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View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Good evening, everyone.
We're ready to get started. That being said, there's always the possibility that we will have interpretation issues, so please be aware. If that happens, let me know and we will stop.
I want us to applaud our interpreters, who do a superb job. I just went to see them. It's hot and there's no ventilation in their little booth, where three of them are working with headphones on. I really have a lot of respect for their work. That said, we will try to be mindful of interpretation.
Given the new timelines, I would suggest that we spend an hour instead of an hour and a half with each of the panels. Would that be sufficient?
Do you think we should stick to an hour and a half instead, even if it means stopping before the second panel's time is up?
Mr. White, you have the floor.
Vernon White
View Vernon White Profile
Hon. Vernon White
2022-06-21 19:20
Mr. Chair, if I could, I'd like bring forward a quick motion so that we could have a replacement for Senator Boniface. Everybody has agreed with me verbally on this.
I would like to move that at any point when Senator Boniface would have had an opportunity to ask questions this evening, the time be allocated to Senator Busson instead, who has been sworn in—if there's agreement from the room.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
I don't see any problem with Senator Busson replacing Senator Boniface.
Vernon White
View Vernon White Profile
Hon. Vernon White
2022-06-21 19:21
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Good evening, Senator Busson.
I understand that you have already been sworn in. Is that correct?
Beverley Busson
View Beverley Busson Profile
Hon. Beverley Busson
2022-06-21 19:21
Yes, I did.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you.
We're ready to get started. We will spend one hour with each of our two panels of witnesses. Is everyone okay with that?
Silence implies consent. So you all agree.
Mr. Motz, you have the floor.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm not necessarily convinced that we want to lessen the witnesses' testimony. That means that not everyone is going to get a chance to ask questions. This is a pretty serious responsibility we have. I'm prepared to sit for an extra hour.
If our witnesses are available, let's have them for the hour and a half each that we had originally planned. That is my proposal.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Motz.
Unfortunately, we cannot sit for another hour. We have to be out of the room by 10 p.m. at the latest. Since an hour and a half for each panel would take three hours, we would not have time to complete the scheduled time with the last panel and chief of police Sloly.
I do not want to negotiate anything, I just want to advise you that at 10 p.m. we are getting kicked out.
Senator Harder, you have the floor.
Peter Harder
View Peter Harder Profile
Hon. Peter Harder
2022-06-21 19:22
I have a suggestion, Chair. What if we did the first panel and brought Mr. Sloly back for a full hour and a half on another occasion? That would give us the full time with the first panel.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
If that's okay with you, I don't see a problem with it.
You are indicating that it's okay with you.
Therefore, we will spend an hour and a half with the first panel of witnesses, as planned.
Mr. Clerk, please notify Mr. Sloly of the situation so that he doesn't needlessly wait for us and to let him know that we will call him back.
Thank you.
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 11 of the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency, which was created pursuant to the order of the House on March 2, 2022, and the Senate on March 3, 2022.
Today's meeting is taking place and a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of November 25, 2021.
I'd like to remind all those present in the room to follow the recommendations from public health authorities, as well as directives of the Board of Internal Economy to maintain health and safety.
Should any technical challenges arise, please advise me, as we may need to suspend for a few minutes to ensure all members are able to participate fully.
I also remind witnesses that an interpretation service is available to them.
To access it, please click on the globe icon at the bottom of your screen.
We now welcome our first witnesses. The commissioner, deputy commissioner and chief superintendent of the Ontario Provincial Police will appear during the first half of the meeting. That will be all, in accordance with the decision we just made.
I would therefore like to welcome the commissioner, deputy commissioner and chief superintendent of the Ontario Provincial Police.
You will have five minutes for your opening remarks.
Commissioner Thomas Carrique, you have five minutes.
Thomas Carrique
View Thomas Carrique Profile
Thomas Carrique
2022-06-21 19:24
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good evening, joint chairs, vice-chairs and committee members—
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Just a moment, please, Mr. Carrique. We have a point of order.
Senator Carignan, you have the floor.
Claude Carignan
View Claude Carignan Profile
Hon. Claude Carignan
2022-06-21 19:24
I want to be sure that the public has access to the meeting webcast. I'm in contact with people who work with me, and they seem to be having trouble accessing the webcast. I want to make sure that the meeting is public.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Carrique, we're in the process of doing some checks, because we're having technical issues. There is no Wi‑Fi for the time being. We're in the process of checking that, so we ask that you please hold on for a moment.
Mr. Motz has the floor.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm getting a notice from someone who is trying to follow along online as well, and it keeps jumping from a completely green screen to a partial screen with nothing on it.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
We're going to suspend the meeting for a few minutes to see if we can resolve the issue. If not, we will postpone the meeting to a later date.
I'm sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Carrique, Mr. Harkins and Mr. Pardy.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
We're back in session.
I'm going to give the floor to Thomas Carrique, who will have five minutes for his speech.
Mr. Carrique, you have the floor.
Thomas Carrique
View Thomas Carrique Profile
Thomas Carrique
2022-06-21 19:30
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am joined here today by OPP deputy commissioner of field operations Chris Harkins and the chief superintendent, Carson Pardy, who was assigned to the integrated planning process.
Under the Ontario Police Services Act, the OPP has a unique dual mandate, providing frontline policing services to 328 municipalities across the province, as well as providing assistance and/or specialized support to municipal police services upon request.
As it relates to the “freedom convoy” and the associated illegal blockades in the city of Ottawa, the OPP's provincial operations intelligence bureau commenced reporting to our policing partners on January 13, 2022. As of January 22, daily intelligence reports focused on the convoy headed to Ottawa and the anticipated protest movements across the province. The intelligence reporting was shared with more than 35 Canadian law enforcement and security agencies.
As the convoy crossed the Manitoba-Ontario border and travelled across the province until it arrived in Ottawa on January 28, OPP officers professionally fulfilled their duties without incident. In support of the Ottawa Police Service, throughout the occupation, an increasing number of OPP officers and specialized resources from various services became engaged, ultimately contributing to an integrated plan and the establishment of a unified command.
Simultaneously, our members responded to many other convoys and demonstrations that consistently and repeatedly emerged in communities across Ontario, including but not limited to the critical blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, the blockade of Highway 402, and multiple other attempts to block Canada-U.S. land border crossings and demonstrations that posed a risk to the area of the Ontario legislature. In addition, from day one, when the convoy entered Ontario, we were responsive to requests for assistance from other municipal police services.
