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Results: 1 - 15 of 901
View Marcus Powlowski Profile
Lib. (ON)
Minister, I know that there are a lot of indigenous communities, and your department was trying to help a lot of different communities across Canada rapidly get ready for possible cases of the COVID-19 pandemic. I've been in touch with you about several of these communities, and I'm always really impressed that you seem to know something about, or a lot about, some very small communities. I think that was indicated in your response to Mr. Vidal.
I think this meeting was primarily called in regard to what happened in Mathias Colomb Cree Nation. Could tell us what is being done in order to address the needs of that particular community?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Yes, and thank you again for your interaction with our department and ensuring that the needs in your riding are met and heard.
We've been working from the get-go at an accelerated rate. Obviously getting ahead of this curve has been the reason indigenous communities have had such optimistic outcomes, because they've been able to predict and communicate, open that line of communication and make sure that procurement is being done in a timely fashion and distributed.
In the case of Mathias Colomb, there were some movable structures that we were looking at essentially as part of a central procurement to deal with surge capacity to have moveable structures that are in great demand for communities that need isolation capacity or more testing capacity, so the company in question proactively released a press release that frankly mis-characterized what was being sent into the community, and the community, rightly so, reacted. Our department apologized for the miscommunication, but it was an issue of communication in coordination with their pandemic plan.
Essentially what Mathias Colomb wanted, which we have funded to the tune of about $400,000, was repurposing of one of their community centres as part of their pandemic plan and not the movable structures that we were proactively sourcing with a view to distributing them into a variety of communities that have those challenges that have been highlighted to the committee. I think essentially that's the crux of it.
View Marcus Powlowski Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think, from what I've heard, that the community is quite happy with what's ensued after this initial controversy. Am I not right with that?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
I believe so.
You know, the frustration that a number of communities feel existed prior to the pandemic, because we're dealing with socio-economic determinants that make that vulnerability more acute. We're asked to do things in Indigenous Services Canada that we don't have to do in non-indigenous communities, because those conditions don't exist, so that frustration is very real. Ensuring that we communicate and essentially deal the cards that we're dealt and proactively source units for isolation and medical purposes actively, knowing that there has not been an outbreak, is very important.
I think always that the line of communication, making sure local needs are addressed, is important [Technical difficulty—Editor]
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to thank the witnesses for joining us. I also want to thank the minister for making the effort to respond in French. I'm very grateful to her for this.
I want to address the motion that we're debating today.
Mr. Miller, you didn't get the opportunity to read your opening remarks, but I read them. You admit that your government made a mistake when it failed to share information about the procurement process with community leaders. Mr. Powlowski just discussed this issue.
I want to give you the chance to briefly explain how the process works and why the information wasn't shared with community leaders.
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
Ms. Michaud, I want to start by saying that I'm pleased to be speaking in French, especially since I'm currently in Montreal.
To some extent, what happened was the result of the nature of the beast, if I may say so. We had to deal with a very unpredictable and historic pandemic. We had to take action and be proactive in order to source very expensive products and structures. We needed to develop a plan to deal with the epidemic. The plan wasn't supposed to concern just one province, but the entire country.
Indigenous Services Canada assesses all potential outbreaks and vulnerabilities, such as the remoteness or overcrowding of a community. The important thing was to be proactive.
There's considerable demand for movable structures designed to address overcrowding in some communities, for example.
In the case of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, there was an agreement to send movable structures to the community. However, the community didn't want them. Instead, according to its pandemic plan, the community wanted to resupply and restructure its community centre. We did this with a $400,000 investment. There was a misunderstanding regarding the press release because the company issued the release hastily. The misunderstanding concerned when things would be done and the nature of what would be developed for the community.
Our department apologized to the community. We're continuing to proactively communicate with its members to ensure that the community can meet all its resupply needs.
When we act urgently, we may make mistakes. We must learn from them.
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm pleased we're having this meeting today as a result of the work of my colleague, MP Qaqqaq.
It is a very important meeting, and we need to get answers. Pukatawagan deserves answers.
Pukatawagan, or Mathias Colomb, is a remote first nation here in northern Manitoba. It has done everything in its power to keep its community safe, like many other first nations. In the midst of all of this, through the CBC news, Pukatawagan found out that a company n Newfoundland was making specialized tents for them that they never asked for. Imagine that.
