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Results: 1 - 56 of 56
View Rona Ambrose Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee. I want to thank all of you for the work you do on the health committee. I know many of you are passionate about the issues of health, and I thank you for your commitment to that.
I'm joined by Simon Kennedy, Health Canada's new deputy minister; Krista Outhwaite, our newly appointed president of the Public Health Agency of Canada; and Dr. Gregory Taylor, whom you've met before, Canada's chief public health officer. I know he'll be here for the second half. You might want to ask him about his trip to Guinea and Sierra Leone to visit our troops and others who are working on the front dealing with Ebola. I'm sure he'll have some great things to share with you.
Michel Perron is here on behalf of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He's also new. Last time I know you met Dr. Alain Beaudet.
We also have Dr. Bruce Archibald, who's the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. I think you've met Bruce as well.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to start by sharing an update on some of the key issues that we've been working on recently. I'll begin by talking about Canada's health care system, the pressures it's facing, and the opportunities for improvement through innovation. I will then highlight some recent activities on priority issues such as family violence and the safety of drugs in food.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada spent around $215 billion on health care just in 2014. Provinces and territories, which are responsible for the delivery of health care to Canadians, are working very hard to ensure their systems continue to meet the needs of Canadians, but with an aging population, chronic disease, and economic uncertainty, the job of financing and delivering quality care is not getting easier.
Our government continues to be a strong partner for the provinces and territories when it comes to record transfer dollars. Since 2006, federal health transfers have increased by almost 70% and are on track to increase from $34 billion this year to more than $40 billion annually by the end of the decade—an all-time high.
This ongoing federal investment in healthcare is providing provinces and territories with the financial predictability and flexibility they need to respond to the priorities and pressures within their jurisdictions.
In addition of course, federal support for health research through the CIHR as well as targeted investments in areas such as mental health, cancer prevention, and patient safety are helping to improve the accessibility and quality of health care for Canadians.
But to build on the record transfers and the targeted investments I just mentioned, we're also taking a number of other measures to improve the health of Canadians and reduce pressure on the health care system. To date we've leveraged over $27 million in private sector investments to advance healthy living partnerships. I'm very pleased with the momentum we've seen across Canada.
Last year we launched the play exchange, in collaboration with Canadian Tire, LIFT Philanthropy Partners, and the CBC, to find the best ideas that would encourage Canadians to live healthier and active lives. We announced the winning idea in January: the Canadian Cancer Society of Quebec and their idea called “trottibus”, which is a walking school bus. This is an innovative program that gives elementary schoolchildren a safe and fun way to get to school while being active. Trottibus is going to receive $1 million in funding from the federal government to launch their great idea across the country.
Other social innovation projects are encouraging all children to get active early in life so that we can make some real headway in terms of preventing chronic diseases, obesity, and other health issues. We're also supporting health care innovation through investments from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In fact our government now is the single-largest contributor to health research in Canada, investing roughly $1 billion every year.
Since its launch in 2011, the strategy for patient-oriented research has been working to bring improvements from the latest research straight to the bedsides of patients. I was pleased to see that budget 2015 provided additional funds so that we can build on this success, including an important partnership with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.
Canadians benefit from a health system that provides access to high-quality care and supports good health outcomes, but we can't afford to be complacent in the face of an aging society, changing technology, and new economic and fiscal realities. That is why we have been committed to supporting innovation that improves the quality and affordability of health care.
As you know, the advisory panel on health care innovation that I launched last June has spent the last 10 months exploring the top areas of innovation in Canada and abroad with the goal of identifying how the federal government can support those ideas that hold the greatest promise. The panel has now met with more than 500 individuals including patients, families, business leaders, economists, and researchers. As we speak, the panel is busy analyzing what they've heard, and I look forward to receiving their final report in June.
I'd also like to talk about another issue. It's one that does not receive the attention that it deserves as a pressing public health concern, and that's family violence. Family violence has undeniable impacts on the health of the women, children, and even men, who are victimized. There are also very significant impacts on our health care and justice systems.
Family violence can lead to chronic pain and disease, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and many other serious and lifelong afflictions for its victims. That's why this past winter I was pleased to announce a federal investment of $100 million over 10 years to help address family violence and support the health of victims of violence. This investment will support health professionals and community organizations in improving the physical and mental health of victims of violence, and help stop intergenerational cycles of violence.
In addition to our efforts to address family violence and support innovation to improve the sustainability of the health care system, we have made significant progress on a number of key drug safety issues. Canadians want and deserve to depend on and trust the care they receive. To that end, I'd like to thank the committee for its thoughtful study of our government's signature patient safety legislation, Vanessa's Law. Building on the consultations that we held with Canadians prior to its introduction, this committee's careful review of Vanessa's Law, including the helpful amendments that were brought forward by MP Young, served to strengthen the bill and will improve the transparency that Canadians expect.
Vanessa's Law, as you know, introduces the most significant improvements to drug safety in Canada in more than 50 years. It allows me, as minister, to recall unsafe drugs and to impose tough new penalties, including jail time and fines up to $5 million per day, instead of what is the current $5,000 a day. It also compels drug companies to do further testing and revise labels in plain language to clearly reflect health risk information, including updates for health warnings for children. It will also enhance surveillance by requiring mandatory adverse drug reaction reporting by health care institutions, and requires new transparency for Health Canada's regulatory decisions about drug approvals.
To ensure the new transparency powers are providing the kind of information that Canadian families and researchers are looking for, we've also just launched further consultations asking about the types of information that are most useful to improve drug safety. Beyond the improvements in Vanessa's Law, we're making great progress and increasing transparency through Health Canada's regulatory transparency and openness framework. In addition to posting summaries of drug safety reviews that patients and medical professionals can use to make informed decisions, we are now also publishing more detailed inspection information on companies and facilities that make drugs. This includes inspection dates, licence status, types of risks observed, and measures that are taken by Health Canada. Patients can also check Health Canada's clinical trials database to determine if a trial they are interested in has met regulatory requirements.
Another priority of mine is tackling the issue of drug abuse and addiction in Canada. There's no question that addiction to dangerous drugs has a devastating and widespread impact on Canadian families and communities. In line with recommendations from this committee, I am pleased that the marketing campaign launched last fall by Health Canada is helping parents talk with their teenagers about the dangers of smoking marijuana and prescription drug abuse. The campaign addresses both of those things, because too many of our young people are abusing drugs that are meant to heal them.
Our government also recognizes that those struggling with drug addictions need help to recover a drug-free life. From a federal perspective, of course, we provide assistance for prevention and treatment projects under our national anti-drug strategy. We've now committed over $44 million to expand the strategy to include prescription drug abuse and are continuing to work with the provinces to improve drug treatment.
I've now met and will continue to meet with physicians, pharmacists, first nations, law enforcement, addictions specialists, medical experts, and of course parents to discuss how we can collectively tackle prescription drug abuse.
Finally, our government continues to make very real investments to strengthen our food safety system. As only the latest example, I recently announced a five-year investment of more than $30 million in the CFIA's new food safety information network. Through this modern network, food safety experts will be better connected, and laboratories will be able to share urgently needed surveillance information and food safety data, using a secure web platform. This will put us in an even better position to protect Canadians from food safety risk by improving our ability to actually anticipate, detect, and then effectively deal with food safety issues. This investment will continue to build on the record levels of funding we've already provided, as well as the improved powers such as tougher penalties, enhanced controls on E. coli, new meat labelling requirements, and improved inspection oversight.
In conclusion, those are just some of the priorities that will be supported through the funding our government has allocated to the Health portfolio. This year's main estimates, notably, include investments for first nations health, for our ongoing contribution to the international response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the key research and food safety investments that I have already mentioned.
I'll leave it at that. If committee members have any questions, my officials and I would be very pleased to answer them. Thank you.
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Ramani Nadarajah
View Ramani Nadarajah Profile
Ramani Nadarajah
2013-05-28 10:17
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Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
My name is Ramani Nadarajah, and I am counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
CELA is a non-profit, public interest organization that was founded in 1970. It's an environmental law clinic that provides legal services to low-income people and disadvantaged communities by undertaking litigation and law reform to strengthen environmental protection.
We agree that improved access to safe drinking water is urgently needed in many first nations communities. The need for an appropriate regulatory regime for water and waste water in first nation communities has been highlighted in numerous reports, which I believe have been alluded to by previous speakers.
CELA has reviewed the bill and we believe that for the bill to achieve its goal of ensuring safe drinking water for first nations communities while protecting aboriginal and constitutional and treaty rights, three key issues need to be addressed.
First, constitutionally protected aboriginal and treaty rights need to be afforded protection under the bill. Second, a multi-barrier approach for first nations water resource management should be incorporated in the bill. Third, first nations governance structures need to be respected.
I am going to deal with the first issue now, which I think the Bar Association has already addressed, the issue of non-derogation in clause 3. CELA notes that the Supreme Court of Canada has already established the test for infringement of protected aboriginal and treaty rights for legitimate legislative objectives under the Sparrow decision. Given the existing jurisprudence on this issue, the limiting section in clause 3 of the bill is unnecessary, in our view.
Consequently, as we noted in our brief that was submitted earlier, our position on this issue is similar to what was addressed before. We don't think that particular section is necessary, but we also note that if there is a non-derogation clause, we submit that the one included in Ontario's Clean Water Act, which was designed for the protection of the sources of drinking water, is the most appropriate provision.
That provision simply reads as follows in section 82 of the Clean Water Act:
For greater certainty, nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from the protection provided for the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada as recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act....
The second issue the bill needs to address is to provide a more detailed provision about how to improve water resource management on first nation land. To a great extent, the bill's implementation will be dictated by the content of its regulations. However, we note that the list of regulation-making powers provided in clauses 4 and 5 of the bill fail to clearly ensure a multi-barrier approach for first nation drinking water systems, as recommended by the Walkerton and North Battleford inquiry reports.
A multi-barrier approach would require the following: reliable certification of labs; clear oversight and reporting responsibilities; clear delineation of the roles of health and environment water officials, including first nation officials and their governments; reporting of adverse events; delineating responsibility for responding to adverse events, and clear protocols; public involvement of community members, disclosure and transparency; means of receiving expert third-party advice, such as in Ontario through the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council; and outlining of resources and funding mechanisms, including for remote and small systems; and providing for infrastructure planning over time. CELA admits that a multi-barrier approach needs to be incorporated into the bill, otherwise it will remain simply as vague enabling legislation.
Finally, CELA admits that there needs to be recognition and protection of first nations' rights over the governance of water on reserve lands. In this regard, we have concerns about paragraph 5(1)(b) of the bill. That paragraph states that the regulations may “confer on any person or body any legislative, administrative, judicial or other power that the Governor in Council considers necessary to effectively regulate drinking water systems and waste water systems”.