This was a provincial and national emergency that garnered international attention. In response, the OPP and more than 20 other police services from across the country—
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Carrique, I must interrupt you for a moment.
I'm being told that the television broadcast is not working.
I'm sorry, Mr. Carrique, but we're going to have to suspend the meeting once again.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry but we're going to have to adjourn. Our proceedings are not being publicly broadcast in either the Senate or the House of Commons. In addition, we have some MPs and witnesses attending with the Zoom application. We will therefore have to reschedule this meeting for another time.
Mr. Motz, you have the floor.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Chair, before we adjourn, with the number of committee meetings not going on tomorrow and Thursday, is it possible that we would have the resources to meet tomorrow afternoon sometime, or Thursday in between our votes?
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
If you wish, we can ask our whips to confer and see if we can hold the meeting tomorrow afternoon. If everyone agrees with that, we can request it.
Mr. Green, would you like to speak?
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
I know that we've been struggling on the administrative side to get agreement on the dates for the fall, but I would put to the committee that we would look to perhaps add these two witnesses to our superhearings that we're contemplating in the fall. I think perhaps we're being a bit overly hopeful that we'll be able to squeeze this in tomorrow or the day after.
I'm wondering, through you, Mr. Chair, if we could have the clerk perhaps contemplate adding this to our superhearings in the fall .
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
We have to determine what those are going to be before we even have them.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
Actually, we're not meeting the standards right now. Our proceedings are not being televised, when they are supposed to be. Also, some members of this committee are attending with Zoom.
Everything you're saying makes sense, but the only thing we can do is ask our whips to see if a room, clerks and interpreters are available tomorrow afternoon after Question Period. That's the best we can do. If not, we'll have to talk again over the summer to set up a meeting in the fall. For now, there's nothing more I can do.
View Arif Virani Profile
Lib. (ON)
I was going to intervene.
I would be more minded to have a comprehensive meeting when we can more properly arrange it. I'm conscious of the fact that all of the House leaders from the various parties, I believe, are working hard to get through a lot on the legislative agenda tomorrow.
I'm being advised that House resources are going to be in short supply tomorrow. It would seem a bit overly ambitious to attempt to do it tomorrow.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
I know some of us don't want to go on vacation. I have a lawn that needs mowing at my house, if you really want to work.
Mr. Motz, you have the floor.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
Given that information from Arif, I would suggest that if we have any time today, we could talk about what the fall looks like as far as this supermeeting that Matthew speaks of. Do we have some dates that we can close in on to discuss what that is with everybody? At least we can start planning our calendars then.
View Rhéal Fortin Profile
BQ (QC)
We cannot have a debate, Mr. Motz. We're having an informal discussion, and we're not in a meeting. Some participants can't even hear what we're saying.
The clerks may be able to suggest things for the fall, but we're not in a debate right now.
The meeting is adjourned.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Good afternoon, colleagues, and good afternoon to our witnesses.
I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 27 of the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
We are gathered here today on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation. Of course, today is National Indigenous Peoples Day, and I want to recognize the contributions of all first nations, Métis and Inuit people.
Today we are continuing our fourth study, which pertains to Arctic sovereignty, security and emergency preparedness of indigenous peoples.
On today's panel, we will have the pleasure of hearing from the Honourable Richard Mostyn, Minister of Community Services, Government of Yukon; Dr. Ken Coates, professor and Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation, Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan; Marcia Mirasty, senior director of health for Meadow Lake Tribal Council; and, finally, Vice-Chief Joseph Tsannie, Athabasca Denesuline, Prince Albert Grand Council.
I would like to remind everyone of the rules and requirements of the Board of Internal Economy regarding physical distance and the wearing of masks.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules to follow.
Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services in English, French and Inuktitut are available for today's meeting. Please be patient with the interpretation. There may be a delay, especially since the Inuktitut has to be translated into English first before it can be translated into French and vice versa.
The interpretation button is found at the bottom of your screen, and you have the choice of either English, French or Inuktitut. If interpretation is lost, let us know and we'll stop the proceedings until we can fix it. The “raise hand” feature at the bottom of the screen can be used at any time if you wish to speak or alert the chair.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on the video conference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute yourself. For those in the room, your microphone will be controlled as normal by the proceedings and verification officer.
When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your microphone should be on mute.
Finally, I'll remind you that all comments should be addressed through the chair.
With that, we'll begin our panel today. I will be going from one witness to another, with five minutes for initial opening remarks and presentation, and after that we'll go to a question period.
Without further ado, I'd like to invite the Honourable Richard Mostyn, Minister of Community Services, Government of Yukon, to make his opening remarks.
Minister, you have five minutes.
Richard Mostyn
View Richard Mostyn Profile
Hon. Richard Mostyn
2022-06-21 16:27
Thank you very much.
Hello, everyone.
I'm Richard Mostyn, the Minister of Community Services for the Yukon. I'm joining you today from the traditional territories of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.
Mr. Chair, it's good to be working with you again. Members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of the Yukon today.
It's important to recognize the ongoing engagement between the territorial, federal and first nation governments in the security domain. It reflects the importance of safety and security for our communities in the broadest sense. Arctic security and sovereignty should, at its core, be about the people of the north, with a strong lens on Yukon first nations. We must do everything we can to create healthy, vibrant, thriving and safe communities across the territory. This must include coordinated investments in climate-resilient infrastructure capable of delivering sustainable local services.
Let me provide a smattering of context for those of you who don't know the Yukon. It's important.
The Yukon is growing fast. Why? It's a diverse and inclusive region with robust Internet and transportation connectivity to every community. It has a strong economy and a stunning environment, so, yes, there's a lot going on.
All that said, it's mind-bogglingly small. Our jurisdiction is roughly the size of Campbell River, B.C., spread over a region half the size of B.C., or, if you prefer, four-fifths the size of France. I'll let that sink in for a minute.
We have 11 self-governing first nation governments, not reserves, but real governments, with rights recognized and protected by the Canadian Constitution. Strategically, we are critically important to Canada. Heck, we're critically important to North America, and we have been since the Second World War. We provide the only road access to Alaska's commercial and military interests. Alaskan legislators driving to Juneau have to pass through the Yukon. We also have the only road crossing the Arctic Circle to Canada's north coast, the Dempster Highway. The Yukon has the most western international airport in Canada, and throughout its colonial history, and probably long before, it's been a transport and trade nexus.
