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Results: 1 - 15 of 6408
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Madam Chair. It's great to be back. As always, thank you for the land acknowledgement as we meet here as a committee on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin people.
I'm joined by Diane Lafleur, associate deputy minister; and Paul Thoppil, chief finances, results and delivery officer.
That's a really nice title, Paul.
I'm here to speak to the main estimates for Crown-Indigenous Relations as well as on behalf of my honourable colleague Minister Leblanc, who is responsible for northern affairs. We hope he will be well and back with us soon.
As you know, in August 2017 the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the creation of two new departments, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, and Indigenous Services Canada. Indigenous and Northern Affairs was a vestige of the colonial era. It was completely unsuited to support and partner with indigenous people based on their unique histories, circumstances and aspirations. The two new departments are designed and organized to better serve the needs of indigenous peoples and structured to better support first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in implementing their visions of self-determination.
The Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, the department for which I'm responsible, has been advancing forward-looking and transformative work to create a new relationship with indigenous peoples as well as support the self-reliance, prosperity and well-being of northerners.
I'm pleased to appear on my department's main estimates, which total $7 billion.
This year's main estimates reflect a net increase of $3.9 billion, or 126%, compared to last year. The increase is primarily attributable to the inclusion of $933.9 million for budget 2019 investments, as well as the following major items: an increase of $2 billion for the childhood claims settlement; an increase of $750 million for the sixties scoop settlement; and an increase of $141 million for infrastructure projects in indigenous communities, including solid waste and Inuit housing.
Budget 2019 investments are reflected in the department's main estimates under separate votes. As their Treasury Board submissions are approved, departments will be able to access funds from these votes for their investments.
These investments build upon the government's historic investments of $16.8 billion through three previous budgets to achieve the shared priorities of indigenous peoples in Canada, now totalling more than $20 billion of new funding.
Across the country, indigenous leadership, non-indigenous Canadians and the government are working in partnership to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Together we are making progress.
Budget 2019 makes significant new investments that support indigenous peoples' plans for self-determination and their work of rebuilding.
These include concrete measures to remove impediments to reaching agreements that affirm indigenous rights and address past grievances.
The budget also includes investments to support the government's continued progress in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
Budget 2018 ended the practice of funding comprehensive claim negotiations through loans and replaced them with non-repayable contributions. Budget 2019 goes even further by including funding of up to $1.4 billion to forgive all outstanding comprehensive claim negotiation loans and to reimburse indigenous governments that had already repaid these loans. More than 230 indigenous communities will immediately benefit from having these loans off their books or reimbursed. This will allow them to take advantage of opportunities that were out of reach, and to focus on investing in their priorities, such as governance, infrastructure and economic development.
Budget 2019 also replenishes the specific claims settlement fund for another three years, and increases the funding for specific claims research by $8 million per year for five years. These investments will support the resolution of claims more efficiently and effectively, so we can move forward together in a good way.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action provide all Canadians a path forward for Canada's journey of healing and reconciliation.
Our government is working with its partners to accelerate progress on the 94 calls to action and has made significant progress on the calls to action under federal or shared responsibility.
I am very proud of the significant investments made by budget 2019 specifically through our department to support further progress on implementation. Budget 2019 provides $126.5 million in 2020-21 to establish the National Council for Reconciliation and endow it with its initial operating capital, which addresses calls to action 53 to 55.
To address calls to action 72 to 76, the budget invests $33.8 million over three years to develop and maintain the national residential school student death register, and to work with parties to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries.
The budget provides $9.1 million over three years to support the construction of an indigenous legal lodge at the University of Victoria, and $10 million over five years in support of indigenous law initiatives across Canada. Through the justice partnership and innovation program, these investments support the implementation of call to action 50.