The generic nature of this clause is a concern, given that the expertise and professional qualification of “any person” is undefined. That provision has the potential to result in possible loss of first nations' ability to control and manage their lands and water systems.
In addition, we note that clause 7, which is the conflict clause in Bill S-8 , provides that regulations may prevail over laws or by-laws made by a first nations to the extent of the conflict in respect of protection of drinking water.
Both of these clauses, in addition to clause 3 that I discussed earlier, have the potential to undermine the right of first nations to self-govern. Therefore, the committee should consider revisions to these provisions to ensure that this is not the case. Those are all my submissions, subject to any questions you may have.
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Ernie Daykin
View Ernie Daykin Profile
Ernie Daykin
2013-05-23 9:50
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Committee members, we appreciate the opportunity to speak to you this morning.
My name is Ernie Daykin. I'm the mayor of the District of Maple Ridge in British Columbia. I'm also a director on the Metro Vancouver board and chair of the Vancouver Aboriginal Relations Committee.
As you mentioned, Mr. MacIsaac is with us from the Union of B.C. Municipalities, and Mr. Ralph Hildebrand, general manager of corporate services and corporate counsel and manager of Vancouver's Aboriginal Relations Committee.
At the local government level we fully recognize and support the need for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to have access to clean, safe drinking water, and the proper disposal of waste water.
We're here today to present a local government perspective on Bill S-8, An Act respecting the safety of drinking water on First Nation lands, and represent some issues that are common to local governments not only in Metro Vancouver and British Columbia, but, we believe, across the country. In this regard I want to acknowledge the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which supports Metro Vancouver's views on Bill S-8. FCM's comments are reflected in some of the statements that are made in this presentation to the standing committee.
For everyone's benefit, I'll give an overview of Metro Vancouver. It's a federation of 24 local authorities, including one unincorporated area and one treaty first nation, the Tsawwassen First Nation. Tsawwassen First Nation reached the first modern urban treaty with the governments of Canada and British Columbia in 2009, under the B.C. treaty process.
Metro Vancouver works well together and collaboratively as we deliver plans and regional services, including drinking water, wastewater treatment, and solid waste management. Metro Vancouver also regulates air quality, plans for urban growth, manages a regional parks system, and provides affordable housing for our residents.
Metro Vancouver's population is currently 2.3 million, and over 50% of B.C.'s population live within the Metro Vancouver area. It's also home to 52,000 aboriginals, according to the 2011 census.
As I mentioned, I'm the chair of the Aboriginal Relations Committee, which is a standing committee of the Metro Vancouver board. It's been established to provide advice on treaty negotiations and aboriginal relations within Metro Vancouver to the board and to individual municipalities.
A key part of the committee's scope of work is strengthening relationships with first nations. We are participating actively in two tables with Katzie and Tsleil-Waututh as part of the provincial negotiation team's monitoring of emerging aboriginal treaty and non-treaty related issues, and assessing their impact on regional and municipal governments.
The relationship building and day-to-day interaction between municipalities and first nations that's taking place in our urban setting presents a number of challenges that we feel are unique, including higher population densities, competing private interests, unique land use considerations, rapidly growing servicing needs, and limited available crown land for treaty settlements.
Faced with these complex realities, Metro Vancouver has committed to building effective, positive working relationships with our first nations. This will ensure alignment and achievement of our common interests.
The regional district has been successful in communicating regional interests on a number of emerging policies and legislation that have been developed by the senior levels of government, and ensuring its continued involvement in the B.C. treaty process.
With respect to Bill S-8, Metro Vancouver has been concerned about the proposed legislation and its potential impact and implications for local governments since it passed first reading in the House of Commons in June 2012. Metro Vancouver has significant concerns about how Bill S-8 will affect its delivery of services in the Metro Vancouver area.
In response to Metro Vancouver's invitation in October 2012, staff representatives from the Vancouver offices of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada attended an Aboriginal Relations Committee meeting and made a presentation on Bill S-8. The federal representatives outlined a legislative framework for managing drinking water and waste water on first nations lands, and encouraged Metro Vancouver to submit its input into the parliamentary process by appearing before your committee.
Given the commitment on the part of the federal government—as expressed by the federal delegations—to consider and address local concerns as providers of water services to local communities, including first nations, we're pleased to be here today and provide you with our perspective.
To clearly formulate our interests and concerns with respect to Bill S-8, Metro Vancouver drafted a position paper on that bill, the safe drinking water for first nations act. That was drafted and presented to the board in November 2012. Based on the interest articulated and the issues identified in the position paper, local governments believe that it is at the community level that the effectiveness of this bill will be tested—including funding, improvements, and the need to execute and sign servicing agreements.
As such, the Metro Vancouver position paper identifies the following issues with respect to Bill S-8. One of the primary concerns expressed in the position paper is the transfer of responsibilities. From our interpretation of Bill S-8, an obligation to provide utility services and enforcement regulations could be imposed upon local governments if the federal government and respective provincial governments enter into an agreement under which the provincial governments are obliged to compel local governments to provide water and wastewater treatment services to first nation communities. Provincial governments may create or amend legislation to impose duties and responsibilities on local government as provincial bodies established by a provincial act.
Local governments do not want to be put in this position. There's a long history in B.C. of reaching agreements for services between local governments and first nations, as evidenced by the 550 servicing agreements between local governments and nearly 200 first nations.
Level of service is another concern. It's not clear whether Bill S-8 and the regulations passed pursuant to Bill S-8 will impose new requirements on local governments, and whether a regional authority such as Metro Vancouver will be required to provide water services to all municipalities to meet the obligations imposed, or whether Metro Vancouver will be required to increase its level of service to accommodate all growth and development within first nation lands.
Local governments in Metro Vancouver are compelled to comply with a regional growth plan. The projections for population growth and development are coordinated within the planning and development of regional services, such for the supply of drinking water and disposal of waste water. The imposition of requirements to provide drinking water and wastewater services to first nation lands that are developed outside of our regional planning principles could create, or will create, an imbalance between water and sewage plans and the regional growth plan.
Another concern that was expressed is bylaw regulation and enforcement. It is our understanding that Bill S-8 would permit local governments to apply their bylaws and regulations to first nations' lands to enforce and regulate the use of water and wastewater services to first nation communities. However it is not clear how the federal government will facilitate the enforcement of local government bylaws on reserve lands regarding the provision of utilities and other services to first nations. This includes first nation lands that are subject to future applications for additions to reserves.
Another closely related concern is regulatory authority. Bill S-8 is not clear on how the federal government proposes to protect local governments regarding environmental and public health liabilities related to servicing agreements for first nation lands when local governments have no regulatory authority over reserve lands and Indian bands do not have natural persons powers to enter into contractual agreements with local governments.
The financial liabilities are another concern that have been highlighted in the position paper. Regulating drinking water on Indian reserves would have significant capacity and resource related implications for local governments. It is not immediately clear how Bill S-8 will protect local governments that provide utility services to first nations against financial liabilities when local governments do not have taxation authority over first nation lands that are serviced.
In addition to undefined financial liabilities, there are also undefined legal liabilities presented by Bill S-8. For example, with section 13, the bill appears to remove the Government of Canada from legal liabilities associated with the regulations to be developed and implemented under the act.
In this regard, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has asked us to seek clarification from the standing committee as to what person or body the legal liability will reside with for the regulations developed and implemented under the act.
In addition, there is a concern with funding capacity. It is not clear whether the federal government and first nations across Canada have the proper funding capacity for the proposed infrastructure improvements on Indian reserves under Bill S-8.
The national assessment report, released in July 2011, estimates that over the next 10 years the combined projected capital and operating costs to meet the water and wastewater servicing needs of the communities of the 618 individual first nations across Canada will be approximately $4.7 billion, plus a projected operating and maintenance budget of $419 million annually.
The report further notes that in 2009 the water and/or wastewater systems of 153 of B.C.'s 203 first nations were considered to be high-risk systems. As indicated in the 2012 Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, local governments across Canada also face major challenges while maintaining and managing decaying water and wastewater infrastructure to meet current public needs and minimum performance standards. The substantial infrastructure deficit is of great concern to municipal and local governments.
The upgrading and replacement of drinking water and wastewater systems will require considerable investments in many communities across Canada. Consequently, the capacity of local governments to expand the provision of water and wastewater systems and services may be limited. The infrastructure capacity gap for both local government and first nations must be closed to ensure that all Canadians have access to clean and safe drinking water.
We agree that the process needs increased funding to be successfully implemented. Bill S-8 outlines a legislative framework for managing drinking water and waste water on Indian reserves, but still lacks an adequate implementation plan, such as detail and substance required to improve water resource management on first nations' lands.
The issues I have just mentioned outline the difficulties that will be faced as a result of Bill S-8. At the local government level, when enacting plans, bylaws, and regulations that affect residents and businesses in the region, we seek input and consultation, and have other processes to ensure that we obtain a broad vision of ramifications of our actions and to ensure that we can practically address the concerns and avoid the law of unintended consequences.
Here, unfortunately, local government input in the enabling legislation is lacking. With Bill S-8, local government interests were not considered in the drafting of the legislation. Adequate communications and meaningful consultation with local governments are necessary, as local governments, we believe, will be impacted by Bill S-8.
In summary, I'd like to reiterate that local government recognizes and fully supports the need for all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to have access to clean water and to wastewater disposal. To achieve this goal, senior governments must first make provisions for appropriate funding to first nation communities.
As local governments, we feel we have a unique perspective on this issue, its implementation, and potential implications. We remain hopeful that the regulations to be drafted for Bill S-8 will address the following requirements: reliable certification of water and wastewater treatment operators; binding and consistent water standards; clear oversight and reporting responsibilities; clear delineation of the roles of health, environment, and water officials, including first nations officials and their governments; clear and comprehensive monitoring and testing of drinking water; clear delineation of responsibility for responding to adverse events; opportunities for public involvement, disclosure, and transparency; opportunities for receiving expert third-party advice; available resources and funding mechanisms; and proper capital and infrastructure planning over time.
The tasks at hand are very large and challenging for any level of government, including first nations; therefore, all parties need to work together. There are significant investments that the federal government and first nations have made on this issue.
I think it's important to note that at the local government level we have also made significant investments. That needs to be acknowledged. Local governments request some clarity on cost recovery and the liability issues identified earlier, and which appear in Metro Vancouver's position paper.
Bill S-8 has potential implications for local governments. Given these issues identified, local government seeks a commitment from the federal government that Bill S-8 will be amended in consultation with local government and first nations.
