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View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Before getting into my remarks, I would like to, first of all, thank members of the committee for their work over the last month studying Bill C-92 and the proposed amendments. The amendments accepted last week from all sides strengthened this bill. As many of you know, I was glad to see that it passed third reading last night unanimously. Thank you very much. Your hard work on this was really appreciated.
A vital component of our government's renewed relationship with indigenous peoples is our commitment to take action and dismantle the colonial structures of the past. Since the Prime Minister's announcement on August 28, 2017, my officials and Minister Bennett's officials have been working hard to establish the necessary structures and processes to make this transformation a reality.
In 2019-20, we look forward to dissolving Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and in its place creating Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada as one department and Indigenous Services Canada as another. This change will better enable the government to continue its work on a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. It better positions the government to build that relationship while closing the socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous people and improving the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis people. It finally responds to a very clear recommendation by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Our focus at Indigenous Services Canada is working with partners to improve access to high-quality services for indigenous people. Our vision is to support and empower indigenous peoples to independently deliver services and address socio-economic conditions in their communities as they move forward on the path to self-determination.
As Minister of Indigenous Services, I am continuing the important work of improving the quality of services delivered to first nations, Inuit and Métis. This includes ensuring a consistent, high-quality and distinctions-based approach to the delivery of these services. A rigorous results and delivery approach is being adopted, focused on improving outcomes for indigenous people. Over time it is our goal that indigenous peoples will directly deliver programs and services to their peoples. We are working with partners to do this. I am working my way out of a job.
I would like to turn your attention to the reason that I am here today. I am now pleased to present to you my department's main estimates for 2019-20, which would total $12.3 billion if approved by Parliament. The 2019-20 main estimates reflect a net increase of about $2.9 billion, or 32%, compared to last year's main estimates. The net increase in budgetary spending primarily reflects the continuation of our investments in budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018 and in our most recent budget: all in all, investments totalling $21.3 billion to support stronger indigenous communities and to improve socio-economic outcomes.
Here are a few examples of where this year's increase will help.
There is $404.1 million in renewed funding for Jordan's principle: supporting children who need orthodontics, medical transportation, respite, land-based culture camps, medical supplies and equipment, educational assistance, mentorship, wheelchair ramps, vehicles, nutritional supplements.
There is an increase of $481.5 million for the first nations water and waste-water enhanced program, improving monitoring and testing of on-reserve community drinking water, and building on investments that have not only led to the lifting of 85 long-term drinking water advisories since 2015, but that also keep us on track to lift all LTDWAs by March 2021.
There will be an increase of $357.9 million related to non-insured health benefits for first nations people and Inuit.
There will be an increase of $324.8 million for infrastructure projects in indigenous communities.
There is an increase of $317 million for the first nations child and family services program, ensuring the actual costs of first nations child and family services agencies are covered fully, but also supporting initiatives to keep children and families together.
There is an increase of $300.2 million for first nations elementary and secondary education, supporting a renewed approach for K-to-12 education on reserve as co-developed by us and the Assembly of First Nations.
There is an increase of $113.6 million to build healthier first nations and Inuit communities, including our work to eliminate tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat by 2030.
And there is an increase of $101.1 million to advance the new fiscal relationship with first nations under the Indian Act.
These investments continue to build on the work we have already done to foster a renewed relationship based on respect, co-operation and partnership. Together with indigenous partners, we are working hard to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Through budget 2019, we are making investments in first nations and Inuit health, social development, education and infrastructure.
In addition to Jordan's principle and ensuring first nations children now receive the services they need when they need them, our investments in the child first initiative ensure that Inuit children have access to the essential government-funded health, social and educational products, services and supports that they need when they need them.
Budget 2019 proposes an investment of $220 million over five years to the Inuit-specific child first initiative, which will address the immediate needs of Inuit children. This investment would also support the ongoing work among the Government of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Inuit regions, and provinces and territories to develop a long-term Inuit-specific approach to better address the unique health, social and education needs of Inuit children.
There are also new investments to address urgent health and wellness needs to reduce suicide rates in Inuit communities. In order to deal with the ongoing suicide crisis in the Inuit communities, $5 million has been set aside to support the national Inuit suicide prevention strategy.
The government is also making unprecedented new investments in indigenous post-secondary education, including 2019's proposal for $327.5 million over five years to renew and expand funding for the post-secondary student support program while the government engages with first nations on the development of integrated regional education strategies.
There is $125.5 million over 10 years, and $21.8 million ongoing to support an Inuit-led post-secondary strategy, and $362 million over 10 years, and $40 million ongoing to support a Métis Nation strategy.
Starting this fiscal year, a new transfer to first nations communities, entitled “Grant to support the new fiscal relationship for First Nations under the lndian Act”, more commonly known as the 10-year grant, has been implemented.
More than 250 first nations expressed interest in the 10-year grant; 103 first nations were determined to be eligible based on criteria that we co-developed with first nations partners. They have received an offer, and I am happy to say that 83 first nations have now signed 10-year grant agreements.
The new grant, representing $1.5 billion, is funded through the existing programs of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, which are primarily related to education, social development, infrastructure, and first nations and Inuit health programs.
To ensure that the 10-year grants grow with the needs of first nations, budget 2019 proposes that starting April 1, 2020, funding for core programs and services provided through the 10-year grants will be escalated to address key cost drivers, including inflation and population growth. The 10-year grant provides communities with the flexibility and predictability needed to support effective and independent long-term planning. This initiative is a key part for establishing a new fiscal relationship that moves towards sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for first nations communities.
Last, I think it's imperative for me to highlight the work of everyone involved in making progress on our commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve by March, 2021. Since 2015, a total of 85 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted, and 126 short-term drinking water advisories were lifted before becoming long term. We are well on our way to meeting our commitment. This will be aided through the 2019-20 main estimates by an additional $66.7 million proposed by budget 2019, which has been dedicated to keeping us on track. I am extremely proud of this, as all Canadians should have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water.
We have made, and are continuing to make, important changes in the government's relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis people. While there is still a lot of work to do, our government's historic investments are making a difference in closing the gaps that exist, and improving the quality of life for indigenous peoples.
I'd now be happy to answer any questions that the committee may have.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
No, no. We are on track to make this happen. We're doubling down on our efforts.
I'll let Paul take the floor to give you some quick figures.
I've also been to, for instance, Piapot nation in northern Saskatchewan and Piapot had theirs burn down. We have a new temporary one that is up and running, with staff who are tremendously proud of the amount of training they've gone through and that they are able to provide the fixes that are needed to make sure that community.... I think there might be a notion that many of these communities are close together. Some of them, as you well know, out your way—it was an eye-opener for me—are quite spread out, so there's quite a bit of work involved.
At Piapot, they are very proud of the fact that they have that training on the ground. I then turned to this position, this belief—having seen it in other places—that you cannot simply build these things and walk away. If they are going to work, then you have to have people trained and on the ground and ready to make the fixes as they are needed. Also, a team of people provides meaningful employment.
The only way you're going to solve it on an ongoing basis is to make sure that there is training provided on the ground. That is already happening, and that was the commitment of the department.
Paul has some numbers.
You read them out, Paul.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Prevention is part of the cure, yes, and that also speaks to the increased capacity that we've been able to develop on the ground, that these can be identified quickly and that we have the resources now. Again, the resources are not enough—otherwise we would have everything done by tomorrow, but this is simply not how it works—but we do have a much stronger capacity on the ground to address these things as they come.
Did you want to speak any further to that?
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