When you talk about sovereignty and security in the Yukon, some have recently suggested military bases, but that's not the play. We're in the defence shadow of Alaska, and unlikely to ever come close to matching the hard military power amassed in that state. However, we are the most important supply channel to that state and its military, and also the near eastern Arctic.
My point is that for sovereignty and security we must invest in power, with both tangible green energy and diplomatic influence, and we do that as the territory always has, through robust investment in transportation, trade and energy infrastructure. We must continue to invest in highways, bridges, airports and telecommunications. In the very near future we need to connect it to the North American power grid. I'd argue in the long term and in anticipation of an ice-free Northwest Passage, we need port facilities on Canada's north coast, as close to Alaska as possible, and possibly a rail network linking it to Alberta.
These represent short, medium and 30-year-plus goals to exert sovereignty and security in the north, to mitigate emergencies and to deal with them once they occur.
This won't be easy or cheap, and it won't be possible without the support of our first nation and federal partners, which is why Yukon's co-governance model is so important to the nation. To be successful, all Yukon people have to see themselves thriving in a secure environment, free from energy, climate, housing and food insecurity. In turn, that strengthens the nation's interests.
The Yukon's vision of Arctic sovereignty and security is very much an intersection of meeting the hard defence needs and building resilient communities. My department leads the Yukon Protective Services' programs, which include wildland fire, emergency medical services, and Yukon territorial fire response and emergency measures programs.
I'll end my opening remarks with this.
One of the biggest threats we face to our sovereignty and security in the north is climate change, which we were recently talking about, just actually before everybody arrived at the committee this afternoon. Climate change is being experienced in the north at an accelerated rate compared to the rest of Canada, so there's an awful lot to discuss this afternoon, and I'm happy to take questions later, after I've heard my colleagues.
Thanks very much, everyone.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Minister Mostyn. It's good to see you again. For everybody's information, Minister Mostyn and I were transport ministers at the same time, so we're old friends.
We'll now go to Professor Ken Coates.
Professor Coates, you have five minutes.
Ken Coates
View Ken Coates Profile
Ken Coates
2022-06-21 16:32
I was just thanking you for letting me speak to you, and then I decided I should turn the microphone on.
My comments are going to build very much on what the minister just had to say. This is not a new topic for Canada. In fact, one of the things I'm going to say at the end, just to give away my story, is that I'm almost certain we're going to be back having the same conversation 30 years from now.
We've been talking about what Canada should do about sovereignty in the north, about respecting indigenous peoples and about mobilizing the country to address the very severe problems in the Canadian north for a very long time. We haven't really done very well as a nation. I think we need to be clear about that.
I should also say really quickly that I'm delighted that my colleagues from Saskatchewan are here. I'm from the Yukon. I'm a huge fan of the territorial north. If you look at it in terms of personal incomes, GDP, and health and well-being, the poorest parts of Canada are almost all in the provincial north. There are huge problems in northern Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan, across northern Ontario, etc. It's really important we take an inclusive view of the north, build on some of the phenomenal things that have happened in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and bring that learning down further south into the other areas.
Like I say, we've been at this for a very long time. For a very long time, Canada's approach to Arctic sovereignty was actually just to do what I call the showing the flag routine, which is basically letting the world know that we had our North West Mounted Police officers up there. We actually backed away from our responsibilities during the Second World War. We basically let the Americans do what they wanted to do, in terms of building the Alaska Highway and the Canol pipeline. Afterwards, we moved very slowly to assume responsibilities as a country.
We're left with a situation in which we do not have a very strong military presence in the north. Our infrastructure in northern Canada is not up to national standards, nor is it up to circumpolar standards. We're not doing as well. I just got back from Greenland. We're not doing as well as Greenland, which is an area that has far more formidable challenges than many parts of the Canadian north.
The issue for me is what we do about this. The issues are getting greater. The minister mentioned climate change. Russia's belligerence in Ukraine has raised the question of challenges to our sovereignty and our comparative inability to really respond to that particularly well.
Let me give you a series of my five greatest hits in terms of things I think we can do better and where we should put our emphasis.
Number one is that defending Arctic sovereignty and improving the lives of indigenous people is very expensive. I know this is the last thing members of the House want to hear, but get ready to spend way more money than you're spending now. That's what's happened in Greenland, in the Faeroe Islands and in northern Norway. Canada is trying to get by on the cheap in terms of the developments and investments in the north. It's going to need a lot of money over a longer period of time.
The second point is that Canada's new north will be created not with indigenous people, but, in the spirit of what the minister said, actually very much by the first nations, by the Métis and by the Inuit population. It is their self-government and their autonomy that are driving the best improvements in the north. That will continue well into the future.
Third, I am a fan of...I wouldn't say modernizing our armed forces. The Department of National Defence just announced a major addition. We do need to northernize our armed forces. We do not have armed forces that are really well prepared to work in the north at all.
Fourth, we do not have enough of a commitment to environmental well-being and sustainability. We have let our scientists down. We're doing the bare minimum in terms of monitoring environmental change. We're only getting started on remediation. Remediation is going to be the theme of environmental responsibility in the years to come.
Fifth is that we always talk in Canada about innovation and how we can become an innovative nation responding to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. We do not have a northern innovation strategy. The Yukon is actually doing quite well in terms of localized innovation and entrepreneurship, but as a country we are not investing heavily in everything from 3D-printed homes to localized food production and alternative energy systems. We should be a world leader in the development of science and technology to address the realities of northern life. It pains me to say that we're not there.
We have a lot to do. We need more money. We need to recognize indigenous authority and expand our military presence. We need world-leading environmental monitoring and remediation and a comprehensive innovation strategy.
I'm going to end the way I started. We have a really difficult task in front of us. My work as a historian tells me we're going to be back here 30 years from now, having exactly the same conversation and wondering why we didn't do enough in the year 2022.
Thank you very much.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Professor Coates. I hope we will make progress over the next 30 years.
We will now go to Ms. Mirasty. You have five minutes.
Marcia Mirasty
View Marcia Mirasty Profile
Marcia Mirasty
2022-06-21 16:37
Tansi, and happy Indigenous Peoples Day.