Further, local government would like acknowledgement from the Government of Canada that local governments will not be affected by Bill S-8, and further, a commitment from the Government of Canada that local governments will be kept apprised and engaged in the process of developing the regulations for Bill S-8.
That concludes my remarks.
Thank you.
I'm going to pass it off to Mr. MacIsaac.
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View Stella Ambler Profile
CPC (ON)
View Stella Ambler Profile
2013-05-23 10:27
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Sure. That I think can take place, too, after the legislation is passed as well.
Also, in Minister Duncan's letter, a little further back in February, he did specifically say that “Bill S-8 will not affect municipalities’ ability to choose to pursue or not to pursue municipal service agreements with First Nations. As well, S-8 will not delegate powers or costs to provinces or municipalities with respect to First Nations drinking water — jurisdiction will remain with the federal government.”
In the spirit of alleviating your concerns, did that help as well? I know that both you and Mr. MacIsaac talked about financial and legal liabilities, but municipalities can choose or not choose to enter into a service agreement and include these issues in it. So I guess I just....
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Ernie Daykin
View Ernie Daykin Profile
Ernie Daykin
2013-05-23 10:28
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We would like an assurance on that. I think there's still the feeling or understanding that we could be required to do that.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2013-05-23 10:34
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But Mayor Daykin, what would your concerns with the way the bill is drafted right now? What areas would you like to see amended?
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Ernie Daykin
View Ernie Daykin Profile
Ernie Daykin
2013-05-23 10:34
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Again, we want a clarity on what is required of us and what the potential liabilities are and how those can be alleviated at our level. I think that's one of the uncertainties we're faced with.
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View Brent Rathgeber Profile
Ind. (AB)
And my friend Ms. Ambler, I think, referred to the letter, where the minister indicated unequivocally that Bill S-8 would not affect the municipality's ability to choose to pursue or not pursue municipal agreements with first nations.
You indicated in one of your answers that you're concerned about liability and you're concerned about off-loading. In your own brief you indicate in concern number two that the transfer of responsibilities is unknown. You, or whoever wrote this, states that Bill S-8 does not explicitly download duties and responsibilities onto local governments.
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View Brent Rathgeber Profile
Ind. (AB)
Thank you.
Thank you for your testimony.
In your opening comments you indicated that in your opinion first nations ought not to be held to a higher standard of accountability than other levels of government. I'm inclined to agree with that statement, but I'm curious. There are two ways to remedy the situation. One is to bring other levels of government up, or, alternatively, if this piece of legislation were to hold first nations to a higher level of account, to lower them.
I wonder whether you have an opinion as to where the bar ought to be set with respect to all levels of government, agreeing with your proposition that first nations ought to be held to the same level—not higher or lower—of accountability as other government levels.
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Harold Calla
View Harold Calla Profile
Harold Calla
2013-04-16 9:20
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Wow. It's like I'm taking a poison pill here.
First of all, I don't think you can ask first nations to lead. Initially, first nations need to be held accountable at the same level. Does the bar need to be raised? I think if you asked every Canadian...yes, the bar does need to be raised. We have auditors general, we have budget officers, we have all kinds of people who provide oversight to first nations governments, and we see all kinds of challenges that are being raised as a result of that oversight.
Having spent 20 years of my life in and out of Ottawa, and I've been here probably about two months a year since the early nineties, I've had the opportunity to observe our process, unlike most Canadians. I wish it could be less adversarial, because if it were less adversarial we might be able to get some things done.
If there's a problem here, it is that if anyone were to come forward and acknowledge that there needed to be improvements, I wouldn't want to be the government sitting in question period.
This is a matter that everyone has to embrace—saying we want to improve accountability. It can be, but it has to be done in the context of a cooperative effort among all parties in the parliamentary system. Then, as that bar gets raised, other orders of government should also be required to rise to that level. But you can't ask first nations to lead something other orders of government aren't leading, because we don't have the capacity or the resources to do it.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2013-03-21 9:26
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Do you think we should call the Prime Minister to this committee and see if he actually is going to get on with something meaningful?
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Michèle Audette
View Michèle Audette Profile
Michèle Audette
2013-03-21 9:26
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Please! He didn't accept a simple meeting with the GG and the chiefs of Canada. I doubt if he would come. But if he agreed to sit down, I'm sure people would make sure that he got the message that there's some willingness on our part, and on my part too, that we should have that dialogue.
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Jennifer Stoddart
View Jennifer Stoddart Profile
Jennifer Stoddart
2012-10-31 15:51
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you for inviting me.
Honourable members of the committee, I am here today to speak to you regarding Bill C-27, an act to enhance the financial accountability and transparency of first nations.
As you know, Bill C-27 will require that first nations chiefs and councillors provide an audited schedule of remuneration every year to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This schedule will underline moneys paid by the first nation, or any entity it controls, to its chief and each of its councillors, acting in either their official or their personal capacity. The bill would require that first nations publish this schedule on their websites and make copies available to anyone upon request. Additionally, the minister would be required to publish this schedule on the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development's website.
While I understand that there are existing reporting arrangements in place for many first nations, C-27 would effectively harmonize all reporting to the department and provide a legislative basis for proactively disclosing this information publicly on the Internet.
Our office's own mandate is the Privacy Act, which applies to federal public sector organizations. While the Privacy Act has been considered quasi-constitutional, some of its provisions may be superseded by other acts of Parliament. For instance, as a general rule, personal information under the control of a government institution cannot be disclosed without the consent of the individual to whom it relates. As the law stands today, specific salaries are considered personal information within the meaning of the Privacy Act, and they cannot be publicly disclosed by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development without consent. However, the Privacy Act does exceptionally allow for disclosure of personal information without consent where authorized to do so by another act of Parliament. In other words, if the bill before you were to pass, the minister would be allowed to disclose specific salaries for the purposes set out in Bill C-27.
The privacy issue before you is therefore not one of lawfulness, but one of principle. Bill C-27 invokes two equally important democratic principles—accountability and privacy. The question is, how should these two values interplay to minimize adverse impacts and maximize democratic capital for Canadians?
I will now discuss existing salary disclosure regimes.
Transparency and accountability are principles that my office takes very seriously. I have, along with Canada's other federal, provincial and territorial Access to Information and Privacy Commissioners, signed a joint resolution endorsing and promoting open government as a means to enhance transparency and accountability. These are essential features of good governance and critical elements of an effective and robust democracy.
In considering this bill, I note that there is a distinct trend in Canada towards publicly disclosing the salaries of elected officials along with other senior officials paid from the public purse. When money comes from taxpayers, the expectation of transparency increases as the level of responsibility or salary associated with a position increases.
At the federal level, the precise salaries of elected officials such as the Prime Minister, ministers, members of Parliament and other positions are disclosed every year by the Parliament of Canada on its Indemnities, Salaries and Allowances Internet page. Furthermore, pay ranges for public service positions are also made public.
Similarly, in Quebec, the salaries of elected officials are published by the National Assembly. The specific salaries of Quebec's public servants, by contrast, are not disclosed to the public although those of high-ranking officials can be made available through access request.
In Ontario, the specific salaries of elected provincial officials are made publicly available; while only public servants paid $100,000 or more per year have their name, salary and amount of taxable benefits disclosed in yearly reports. Other provinces, including British Columbia and Manitoba, also use salary thresholds as a basis for triggering public disclosure requirements of senior elected officials.
There are no comparable regimes that currently cover all first nations across Canada. Bill C-27 would put in place a uniform standard for publicly disclosing remuneration of elected officials, among other public reporting requirements, in more than 600 first nations. Its impact on the privacy of these officials therefore requires careful analysis and consideration.
In the final part of my presentation I will speak about the appropriate privacy analysis framework.
Along these lines, my office has a long-standing practice of examining the privacy risks posed by a particular initiative by applying a privacy analysis framework, and its elements can be summarized by four key questions: One, is the measure demonstrably necessary to meet a specific need? Two, is it likely to be effective in meeting that need? Three, is the loss of privacy proportional to the need? And four, is there a less privacy-invasive way of achieving the same end?
The first question evaluates whether the proposed measure is required to achieve a particular policy object. In most cases, the answer to this question is positive, and the current case is, at first sight, no exception to the rule. Financial transparency of public moneys paid to elected officials and senior government officials is an important objective that may very well warrant a legislative measure to ensure more uniform reporting requirements than is currently the case and ultimately enhance public accountability and transparency.
The second question considers whether the proposed measure will be successful in achieving the stated policy goal. There may be instances where the proposed measure may not be particularly effective in achieving the objectives for which it was designed. Given the complexity of the native governance architecture, I would respectfully submit to this committee that I may not be the right person to answer this question. In this instance, I would rather defer to the discerning assessments of experts well versed in aboriginal issues.
The third question, which focuses on proportionality, is critical to assessing the privacy impact of a proposed measure. It essentially functions as a sort of balancing test to help determine whether the potentially harmful effects on privacy of individuals is outweighed by the salutary effects of the proposed measures. At this step it is important to identify all the potential privacy implications of the proposed measures, the number of affected individuals, and the extent of the privacy laws. Then one can make a more enlightened determination as to whether or not the public policy benefits of the proposed measure, in this case greater and more uniform public disclosure requirements of first nations, outweigh the adverse privacy impacts on individual chiefs and councillors.
As parliamentarians, you may find that proactive disclosure of exact salaries, in addition to all of the other public reporting requirements, exceeds the incremental benefits this may yield in terms of enhanced public accountability and transparency. On the other hand, if disclosing salaries of elected officials is becoming a widely adopted trend in Canada, as appears to be the case, it may well be considered reasonably in line with public expectations and proportionate to disclose the salaries of chiefs and councillors as well.
The fourth and final step seeks to determine whether the proposed measure can be substituted by another measure that might have a less adverse effect on privacy. This is a time to consider whether there are different options that could yield similar results, but in a less privacy-intrusive way. For instance, disclosing salary ranges or aggregate salary amounts for relevant groups, as opposed to specific salaries of individuals, could prove just as effective in achieving enhanced transparency and accountability without incurring the corresponding loss of individual privacy.
To conclude, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, I'd like to thank you again for the opportunity to comment on the importance of these considerations in the proposed legislation. Finding the right balance between achieving stated policy objectives and the protection of privacy can be a complex and difficult undertaking. I hope this analytical framework I have presented is useful to you in your deliberations.
I and my senior general counsel will be happy to try to answer your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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Jerome Berthelette
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Jerome Berthelette
2012-10-29 15:34
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Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman
I would like to thank you for inviting the office to speak about Bill C-27, an Act to Enhance the Financial Accountability and Transparency of First Nations.
With me is Ronnie Campbell, Assistant Auditor General, who was formerly responsible for first nations' audits.
