, but it could also, and most importantly, improve relations between the various levels of government.
Speaking of collaboration, I would like to draw your attention to the many agreements we have worked on during my term in office, with people like my federal counterpart, Commissioner Graham Fraser. We have collaborated on several occasions, through numerous reports on a number of subjects, and in particular on immigration, the Pan Am games, and access to justice in French.
In June we released a special report on active offer. Mr. Fraser, who very recently addressed the same issue at the federal level, did the same.
These two reports showed that regardless of the level of government, the rules governing official languages are still flawed today. It has therefore become essential that we improve our tools and our practices to enable the various government departments, organizations, and third parties to put in place active, high-quality offers of French-language services.
I would like to remind you that if there is no active offer, this can, in the long term, not only have adverse effects on the quality of the services offered but also have serious consequences for vulnerable individuals, especially in the health care and justice systems. That is why it is important that the federal government make provisions in its action plan to implement a strategy to promote the active offer of French language services.
Another sensitive area is access to justice in both official languages, which is central to many issues relating to federal, provincial, and territorial legislation.
In 2013, we collaborated with the Commissioner of Official Languages and the Commissioner of Official Languages for New Brunswick on the publication of a report.
Following one of my recommendations, the Attorney General of Ontario mandated a French Language Services Bench and Bar Advisory Committee, which, in turn, released two other reports, in 2012 and 2015. Essentially, the reports show that it costs more money and taxes and takes more time to proceed in French in Ontario courts.
Those reports also highlighted the many instances of progress made: for example, the formation of regional legal committees. The mandate of the committees is not only to highlight problems, but also to identify and implement concrete and durable solutions. Those committees represent a very remarkable achievement for French-language services.
However, those studies also indicated that the existing process does not guarantee an adequate number of judges with language skills in both official languages.
The addition of the new process for selecting Supreme Court judges is a significant advance. However, it leads to doubt as to the level of bilingualism of the judges who will be appointed to the court.
It is time to act and to set an example by calling for a genuinely bilingual Supreme Court. By that, I mean that the judges should be capable of understanding and conversing in both French and English without the help of an interpreter.
I would add, however, that this week's announcement would seem to confirm that the current process works because the new judge, if appointed by the House of Commons, Senate, and the Office of the Prime Minister, appears to be perfectly bilingual. That would be excellent news.
I would like to conclude my presentation by talking about education and, more specifically, about the Agreement on Minority-Language Education and Second Official-Language Instruction. That agreement is essential for components intended for education in French.
As you know, that agreement expires in 2018. It seems to me that this is the right time to explore new avenues to facilitate the continuum of learning in French and, more specifically, for early childhood development programs and post-secondary education.
Early childhood programs that are funded by the provincial government play a crucial role in maintaining young children's identity and French language, particularly among children of exogamous couples.
While federal funding for early childhood programs in minority communities is laudable, it should be included in the official languages in education agreement to be consistent with provincial programs. In fact, that would allow for greater weight to be placed on the early childhood component in negotiating the next agreement.
I therefore join with the Commissioner of Official Languages, who asked the federal government in his recent report at the beginning of October to make provision in its next five-year plan on official languages for sufficient funds for early childhood initiatives in minority communities.
At the post-secondary level, education in French protects, transmits, and most importantly preserves the French language and culture. This makes a major contribution to ensuring the continued growth of the Franco-Ontarian community.
Colleges and universities are an integral part of the education continuum and play an essential role in training future bilingual and francophone professionals. In doing so, they contribute in the longer term to the welfare of the province, and on a broader scale to the competitiveness of the Canadian economy.
In Ontario, and particularly in southwestern Ontario, we have observed inadequate access to quality post-secondary French programs.
On that point, I am pleased to report the recent announcement by the Ontario Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs, Marie-France Lalonde, of the appointment of Dr. Dyane Adam, to chair the planning board of a French-language university in Ontario.
This is a great step forward, but we must not stop there. We must continue to increase the number of early childhood and post-secondary French-language programs, in areas where the francophone population is growing rapidly and where the programs available are sometimes limited.
In conclusion, I believe our governments have made considerable progress in recent years. The fact remains that this progress has been achieved at a glacial pace when it comes to French-language services. It is time for our governments to mobilize their efforts and collaborate at all levels—federal, provincial, municipal, and, why not, community—to remedy this imbalance.
Thank you all for your attention.
I will now be pleased, Mr. Chair, to answer questions from yourself and your colleagues.
François Boileau
View François Boileau Profile
François Boileau
2016-10-20 9:39
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Yesterday, the committee asked me to do a 10-minute presentation. I will do my best. Once again, I would like to thank you for having me here today.
