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Results: 61 - 75 of 461
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Madam Chair, thank you. I am pleased to be here today as you acknowledge the traditional territory of the Algonquin people and to speak with members of this committee in my new capacity as Minister of Indigenous Services.
Joining me is Jean-François Tremblay, Deputy Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, and Paul Thoppil, who is our Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer.
Fundamental to our work as a government is our relationship with indigenous people. I recognize the important work this committee is doing to further their priorities across Canada. In particular, I want to thank you for your recent report on long-term care on reserve, and I look forward to responding to your findings.
As Minister of Indigenous Services, my job is to advance work that closes socioeconomic gaps and improves the quality of services for indigenous peoples, in partnership with them, and in a way that promotes self-determination.
My predecessor, who is now President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Digital Government, identified five interconnected priority areas where our joint work is needed. They are the following: keeping children and families together, quality education, improving health outcomes, reliable infrastructure and economic prosperity. At the centre of each of these priorities are real people: individuals, people, communities.
Much progress has been made in these areas and the work is, of course, ongoing. To that end, Indigenous Services Canada requires immediate funds to continue delivering on our mandate.
That is what the supplementary estimates (B) and the interim estimates are about. Today, I will briefly outline my department's supplementary estimates (B) for 2018-2019 and the interim estimates for 2019-2020 to address the funding requirements of the first quarter of the coming fiscal year. Then, we will be happy to take your questions.
The supplementary estimates (B) for Indigenous Services Canada reflect a net increase of $273.6 million. This brings the total appropriations for 2018-2019 to $11.7 billion.
The largest item requested by these estimates is $99.8 million for the emergency management assistance program. This is a critical appropriation in the supplementary estimates. In the past year alone, Canada has seen its share of floods, wildfires and severe storms, which have had grave impacts on a number of first nations. In fact, they have displaced more than 10,000 on-reserve residents in Canada.
Thanks to budget 2018 funding, we have been able to better respond, and reimburse communities faster for costs incurred due to emergency incidents. Indeed, this fiscal year, over 99% of evacuated people have been able to go back to their communities. We are working hard to get the others home as soon as we can.
Our government has also made historic investments to accelerate reforms to first nations child and family services. Budget 2016 provided $635 million over five years as a first step, and budget 2018 committed a further $1.4 billion in new funding over six years.
It is essential we put the safety and security of indigenous children at the forefront of what we do. There is a pressing need within indigenous communities to raise young people in their culture, in their language and in their communities with their families.
As such, the second item in these estimates is part of these investments to address funding gaps and support efforts to keep children and families together where it is in the best interests of the child. These funds are already at work, Madam Chair.
As you are aware, we put an item on notice this week. I look forward to introducing it in the House shortly. I am limited in what I can say about it until it is formally introduced in the House. What I can say is I look forward to talking with you and listening to each one of you in the very near future.
The next item I wish to bring to the committee's attention is $64.4 million towards advancing a new fiscal relationship with first nations.
This funding will support communities in developing governance and community-led planning pilot projects. It will also ensure that first nations are no longer required to pay for third party management.
A key element of this new fiscal relationship is a 10-year grant starting on April 1, 2019, for eligible first nations to deliver core services. Interest in this grant has been very high. We are working now with eligible first nations to finalize agreements for the April 1 entry into the grant.
The last item I will touch on in the supplementary estimates (B) is the $37.5 million in funding for first nations elementary and secondary education programs.
A new codeveloped funding approach for first nations kindergarten to grade 12 education takes effect April 1, 2019. This formula-based approach supports first nations' control of first nations education, and helps to ensure predictable funding that is more directly comparable to what students at provincial schools receive.
More concretely, this funding would mean real change for first nations kids. For example, thanks to budget 2016 funding for education programming, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne is taking Mohawk immersion learning to the next level. It implemented a new math program in Mohawk, which is aligned with the Ontario math curriculum. This means that children can now learn math in Mohawk in their immersion classrooms.
We will start to see more and more successes like this replicated throughout Canada by way of regional education agreements.
I will now turn to the interim estimates and will highlight some of those items.
The department's interim estimates will be approximately $7 billion. This funding would ensure that Indigenous Services Canada is able to carry out its activities in the first three months of the fiscal year, until the full main estimates are approved in June. Among other things, a timely appropriation of these funds would ensure that First Nations are able to take full advantage of the start of the construction season.
We know that healthy and safe homes are integral to creating healthy and safe communities. We also know, however, that indigenous people are more likely to experience poor housing conditions than the general population. According to Statistics Canada's 2016 census, 18.3% of indigenous people live in crowded dwellings.
With that in mind, we are making progress with the Assembly of First Nations on the codevelopment of a first nations housing and related infrastructure strategy. This will contribute to more sustainable and healthy first nations communities. With the AFN, we are also codeveloping a new operations and maintenance policy framework that will provide greater flexibility to first nations to manage their assets on reserve.
It is also why, among other things, the Government of Canada is working in partnership to address the serious housing needs of Cat Lake First Nation through immediate action and long-term planning.
We know that decades of neglect are challenging to reverse, but we will be working in partnership to achieve results for the people of Cat Lake First Nation and for all indigenous people in Canada.