Since 2000, the office has tabled 16 chapters that address first nations and Inuit issues directly, and another 15 chapters that deal with issues of importance to first nations people.
In 1996, we tabled a study entitled “Study of accountability practices from the perspective of first nations”. We noted that the relationship between the first nations and the federal government had evolved from direct service delivery by the department to service delivery by first nations. As a result of this evolution, the issue of accountability presented difficulties for both parties. In particular, the accountability of that government to Parliament became more complicated as departments were no longer directly responsible for the delivery of programs at the community level.
At that time, we met with first nations and were told that they were willing to explore ways to ensure that the information needs of Parliament were met, and they stressed the importance of internal accountability. From their perspective, accountability is non-hierarchical and is based on shared objectives.They stated that the reporting framework was of limited value to them, was onerous, and did little to enhance accountability to the community.
In 2002, based in part on what we had learned from the 1996 study, we proposed our definition of accountability: a relationship based on obligations to demonstrate, review, and take responsibility for performance, both the results achieved in light of agreed expectations and the means used. We defined five principles that support an effective accountability relationship: clear roles and responsibilities; clear performance expectations; balanced expectations and capacities; credible reporting; and reasonable review and adjustment.
We noted that delivery of programs through partners creates new and complex accountability relationships. In these arrangements, accountability is shared. With respect to reporting, we suggested the need to be clear about the measurement strategy as well as the required information and how it is to be collected, verified, and analyzed, and by whom and when.
In this work, we also stated that transparency is the sustaining element of accountability; transparency implies that one can see clearly into the activities of government. Transparency and accountability mean stronger institutions and more credible government.
Also in 2002, we tabled a study on first nations reporting. We stated that reporting needs to provide meaningful information to first nations and to the federal government and that fundamental change was required to reduce the burden on first nations.
In 2011, we identified four structural impediments that limit the delivery of public services to the first nations and hinder improvements in living conditions on reserves: lack of clarity about service levels; lack of a legislative base; lack of an appropriate funding mechanism; and lack of organizations to support local service delivery.
We strongly support the principles of accountability and transparency. We hope this background on accountability will be useful to the committee as it reviews the proposed legislation.
Mr. Chair, we do not feel that our office can comment on the merits of Bill C-27. That being said, we would like to make a few remarks on some technical aspects of the bill.
First, subclause 5(1), on how first nations are to maintain their accounts, contains the expression “generally accepted accounting principles” and a reference to the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants handbooks. There are currently no accounting standards in Canada that explicitly mention first nations. Although the handbooks referred to in subclause 5(1) are generally pertinent to the activities of first nations governments, they have not been designed or amended to take those particularities of the first nations situation into account.
Second, under subclause 5(2), when auditing the accounts of first nations having transactions that do not easily fit a particular standard, the auditors must assess the acceptability of the accounting framework, including the reasonableness of the accounting policies adopted by these first nations. Different auditors may come to different conclusions for similar transactions.
Third, in clause 6, the requirement for an audited or reviewed schedule of remuneration is unique. This information is normally provided as a note to the financial statements or as supplemental information in an annual report. There are no accounting standards made applicable to the preparation of this schedule of remuneration or to the auditor's report or review engagement report. Also, it is not clear who would decide, and on what basis, whether the schedule is to be audited or reviewed. This ambiguity increases the risk of confusion and inconsistent practices.
Finally, the definition of remuneration in clause 2 combines both salary and reimbursement of expenses. When other levels of government report salary and reimbursement of expenses, they do so separately. Among other things, this ensures a clear distinction between official salaries and wages and the reimbursement of travel and other expenses. For example, at the federal level, there are separate disclosure requirements for salaries and for travel and hospitality expenses.
Mr. Chair, this completes my opening remarks. We would be glad to answer any questions the committee members may have.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2012-10-29 15:51
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I'm sorry. I don't want to interrupt you. I wanted to just clarify my question.
Mr. Jerome Berthelette: Sure.
Mr. Blake Richards: I think it may have been misunderstood.
What I'm asking for specifically now is just a basic overview. When we look at government in general in Canada, what are some of the basic principles or practices in terms of accountability that would be expected of governments in Canada?
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Jerome Berthelette
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Jerome Berthelette
2012-10-29 15:51
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I'll take the federal perspective. It's the one I'm most knowledgeable about.
First we look at it from a department's point of view. Departments develop reports on plans and priorities. They develop DPRs, the departmental program reports. They are responsible for maintaining their books of accounts. The books of accounts get rolled up into the Public Accounts of Canada and are audited by our office. These are available on the website to anybody who wants to take a look at them.
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View Kyle Seeback Profile
CPC (ON)
View Kyle Seeback Profile
2012-10-29 16:46
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Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, witnesses.
I was pleased to hear you say at the outset that you certainly agree with the goals of this legislation. We heard earlier today—I don't know if you were here—the parliamentary secretary say we're interested in looking at ways to improve the legislation. Of course, some of your comments today are helpful, and I thank you for those.
I have a few questions. First, when you talk about the standards that are set out for disclosure in the legislation, how do you think those compare with the standards of disclosure for other governments here in Canada? Are they the same? Are they different?
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Terry Goodtrack
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Terry Goodtrack
2012-10-29 16:47
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What I tried to convey here is that it has to be something comparable. The question becomes what the like entity is. I recognize we're comparing this to other levels of government, but at the same time, we're not recognizing first nations as a government. What would be a like entity to pursue? That's really what I'm trying to convey.
I outlined in my testimony that there are many different models across Canada. Why is this one, which is very detailed, the model chosen? I don't know why.
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View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
2012-10-29 16:55
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Thank you very much.
Thank you, too, to our witnesses.
Like many members of the committee, I think we are quite astounded that this is the first time you're getting to comment on this bill. You are the people who have exactly the expertise that would be required to get the bill right or to answer the question of whether this bill is necessary at all, which is I think where you were coming from, and again, who the accountability is to.
When the minister was before us, he did admit that he hadn't consulted between the private member's bill of Ms. Block and this other bill that seems to be much broader, with many unintended consequences around own-source revenue. Again, on the accountability, I think even Darcy Bear, in his testimony here, said that the accountability should be to the members of the band, particularly on own-source revenue, not to Canadians writ large.
I guess I'm just astounded that people like you and your organization weren't consulted before this was tabled. I hope you will be consulted on what it seems will be proposed government amendments, but have you looked at the proposed amendments that the Whitecap Dakota chief and council have put forward? Would those amendments deal with some of the concerns that you've highlighted today?
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Terry Goodtrack
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Terry Goodtrack
2012-10-29 16:57
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Yes, I've reviewed Chief Bear's amendments. This is where we're trying to say at AFOA Canada that those are very important issues and amendments that Chief Bear has outlined—definitely.
One thing you have to do with this legislation is step back and look at it through different lenses, one of those lenses being accountability, as you mentioned—accountability to whom and for what. The notion of consolidated audits gets very clear when you look at it through that end.
On the notion of comparability, as we've mentioned, comparability to like entities is what we're asking: not to do anything more, not to do anything else, but to like entities. If that comparability is to governments, then why aren't we putting in the bill the word “government”?
You can take a look at the Public Sector Accounting Handbook, as mentioned earlier by the Auditor General's office. He said that there are definitional issues, which is right. First nations aren't part of the common government reporting handbook, but the year-end reporting handbook states that for the purposes of accounting, first nations are government. It doesn't even say that in the CICA handbook, but it says it through this secondary document.
Keep in mind that at AFOA Canada we did recommend that. We recommended that, but it's still not a definition, because in this legislation first nations aren't considered governments.
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Colin Craig
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Colin Craig
2012-10-22 15:31
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Good afternoon.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today on behalf of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and our 79,000 supporters nationwide. I'm also pleased to speak here on behalf of the dozens of whistleblowers from aboriginal reserves across Canada who have sought help from our offices over the years and who support this legislation.
On behalf of both groups, I would like to begin with two words: thank you.
Thank you to the Conservative and Liberal MPs who voted in favour of MP Kelly Block's first iteration of this legislation, her private member’s bill, Bill C-575. We appreciate her efforts, as well as the federal government's, for tabling this legislation, and those who voted in favour of sending it to this committee.
Thank you for not turning a blind eye to corruption on reserves. Yes, “corruption” is a strong word, but when a public official takes advantage of the ability to set his or her own pay and to keep it hidden from the public while many band members suffer, there's no better word for it.
Anyone who has spent even a few hours studying this issue will know that reserves are already required to disclose their chiefs' and councils’ pay information to band members. Some chiefs and councillors in Canada are really good about disclosure, but we know from speaking with many grassroots band members that there are plenty of communities that simply keep people in the dark.
We've heard of communities that give audit documents to band members, but the chief and council pay pages are mysteriously missing. In other cases, band members are told to get lost when they ask for the information. Some have even been threatened for having the audacity to ask how much their elected officials are being paid.
Consider a message we received from a whistleblower from the Enoch reserve, just outside of Edmonton. The individual somehow got a hold of their chief's and council’s pay information, which showed that the small community’s chief made more than the Prime Minister.
The note reads as follows:
I am writing this letter out of pure frustration. I live on the Enoch Cree Nation and we should have no problem providing for our people. The problem is the greed of our leadership and the lack of motivation.... The government is far away and state you have to go through the local INAC office, where they refer you back to the leadership. I have requested copies of the budgets for several years from both INAC and Chief and Council and have never received anything.
If you think this is an isolated case, sadly, it is not. The number one concern our offices hear about from grassroots band members is the lack of transparency on reserves.
In 2010 we set up a website—ReserveTransparency.ca—and that site specifically helps to inform band members about their right to information. The site also explains how band members can get chief and council pay information, as well as audit documentation from the federal government, if their bands refuse to provide it.
When we held a press conference to launch the site, I invited Albert Taylor, an 84-year-old elder from the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation. On the morning of the press conference, Albert mentioned to me that he drove in from Brandon the night before—a two-hour drive—and then spent the night sleeping in his car.
Think about that: why would an 84-year-old man drive for two hours and then sleep in his car to attend a press conference about an issue that some people say doesn’t exist?
Albert, along with many other band members, gave us quotes for the website, talking about transparency problems from their perspective. This is Albert's quote:
In the past I have been threatened and attacked for speaking out and asking questions.
Norman Martell, from the Waterhen Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, noted the following:
My Band keeps its members in ignorance, no meetings, no committees and no information on band budgets or expenditures. Keeps them in power and free spending for themselves and their supporters.
After news of our website spread, we began getting copies of dozens of e-mails to Ottawa from band members across Canada. They were following the instructions on the site that laid out how they could get pay information from Ottawa if their band office wouldn’t provide it.