In recent years, Ontario has demonstrated leadership by setting a target of 5% for francophone immigration. As I noted in my previous presentation, I collaborated with the Commissioner of Official Languages on the publication of a report written to show how to remedy the imbalance in relation to francophone immigration.
That report led to the creation of a group of experts, that includes a representative of the federal government, to develop a government-wide strategic plan for achieving the 5% target for francophone immigration in Ontario. We are very much looking forward to the report of this group of experts. We still note the lack of good evidence concerning the impact of the changes made to the federal government's immigration system since 2012.
This situation in Ontario is critical as we are far from the expected 5%.
This is why we wanted to lead by example. In November 2014 my federal colleague Mr. Graham Fraser and I published a joint report to present an overview and analysis of the issues surrounding immigration to francophone communities.
We formulated eight recommendations, primarily to the federal government, but also to the Government of Ontario. These recommendations deal with support for French-speaking immigrants through francophone institutions and organizations, information and resources for French-speaking newcomers, co-operation with the provinces, incentives for employers to recruit and select francophone and bilingual workers, and accountability.
We believe that the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario must join forces and show leadership so that immigration truly contributes to the development and vitality of francophone minority communities.
As proof, in 2014, 2.2% of the immigrant population had French as its spoken official language, according to the Office of Francophone Affairs. However, the situation is more alarming because the percentage has been decreasing since 2012, and in 2015 we only have 2%.
Consequently, as is the case for the Canadian population as a whole, we need immigration to offset the sharp decline in the birth rate and higher rates of population aging.
Immigration has a direct impact on the community's vitality. It is clear that over the years, Canada and Ontario francophone communities have benefited less from immigration than have anglophone majority communities.
On another note, the very recent announcement of an agreement signed by all provincial and territorial premiers, apart from Quebec, represents a step forward on this issue. This means that unless a strategic plan is put in place for attracting, recruiting, welcoming, integrating and retaining francophone immigrants at both the provincial and the national levels, it will be very difficult for us to achieve that target.
As you know, this is a subject that is under shared federal and provincial jurisdiction, which means that the different levels of government must collaborate to facilitate progress.
Another major challenge presented by immigration is labour market integration. Newcomers continue to face many obstacles when it comes to integration that prevent them from entering the labour market and practising regulated professions.
In fact, the introduction of the mobility francophone program by the federal government is very good news since the capacity to attract new francophone immigrants to Ontario is still a major challenge today.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the innovative initiative taken by Collège Boréal, which recently signed its first two student mobility agreements outside Canada, with Belgium and France.
This international recruiting strategy is a good fit with the program to facilitate the process for francophones who want to come and work in Ontario. Other initiatives have been put in place by other post-secondary institutions in order to improve labour market training.
Nonetheless, we must still note that we are also admitting qualified professionals like doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers and others.
Unfortunately, however, they face many challenges are are unable to practise in the fields to which their skills apply. Most often they have to go back to school, something that can be very expensive, particularly for recent immigrants.
It is also a waste of money for the host society when it fails to benefit from the contribution these professionals can make. Yes, this falls under provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government has to play a leadership role so that an immigrant who has had their credentials recognized and has been admitted to a professional body, can also do so easily in Ontario once they move here.
Similarly, people who move from one province to another also face this obstacle, since in most cases provincial and territorial professional bodies do not recognize diplomas granted by the other provinces and territories.
It is therefore our duty to put in place a strategic plan with the aim not only of facilitating their transition into the work world, but also of equipping them so they are able to have the work experience and education they acquired in their country, province or territory of origin recognized.
In recent decades the Government of Ontario has taken important steps toward protecting and improving the availability and quality of services in French and, most importantly, enhancing the feeling of belonging.
One of the most ambitious measures is the adoption of a new inclusive definition that has applied to the francophone population of Ontario since June 2009. This new inclusive definition of francophone reflects the new diversity of Franco-Ontarians regardless of their place of birth, their ethnic origin, or their religion.
I will take this opportunity to note that Ontario is the very first province in Canada to implement this initiative. In fact, Manitoba very recently enacted new legislation, the Francophone Community Enhancement and Support Act, which also contains a more inclusive definition and presents a more accurate picture of the Franco-Manitoban community.
The recent announcement of Ontario's application for membership in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie is very timely, since it will certainly have an impact on the recruiting strategy. Research done by the OIF has shown that there will be over 700 million francophones in the world by 2050.
In addition, 85% of that population will come from Africa and that will happen within less than 35 years. Ontario must therefore look to Sub-Saharan Africa, which offers vast economic opportunities for the province's businesses, but which is also experiencing major population growth, primarily in the francophone countries there.
It is against this backdrop that I encourage the province of Ontario and Canada to launch a recruiting campaign. It is important that we look to this new demographic wave and benefit from it by recruiting and attracting skilled francophone immigrants.