I joined Cat Lake Chief Matthew Keewaykapow last Thursday to sign an initial framework agreement that means a solid plan moving forward. This agreement includes $3.5 million to support 15 new housing units, as well as additional funding for demolition, site preparation and shipping of materials; $2.1 million to repair 21 existing units; $2 million for the delivery and installation of 10 portable housing units; and expediting the seven new units that are currently under way.
Chief Keewaykapow invited me to join the community, and I have gratefully accepted accepted his invitation.
Madam Chair and committee members, I urge you to support the appropriations requested in these estimates. The funding will enable us to continue to address the day-to-day realities in indigenous communities in a holistic way.
Thank you. Meegwetch.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
I think it might have been my fourth or fifth day as minister that I attended the B.C. gathering of chiefs. That was an incredible eye-opener on the importance of emergency management assistance. Most of the questions that I took from the floor on that day were on exactly this, and for good reason. It involves their safety and their security.
We provide emergency management support to on-reserve indigenous communities through the emergency management assistance program for the four pillars of emergency management: prevention, mitigation, response and recovery. We reimburse first nations partners, provincial and territorial governments and other third party service providers like the Canadian Red Cross for any eligible costs incurred in the delivery of emergency management systems to first nations communities.
Supplementary estimates (B) includes $99.8 million to reimburse first nations and emergency management providers for on-reserve response and for recovery activities in 2018-19.
If you look at what's driven those costs, there's $16.58 million for flooding, $26.92 million for wildfire response, $1.86 million for response costs for other emergencies such as tornadoes, $8.88 million for long-term evacuation costs and $74.91 million for recovery costs for things like critical infrastructure that needs to be replaced as a result of a fire, for instance.
For the past four years, response and recovery costs have exceeded A-base funding of $29.3 million. Options to address this persistent funding shortfall are being explored right now. I expect, to be honest, that it's not going to get any better.
The funds being requested will ensure first nations communities receive funding at a level to address that response and to recover. They support the Government of Canada's commitment to deliver consistent and high-quality programs and services to first nations.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
I'll begin with some good news, which is that we just lifted our latest boil water advisory yesterday, which now brings us up to 80. This is something that we heard very clearly during the election campaign and since. It's something that Canadians can grasp onto for exactly the reasons that you cited, the idea of a community not having access to clean drinking water.
Our government right now, as I said, is on track for our goal to lift all long-term drinking water advisories in public systems on reserve by March 2021. We also know that the work doesn't end with the lifting of long-term advisories. We're providing some sustainable investments to prevent short-term advisories, to expand delivery systems and to build capacity of and retain local water operators, training people on the ground in the community and putting in place systems for regular monitoring and testing.
Decades of neglect are challenging to these reserves, but we are working in partnership to develop plans to meet their specific needs. A lot of work needs to be done, but so far the results are encouraging. As I said, 80 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted so far, including that one yesterday in North Spirit Lake, Ontario. That one had been place for 17 years.
I visited one facility in Piapot in Saskatchewan. The women who run this particular facility have trained long and hard. They work long, hard hours. My God, are they proud of the work that they're doing and the fact that they're doing that work in community, and they're the ones doing it.
I have to say that the other thing that really struck me, and it was pointed out to me by the leadership, is, how spaced out many of these communities are. I think that, when we see images sometimes in the media, we see some communities that have houses that are in close proximity to one another, but a number of these communities have great distances between the houses, which makes dealing with their water needs more complex than meets the eye.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
I believe, and I can be corrected by my deputy, the reason is that we give it six months.
Is that the time duration?
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Frankly, Mr. Waugh, if it is the case that we give ourselves six months before we get it back on track, that should be spelled out there as well so that it's transparent.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Let me speak to the two examples that you brought up. In Piapot, I visited the interim water facility and it's really quite impressive. That is the interim one, and the women I met there were incredibly well trained and quite proud of that training. If they complained of anything, it was overwork. We need to get more people trained up so that they're not working the hours they are, which are pretty extensive.
They showed me the facility, the site that had burned down. We are committed to rebuilding that with them.
We're working with Carry the Kettle as well. I've spoken with them, or I should say, my officials have.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
No, that was an unfortunate tweet.
Georgina, what was it? It was a Beechcraft 1900, whose chairs are normally right on your knees. I had an official with me who got a new telephoto lens and put the seat down in front of me, so it looks as though I'm G5-ing it. However, I can tell you, it was absolutely not the case.
We were on a plane with elders, with members of the community, and if you don't mind my saying so, with the member of the committee here, Georgina Jolibois. This is a normal way for people in the north to travel. It's the most cost-efficient way when we're going from place to place.
I thought the view outside the window looked cool. It turned out to be an absolute disaster of a tweet, as they go. It in no way reflects the way we travel. It certainly in no way reflects our priorities. It's just a stupid old tweet.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
It would be in keeping with our departmental costs. You know, these things would be out there.
Honestly, Mr. Waugh, if you saw the plane it's something that you would see normally in northern Saskatchewan. A Beechcraft 1900 ain't sexy. There is not much legroom. It's just how we get back and forth. I can say, as a former baggage handler at Goose Bay International Airport in Labrador and flying around all over Labrador, this is—
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
—pretty typical stuff. I have to be honest with you, I'm used to a Twin Otter or a Beaver, so this is pretty high end for me.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Yes, because there were a number of people with us. It also looks like I'm alone. Most of the people were near the front of the plane because they knew the heat was better up there.
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