Not surprisingly, the only people in Canada who seem to oppose this bill are politicians, but the bottom line is that this is Canada and it’s 2012. Politicians, regardless of race and level of government, should have to disclose their pay to the public. Full disclosure will help everyone sort out the bad apples from the good ones.
Placing the information on the Internet will especially help band members, as it saves them the awkward conversation that comes when they walk into a band office and have to talk to the chief’s relative or friend who works there and ask them for the chief's pay information. Allowing them to access this information on the website will be in their best interests. Disclosure will help taxpayers off reserve know more about how public funds are being spent on reserves as well.
In terms of amendments to this bill, we recommend four for implementation.
First, post the audit and salary information for reserves going back five years. Ottawa already has this information, so it would be easy to do.
Second, put all audit documents online, not just annual audits. When audits are conducted for flood funding and other purposes, people often want to see that information too.
Third, clarify with reserves that totals reported in the travel column should reflect travel expenses, such as hotel bills and air fare, not paying people to attend meetings off reserve.
Fourth, ensure that the funds chiefs and councillors receive for sitting on tribal councils, provincial bodies, and other band partnership entities are reflected in pay amounts disclosed to band members.
In conclusion, we are pleased that Parliament is no longer turning a blind eye to these issues.
Thank you for considering our input.
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Joseph Richard Quesnel
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Joseph Richard Quesnel
2012-10-22 15:38
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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for the opportunity to address Bill C-27. I rise in support of this bill, but will express some concerns later.
My name is Joseph Quesnel. I'm a policy analyst of Métis descent with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent western Canada–based think tank.
I'm lead researcher on a project that we call the aboriginal governance index, or the AGI, which is an annual consultation of average first nations members in the prairie provinces on their perception of the quality of governance and services in their communities. This past year's AGI reached over 3,000 average residents on more than 30 first nations in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
The AGI seeks an understanding of the views and expectations of first nations people about what constitutes good, effective governance, and provides an assessment of the extent to which those expectations are being met.
The highest-scoring bands in our index are the most transparent and adopt the practice of posting financial information, including salaries, online already. The best bands adopt open-book policies where members can view any information from the band office at any time. I'm familiar with many of these communities.
We have been surveying members since 2006, and it is clear, despite the policies in place, that the disclosure of salary and financial information is still absent in many communities. This is why we support Bill C-27 in providing a legislative base for these policies, not just policies, and some enforcement mechanisms to make the policies real for members.
We argue that first nations should not have to wait for local leadership to grant transparency that citizens should already be receiving. We also believe that band members feel they shouldn't have to wait either. First nations, despite their unique cultures, have clear expectations about governance. They desire and expect highly transparent local governance.
Our prairie-based data confirms this observation. When asked whether they thought all residents should be able to learn how much money is paid to band chief and council members, 77% of all respondents said definitely, yes; only 9% of respondents said this information should definitely not be fully available to anyone who wants it. These are randomized surveys of people from all factions on first nations.
When we asked if in practice everyone in the community who wants information is allowed to learn how much money the band chief and council earns, we were encouraged to find that 35% of respondents told us that the information is definitely available to everyone. However, a troubling minority of 25% gave the opposite answer; that is, the information is definitely not available.
The public disclosure requirements imposed by Bill C-27 would advance transparency in the communities where it is not already practised, which is what we're trying to do. Average members are victimized within a system they did not create, and find themselves unable to change it. They have no well-funded lobby groups. With some exceptions, first nations citizens often lack major independent media sources that can scrutinize band affairs. First nations citizens should not have to pay for ineffective checks and balances on many first nations. We feel that Bill C-27 would fill that gap.
Having this information posted online could also help avoid conflicts in some first nations. Increasingly, communities are resorting to confrontation where disclosure is not forthcoming. A few years ago, members from the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, a Manitoba band near Brandon, Manitoba, operating under a custom election and band constitution mandating financial disclosure, demanded full financial disclosure from their chief and council when it was not coming, and they had to actually physically confront the chief and council to get that information. Luckily, in that situation it worked out. Other communities must resort to Federal Court, which is very costly and divisive in the community. This information being available would potentially avoid these kinds of situations.
As well, band-owned entities must come within these disclosure requirements. According to a 2011 study by TD Economics, economic development corporations are one of the fastest-growing components of the emerging aboriginal economy. If proprietary information is protected, as the minister has reassured us here, band-owned entities should be included in this.
Increasingly in our surveys we are hearing more and more complaints from average band members about lack of information about band-run entities, especially those run off reserves, such as gas bars and casino revenues. People want to know where the money's going and how much people are making. It's important to get the complete picture of how band entities are helping or hindering indigenous progress, and that includes financial information.
In terms of some specifics on the bill itself, members must have access to real enforcement, which in this case involves a superior court. Perhaps this committee could explore using first nations-led independent dispute resolution mechanisms or community ombudspersons for this role, instead of more costly and divisive litigation. That's just something to think about.
Lastly, under the administrative measures—this is more of a question—I'd recommend the language be altered, if I'm correct on this, to require the minister to develop an appropriate action plan before proceeding to any kind of denial of funds to a community. As is, the language, as I'm reading it, reads that the minister could proceed directly to withholding the funds as one of his or her options at the get-go.
I think this would place the government in a potential confrontation with the first nation government much too easily. We don't want to get into a situation like in Attawapiskat, where the courts ruled that Ottawa prematurely adopted punitive measures before exhausting more cooperative measures. We'd encourage that, a more cooperative relationship, perhaps even working towards incentivizing disclosure as another remedy.
On that note, thank you for your attention. I look forward to your questions.
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John Graham
View John Graham Profile
John Graham
2012-10-22 15:43
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I think everybody has a small PowerPoint that I've prepared, so I'll just go down these six points.
The first point is that accountability appears to be a universal norm of good governance. I have never seen, in any measure of good governance, anyone dispute the notion that accountability should be right up there. Certainly in the aboriginal world, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the National Centre for First Nations Governance, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development in the United States—all of these organizations mention and highlight accountability as a measure of good governance.
Increased transparency, a key ingredient to accountability, is a trend affecting all institutions, and by that I mean in the private sector, in the NGO sector, in the charitable sector, of course, as well as in the public sector.
The second point is that despite heightened attention to accountability, complexities abound in any government in trying to realize sound accountability. One of the problems, and there are several in trying to actually implement good accountability, is essentially trying to have a good accountability story based on results. Accountability used to be focused on propriety—propriety in expenditures of money—but now accountability has clearly moved into the results arena, and that is a much more difficult, much more challenging accountability story to present.
The third point is that this, trying to have a good accountability story, is especially true for first nations, given the highly dysfunctional first nations governance system. This system is a significant barrier to realizing improved levels of well-being in these communities. I won't go into these dysfunctions, but I'm happy to answer any questions about them.
Point four is that achieving governance reform has proved to be an uphill struggle across the world, with one notable exception, at least, which may have relevance for first nations. Again, I won't go into this, but this evidence is really based on the World Bank, which monitored some 200 countries across the world over a 10-year period. Over that time, despite billions of dollars being spent on trying to improve good governance, it concluded that the overall quality of governance in these countries, on average, had not improved. That's over a decade.
Because of this record, and because Bill C-27 is a very modest initiative, expectations about what it might achieve in the way of better governance should be equally modest. Trying to effect good governance is a very difficult undertaking, especially if you're looking for sustainability, and that is clearly the key.
Finally, one important issue, and perhaps the elephant in the room, is own-source revenue. Getting better information on own-source revenue is reason enough to support the bill. The reason I say this is that I think public policy is always better if there is essentially good information. Issues around funding and funding modalities, which are a centre point in most of the relationships with aboriginal peoples and their government, the federal government, often revolve around money, and therefore having some better sense of own-source revenue has to be a good thing, I think.
I'll conclude on that note and pass it to our colleague, Phyllis.
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Phyllis Sutherland
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Phyllis Sutherland
2012-10-22 15:47
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Thank you for having me here today.
I am here to talk about financial accountability and transparency. I would like to start by looking at the issue of access to financial information and our experiences. First, we support the legislation, Bill C-27, based on the fact that every first nations band member has a right to access financial information and it should be given in a reasonable timeframe. Information should be provided free of charge, and penalties should be put in place if first nations do not comply.
I will tell you our experience and the reality of trying to access information. ATIP forms from me and from other band members have been ignored; requests for information have also been ignored by trustees of our treaty land entitlement; and members are subjected to intimidation tactics such as fearmongering, public attacks, and attempts to destroy a person's credibility.
We make a number of recommendations. The legislation must have statements that include the protection of individual freedom to access financial information without persecution from the chief and council. An annual audit should be distributed no later than 120 days after the end of the fiscal year. The federal government should be present during the presentation of annual audits. A framework for financial information should be created that is accessible on the website and is easily understood by band members.
We have looked at chief and council remuneration and income from other sources. We support legislation that will put into law the requirement that chief and council be held responsible to fully disclose sources of income, not only from the band, but from other sources. We call for a full disclosure by all federally funded organizations in regard to honorariums, travel, bonuses, and per diems paid to chief and council. Chief and council should be held responsible to disclose all expenditures made on their behalf. Failure to do so should be classified as red-collar crime.
On the issue of band council resolutions, BCRs, in 2009 the chief and council signed a BCR that stated that other sources of income were to go to band support, but the evidence says otherwise. This form of corruption has to stop.
We have looked at the subject of remuneration of boards. Boards are all appointed by the chief. The injustice is that the chief controls all of these boards on the reserve.
Accountability must include proper expenditures of federal funds that are allocated for band programs. The minister must ensure that education and housing moneys are spent for intended purposes. The chief and council, according to the last audit, took over $2 million of education funding to offset the band's deficit. Once the audit comes in for this year, it's going to show I think that the band took over $4 million.
Our first nations people do not have a redress mechanism in place to call for accounting of expenditures of education and housing moneys. First nations people do not have a redress mechanism in place to question and change this practice. We call for a national, federal hearing on the treatment of first nations people by their government, chief and council.
We call for national, federal public hearings to provide an opportunity for first nations to voice concerns.
We have looked at the use of band funds for partisan politics. The chief on our reserve used band funds to pay a personal legal bill in the amount of $22,772.76. Court costs were paid on behalf of members who stole furniture during the 2007 election. In 2008, a position was made up for a Peguis School Board trustee that added $26,000 on top of her salary as trustee. There is no evidence of any work done. Federal funds were used for personal media coverage to promote the chief. Legislation should be enacted to make it illegal to use band funds for these types of political favours. This type of spending is clear malfeasance and should be treated as such.
There needs to be accountability in the election process for chief and council. Electoral officers should be appointed by a third party who has no vested interest.
I will now summarize financial matters and transparency issues.