As the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 approach, it has become a matter of the highest priority that the two levels of government collaborate and more specifically that they demonstrate leadership in the area of francophone immigration to ensure that the Canadian population thrives. First and foremost, we must find concrete ways of remedying the current imbalance that the francophone communities are experiencing when it comes to immigration.
Thank you for your attention, and I will be pleased to answer questions from yourself and your colleagues.
Isabelle Salesse
View Isabelle Salesse Profile
Isabelle Salesse
2016-10-20 10:04
Thank you very much, Mr. Paradis.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, first, we thank you for inviting the Association franco-yukonnaise today to talk to you about the roadmap and about francophone immigration.
I will start by talking about our organization. The Association franco-yukonnaise, or AFY, is the official voice of francophones in the Yukon and a pillar in the development of the Franco-Yukon community. Our mandate is to improve the quality of life in French for French-speaking Yukoners. We provide services in a number of areas, including arts and culture, health, education, economic development and, of course, immigration. Our association has been in existence since 1982. During the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we will be celebrating our 35th birthday.
In order for you to get to know us better, one other point may interest you. Given the size of our community and the fact that it is geographically concentrated in Whitehorse, we preferred to bring most of the services under the same roof instead of creating a number of organizations. So we have adopted a one-stop model that allows for better integration and greater efficiency in our services as well as giving us the benefit of the economies of scale.
All the AFY’s services use the same resources in accounting, information technology, communications and reception. We have therefore made best use of the money that we invest in projects that are useful for our community.
Clearly, this approach also works to the advantage of the clients who come to our offices. For example, most immigrants take advantage of our job search services. With this model, those immigrants also receive settlement services and employment assistance services from the same person under the same roof. They can therefore use all our services without having to leave the building.
Let me now turn to another point. I do not know if you are aware, but the French-speaking Yukon is expanding, both in numbers and in size. The francophone school and daycare are short on space. The French immersion schools cannot meet the demand. Furthermore, the Yukon is ranked third among provinces and territories in terms of bilingualism. With a bilingualism rate of 13%, we are third after Quebec and New Brunswick, which is no small achievement.
The AFY is also a member of a number of national organizations, such as the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada, whose representatives you met yesterday, I believe, and the Réseau de développement économique et d’employabilité, or RDÉE Canada. Through those national networks, we can provide our community with access to a number of programs and initiatives.
Let me now move directly to the roadmap. I call it “the roadmap” but I am actually going to be talking about an official languages action plan. It is clear that the roadmap that will end in 2018 responds but poorly to the needs of francophone minority communities like the franco-Yukon community. That is why we are insisting on the importance of the future official languages plan.
It must give priority to supporting the development and the vitality of francophone minority communities. This is essential. Our communities’ needs in terms of health and education must be recognized. For us, when we talk about education, we mean lifelong education. It starts in early childhood and goes through adulthood to the old age. For us, it means literacy, skills, community economic development, culture and identity, and the media. It must include services to French-speaking seniors, young people and immigrants.
For several years, we have been advocating for a new service for seniors. This population is growing. So it is important not to neglect this aspect of our francophone minority communities.
The government can find support in the recent consultations that were held right across Canada, but also in some reports from the Commissioner of Official Languages, specifically one of the most recent about early childhood. This report insists on how crucially important it is for our communities in order to ensure linguistic continuity; it adds that we must have access to daycare and preschool services in French in our communities. First, we are talking about services of a quality equal to those available to the majority. Early childhood is where our survival begins.
One single approach is not possible if we wish to reach genuine equality. We cannot look at a wall-to-wall approach and say that the situation is the same in Prince Edward Island as it is in the Yukon. It is very different. As you know, Ontario has the largest critical mass of francophones but that does not mean that Ontario solutions can be applied to the Yukon. Even with francophones representing 4.8% of the community, the figures are very small. Sometimes criteria are imposed that are extremely difficult for us to meet.
There is one other thing that we feel is extremely important. All federal departments must be included in the plan and all must fulfill their obligations in terms of official languages. We must keep in mind that Canadian Heritage is not the only department responsible for implementing official languages measures. Who is to ensure that the money identified for OLMCs is spent for and by OLMCs? How do we avoid the roadmap’s errors in that respect?
Should we identify a federal body to coordinate a new plan with genuine, effective accountability mechanisms, not only for the communities but also for all of the departments involved? The action plan must be one of the mechanisms that support the full implementation of the Official Languages Act, not a little Band-Aid to put on little boo-boos. We must avoid having to start again in two years, only to find that we are at the same level.