My name is Marcia Mirasty. I'm the senior health director for the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, which represents 16,000 band members in northwestern Saskatchewan.
I'm going to be a witness, and share our COVID response. I'm going to give my presentation through a SWOT analysis.
Our Meadow Lake Tribal Council COVID response had the following strengths.
There was the creation of strong networks and supports. We were able to pivot and engage in new ways. We partnered with organizations like the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan and the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority.
The virtual and joint weekly conference calls were well supported by chiefs and community leaders, senior management and officials from Indigenous Services Canada, and representatives from the provincial government, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, the RCMP and medical health officers.
Our first nation leaders played a key and important role at these meetings. They were very involved. The federal government provided timely responses and worked with MLTC. ISC, Indigenous Services Canada, was responsive to funding requests. Our COVID immunization was provided to both on-reserve and neighbouring communities.
The engagement and support of first nations and Métis leadership was critical to success. There was a joint funding application that created the North West Communities Incident Command Centre. The strength, adaptability and resilience of people within communities was key to addressing challenges. Prior pandemic planning helped to set the stage for a response.
The COVID-19 pandemic also highlighted some weaknesses.
First and foremost, there must be a continued and direct relationship between first nations and the federal government. First nations signed treaties with the federal government. When the provincial government comes in and acts as a middle man, it causes confusion for our people.
Another weakness, the lockdown in northwest Saskatchewan, highlighted the need for security and increased RCMP presence. The highway shutdown to Île-à-la-Crosse also created hardship and highlighted food insecurity. There was a lack of flexibility, and there was a prescriptive approach from the provincial government that reduced the effectiveness of the vaccine rollout. The provincially mandated age-related rollout strategy was not a good fit for our first nations people.
There were pressures on the health care system, both on the SHA, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and MLTC at Meadow Lake First Nations. In terms of health human resources, we experienced resignations, job changes, shortage of nurses and burnout. It has been challenging to find permanent full-time staff, as many opt to work part-time. It has highlighted the need for an increase in training programs in the health field, such as home health aides, community care assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners.
Wildfire evacuations and the organizational changes that occurred prior to COVID made it hard to know who were the proper contacts in the provincial government. The isolation requirements with regard to COVID highlighted the overcrowding that occurs in our communities and the need for more housing. The pandemic also exposed and highlighted the lack of connectivity, infrastructure and resources present in our communities.
In terms of the opportunities that COVID provided, there is the opportunity for increased respect for first nations autonomy on decision-making, and recognition of indigenous authority, such as on the vaccine rollout, which would allow anyone over the age of 18 who wants the vaccine to receive it on a first-come, first-served basis, and to keep the momentum going in a sense of urgency. Our first nations leaders knew where the vaccine needed to go for best effect.
We can also strengthen our partnerships and build on success with key stakeholders and decision-makers. The pandemic highlighted the recognition of how important family and community are to our people. We can improve on communication and community engagement in order to respond to emergent threats. It can be quick if we engage all partners. We can also engage with first nations to determine goals and priorities and on the importance of ensuring their readiness for future emergencies. Intergovernmental collaboration needs improvement when it comes to first nations.
The pandemic also highlighted pressures, dangers or threats. I'm going to go over some of the threats.
The CERB funding affected our people. The working from home strategy worked for some of our staff and not for others. Our work was reliant on emails and phones, but some of our communities did not have connectivity or cell service. The technical difficulties impeded meetings and communication.
Our ability to safeguard our children by allowing home-schooling was impacted, as first nations have not been afforded the necessary infrastructure, such as cellular service and high-speed Internet—in two of our first nations in particular.
The lack of connectivity also affected mental health, addictions and interpersonal violence. For many staff who were working every day, there was staff burnout and heavy workloads. Increased gang violence, hopelessness, and suicide ideation and completion were highlighted after two years of prolonged stress. The mental wellness response and recovery needs attention moving forward. The lack of facilities that address needs in a timely manner, such as detox and treatment centres, also needs to be addressed. We need mental wellness and healing and recovery centres to address our addictions and mental health.
I want to thank you for listening. I'm open to any questions you may have, and I'll do my best to respond in a timely manner.
I want to thank you for this opportunity.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Ms. Mirasty.
We'll go to Mr. Tsannie for five minutes.
Joseph Tsannie
View Joseph Tsannie Profile
Joseph Tsannie
2022-06-21 16:45
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the committee there, and my colleagues who are on the line.
My name's Joseph Tsannie of the Athabasca, vice chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council.
Happy Aboriginal Day to everybody.
I'm here in the minister's area: I'm in Whitehorse. We have a team from Hatchet Lake entering in the Yukon River Quest here today, competing tomorrow. They'll hopefully take the championship back to northern Saskatchewan, and I will be cheering them on. They came second in 2019. High water levels continue to be a challenge, but there are good spirits here, and we have some young folks ready for the competition.
I'm here in Yukon at the government buildings, where I'm taking this Zoom call.
I'm from the Hatchet Lake Denesuline first nation, in Treaty 10 territory. I'm currently vice-chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council. We have 12 member first nations for the 45,000-plus first nation members. Some services include health, education, housing and tech services, information technology, justice, policing, forestry and emergency services.
Our northern Saskatchewan communities include Hatchet Lake Denesuline first nation, the town of Wollaston, Black Lake, the hamlet of Stony Rapids, Fond du Lac Denesuline first nation, Uranium City and the town of Camsell Portage. We have access on gravel roads to our northern communities all the way up to Stony Rapids, and ice roads into Wollaston Lake and Fond du Lac give us access into some of the southern communities.
We own and operate an airline service in northern Saskatchewan, called Rise Air. It's owned by the 12 first nations within the Prince Albert Grand Council.
Today I'd like to focus on the need for search and rescue based in northern Saskatchewan. Our Dene people have been on the land for thousands of years. We are the experts and can respond to any emergency situation in harsh weather conditions in far northern regions. We continue to live off the land, and our elders continue to pass on traditional survival skills to our young people.
Our biggest resource is our young people. Seventy per cent of our total population is under the age of 25. Our young people are graduating and are desperately seeking opportunities, which are limited in northern Saskatchewan and in most northern parts of Canada, where some of the communities are isolated communities.