The budget supports call to action 66—this is one of my favourites—with $15.2 million over three years for an indigenous youth pilot program, delivered by the Canadian Roots Exchange. Funding will support the establishment of a distinctions-based national network of indigenous youth to help ensure that the Government of Canada's policies and programs are informed by the diverse voices of indigenous youth, and provides support to community events and gatherings for indigenous youth and reconciliation-focused, community-based indigenous youth activities.
The budget also provides $10 million over two years advancing call to action 80 to support communities to recognize and commemorate the legacy of residential schools on the proposed national day for truth and reconciliation.
Our government also understands that success will require taking a truly whole-of-government approach to the TRC's calls to action. I can assure you that every department is taking up the challenge to advance the calls to action in their areas of responsibility. For example, just last week, Minister Hussen introduced the change to the oath of citizenship, which responds to call to action 94.
Our government has been working with northerners and indigenous and territorial partners to build strong, diversified, sustainable and dynamic Arctic and northern communities.
Budget 2019 invests over $700 million in new and focused funding over 10 years to ensure that Arctic and northern communities continue to grow and prosper. Additionally, territorial formula financing transfers will total over $3.9 billion in 2019-20.
Budget 2019 investments, through Northern Affairs, include three important initiatives: cleaning up the largest and highest risk contaminated sites in northern Canada; supporting diversified post-secondary education options in the north; and building connections in Canada's Arctic and northern regions. We are committed to co-developing initiatives for the north with northerners and making the necessary investments to support those co-developed solutions.
I look forward to discussing these priorities in more detail through your questions.
Meegwetch. Thank you. Merci.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thanks very much for that.
We have been very impressed with the kind of work the Canadian Roots Exchange has been able to do in both indigenous and non-indigenous projects around reconciliation. I remember during the Toronto meeting of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the programming that was there was extraordinary—the history of the historic indigenous sites in Toronto. This is a really important program. I think that no matter what we do—asking people to reread history books, watch movies or read books—it's those relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people, making new friends, that actually helps people go forward in eliminating stereotypes and racism and those things.
I think the work that the executive director, Max FineDay, has been able to do is remarkable, including the kind of speaking that he does, letting people know that the Environics survey has shown that over 80% of non-indigenous youth think they will see reconciliation in their lifetime. I'm not sure the indigenous people are quite so optimistic, but it is that optimism that I think can be the hope that we need there.
In call to action 66, it was very clear that this needed to be a network of youth coast to coast to coast. We appointed three ministerial special representatives, Maatalii, Gabby and André Bear, to look at what existed and what would be recommended, and they gave us a very good report. Now finally number 66 will be realized, with that housed at Canadian Roots Exchange, and I think it will really make a difference.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think in the way that the previous indigenous services or INAC used to work, we did this and we didn't do that.
By moving to a new approach, which is about the services the communities decide they need, we will move into a better place where these kinds of things, like assisted living for seniors, become a priority for these communities. We're seeing in certain communities that they're living in semi-detached housing or in seniors-looking condos, with a nurse who can visit, those kinds of things.
You have the fabulous new health centre there. I think it's great. And thank you for highlighting Chief Leroy Denny. When the Mi'kmaq got control of their education system, that's the day he decided to be a teacher. They were at a 30% graduation rate and now they're over 90%.
I also want to congratulate you with Sir Paul McCartney yesterday highlighting Eskasoni in terms of that beautiful young woman covering Blackbird in the Mi'kmaq language. These are highlights for all of us.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
In response to the interim report, we invested $21.3 million to continue the healing and support for families, but I think what those families have also needed and asked for is a way to commemorate the loss of their loved ones. The money that has come from Minister Monsef's department on commemoration will be there.
I think a lot of these families are now deciding what that should look like. Some want some sort of memorial, and some want a garden. People are working together on that, and I think you're so right that people now need time for healing. Sometimes events like yesterday's really do bring back difficult memories and times, but we need to make sure it unlocks the healing as they go forward. We are committed to do that.