It goes without saying that a substantial increase in budgets is required. If we really want to work towards a strong and bilingual Canada, we must make corresponding investments in our communities. Project financing has its interest, but it is insufficient for developing OLMCs. Multi-year funding is required and it must include a basic core amount in order to allow organizations like the AFY to hire qualified and committed people so that we are able to aim for long-term results.
We would also like to stress the importance of not confusing bilingualism with the constitutional right to live in the official language of one’s choice. We must distinguish between the importance of preserving all the languages in Canada—the importance of one’s personal choice to speak one, two or three languages—and the federal responsibility for linguistic duality, which implies that Canadians have the right to be unilingual anglophone or unilingual francophone all across Canada and to have access to services in the language of their choice.
To bring this matter to a close, I also invite you to consult a bilingual position statement developed by the AFY in September 2016, entitled Taking action for a vibrant and dynamic Yukon Francophone Community. Can you see it on the screen? The document describes the concrete actions that each level of government must take to support our community. In the document that we sent you, we put the address of our website so that you can access and download this document.
That is what I had to say about the roadmap. I believe that I kept to the time I was given.
Thank you.
Marie-Claude Michaud
View Marie-Claude Michaud Profile
Marie-Claude Michaud
2016-10-18 16:04
Good afternoon, and thank you very much for having invited me to this meeting. This is a first for me, so please be indulgent if I stray from protocol at times.
My name is Marie-Claude Michaud, and I am the chief executive officer of the Valcartier Family Centre. I have been working with military families for 22 years.
The purpose of my presentation is in keeping with the brief the Military Family Resource Centres submitted to the Minister of National Defence last June. This document asked that military families be integrated into the defence policy, since they are an operational component in the mission of the Canadian armed forces.
The brief, however, also contained the following recommendation.
Do you want me to wait a bit until you put your headphones on?
Fine.
The second recommendation in the brief we tabled concerns veterans and their families. We asked that the resource centres provide service to all veterans and their families.
Why did we make this request? In 2014, a partnership was formed between Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence to set up a pilot project for military members released for medical reasons and their families. This allowed them to have access to seven resource centres throughout Canada. Consequently, these seven centres now provide services to veterans released for medical reasons, and to their families.
Now, we are in a way the victims of the success of this operation. We knew at the beginning that reserving access to these centres to a particular category of veterans could have certain consequences, which we are currently dealing with.
We have created two categories of veterans in Canada. First, there are those who were released for medical reasons and have access to the services provided by the resource centres. Unfortunately, there there are only seven of these for all of Canada. Then there are the veterans who were released for all other reasons, or who were released before 2014. They do not have access to the centres' services.
Please allow me to speak to you briefly about the experience of the Valcartier resource centre, which is one of the seven pilot project resource centres in Canada. We have provided service there to former military members and veterans for 18 years. We have an agreement with the Government of Quebec regarding our employment assistance service. At the time, the Government of Quebec was looking for an organization that could offer an employment assistance service for reservists and veterans. That is why we developed expertise in helping former military members in their transition to civilian life.
And so we were ready to receive this clientele when we were included in the pilot project developed for veterans released for medical reasons. However, requests for service exploded from the moment we held our press conference. People turned to us for help, not only those who had been released for medical reasons, but also veterans as a whole.
In the course of a single year, 715 people -- 293 of these were veterans -- who were entitled to our services came to our offices in Valcartier. We also had to respond to 127 requests for service from clients who were not eligible. I'm sure you will understand that when people come through the door of our organizations, we cannot investigate to find out whether they were released for medical reasons or not. If people need help, we try to help them. These people are experiencing the loss of their careers and their identity, and their self-esteem suffers as a consequence. Employment is a major factor for these people who are leaving a career in which they invested most of their lives, as you know.
Among the most important services we offer are information and guidance services; we guide people toward resources, provide education and offer a helping hand. We had expected that these three services would be the most in demand, and that is exactly what happened.
Let me say a few words about the clientele our employment assistance service has helped. Sixty-five per cent of them were between 26 and 46 years of age. They are the people the resource centres supported on various missions over the past 25 years. They are young. Over the past two years, we helped rewrite 157 military resumes to make them relevant on the civilian labour market. That is one of the important issues. How do you modify the military resume to help people successfully transition to civilian life?
Over two years, we helped with 150 of these, at the Valcartier Family Centre alone.
Seventy-eight per cent of these people have no diplomas or have a high school diploma. Most of them suffer from physical or psychological injuries. Their mental health is precarious. Many are now considered unfit to work and want to rebuild their lives in some way. They need to be supported individually, in a way that respects their dignity, to get through this.
The Valcartier resource centre has had positive results. This was a good initiative that produced results, but it created two classes of veterans in Canada. We consider this unacceptable, in light of the contribution these people have made to our country.