Our northern community has hosted several Wounded Warriors events for the Canadian military, and we are proud to treat them to our beautiful lakes and land in northern Saskatchewan.
We currently have Canadian Rangers in three of our first nations, Lac La Ronge Indian band, Hatchet Lake Denesuline first nation and Fond du Lac, and we are currently working on adding two more to our communities within the Prince Albert Grand Council.
Our communities that have Canadian Rangers are very proud to share knowledge and outdoor survival skills with our partners. Some of the capabilities of the Prince Albert Grand Council include our search and rescue recovery team, which is a community-based volunteer organization providing land and water search and rescue services. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality of search and rescue service. Our commitment is to provide all Saskatchewan first nations with qualified emergency management services. We have agreements and a good working relationship with the Red Cross. Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management looks after flooding, forest fires, spills and other threats to our communities, and we also provide the training.
The Saskatchewan first nations fire protective services technical assistance is technical assistance for Saskatchewan first nation wildfire protection.
As for some of the areas in northern Saskatchewan that we're advocating for and hoping to expand, we want to continue to build partnerships and relationships with the Canadian military, with ongoing meetings to identify challenges and threats to the north and the potential for search and rescue recovery training in remote response based in northern Saskatchewan.
That's the main area that I want.... I've been advocating and been making some connections on that search and rescue base in northern Saskatchewan. We have the airlines that we run. We wanted to do some aerial surveillance in the Arctic, and a central location in northern Saskatchewan is a perfect location to have a northern search and rescue base.
With regard to ground and water response capabilities, with our traditions, our elders and our navigation skills, we are in the perfect situation to provide those services. It's the opportunity for our young people to serve our country and an opportunity to provide them with meaningful and rewarding careers. As I said earlier, we have a high number of young graduates in our communities. They are our biggest resource.
In closing, on behalf of the Prince Albert Grand Council, I want to take the opportunity to thank everybody for getting me to present today and continue to advocate for building healthy and safe communities for all of our members. Again, our biggest resource is our young people.
We had an airplane crash in northern Saskatchewan a number of years ago, and luckily, it was just outside one of our communities. It was our people, the local rangers, who responded to that need.
Just imagine, with all the threats that are happening around the world right now, how well we are prepared. Who else is going to best respond with any services that are needed? We are capable in northern Saskatchewan. Our people are capable of responding in -40 weather, in harsh weather conditions, to navigate through those conditions and provide the search and rescue capability. We have the airlines, the young people and the resources to provide a lot of services, so we continue to advocate.
We are currently advocating and working with the Canadian Rangers, but we want a northern Saskatchewan search and rescue base. We have people who go missing on a weekly basis. Our people are always out there, but we need support from Canada to provide that service. We can provide that service up into the Northwest Passage, the Arctic, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, etc.
We are here. We're willing partners, and we want that opportunity for our communities in northern Saskatchewan.
With that, thank you very much. I am here for any questions, and I am willing to make those connections to make this a reality.
Thank you to everybody who presented good points.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Vice-Chief Tsannie.
We'll now go to question period.
By the way, I apologize to the witnesses. We started a bit late, and I know we kept you waiting. We'll go through now with questions, up to six o'clock, which is our deadline.
We'll start the first round.
Mr. Vidal, you have the microphone for the next six minutes.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to start today by acknowledging that we are meeting today on National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada.
From a personal perspective, I am thrilled to have representatives from the two largest tribal councils in my riding. I have Ms. Mirasty and Vice-Chief Tsannie here, representing 21 out of 25 first nations in my riding. I don't think it was planned that way, but it worked out very well to have them here, and I'm really excited about that. I want to welcome both of you.
Ms. Mirasty, I'm going to start with you, and then I'll get some time in with Vice-Chief Tsannie as well.
You gave us about 75 different things that we could talk about relative to the pandemic response, and there was so much there. I want to focus a bit, first of all, on emergency planning. You briefly mentioned emergency planning.
I know that for the nine first nations you represent, some are more remote than others. Could you share a bit about the emergency plans and what benefit they were—EMO coordination, and some of that? You talked about the North West Communities Incident Command Centre, which arose in the midst of the pandemic.
What has been learned about the importance of emergency plans not just being a plan on a shelf that collects dust, but something that is a vibrant document that is ready to go the next time we face an emergency, in your case in northwest Saskatchewan?
Marcia Mirasty
View Marcia Mirasty Profile
Marcia Mirasty
2022-06-21 16:55
We've learned that emergency response plans need to be revised and updated on a continual basis as living documents. We have to update the changes that occur among our contacts—those in the provincial system, our federal contacts and those at the community level. There is a lot of turnover in staff, as well as a number of changes. There is a need for communication and working together.
With the wildfire that occurred last year in the Buffalo River Dene nation, there were some blips and learning experiences. It was challenging in that there was the added concern of COVID as evacuees were being taken out of the community and into Lloydminster. There was a COVID outbreak, and it was hard to manage that outbreak when the provincial guidelines became more relaxed. We needed to work closely and strongly together with the Saskatchewan health authorities, the SPSA and different representatives.
We're learning, and we're sharing information. We also have contractors, services and a relationship with the Canadian Red Cross. We're looking at this as best we can, because there is funding attached to emergency situations. We would like to explore the opportunities for services closer to home in terms of rescue situations and training. It's an evolving process of sharing with our fellow partners—Prince Albert Grand Council and NITHA—keeping abreast of fire and flooding situations, getting updates and keeping all our networks informed. We're doing the best we can to handle those emergent situations.
I hope I answered your question. I'm not sure I did.
View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you for that.
I know you're in the midst of it every day, and I appreciate the work you do.
I'm going to switch over to Vice-Chief Tsannie for one quick question. I will hopefully get back to you both a bit later.
Vice-Chief, just last week you faced an evacuation at Stanley Mission due to a forest fire in your territory. We're very thankful...I don't think anybody was hurt, and the rain came and helped deal with that more quickly than it has in the past.
One thing you and I have had conversations about in the past is access to your home community of Hatchet Lake and to Wollaston Lake Road, and how that is a potential impediment to emergency planning, especially in a forest fire situation. You had a fire there a few years ago.
Could you speak to the importance of road access as it leads to emergency planning for your home nation?
Joseph Tsannie
View Joseph Tsannie Profile
Joseph Tsannie
2022-06-21 16:59
Thanks, Gary. It's good to see you.