As well, l think the family liaison units that were set up in all provinces and territories within victim services—a specialized unit for the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls—have been really important and well received. In the interim report, we said we'd continue that for another year, but we are hearing that people want it to go on further. I just think that, because this is still happening and families are still losing loved ones and need help navigating through a system, we want to make sure that we're there for them.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
The interim report was really a compilation of all the previous reports, and so that was what we were able to respond to. I think, regarding the needed changes to child and family services that are reflected in Bill C-92, we need to be aggressive about those changes. We know that there's significant money being invested, unfortunately, in lawyers apprehending children and in agencies and non-indigenous foster families. It has to go to community to prevent that. That's where, I think, there needs to be significant work. I don't think I really understood that certain communities were doing much better because they just refused to abide by provincial laws and kept jurisdiction of their children.
I think the other issue is the ongoing racism and sexism in policing. We are calling on the Senate to pass Rona Ambrose's bill. We have to get that judicial education, and we have to do a much better job on that. I think the racism and sexism throughout all of our institutions is something that the commission has really underlined, how prevalent and sinister it is across our country.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that Minister Monsef has done an amazing job with her advisory committee on the broader issue of gender-based violence. I think this commission report calling for a national action plan must be done with partners: first nations, Inuit, Métis. It must also be indigenous-led, indigenous women-led, but it also needs to take regional variations into consideration. It's going to be a really important thing, so we will need to do that immediately.
This is the first national public inquiry, which means that the provinces and territories all signed on to the terms of reference. We will need partners going forward, and we will need their help designing what that process looks like to get to that national action plan.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think we are very happy with the progress on Île-à-la-Crosse. As you know, the Métis were totally left out in the outrage of the residential school lawsuit, and in the IRSSA.
On the day schools, I think we heard very clearly from northerners that there wasn't enough time for them to sign up within a year, so we've extended that to two and a half years. I think we will now be able to make sure that, in all the regions of the country, people understand what they need to do.
I think the key has been the survivors wanted us to simplify the process so it would be a paper-based process where they could tell their story and then receive what they're entitled to without being cross-examined and without that re-traumatizing.
I think we are now awaiting the court to decide on the fairness hearings as to whether we will be able to proceed with the administrator, that will be Deloitte, as well as making sure that people have the help they need to fill out the forms and be able to get what they rightfully deserve.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm very proud that we were able to get the railroad built, or committed, to Churchill. I think that is going to completely open up things. Obviously, the Shoal Lake road, which opens this week, is important.
But I think you're quite right that, in terms of construction, in terms of all of these things, with climate change and the shortened winter road availability, there need to be permanent solutions. We're pleased that we at least were able to invest in the grid, which provides much more stable access to electricity, but I think we need to work with our partners and work on permanent solutions with the province, with Manitoba Hydro and with all of the partners that can deal with the reality of the isolation and food insecurity.
In the Arctic and northern policy framework, transportation was identified as a priority, so we have been working with our partners on those issues as well. As we are able to release the Arctic and northern policy framework, we will then begin the implementation of that with our partners and will be able to find real solutions.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
As the chief commissioner said, there are 1,200 pages of evidence of the policies that have resulted in this terrible tragedy in which women have died. I think the commission, with all of its deliberations, called this a genocide, and we accept that. That's interesting since we need Canadians to understand that from the Indian Act to residential schools to the sixties scoop to the present day with child and family services, children and young people have been dying.
In the pre-inquiry, we alarmed people by saying that sexism and racism kill, but they do. I think that's why this needs to go forward so there is an understanding that it wasn't just culture and language; people died. That's the reason we need all Canadians to understand these dark chapters in our history, and to understand the vibrant civilization that was here, in which women had influence and power. That was taken away when settlers arrived and they would talk only to the men. It was taken away by the Indian Act, which sent a woman into her husband's community, reversing the tradition. There is more and more evidence that these colonial policies have resulted in this tragedy. That's what we have to do: We have to accept the truth if we are going to change the path.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, all Canadians now hopefully know a little more about what causes this tragedy, that it's ongoing, and that not only is it about raising consciousness, but it's actually asking every Canadian to call out racism and sexism when they see it, and to understand that they need to know that the stereotypes they still see are wrong, and that we actually have an obligation—every single one of us—to do something about this.