We also prepared a financial brief outlining how the resource centres could provide service to all veterans and their families. We sent you a copy of that document.
The various mandates that were given to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence are related to what the resource centres could offer, such as reducing complexity, restructuring the delivery of services, and strengthening partnerships between Veterans Affairs and DND. What is being done in the resource centres is a concrete example.
Career assistance and vocational assistance are also provided to veterans. That is what we offer in Valcartier, and the results are very positive.
Resources centres have over 25 years developed expertise in providing better education, counselling and family training services that provide care and support to veterans afflicted with physical or mental health problems related to their years of service. When military families are transferred from one location to another, even if only for operations, they are constantly undergoing life transitions. In those cases they benefit from our expertise in the field. For 25 years, we have been working in constant partnership with civil society. We have developed expertise which could be very useful for this category of people, who are very important for Canada.
Finally, I'd like to direct your attention to the fourth recommendation in the brief submitted to the Minister of National Defence last June. It concerns the creation of an intergovernmental cell to deal with the issues facing military families everywhere in Canada. Most of the issues faced by military families and veterans fall under provincial jurisdiction. When veterans are released, they must access provincial medical services. We think the creation of such an intergovernmental cell would be a good thing.
I recently met with the deputy premier of Quebec and the Minister responsible for Intergovernmental Affairs, Mr. Jean-Marc Fournier. Quebec is considering the creation of a mechanism aimed at easing adverse effects on military families and veterans and at allowing veterans to access provincial services more easily. Ontario is setting up a similar mechanism.
We have to get off the beaten bath and find innovative solutions to meet all of the needs of this community, which is made up of a million people in Canada.
I thank you for the time you have given me.
View Irene Mathyssen Profile
NDP (ON)
I quite agree. I have a long-term care facility, a veterans hospital in my riding. The expertise and knowledge that staff have in terms of dealing with veterans, and not just their special needs physically but emotionally with the culture that a veteran is part of, is extraordinary. My fear is that it will be lost. When those Korean vets are gone, those beds will close and we will have lost something very valuable.
My last question for the moment has to do with homeless vets. Canadians discovered that we have homeless vets and seem to be astounded by that fact. The reality is we are not sure even now how many there are. Groups are scrambling. Jerry talked about the growing cottage industry and one of those groups is trying to make up for that loss of housing policy, the loss that happened back in 1994.
Should there be a national housing policy for everyone and something specialized with regard to homeless vets, so that they can get that home and begin that road to recovery?
Jerry Kovacs
View Jerry Kovacs Profile
Jerry Kovacs
2016-06-14 17:57
When we're talking about issues such as hospital care and housing, you know that we're involving another jurisdiction or two, such as the province or the municipality. It's important to work with these other jurisdictions in finding solutions. We can also look to other jurisdictions such as the United States. President Obama's campaign to end veterans' homelessness is an example. The City of Medicine Hat, Alberta, claims to have ended homelessness in Medicine Hat. If there are no homeless people in Medicine Hat, there are no homeless veterans in Medicine Hat.
The issue sometimes arises in finding a temporary solution for a veteran who finds himself or herself on the street for one reason or another, and that's why some organizations—and you're probably referring to veterans emergency transition services, VETS Canada—are involved with having boots on the ground to actually find homeless veterans.
We were out on Saturday afternoon in Ottawa and we didn't find any in Centretown. There are all sorts of different reasons for that. We were out at not necessarily the best time—Saturday afternoon. Some veterans don't like to identify as being homeless. Some veterans are couch surfing. Some veterans are living in a car or a van. Now is a great time to be out camping if you like camping, and I don't mean that in a derogatory way. But if you don't have a home and you want to set up a tent or a small trailer in a campground or near a river in a park, the summer is a good time to do that. There are all sorts of challenges in actually identifying these homeless veterans and where they are, and trying to help them, because some of them, for one reason or another, want to be helped, and others just don't want to be helped. That in some way goes to this attitude in the military of not wanting to identify any weaknesses you have, which George knows about.
In your particular cases, when it comes to hospital care, you need to work with the provinces. When it comes to housing, you need to also work with the provinces and the municipalities. But it's necessary to also have an ongoing review of these issues and problems, because they're somehow cyclical in nature. Remember, we heard a lot about homeless veterans during the winter, and less during the summer.
One of the things the new Veterans Charter was to do—and this goes back to one of your earlier questions—is to provide a continuous review of the new Veterans Charter and how it is working, and that just didn't happen. That's where committees such as this parliamentary committee have an important role to play.
Françoise Ducros
View Françoise Ducros Profile
Françoise Ducros
2016-04-21 16:34
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you for having us.
Today I'd like to provide an overview of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada's mandate, its responsibilities, organizational structure, and key priorities for the 2016-17 years.