Presently, in many situations, there is no voice for the grassroots people. There needs to be an advocacy group that they can enlist for help in calling for financial accountability and transparency.
The chief uses band funds to persecute/prosecute his own people. First nations people do not have the funds or the ability to defend themselves because in most cases they have lost their jobs for speaking out.
Those who agree with the chief's leadership are well taken care of. In some cases, they have salaries or honorariums from three or four different sources. One example is former Councillor Lloyd Sinclair, who collected a yearly salary of $64,000 as the arena manager, even though we've had no arena since March 2007, when it burned down. He also sits on various boards and as a trustee on our TLE and our surrender claim.
Lawyers and consultants are charging the band exorbitant fees. This type of corruption must stop, and those in power must be held responsible for the blatant misuse of federal funds. It has been the practice of Aboriginal Affairs to allow first nations to pay back funds that were deemed to have been misspent. In the end it is the people who are powerless, who end up feeling the brunt of the mismanagement of funds.
Leadership has to be held accountable.
Thank you.
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View Ray Boughen Profile
CPC (SK)
View Ray Boughen Profile
2012-10-22 16:43
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Thanks, Chair, and let me add my voice of welcome to our panellists. Thank you for appearing with us this afternoon.
My questions are slated to you, John, and they look at governance and the link to transparency, so I've got two questions to ask you.
We'll start with number one. Based on your experience as a researcher and a consultant in aboriginal governance, how important would you say it is to promote the financial accountability and transparency of first nations governments?
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John Graham
View John Graham Profile
John Graham
2012-10-22 16:44
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How could you answer that question other than in the affirmative? Of course, good accountability, as I said, is a universal norm. Transparency is absolutely fundamental to accountability. It's not the be-all and end-all to accountability. Accountability is a very difficult thing to realize in practice. Transparency surely is an underlying platform for trying to provide a good accountability story for your constituents and indeed for your funding partners.
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View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
NDP (QC)
In your presentation, Mr. Graham, you focused a lot on the dysfunctional side of things. I believe you mentioned those elements again, just recently, and you even encouraged us to ask you about them.
I would like to hear your take. What do these limitations and dysfunctional aspects mean, tangibly speaking, for the planned financial transparency initiatives?
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John Graham
View John Graham Profile
John Graham
2012-10-22 16:49
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I have written on several occasions...and I'd be happy to provide you with the publications, but first nations have an extremely dysfunctional governance system. It's hard to imagine anything more dysfunctional than what we have in Canada vis-à-vis this first nations governance system. It is highly dysfunctional.
When you look at this initiative in light of the masses of dysfunction, this is pretty modest. That's what I would say.
As one example, I don't know of any governance system that is highly performing that doesn't have some sort of tax relationship with its citizens. We do not have a tax relationship with our citizens in first nations country, with some exceptions. Some self-governments in the Yukon, for example, are moving into a tax relationship.
Unless you have a tax relationship between citizens and government, you're likely not to get very good accountability. It doesn't matter what you do. You can have all the transparency in the world, but I have never seen any state that has good accountability without that tax relationship.
When you look at countries that are dependent upon oil revenues or natural resource revenues, or even fiscal transfers from another country—from the central state—you're likely to get lousy governance from a whole series of dynamics that happen when you do not have a tax relationship.
That's why I say that this is modest. It's a step forward. I would support it. But when you look at the level of dysfunction in this governance system, this is small potatoes. It's what is called in English, “small beer”.
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View Fin Donnelly Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As well, thank you to our witnesses for appearing before the committee.
I have two questions. The first question is for Mr. Graham.
I'll start off with a remark and say that if we assume the fundamental principle of government-to-government relations is critical, and we also assume and accept that corruption at any level of government, or within any organization that receives public funds, is unacceptable, given those and what we're trying to fix here, would you agree that the best method or way forward is a legislative approach?
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John Graham
View John Graham Profile
John Graham
2012-10-22 17:04
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There is a sort of assumption that because this is a government-to-government relationship, each of the governments—that is, the first nations—should be allowed to essentially decide on what kinds of accountability relationships and that sort of thing. I think there are some really interesting differences, though, between a relationship between the federal government and the provinces, say, and between the federal government and first nations.
Even when you look at the relationship between the federal government and the provinces, there are certain grant-like transfers—health, equalization payments, and that sort of thing—but there are also contribution arrangements between these governments, which do have conditions and reporting requirements that the federal government imposes on the provincial governments. It's not all just simply a transfer of money and there you go.
The second point, I think, with this government-to-government relationship is that you have probably somewhere between 80% and 90% of first nations funds coming from the federal government. If you look at the provinces, you see that it's probably something like 80% coming from their own-source revenues. So it's quite a different thing when problems arise, in that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs is the one taking the risks, in a sense, because the media immediately turns it to his attention and says, “Look what federal funds are doing: they're creating this mess.”
It's quite different in terms of the relationship here, because when the provinces muck up, it's not the federal government that's usually on the hook; it's the provincial minister. It is quite the reverse in this situation.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2012-10-22 17:10
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I wanted to give you that opportunity because you seemed eager.
I had a couple of questions I wanted to pose to Mr. Graham as well. If you don't mind, if we do have some time I'll come back to you.
Mr. Graham, obviously our government recognizes how important accountability and transparency are. It's certainly one of the key things that we want to ensure to a greater degree on the federal level. You can look at the accountability act we brought in when we first came into government as a good example of our commitment to accountability and to transparency. This is what this bill seeks to do.
Can you comment on this, as you've had some experience as a consultant? I would like to hear your thoughts on the relationship and how important the relationship is between accountability and transparency and effective governance. Can you comment a little on that relationship and how important that is?
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John Graham
View John Graham Profile
John Graham
2012-10-22 17:11
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One of the points I made was the difficulty of achieving good accountability in the public sector. I'll elaborate a bit on that.
As I said before, accountability a number of decades ago was really looked at from the point of view of the propriety of spending money. Was the money really spent for education the way it was supposed to be? Now we're into much more of a results-oriented management-type universe, where the accountability story has to be not only was the money spent where it was supposed to be spent in terms of the sources, but did it get good outcomes. Are we getting good education for the dollar we're spending?
That's a very difficult question for any government to answer, just because so many factors besides the education system produce good education. It's not simply because you have teachers in classrooms, but there are a lot of other factors, parents and the like, that go into making a good education system. Accountability is no easy thing.
The other thing about accountability is that it's not an absolute, sadly. You can put too much store on accountability and essentially have derogatory effects on other good government principles. For example, if you put so much store on accountability, you're likely to reduce performance. You're going to have so many people worried about the risk of somehow being labelled as some person who has gone beyond the bounds that there isn't any kind of entrepreneurial spirit within the public service. It's not an absolute.
Another problem with accountability is that it can deal adversely with legitimacy. You have so many bad stories coming out of accountability institutions that all politicians are somehow seen as stupid or corrupt. That's the other problem with accountability. If you put too much emphasis on accountability, you're going to have questions about the legitimacy of politicians and the legitimacy of public service. That's why accountability in some sense is so difficult. It's not an absolute, and this results-based management makes it very difficult to have a compelling, cogent, accountability story.
In summary, transparency is obviously critical to good accountability. I don't think there's any question about that. It's the handmaiden to good accountability. It's not a panacea that's going to suddenly get you to nirvana or some promised land.
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View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
View Joyce Murray Profile
2012-10-22 17:14
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Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Graham, for that comment about putting so much store on accountability that you can have an adverse impact on productivity or results.
Of course, accountability and transparency are principles that everyone around this table considers to be important. However, I want to go back to this own-source revenue.
I'm familiar with first nations in urban areas who have chosen to utilize some of the properties they own to invest in businesses that can produce wealth and benefits for their community. That seems very parallel to a private sector business. The shareholders are the band members. They have management that on their behalf is creating wealth for the community. If I'm a private sector business owner, I am accountable to the shareholders—the minority shareholders, the partners. I am not accountable to the public for what investment I'm making and the funds that are being made by that investment.
What you're advocating for here, with this own-source revenue being posted for anyone in the world to see, appears to me to be a completely different standard than would make sense in a case where the band has their own business that they have purchased or invested in with their own assets, not a transfer from government.
I'm still trying to understand how that makes sense. You, yourself, have acknowledged that can actually impact on productivity. If one of the keys to addressing the gap of first nations versus non-first nations, in terms of economic measures and all of the measures surrounding that, is the ability to have an attachment to the 21st century economy, how are we helping that by putting on this level of scrutiny, which is above and beyond what we would do with that kind of enterprise in non-aboriginal hands?
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John Graham
View John Graham Profile
John Graham
2012-10-22 17:16
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Don't get me wrong. Just because you take one small step in accountability, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have an adverse effect on performance. I'm saying that there is a balancing effect here. All good governance principles are not absolutes, so you have to be careful that when you move in one direction you're not providing something adverse in the other. I guess that's what your question is all about.
All I would say is that if you look again at the federal-provincial relationship—the government-to-government relationship we have in a federation—own-source revenue is a critical factor in terms of equalization payments. It's part of the fabric of our country, and indeed part of our constitution. I think inevitably we will be moving towards an era where first nations own-source revenue is going to be an important part of the transfer mechanisms between the federal government and first nations.
Would you agree with that?
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Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
View Shawn A-in-chut Atleo Profile
Shawn A-in-chut Atleo
2012-05-29 18:42
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Thank you Mr. Chair, members of the committee.
[Witness speaks in Nuu-chah-nulth]
Thank you for that pronunciation as well. My name is A-in-chut...[Witness speaks in Nuu-chah-nulth ]
Just a few words in my Nuu-chah-nulth west coast of Vancouver Island language to express my appreciation for being here in Algonquin territory.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about part 3 of Bill C-38.
As you are aware, I am currently national chief for the Assembly of First Nations. We are a national political advocacy organization for first nations in Canada.
In January of this year, first nations and representatives of the crown and the Government of Canada participated in a historic crown-first nations gathering. The intent of this gathering was to strengthen and reset the relationship between the crown and first nations, to move away from unilateral imposition of policies or laws that have had impacts on first nations peoples and territories to one that recaptures mutual respect and partnership.
Bill C-38 and the wide-sweeping and comprehensive changes to other pieces of legislation it contains continues historic unilateralism and imposition that we have worked, and continue to work, to overcome.
In November 2010, Canada endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which reflects the recognized customary international legal standard of free, prior, and informed consent. Free, prior, and informed consent, Mr. Chair, is not mentioned anywhere in Bill C-38.
Domestic law recognizes and enforces the duty to consult and accommodate first nations when crown conduct or omission may adversely impact established or potential aboriginal and treaty rights. Part 3 of C-38 will have a direct impact on the federal government's ability to fulfill these standards.