With climate change, our ice road season is getting shorter. Like I said earlier, before this meeting, we're still missing two people who are presumed drowned after just trying to get across the lake. Three people drowned back in November. Also, a teacher went through the ice and the vehicle landed on the floating ice just under the water. There have been a lot of tragedies of people being lost just trying to get into the community.
With climate change, it's getting harder. We've been advocating to get that road built. Back in about 2012 we had the perfect storm. We had the fire surrounding the community, our airport wasn't operating, and you couldn't land planes because the fire was close to the community. We ended up getting helicopters to move people out of the community into Points North. We had a Hercules land in Points North, and we had to evacuate that way.
It's very important to have access. We had some commitment to get the road built and finished, but very little support. We're halfway done, but we need ongoing support to get the road finished. We're not asking for much. We're in the backyard of the biggest uranium deposits in northern Saskatchewan, and there's no reason we should continue to not have that road built.
For the last 30 or 40 years we've been advocating to get that road built. Why is it so hard? We're halfway there. The equipment is there. Why can't we continue to work on it this summer? That's what we've been saying to the ministers. We still haven't heard. Last week, they were supposed to meet with Minister Fox. We haven't heard back, or it's always, “Maybe, maybe.” There are millions of dollars coming out of our backyard, and we can't get this road finished. That's where we are.
We're always on top of it. With the Grand Council, I was there with our Red Cross and our Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management. We're on top of it, and we continue to provide that support for our communities. We've done it so many times that I feel like we're the experts in dealing with emergency management.
Thank you.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
We'll go to Ms. Atwin for six minutes.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2022-06-21 17:01
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair. I'd like to wish everybody a happy National Indigenous Peoples Day.
To anybody celebrating across Turtle Island and of course right here in unceded Wolastoqiyik territory, as my stepfather, Spasaqsit Possesom, grand chief, would say, it's a good day to be indigenous, and it's a good day for us allies to be reminded that we are all treaty people.
Of course, I would like to also mention to my fellow committee members that it's an honour to serve with all of you on this important committee.
Thank you so much to our witnesses for joining us today. I think what I'll do for my short time is start with Minister Mostyn.
You focused in on an issue that is very close to my heart, which is climate change, so I'd like to talk about the need for climate-resilient infrastructure. I'm wondering if you could give us a bit of insight into some of the conversations and planning that's happening around this, and more importantly, I think, how indigenous knowledge is informing that process.
Thank you.
Richard Mostyn
View Richard Mostyn Profile
Hon. Richard Mostyn
2022-06-21 17:02
It's a good and very important question.
We're seeing the effects of climate change first-hand here in the north. Even this summer or this spring we saw the clay cliffs in Whitehorse collapse, knocking out one of the two access roads to downtown Whitehorse. In Ross River we are seeing a school underpinned by permafrost compromised in the small community there, which I was dealing with as highways minister for many years. The road to Alaska itself has permafrost issues, and it's very expensive for the territory to maintain, certainly to the standards that Alaska demands. We have about 250 to 300 people living on that north highway, and it's about $30 million a year to maintain. We just don't have those types of resources to do it.
We have to start looking at how we maintain our infrastructure in a way that.... Every dollar we spend on good infrastructure up front saves us $11 down the road in remediation and everything else. That's what I was told just the other day. It's very important—it's even just a basic responsibility—to look at these issues and deal with them before, head them off, and start building our infrastructure in a way that anticipates and deals with climate change.
In Old Crow we're building a new health centre. We're using climate change adaptive technologies to try to make sure that it's there. We're working with the first nation in Old Crow to do that.
The first nation in Old Crow, Vuntut Gwitchin, owns almost a controlling share in Air North, which is the northern airline, so it's a very sophisticated first nation. It has just built the largest solar panel array north of 60, and it's turning off its diesel power to bring down its own carbon footprint as a community. We helped with that, as did Ottawa. We're looking at technology to make sure we're cutting our greenhouse gases.
The other thing that's just happening is the Yukon government is going to be investing in a hydro development in Atlin, B.C., which, again, will cut our dependence on fossil fuels. We're working with the first nation in the region to do this.
Of course, we've been dealing with first nations through our Yukon Forum meeting with all of our first nations leaders every three months, and developing a rapport and a co-management in the territory that has not happened before. Every three months since we were elected we have held these Yukon Forums with all the indigenous leaders in the territory to discuss areas of mutual concern. Climate change, of course, comes up, and missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. The last one, which we held in Old Crow just the other day, dealt with the lack of salmon returning to their spawning beds. These are heartrending discussions we're having with our indigenous leaders throughout the Yukon.
In terms of working together, I don't think you can manage the territory without that input into climate change, the salmon, or any of these issues. It's absolutely imperative that we work together as a unit. I really think the model works, and I can't imagine doing this job if I wasn't in regular contact with our first nation leaders and our municipal leaders as well. That's vital.
We're also rewriting our Civil Emergency Measures Act, which was last drafted...I think it's a year older than I am, so it's very old. We are going to rewrite that, and we're doing it with first nations and municipal leaders. They aren't even mentioned in that piece of legislation, by the way, and yet right now, for example, in Teslin—this is my last point—where we're fighting near historic levels of flooding in that community, it's the first nation and the municipal government working together that are putting together an absolutely remarkable flood defence. They are doing it with our support, of course, but we don't have to do a lot in that community, because the first nation and the municipality worked so well together getting those sandbags deployed. That's the sort of work together we have to do more of in this country.
View Jenica Atwin Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Jenica Atwin Profile
2022-06-21 17:07
Thank you so much.
I know my time is very limited, so I will ask a question really quickly to Vice-Chief Tsannie.
You mentioned something else that's close to my heart, and that's youth engagement. It is the most important resource.
How can we best engage this fastest-growing demographic as far as emergency preparedness and stepping up to what's needed in the north is concerned?
Joseph Tsannie
View Joseph Tsannie Profile
Joseph Tsannie
2022-06-21 17:07
Our young people are, like I said, more than mining, more than any other resource that we have. Our young people are our biggest resource. Our job as leadership people who are at the decision-making tables is to open doors for our young people and give them opportunities.
What a great opportunity to have this northern Saskatchewan search and rescue base and get these people out on the land. We have a high rate of suicide in all of our first nations communities, and our young people are looking for and needing those opportunities. We've got to open the doors.