Before I begin, I would note that I am also tabling a presentation entitled “Main estimates 2016-2017” for your information. The presentation contains the department's financial context and expenditure information. While I won't speak to this presentation today, Paul Thoppil, the chief financial officer, would be pleased to respond to your questions.
INAC's minister oversees a complex and challenging portfolio and provides leadership on the Government of Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples and its responsibilities in the north. The department has a dual mandate: indigenous affairs and northern affairs. In some cases there's overlap between the two areas, but as often as not the two are separate.
The minister's mandate is derived from a number of statutes. Of particular note, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Act outlines the powers and duties of the minister and the department. While the term “Indian” remains in the department's legal name because of this act, the term “indigenous” is now used in the department's applied title under the federal identity program.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms existing aboriginal and treaty rights, and section 91(24) of the Constitution Act gives the federal department exclusive legislative authority over “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians”.
The department's mission is to work to make Canada a better place for indigenous and northern people and communities. We work towards this by promoting reconciliation and fulfilling our constitutional and legal obligations to indigenous peoples. We work to improve quality of life and to support and enable indigenous peoples' participation and inclusion in Canada's economy.
In general, INAC has primary but not exclusive responsibility for meeting the federal government's constitutional treaty, political, and legal responsibilities to indigenous peoples and northerners.
The presentation before you outlines INAC's key objectives as well as a comprehensive listing of responsibilities and activities. These include engaging in dialogue with indigenous peoples about rights that have yet to be recognized or established; negotiating comprehensive and specific claims and self-government agreements, and implementing related obligations; implementing the Indian Act, which remains the primary vehicle for exercising federal jurisdiction under 91(24) and the Constitution Act, 1967 which guides how the minister interacts with first nations; implementing approximately 93 other statutes covering a wide range of subjects and responsibilities; and supporting the minister as the Government of Canada's primary interlocutor for Métis and non-status Indians.
INAC also funds the delivery of programs and services for first nations on reserve as a matter of policy, including provincial and municipal-type programming and services such as education, social housing, emergency management, and community infrastructure, often in partnership or through memoranda of understanding with provinces and territories. It is important to note that indigenous peoples residing off reserve have full access to provincial social and education programming. This context points to the need to work closely with provincial and territorial governments in developing solutions to issues facing indigenous peoples.
INAC also supports indigenous participation and inclusion in Canada's economy through entrepreneurship and community economic development programs; indigenous involvement in natural resource development and management, such as participation in commercial fisheries; key opt-in legislation, such as the First Nations Land Management Act; and indigenous labour force readiness in participation activities.
Through its northern development mandate, INAC leads federal government efforts for two-fifths of Canada's land mass, with a direct role in advancing the Northern Strategy through the political and economic development of the territories and significant responsibilities for science, land, and environmental management. In the north the territorial governments generally provide the majority of social programs and services to all northerners, including indigenous people; however, INAC serves as a focal point for Inuit issues and supports the inclusion of Inuit-specific concerns in federal program and policy development.
My presentation provides some information on the terminology used to refer to indigenous peoples today, as well as some brief demographic information on the populations we serve in executing INAC's mandate and responsibilities.
The term “aboriginal peoples” refers to the descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. The Constitution Act 1982 recognizes three groups: Indian, Métis, and Inuit. There are three separate peoples with unique heritage, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.
The term “indigenous” is similar to aboriginal, in that it refers to all three status groups in Canada: first nations, Métis, and Inuit. Indigenous is used in the international context and is the preferred term in English. Both terms translate into French as autochtone.
The term “status Indian” refers to a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act, while “non-status Indian” refers to an Indian person who is not registered as an Indian under the act.
There are legal reasons for the continued use of the term “Indian”. Such terminology is recognized in the Indian Act and is used by the Government of Canada when making reference to the particular group.
“First nations people”, though, is the term that refers to Indian peoples in Canada both with and without status under the act. Some communities have adopted the term first nations rather than band.
“Inuit” are indigenous people in northern Canada living primarily in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec, and northern Labrador. “Métis” refers to the people of mixed first nation-European ancestry who identify as Métis.
In terms of demographics, about half of the registered Indians live on reserves, with the majority of non-status Indians and Métis living in urban centres.
INAC's program alignment architecture or PAA is an inventory of all the programs undertaken by the department for systematic reporting, from main estimates to Public Accounts. The PAA forms the backbone of each department's report on plans and priorities. Planned performance in regard to financial resources, human resources, and program results are articulated at all levels in the PAA.