The Assembly of First Nations, to be very clear, is not a first nations government. Consultation or engagement with the AFN does not replace or fulfill the crown's duty to consult and accommodate treaty and rights holders where their rights may be infringed. To date, first nations have not been engaged or consulted on any of the changes to the environmental and resource development regime proposed within Bill C-38. This opens the crown to future risk and will have numerous and likely unintended consequences.
The stated intention of these legislative and associated regulatory changes has been said to improve the timeliness and efficiency of environmental regulations and project assessments. In its current form, part 3 of C-38 clearly represents a derogation of established and asserted first nations rights. If enacted, it will increase the time, costs, and effort for all parties and governments, as first nations will take every opportunity to challenge these provisions.
There are a number specific concerns, Mr. Chair, with the changes proposed in part 3 of C-38, which I will outline.
As I know you're aware, C-38 changes the scope and purpose of the Fisheries Act to the protection of fish that supports commercial, recreational, or aboriginal fisheries. Previously the act had prohibited “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat”. The proposed change prohibits “serious harm to fish”, defined as “the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat”.
I come from a fishing people, the Nuu-chah-nulth, as I said, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
[Witness speaks in Nuu-chah-nulth]
In my language, core principles that we govern ourselves and live by are how our people manage aquatic resources within our respective territories. These words in my language describe an understanding about the interconnectedness of all life forms, that nothing is isolated from other aspects of life around it and within it—in essence, the ecosystem. These principles are the basis for respect for ourselves, others, and nature. In managing aquatic resources, these values bring respect for the oneness between humans and the environment and respect for all other life forms. Our obligation is to sustainably manage all aquatic life forms that exist, regardless of their perceived economic value.
The balance of resources in habitats is one that changes over time, and this is something well-known to first nations. However, only enabling the protection of aquatic species once there is certainty of their demise or permanent destruction of their habitats is likely too late and will not restore the necessary balance for their sustainability.
Specifically, C-38 would remove protection for fish habitat from the Fisheries Act and enable the minister to create regulations allowing for the deposit of deleterious substances. This may leave fish species and habitats vulnerable to destruction and prevent first nations from continued enjoyment of their constitutionally protected right to fish.
I feel strongly that first nations have a shared vision with all Canadians, particularly for clean water. Our watersheds provide us life, food, and health. Bill C-38 clouds that vision by creating new political discretion to poison our waters by changing section 36 of the Fisheries Act. Instead of allowing deleterious deposits to destroy our water, we must fulfill our inherent obligation as responsible stewards of the environment.
Changes to the Fisheries Act will also reduce federal decision-making about fisheries management, the effect of which will be to narrow the triggers to consult and accommodate first nations, thereby reducing the federal obligation. First nations will vigorously oppose any attempts by the crown to erode or evade lawful obligations and responsibilities to first nations, which leads to an important element regarding the honour of the crown being called into question.
The CEAA last underwent a legislative review prior to Supreme Court decisions that established the duty to consult and accommodate. The sequence here is very important to point out. It has never been updated to operationalize the duty to consult and accommodate. In this regard, Mr. Chair, CEAA 2012 is a step backward.
Under the current CEAA, projects with minor environmental effects may have profound effects on first nations' rights, which triggers the duty to consult and accommodate. CEAA 2012 ends environmental assessments for minor projects currently referred to as “screenings”.
In addition, CEAA 2012 will continue substitution of provincial environmental assessments for the federal process as well as deem equivalency of such processes, which would exempt CEAA 2012 from further application.
The government is correct to note that where relationships with first nations, provinces, and the federal government have already been established, such as the Mi'kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada consultation process, substitution in those cases may work well. But this also raises significant concerns, and it could very well lead to more situations that I know many are familiar with, such as the Prosperity Mine project in the interior of British Columbia, which was approved through the provincial environmental assessment process but subsequently rejected following more stringent federal review.
This also invokes for many first nations—for those of you familiar with the situation across the Prairies—the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, or NRTA, of 1930. This was a unilateral agreement between Canada and the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta to transfer resources and lands that were never ceded or surrendered by way of treaty by the first nations—another major impact.
The impact of the NRTA has been to lesson the scope and implementation of the numbered treaties in the Prairies, and it is a source of continued and ongoing conflict and litigation over 80 years later. This is about all of us, and for Canada, learning from history. This is what the recent crown gathering was an effort to reflect on, and to do much better going forward. First nations will not stand for such unilateral actions and will take all avenues available to them to prevent further derogation of their rights.
The increase in discretionary powers afforded to the minister within the Fisheries Act and the number of cabinet decisions under CEAA 2012 and the National Energy Board Act will severely impair transparency and accountability to first nations. The broad restrictions around cabinet confidences will mean first nations will find it increasingly difficult to know how the government considered first nations rights when developing accommodation measures. This too compromises the crown's ability to discharge its duty to consult and accommodate first nations and is an area for clear challenge.
Finally, on the issue of timeframes established for first nations to respond to notices under CEAA 2012 and the National Energy Board Act, they are insufficient, not allowing adequate time for appropriate review, analysis, and response. It's unreasonable to provide first nations with only 20 days to provide comprehensive scientific and legal materials related to assessing the potential impacts of a project. Any notices under CEAA, NEB, or the Fisheries Act related to development, authorizations, regulations, or policies must be sent directly to communities in an accessible form. The use of online notices limits first nations participation and is therefore insufficient to fulfill the crown's duty to consult with first nations.
While the government has an established legal duty to consult and accommodate first nations under Bill C-38, part 3, as well as any regulations developed under the authority of the act and any new policies created to interpret the act, such consultations have not yet taken place.
Numerous organizations in addition to the Assembly of First Nations, including MKO, in Manitoba, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, have all registered protest to the CEA agency's call for public comments on regulations to be developed under CEAA 2012, which had a deadline of May 23, 2012.
Paragraph 62(h) of the CEAA and paragraph 105(g) of the CEAA 2012 state that one of the objectives is to consult with first nations. However, to be clear, there's been no identification of a process for funding for such consultations to take place.
In conclusion, Canada, in our view, needs to take a step back and reconsider its approach. Hastily moving forward on significant and broad changes that will impact the exercise of established and asserted rights by first nations will have long-reaching and expensive consequences, contrary to the interest in moving in this direction.
Taking time to work with first nations jointly on resource management and protection plans will achieve far better outcomes in terms of certainty and increased prosperity, and we have many examples we can point to. This is the spirit in which, as I said earlier, we participated in the crown-first nations gathering, and it's in this spirit of a renewed and respectful relationship that we urge Canada to proceed.
We have the following three recommendations:
Part 3 of Bill C-38 needs to be withdrawn to take the time to work with first nations to ensure their rights and interests are reflected and will not be compromised through such legislation. Failing that, I would recommend that the legislative amendments in part 3 be separated from the main bill to ensure appropriate study and amendments can take place with engagement and input from first nations.
Specific funding allocations should be made to engage and consult with first nations on CEAA 2012, amendments to the Fisheries Act, amendments to other legislation within part 3 of the act, regulations under the amendments, and any new policies relevant to the interpretation of amendments to new or existing environmental regulation.
Finally, any and all notices provided with regard to project reviews must be sent directly to first nations.
Bill C-38 unacceptably impacts first nations' rights. While I've been speaking about fish tonight, really I'm talking about the lifeblood that connects all of us, and that's our waterways, our watersheds.
I will close on that notion that we not forget about the need for a vision going forward to achieve pristine water in our country.
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View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
NDP (QC)
That's okay, we have interpreters.
Mr. Shanks, I was especially impressed by the fact that you mentioned such a diverse range of considerations in your presentation, from community governance and self-esteem to unique features such as non-tax status.
Given how much experience you have and how long you have worked in this field, I would say you will be able to give me insight into certain things. My background is as a criminal lawyer. And my next question will reflect that.
I'd like you to bear in mind the considerations I just mentioned and give me your take on how white collar crime affects community decisions. What impact do influence peddling and insider trading have, since they inevitably go hand in hand with major economic development and the noticeable wealth of certain aboriginal communities.
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Gordon Shanks
View Gordon Shanks Profile
Gordon Shanks
2012-05-17 16:44
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That's an interesting question. I don't think I've ever had that question before.
Anecdotally, and I'm sure the committee has talked to lots of people, there are payments that go to communities and sometimes they don't always appear where they should. That's why I think the notion of good governance is really quite critical to economic development, so that any white collar crime or any impetus or incentive to it could be absolutely minimized by having a transparent accountable government.
When first nations are negotiating with large resource development companies, those companies are inclined to make all kinds of arrangements. It's really important that those be as transparent and open and defined as possible. Whether that's the case now or not could be an empirical question. I have no evidence or experience to say otherwise, but it's important to make sure that it's not something that could happen.
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Gordon Shanks
View Gordon Shanks Profile
Gordon Shanks
2012-05-17 17:00
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I would imagine so. I think what will happen is communities will get their feet wet. They'll find they can do it, that they have the capacity. Their self-esteem will grow and they will be able to take charge. I think they will probably take on other aspects of governance.
Maybe this is the place to add that one of the things that is missing.... This is not a partisan comment, but there have been attempts in the past to amend the Indian Act to make communities more accountable, more transparent, etc. Any efforts that could be done in that regard would be helpful, because community members still feel disenfranchised, by and large. They don't have the legal capacity to actually force their governments to be transparent in many cases. Some of them have codes that do this, but the overall regime is not that robust. So I think something in that legislative regime there would be very helpful.
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Anne Robillard
View Anne Robillard Profile
Anne Robillard
2012-05-15 15:47
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Thank you, Chair.
Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, the formation of the Athabasca Basin Development Limited Partnership is one of the many ways in which the first nations in the Athabasca region have approached economic development. The Athabasca Basin Development Limited Partnership, known as ABDLP, is an excellent example of an aboriginal success story. It was formed in 2002 to pursue mining service opportunities in uranium mines. It was formed as the result of the determination of community leaders to fully participate in mining activities in their traditional areas.
The keys to the formation of this include community unity and an impact benefit agreement with the mining companies, partnership, and persistence. After several years, the company's expertise became transferrable to other geographic areas, which has led to expansion outside the region. ABDLP has a vision to be the leading entrepreneurial aboriginal-owned investment company in Canada.
As for ABDLP's ownership and governance, three first nations—Hatchet Lake, Black Lake, and Fond du Lac—own 70% of the company, while four non-first nations—Wollaston Lake, Uranium City, Camsell Portage, and Stony Rapids—own the remainder. Of the company’s five-member board of governance, first nations comprise the majority, including me as a chairperson.