Our people are the best. They are out there in -40° or -50° weather. I used to sleep outside with my dad, going hunting in the Arctic in northern Canada. That's what we teach our children. How best do we respond to threats? If we need to navigate, we listen to the trappers, the people who are out on the land. Our young people are graduating high school with very few opportunities in northern Canada.
With the Canadian Rangers, there's some of it there, and they really enjoy that, being out on the land and sharing their knowledge, the survival skills. If we ever get any threats coming from the north, our people are the number one people to respond. They're going to be the ones who are going to be called upon for food and for services that are needed and certain capabilities I'm pretty sure you don't have.
I experienced it. I have family who go into the north, and they have accidents. I go out there and respond to some of these emergency services, and I called 911 from out in the boonies, up in the Arctic. They said, “Vice-Chief, I don't know what to tell you. I don't know how to help you.” I said, “These people are going to be dying if we don't respond.” For three days people get stuck in the Athabasca sand dunes without any emergency response. Planes can't land, so what do you do? Nothing? People get into snowmobile accidents when they're hunting, or somebody gets hurt and you can't respond to them for three or four days? That's not acceptable.
We have those capabilities, and somebody has to make that call and say, “Yes, get our people out there.” I think it's the RCMP, at the end of the day, that has to make that call. We have that capability. If we have support, we can provide that support in northern Canada, and our young people are just so eager to get out there and show what they can potentially do.
Thank you for that question. I think it's very important.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
We will continue with Ms. Gill.
Ms. Gill, you have the floor.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I too wish to thank all of the witnesses.
My first question is for Mr. Coates.
Despite a critical if not cynical tone, which I understand given the situation, you have mentioned multiple avenues for solutions. In addition to funding, there are the issues of the military, food security and infrastructure.
You mentioned a word that I had not heard before in this committee, the word “strategy”. Obviously, when you want to solve a complex problem, you have tools to achieve your goals. As a historian, do you know if there has ever been any kind of strategy for Arctic sovereignty?
How do you see the possibility of a strategy? What might it look like?
I know this is a multi-part question, but I'll give you plenty of time to answer, Mr. Coates.
Ken Coates
View Ken Coates Profile
Ken Coates
2022-06-21 17:11
That's a very important question. I guess I did come across as a bit cynical.
As a historian, I see that we've gone down this path many times before. We've had a whole series of Arctic strategies over the years. Governments of different stripes have come forward and said, “Here's our plan.” Ten years later, the north moves forward, but it moves forward at a slower pace than the rest of the country. In fact, the gap between northern Canada and southern Canada gets bigger rather than smaller. You are making some progress in terms of improving opportunities for northern peoples, but as we've heard Marcia and the vice-chief say, it's not exactly working out terribly well.
Can you do a strategy? The short answer is yes. Where would you do this? Well, I just got back from taking a group of students from northern Canada across northern Norway, where there are a whole series of strategies that actually link up military and resource activity; the approach to Sami studies and Sami affairs, the indigenous peoples of northern Norway; and community development overall.
This is going to make the vice-chief feel very sad, but I went through one tunnel today on the Faeroe Islands that cost more than the total amount of money put into the roads in northern Saskatchewan, probably, in the last decade, and that's only one of many tunnels in the Faeroe Islands. Northern Norway has dozens of these things.
Northern Norway put these pieces together. I think you're asking the right question. It isn't just the military. It isn't just infrastructure. When you look at other countries, from northern Australia to Greenland, the military investment is done with a view to the infrastructure needs of society as a whole. You build a road, perhaps, in a slightly different place. You use the military to develop some sort of an energy system that then is applied to the non-military population. You link up the innovation strategies and the scientific work with the absolute needs of the community.
I really like the question about indigenous knowledge, because the other part of this is that we're doing many of these things, and then we basically ask the indigenous people after the plans have been formulated. If we've learned anything, and Yukon is the best example of this, certainly for the last decade or so, it is that first nations people, Métis people and Inuit people should be at the table from the beginning, setting the priorities and making the decisions alongside public governments and the non-indigenous population. You can leapfrog ahead under those circumstances. That's strategic planning. That's actually looking and saying, “What resources do we have? What challenges do we have? What are the priorities? What do we do first, second, and third?”
What we do now is basically.... Sometimes the territorial government goes in one direction. The provincial government, and you heard the challenge in Saskatchewan, doesn't pay a lot of attention to the provincial north, unfortunately, or not as much as it should. Governments go in different directions, and different departments within governments go in different directions.
As I say, I've been travelling in the circumpolar world for the last month. I'll tell you, if you spend even a couple of weeks up there, you'll feel very badly about how we're doing in Canada in the provincial and territorial north, because we haven't had an effective strategy.
View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Coates.
Mr. Chair, I would like to ask Mr. Coates another question.
Mr. Coates, at the beginning of your speech you talked about circumpolar standards, and you just referred to them again. The countries that border the Arctic are obviously not the same size or population. They also do not necessarily have the same opportunities.
How do you rate Canada's standards compared to other states bordering the Arctic?
Ken Coates
View Ken Coates Profile
Ken Coates
2022-06-21 17:15
You're right to say they're very different. Canada has phenomenal unrealized potential, but it also has very formidable challenges. If we had colleagues with us at the table from Nunavut.... The dispersed population, the vast distances and the extreme cold are very different from what you see in northern Norway, for example.
If you go across the circumpolar world you discover a couple of things.
Russia is spending a staggering amount of money. Russia has floating nuclear power plants in the Arctic waters. Is anybody here ready to propose that for northern Canada? It's not going to happen. Authoritarian states can get away with all sorts of things because they don't have to go through the processes that democratic nations have.
Northern Norway, Finland and Scandinavia in general have a simple commitment that regardless of where you are in a country, you'll have a comparable level of services—paved roads to all the communities, good Internet coverage, good electricity coverage and good health care—basically regardless of where you are in any of those countries.
Greenland has made remarkable transitions over the last 20 years, based on the revival of the Greenlandic people, who are the Inuit cousins of folks from Nunavut. They are doing a remarkable job of re-establishing control of their own jurisdiction and moving towards likely full autonomy in time.