INAC's 2016-17 PAA is organized by four strategic outcomes and is supported by 15 departmental programs and 37 subprograms. The four strategic outcomes are: the government, which supports good governance rights and interests of indigenous peoples; the people, which addresses individual, family, and community well-being for first nations and Inuit; the land and economy, which addresses full participation of first nations, Métis and non-status Indians, and Inuit individuals and communities in the economy; and the north.
The program alignment architecture illustrates how the work of the department has been organized in the past. This structure will be used with minor changes for the upcoming year, and will be revisited for future years.
To deliver on its responsibilities, the department is organized into nine sectors that provide services for Canadians. Key activities of each sector are referenced in my presentation. All of their activities support and align with the department's four strategic outcomes.
As well, INAC has 10 regional offices and one special operating agency, Indian Oil and Gas Canada. The regional offices are critical to the work of the department. They support the effective delivery of the wide range of programs, activities, and services that the department undertakes. They maintain direct links with the communities we serve and with the provincial and territorial governments and other partners. Although INAC's mission and objectives are similar from region to region, the economic, social, and cultural profile of indigenous peoples is diverse and varies across and within regions.
In addition, five corporate service functions support departmental activities through the provision of communication services, human resources and workplace services, audit and evaluation, corporate secretariat functions, and legal services.
It is becoming increasingly important for the sectors to work together to implement the department's priorities, just as different departments across the federal government need to come together to support government-wide priorities.
Here, on page 11, we have provided you with some information on how departmental staff are distributed across regions and headquarters. The proportion of staff in each region generally corresponds to the relative size of the indigenous population in each region.
Concerning the current direction, we have provided an overview of key indigenous northern commitments that have been articulated in Minister Bennett's mandate letter and the Speech from the Throne. These commitments are what will guide INAC over the next four years. Tabled in the House of Commons on March 22, budget 2016 also announced historic investments totalling $8.4 billion over five years to implement the commitments. Proposed investments in education, infrastructure, training, and other programs will be implemented in collaboration with a number of other departments.
For the purposes of INAC's report on plans and priorities, the department has translated these commitments into five major cross-cutting themes: moving forward with rights and reconciliation; putting children and youth first; supporting stronger indigenous communities; improving quality of life for Métis, individuals, and communities; and fostering a strong and inclusive north.
All of the priorities are horizontal in nature and will require co-operation with other federal departments, with provinces and territories, with municipal governments, and, most importantly, with indigenous communities and organizations.
Just to conclude, INAC has a leading role on behalf of the federal government in advancing the reconciliation agenda and the nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, as well as a direct role in advancing the northern strategy through political and economic development.
The roles are wide ranging and they're constantly evolving. We're trying to do everything with a sense of partnership.
With that, I'll conclude and take your questions.
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2016-04-19 15:41
Mr. Chair, we're pleased to be here today to provide an overview of our role and mandate and to outline some key points from our past audit work that may be of interest to your committee.
Our office has a mandate to audit operations of the federal and territorial governments, and we provide Parliament and the legislative assemblies with independent information, assurance, and advice regarding the stewardship of public funds.
We conduct performance audits of federal departments and agencies, and we conduct annual attest audits of the financial statements of the government and of crown corporations. On a cyclical basis, we also conduct special examinations of the systems and practices of crown corporations.
For the three territories, my office reports performance audits directly to each legislative assembly. We also conduct annual audits of the financial statements of territorial governments and annual audits of territorial corporations.
In our performance audits, which we hope help the work of your committee, we examine whether government programs are being managed with due regard for economy, efficiency and environmental impact. We also look to see if there are means in place to measure the effectiveness of programs. Although we may comment on policy implementation, we do not comment on policy itself.
The Auditor General Act gives our office discretion to determine which areas of government to examine through performance audits. Our selection of audits is based on risks, significance and relevance to Parliament.
The performance audit process takes between 12 and 18 months to complete. The results of our audits are usually presented to Parliament twice a year, in the spring and fall.
In the past 15 years, the Office of the Auditor General has audited a broad range of federal programs and activities that affect First Nations and Inuit communities.
In 2011 we published a status report on the government's progress toward achieving the commitments it made to address recommendations from seven reports we issued between 2002 and 2008. Although we found that progress had been made in implementing some of our recommendations, we noted that many conditions and challenges faced by first nations communities had worsened.
For example, the education gap among first nations individuals and other Canadians had widened, the shortage of adequate housing on reserves had become more acute, and the presence of mould on reserves remained a serious problem.
Mr. Chair, that situation led us to consider some of the factors that inhibited progress.
In the preface to our 2011 audit report, we identified four structural impediments that we believed had negatively affected the delivery of programs and services to first nations individuals and communities.
The first impediment was a lack of clarity about service levels. The federal government supported services on reserves that were provided by provincial and municipal governments off reserves, such as education and drinking water. However, it was not always clear what the federal government was aiming to achieve because it had not clearly defined the type or level of service it committed to supporting.