It means that the federal government will do what it can. The provincial and territorial governments will do what they can, and municipal governments, indigenous governments.... But this is about a tragedy. From yesterday, seeing Bernie Williams and Gladys Radek, who first came to the Hill in 2004 asking for the inquiry.... I think they walked this country seven times and still people didn't know. Now, I hope, with the release of this report and with everybody really thinking about this tragedy.... These were loved family members who were lost or are missing.
Those family members asked at the beginning for three things. They asked to seek justice for their loved one; for support and healing for the families; and for concrete actions to stop the tragedy, to prevent it, to make sure that no other family would have to go through what they've had to go through.
I think we have raised the consciousness with this national public inquiry. It is what the families and the survivors asked for. It is as the commissioner said: once you know the truth, you can't “unknow” the truth. It's really important that we go forward.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that as the Prime Minister said yesterday, there were those who were able to share their stories; there are still ones who haven't. We hope that, again, unlocking the healing for all of the family members and the survivors....
It was really the first hearing in Thunder Bay at the beginning of the inquiry.... We had focused on the families, but there are survivors. There are people who woke up in an emergency department with bruises around their neck. There's my friend CeeJai Julian, who ran away from the Pickton farm. These are courageous people who have told their story. As I've said forever, we can't let them down. We have to move forward. This has to stop.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that Minister Monsef's gender-based violence programs have been investing in community. With her advisory committee, this has been very important. I think in everything we've done, from housing to shelters to safe transportation on the Highway of Tears, we have been doing those important things.
In the response to the interim report, we invested an extra $21.3 million on healing for the families, stood up the special unit within the RCMP on wise practices and invested in some of the community organizations on policing. We've also been able to start the healing with the funding that went to commemoration.
We've always said that we wouldn't wait for the final report and we need to keep going.
I think the change to child and family services, as I've said, is the transformational change—to not have these children at risk or abused because of this idea that taking children from their families and their communities would be in the best interests of the child. That's been proven wrong, and now we have to reverse that and work with our partners to make sure these children grow up as proud indigenous people with their resilience and their self-esteem. That is what will turn this around.
Seeing Tina Fontaine's grandmother there yesterday, and realizing what happened there in terms of that failure of what was to be child protection, was just awful. She was 15.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
The status quo is not okay, and we are going to have to move forward. It means we are going to have to do it and co-develop a national action plan that will make sure the objectives that were set out in the terms of reference, concrete actions to stop this tragedy....
They have provided their calls for justice, and we will work with our partners to develop a national action plan—what, by when, and how—with all of our partners. That includes the provinces and territories, the municipalities and indigenous governments. We need to work together in a distinctions-based way, with regional sensitivity, and get this thing done.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
It falls under the umbrella of the national action plan, so that means we go forward working with our partners in terms of what their priorities are and in a way that will stop the tragedy. That's what we need to do.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, I would have to disagree with that, honourable member.
After the interim report, there was an off-cycle budget for $50 million that included the money for healing, the money for commemoration, the special unit in the RCMP and in policing. There are billions of dollars here in the estimates on housing, and all of the things that are truly moving forward. As I've said before, to me, as a family doctor and as a mother, the changes to child and family services, Bill C-92, are transformational. The fact that once again nations will have jurisdiction over their children and their youth and will no longer be vulnerable, preyed upon, to me, is transformational.
As well, the commission really made strong calls for justice on language. I think that Minister Rodriguez, in Bill C-91, has done important work there. Everything we have done is about changing the relationship, which was a colonized approach, one of paternalism, of disempowerment, to one of empowerment and a real respect for indigenous rights, and a relationship based on respect and partnership and co-operation.
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