The minister talked about Alaska. The numbers I saw were that the department of national defence industries in the United States spend more money in Alaska than the entire Canadian defence industry. It is massively militarized. When Alaska says that it has great infrastructure, great roads, great Internet and all that kind of stuff, it's because it has a massive military presence that goes back to the Cold War. It has a foundation that makes prosperity relatively easy to achieve, because it has the underpinnings of that remarkable military spending.
How do we stand up in the Canadian north? It's not very well, to be honest. I don't mean that to be cynical. I look at my colleagues—the vice-chief and Marcia—and at the work they do. The effort they put in is absolutely staggering. It is difficult to feel comfortable with how we're doing in the Canadian north, to be honest.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
We'll now go to Ms. Idlout.
View Lori Idlout Profile
NDP (NU)
View Lori Idlout Profile
2022-06-21 17:17
[Member spoke in Inuktitut, interpreted as follows:]
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, I wish to thank all of you who came here to give very interesting presentations. What you do is very important.
Also, I want to recognize that today in Canada it's National Indigenous Peoples Day. I want to thank the interpreters and the staff here. I think it's a holiday for most, so we need to acknowledge National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Dr. Ken Coates, I have a few questions for you.
We Inuit in the Arctic have raised the issues of not having enough resources. We don't get enough resources. We don't get enough support. We are not participants in defending our country and its security. We are not resourced properly to move ahead. We are not heard and we are not important.
You recommended more resources for the north. I want to ask you, would you agree that these investments need to be in the areas of increasing housing in Nunavut and in the first nations communities?
Ken Coates
View Ken Coates Profile
Ken Coates
2022-06-21 17:19
Thank you very much.
I must tell you that I take enormous pride in hearing the question being asked in your language. It means an awful lot to me to hear you say that. Thank you for bringing that to the parliamentary process.
Across Canada, if we look at the housing situation in the Canadian north, we should be collectively appalled. Just to connect it up with something Marcia was talking about in terms of the challenges with COVID in northern Saskatchewan, we have a generation of young people who are probably going to fall two or three or four years behind their age cohorts in terms of learning, largely because for the last two years they were in overcrowded homes. If you're in lockdown, you have 12 people living in a house designed for four or five people, and you maybe have only one computer but nine kids in there and all the noise and all the confusion that goes on, the learning that takes place is well below any standard—well below.
You look at this and you ask, where do you start?
If I had a whole bunch of money to spend, my own preference probably would be to spend it on early childhood development, on children from the ages of zero to five. That is a really important area to put a lot of resources into. However, that also means that they have to have safe and clean houses. They have to have secure houses. There are communities across Canada's north where you see mould three feet up the side of the home and where you see way too many people. Houses aren't designed for 12 people if they're actually built for four or five; they don't breathe properly. As a consequence, disease spreads and challenges emerge in a major way.
I would also say this. We should not be rushing to build southern-style homes in Nunavut. We should be rushing to develop Nunavut-style homes for the Canadian north. What does that mean? Why aren't we a world leader in 3-D printed homes? Why aren't we a world leader in Arctic architecture and in redesigning buildings with Inuit people, designing the housing needs they want and even laying out the communities the way they want them? We have some really good examples across the north of where the structures of the communities were imposed. It wasn't the way the first nations or Inuit people wanted them. The government just put them in rows like they would have in southern Canada.
Housing is an absolutely critical issue. The government tries every year. We put more money in place. The logistics are incredibly difficult, but we have to make it into a national priority.
I would also say, going back to the strategic question, that this is also tied to clean water. It's also tied to food security. It's also tied to education and health. These things have to be seen in an integrated way, but if people are not well housed, they're never going to be well. It's as simple as that.
View Lori Idlout Profile
NDP (NU)
View Lori Idlout Profile
2022-06-21 17:22
[Member spoke in Inuktitut, interpreted as follows:]
Thank you for your response.
I had other questions, but you replied to most of them.
I will ask you this again. For instance, Marcia talked about mental wellness and supporting indigenous peoples in healing each other in the areas of mental illness or mental wellness. How can we support indigenous people in communities in the area of mental wellness?
We need mental health resources. Mental wellness has to be addressed. We want to help ourselves in our own communities and in our own language, without mental health workers and psychologists, and to not be dependent on outside expertise but on the community, which would be capable of taking care of mental illness and wellness.
Ken Coates
View Ken Coates Profile
Ken Coates
2022-06-21 17:24
Boy, have you ever touched on something really important. We have some creative solutions. Yukon University is doing some excellent community-based training and preparation. The minister can probably tell us way more about that than I know.
My university, the University of Saskatchewan, has nursing programs that are based in the community. Community members work and get their whole nursing degree while they're in that town. They stay home and they stay there to work afterwards. The retention rate is much higher.
The other part that's really interesting is that we haven't really.... The vice-chief mentioned this in his comments. There is a healing and redemptive power in connecting with the land. When we go through the whole impact of colonization, school systems and everything else, one of the things that's happened is that many young indigenous people, even in the north, are not well connected to the land. They just don't have enough time to get out there. We need to reinvent education and let indigenous people reinvent education for their own purposes.
On the mental health side, there are two things I would add. One of them is that the elders are, perhaps, the most potent medicine that the communities have available to them, if you can use them constructively and collaboratively.
However, we are discovering some interesting things to do with new technologies. Some of the better suicide prevention strategies in North America use cellphones, which is disconcerting on one level—I'm not a fan of social media. They're using cellphones to stay in touch with people. They monitor young people's activities and can notice the signs of depression and suicidal thoughts by sites they're visiting and things they're saying to each other and their friends. You can do great preventative health.
The vice-chief might want to speak to this, but I think there is a sadness among young people in the north. It is because of the absence of clear job paths and career opportunities. The good news is that young indigenous women are doing really quite well, and better all the time. Young indigenous men are doing less well all the time.
The vice-chief made a comment, almost in passing, about the high suicide rates. Every one of those is a community tragedy of the highest proportions. You all know that.
How do we stop that? How do we get them on a positive track and give young people the hope and sense of optimism that they deserve? All Canadians deserve that, and indigenous people in the north deserve it every bit as much as anybody else.
View Marc Garneau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
We're now going to go to a second round. I have to admit, I've been a bit loose on the timing here. Everybody's gone way over time. I'm going to be a bit tougher this time, so I'm telling both the committee members and the witnesses not to take it personally when I cut them off.
Mr. Zimmer, you have five minutes.
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