Then they went on to find out, and we all went on to find out, that the chair of the board of the company that made these tents is a former Liberal cabinet minister on the government supply council for COVID-19, so the plot thickens.
The reality is that the excuse that ISC, Indigenous Services Canada, was trying to be proactive doesn't stand up to the test. Pukatawagan deserves answers. How is it that these tents were destined for this first nation when nobody asked for them?
Minister Miller, who in your department made this request on behalf of Pukatawagan? Why was it Pukatawagan and no other first nation, including other remote first nations here in Manitoba or elsewhere?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
I believe my office has sent you the answer from our department.
We need to understand how surge capacity resourcing works, and as part of that we need to profile and model vulnerable communities. As you have highlighted and as the community has highlighted to our team, it is part of a number of vulnerable communities across Canada that have those vulnerabilities for unacceptable reasons.
As part of that, we need to establish procurement models and resources on a Canada-wide level. Mathias Colomb was named as part of a greater model in trying to understand what the needs would be, not only for the first wave but for a second or third wave. As you've heard in prior testimony but as I'm glad to reiterate, the press release from the company that was selected to provide these units was a little hasty and mischaracterized what these very important units are for, and as a result, the community was surprised.
That is not right, and I'll concede that. They had this pandemic—
View Niki Ashton Profile
NDP (MB)
If I can stop you there, you're not answering the questions, Mr. Miller.
Your letter in response to our letter did not provide any answers. You referenced first nations and leaders. You referenced.... There were generalities.
The reality is that here in our constituency, there are 21 remote first nations. Pukatawagan is one of them. Why was it Pukatawagan and no other community? Pukatawagan and all communities in our region deserve exact answers. Who made these requests from your department? I'm not interested in explanations about what surge capacity is. I understand. The reality is that Pukatawagan was singled out and, frankly, was used.
Could you please answer me this? Your government, after all of this scandal came out, finally confirmed and agreed to spending $449,460 to upgrade the youth centre in Pukatawagan as a way of having the community prepared for COVID-19. However, your government preferred to spend almost double that amount, $766,140.34, on these tents that nobody asked for, from a company that is chaired by a former Liberal cabinet minister.
How is it acceptable that your government benefited a Liberal and only then committed a mere half of the money to a community that's desperate to have the proper infrastructure in place? Does it take a scandal to get even half of the money that your government is committing to live up to the urgent needs of first nations?
View Marc Miller Profile
Lib. (QC)
I submit to you, Ms. Ashton, that this is not how procurement works. We were working with the community already to respond to their pandemic plan. Indeed, were you to ask them, they would say that they are—and I do not purport to speak for them—quite happy with the result right now, but that was something that was well in the works to the best of my understanding.
Again, the surge capacity nature of the procurement was such that these tents—which are very expensive movable structures with a medical purpose that can be used in many ways—are in very high demand in the communities that need them, which we respond proactively to.
Obviously we have to predict for second and third waves, and that's why that procurement occurs on a national scale. We're glad to work with communities that require any of these. The communities that have used them are quite happy. Obviously they're not happy with the conditions that create the need, but it's something that we need to continue moving forward with, and we will.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our guests and witnesses for being here today.
Minister Anand, the last time we spoke I was asking you about procurement and whether indigenous companies were able to bid on these contracts and whether any indigenous companies had been awarded contracts for PPE with the federal government. I was wondering if you could give us an update on that situation.
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you so much for asking me that question again, because in that format we don't have a large opportunity to have an interchange.
As you know, PSPC is very committed to collaborating with indigenous suppliers. We have awarded 12 contracts to 10 indigenous businesses, for a total amount of about $40 million at the current time. In addition, I am very much advocating open competitions or RFP processes in which we can specifically target indigenous businesses, and in that vein, we actually have launched an RFP process for the production of cloth masks. This is targeted specifically to indigenous businesses.
The answer to the question is yes. We are definitely encouraging indigenous businesses and attempting to ensure that indigenous businesses are participating in the procurement process.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
Minister, do you know how many contracts we have signed for masks throughout this pandemic?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
We have signed hundreds of contracts, both domestically and internationally, for PPE. Many of those are for masks, as you know, such as surgical masks, cloth masks and N95 masks. We're dealing with multiple different types of masks.
I will ask Arianne Reza, who is in charge of many of these contracts in our department, to speak to your question as well.
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