The second impediment was the lack of a legislative base. Unlike similar provincial programs, the programs on reserves were not supported by legislation in such key areas as education, health and safe drinking water.
Instead, the federal government developed programs and services for First Nations on the basis of policy. As a result, the services delivered under these programs were not always well defined, and there was confusion about federal responsibility for funding them adequately.
The third impediment was the lack of an appropriate funding mechanism. The federal government used contribution agreements to fund the delivery of many programs on First Nations reserves. Often, the contribution agreements had to be renewed yearly, and it was not always certain whether funding levels provided to First Nations in one year would be available the following year. This situation created a level of uncertainty for First Nations and made long-term planning difficult.
The fourth and final impediment was the lack of organizations to support local service delivery. There were often no organizations in place—such as school boards, health services boards and social service organizations—to support local delivery of programs and services. In contrast, provinces had established such organizations. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, now Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, had started to work with groups that represented more than one First Nation, but much remained to be done.
Mr. Chair, since 2011 we have audited several programs for first nations and Inuit communities, including the nutrition north program, policing programs, emergency management, access to health services for remote first nations communities, and the implementation of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement. We found that structural impediments continue to hinder effective service delivery. I should note, however, that we have not followed up on whether the recommendations made in these audits have been implemented. Currently we are conducting audits on first nation-specific claims and on the reintegration of aboriginal offenders.
For your convenience, we have attached to this statement a list of our most recent tabled federal and territorial audits, along with a brief summary for each. You will also note that in 2015 we tabled a report on the efforts of British Columbia first nations, Health Canada, and the Province of British Columbia to overcome the impediments in establishing the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia. For example, the funding agreement between the federal government and the authority provides a level of funding certainty. It covers a 10-year period and includes an annual escalator to account for rising health care costs. In addition, the authority has increased support to local service delivery through training and expansion of access to electronic health services.
In addition, we identified two factors that contributed to the successful negotiation of the agreement. The first factor was a sustained commitment by leaders from first nations, as well as the federal and provincial governments, to the development of a new model for providing health services to first nations in British Columbia. The second factor was the decision by first nations to establish a single point of contact for negotiations with the federal and provincial governments.
Mr. Chair, if First Nations are to experience more meaningful outcomes from the federal funding of programs and services they receive, these structural impediments will have to be addressed.
Doing this requires the political leadership and will of all involved—the federal government, the First Nations leadership, and provincial and territorial governments.
This concludes my opening statement. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.
Thank you.
View Mike Bossio Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for being here, Mr. Ferguson, and all the rest of you as well. We really appreciate your coming to present to our committee today.
In the 2011 audit report, the Office of the Auditor General set out four structural impediments that limit the delivery of public services to first nations communities: the lack of clarity of service levels; a lack of legislative base; a lack of appropriate funding mechanisms; and a lack of organizations to support local service delivery.
What changes in practices and approaches should the federal government take to address these structural impediments?
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2016-04-19 15:51
The first think I'd like to say on this is that In 2011 we were looking back, because we were noticing that even though departments were trying to put in place responses to the recommendations we had made in past audits, the results with first nations weren't changing. We were trying to figure out why. Why could there be things going on, but with no improvement in the results? We identified those four impediments. The first thing is that the government needs to be aware of those impediments and then try to deal with them.
When we did the study and audit looking at the British Columbia First Nations Health Authority, we looked at it because it was an organization that was able to get established, and we wanted to identify how they dealt with these four impediments. In fact, they were successful in overcoming them. So it is possible, with the will of everybody involved, to find ways around these impediments and come to an agreement and a better solution on some of these services.
Therefore, I really think the first thing is awareness. The second thing is making sure that the will is there on the part of everybody involved—the government, the provincial government if needed, and the first nations governments as well. Make sure the will is there on the part of everybody involved and the commitment is there, and then find ways around these four impediments that we've identified.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
We talked a lot already today about the various contribution agreements and you talked specifically about the health area in B.C. Are there other layers of government, municipal or provincial, that have similar contribution agreements? Are there other layers of government where the same thing happens, where there isn't a contribution agreement and lack of funding?
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2016-04-19 16:20
If the question is specific to the first nations file, I would say that there is a whole gamut of different types of agreements in place between various levels of government. Trying to categorize them would therefore not be particularly easy. We haven't really audited this from the perspective of all of the different types of programs that are out there.
What we identified in the British Columbia First Nations Health Authority situation was that it wasn't just long-term, stable funding from the federal government to the health authority, but that it also involved provincial government funding on a long-term basis for the health authority. That is a case where we have seen it. I don't think any of the other audits....
Did we see it? Okay, Mr. Martire can speak to another case.
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