Regarding ABDLP's successes, the partnership has ownership in nine companies, ranging from 30% to 100% ownership. These nine companies have their own governance structure to provide services to the mining and exploration sector, or government. We have investments in drilling underground, mining securities, construction, aviation, logistics, road maintenance, electrical, and labour supply. Our investments have provided services in commodities such as uranium, potash, oil sands, iron ore, diamonds, and gold. Consolidated revenues from investments in 2012 will exceed $90 million. The unit value in our investments has increased from $100 per unit to pretty well over $350,000 per unit in 10 years. Our investments have worked for mining exploration companies in four provinces and one territory. Total employment from all investments has exceeded 1,300, and no fewer than 200 aboriginal people are employed. We have partnered with other first nations in some of our investments. ABDLP was the inaugural winner of the Skookum Jim Award in 2008 and won provincial awards, including best new venture and best aboriginal partnership. ABDLP has also consistently reinvested its profits to fuel its growth while maintaining its distributions to unit holders.
The seven first nation communities in the Athabasca region are the only communities in Saskatchewan without all-weather road access. All the uranium mines in the Athabasca region have year-round access to their sites. As for the all-weather roads initiative, currently, Wollaston Lake is served by a provincially owned barge and an ice-road. Black Lake and Stony Rapids are served by seasonal overland roads, and Fond du Lac is served by a two-month road and a private barge in the summer. For over 10 years the building of an all-weather road to Wollaston Lake has been proposed, a road of some 107 kilometres, as well as completion of the road to Stony Rapids and Black Lake, of some 185 kilometres, and the building of an all-weather road to Fond du Lac, of some 85 kilometres, as well as support by ferry to cross one kilometre of the river.
On the Athabasca region's contribution to Canada, I would point out that all of Canada's uranium is produced in the Athabasca region, accounting for 20% plus of the world's supply, making it the number-two producer in the world. Communities situated in Athabasca make it feasible for airlines to deliver scheduled service, for trucking companies to make regular trips to the region, and for hotels and stores to be established. All of this is vitally important to exploration companies, which would be at a tremendous disadvantage if services were not available for their various exploration cycles. Indeed, Athabasca communities endure harsh living conditions on a daily basis, but the required services for that help create better infrastructure for industry over time. The region also hosts world-class fishing lodges, and communities have a current and future workforce only a short distance from the resource sector.
Why should roads be built? Athabasca is a positive contributor to Canada and to the province of Saskatchewan. The ice roads are becoming less reliable. A significant hydro project in Black Lake would be enhanced by road access. Exploration costs can be reduced, which can lead to mines. We have community populations that are young and growing. Health will be improved. Costs are unacceptably high, potentially higher than in northern territories. Youth could access recreation opportunities much more easily. And the rest of Canada has roads that have proven that they are positive for society.
Where is the government? No less than three times in the past ten years the provincial and/or federal governments have made financial commitments to the roads, and governments agree the roads are needed. Of the three times commitments were made, either governments could not make an agreement or government did not follow up on their commitment.
Governments were encouraged during the fiscal stimulus program to build roads to which no commitment was made. Currently the status is that the provincial government has committed to building the road to Wollaston Lake by 2013 and has essentially withdrawn from its commitment.
Marci Chogh. Thank you.
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Clinton Phillips
View Clinton Phillips Profile
Clinton Phillips
2012-05-15 15:54
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I've prepared an introduction followed by a three-page presentation, and I guess a question and answer period will follow that.
I'd like to introduce my associate director of lands, Mrs. Debbie Morris.
I ask for your patience beforehand, because I've been elected for almost three years now and I've held the lands portfolio for all of three weeks. This is all very new to me.
On behalf of the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, located near Montreal on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, l, Chief Clinton Phillips, will submit the following presentation outlining the challenges we face as a community with regard to land management and economic development issues. To begin, I will provide a brief historical overview of Kahnawake from an economic and land management perspective.
Both before and since European contact with my ancestors on Turtle Island, there has been a rich and distinct trade history that resulted in the unrivalled control of the eastern seaboard by the Iroquois Confederacy, of which the Mohawks are the eastern nation. Primarily the Dutch, British, and French settlers participated in trade relations with the Mohawks for a variety of goods.
A treaty relationship between colonial governments and the Mohawks was a device that encouraged further settlement and geographic expansion for the colonists. The necessity for trade with the Mohawks was crucial for European survival.
Later on, as allies of the crown, the Mohawks generally and the Mohawks of Kahnawake specifically aligned with both the French and British crowns. Our men have given their lives in service to the crown, and we were respected for our abilities. In modern times, our community has provided servicemen and women in the forces of both Canada and the United States.
The strategic geographic location of Kahnawake settlements has resulted in a varied economic history, from the successful fur trade monopoly in the 1600s to subsistence and commercial agriculture in the early 1900s, including the cultivation of tobacco. These were important sources of economic vitality. We lived through the seigneurial land tenure system and the resulting mismanagement of our traditional territory under the French regime, and the subsequent reservation system under the British and Canadian regimes. These experiences forever reduced our historical land base and our economic opportunities and hindered our prosperity within our land; yet they did not stop our strong will to survive.
Once government policy had eroded our land base, Kahnawakero:non were forced to seek employment within the carpentry and iron-working industries. Many a city skyline can identify buildings erected through Mohawk ingenuity and the drive to build a better life for our families, better opportunities for our children, and security for our future.
For over 100 years, Kahnawake men have travelled long distances to support their families, away from them for weeks at a time, sometimes taking their families with them away from home, away from what they knew. The iron-working industry remained the primary source of income for Kahnawake families throughout the 20th century.
By the 1980's, economic recession in the United States had limited the number of jobs available in the industries most identified with my community. The travellers had become weary, wanting an opportunity to prosper while remaining in our community.
Since then, my community has struggled with the inability to develop our lands for economic investment because of outdated, paternalistic Canadian government policies that limit and in most cases stop economic development; for example the Addition to Reserves or ATR policy, which continually provides time-related roadblocks that can last beyond five to ten years, in some cases—years when our land remains out of our control, years when economic development cannot occur, and ultimately years when we are denied prosperity.
We are currently in discussion with both the federal and provincial governments to transfer lands adjacent to the current reserve that have already been agreed to. This and any future opportunity cannot and should not be subject to the aforementioned paternalistic ATR process, which apparently is the only method to transfer the land—land that is ours, land that was never given up, land that will sit dormant and idle until the “Great White Father” decides to “give it back”. This is totally unacceptable.
Another land issue that continues to plague my community results from 100-year leases made between the federal government and third-party interests, leases that occupy acres of land with no consultation and minimal compensation. This is slowly changing, but the damage has been done. There are other land management issues in Kahnawake that can be addressed, but this timeframe is just too limited.
In conclusion, Kahnawake's economic prosperity, rich social and family values, and maintenance of our traditional heritage are legacies demonstrating the strength and perseverance handed down from our ancestors.
The policies did not succeed. The reservation system did not succeed. The residential school system did not succeed. And any attempt at economic strangulation will not succeed.
Thank you.
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you.
I want to welcome you here as well. I appreciate having an elder here. I have a lot of respect for that.
I have a couple of questions with respect to the contaminated lands. I'm just wondering about this, because I'm assuming that most of those contaminated lands.... You talked about the golf course, and I'm not sure about the impact on your side; but has there been any commitment from the federal government to assist you in cleaning up those lands? If there was, how long ago was that? Have there been negotiations with the federal government on that part of it?
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Debbie Morris
View Debbie Morris Profile
Debbie Morris
2012-05-15 17:00
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There has been no commitment. At this point in time, there are studies carried out around a water monitoring program, but that's basically it right now. So we are still faced with the dilemma of those contaminated lands and what it's doing to our health.
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View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
NDP (QC)
I have a few questions for you and I hope they fall under your area of expertise.
Under the Indian Act and the fiduciary relationship, could you tell me what obligations the Canadian government has when it comes to reclaiming contaminated lands on reserves?
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Warren Johnson
View Warren Johnson Profile
Warren Johnson
2012-05-01 16:35
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It gets a little difficult, depending on the situation and the cause of the contamination, but as a general rule it's a federal liability. It's federal land. It was under federal watch that the lands were contaminated, even if the contaminant is often a federal undertaking. The major contaminants historically have been the diesel spills from diesel generation and the like. These things weren't monitored. They have been going on historically. We've built schools on top of the contaminated lands. The problems go on and on.
That's why I think there's been major concern raised, and for well over a decade now, with the environmental gap. It's not just an issue of contamination. It's an issue of historical contamination. It's an ongoing problem.
Nobody is regulating CP lands. In some communities, because of the community's own consensus, CP issues are less of an issue for them. They manage by consensus. That's not an issue. But for large numbers of first nations, they don't consider CP land under their authority. The federal government has no authority on them. And it turns out that many of the issues we find in the papers about illegal garbage dumps, fires in dumps, tire-burning, or whatever on reserves are, when you go to look at them, on CP land.
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View Jonathan Genest-Jourdain Profile
NDP (QC)
Still along the lines of contaminated lands on reserves, if it has to do with a signatory nation to the First Nations Land Management Act, does the responsibility for reclaiming those lands go fully to the community or does the federal government still have some responsibility for those lands?
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Warren Johnson
View Warren Johnson Profile
Warren Johnson
2012-05-01 16:37
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At the point of the first nation taking over responsibility for land management under FNLMA, that is where the federal liability ends. Anything that happened before that is a federal liability. There is a federal obligation under the FNLMA to clean that up. I would have to check the record—I haven't in a while—but I think we're a little late in doing those cleanups. There's a frustration within the FNLMA.
From there forward, it's a first nations responsibility. The only difficulty is that to guard that in the future, you need to be exercising your environmental assessment and environmental protection authorities that you have under FNLMA. But under FNLMA, you're not allowed to do that unless you have signed an environmental management agreement with Environment Canada. There has not been one environmental management agreement signed with Environment Canada yet.
So the problem that we're talking about in terms of the regulatory and environmental gap has spilled over into self-government under FNLMA.
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Warren Johnson
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Warren Johnson
2012-05-01 17:13
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Yes, and there are other first nations that aren't worried about the historical liability but are worried about the future liability, because the contemplation they have for the land they want to use the FNLMA for is environmentally sensitive, and they know they're not going to have any authority over the environment because they can't get the authority over the future operation either without the environmental management agreement.
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Scott Vaughan
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Scott Vaughan
2012-03-08 15:34
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Mr. Chair, thank you very much for this opportunity to discuss our office's work related to aboriginal land use and sustainable development.
Related to this topic, in December 2011 my colleagues briefed this committee on chapter 6 of the Auditor General's fall 2009 report, “Land Management and Environmental Protection on Reserves”. Today, I will be focusing most of my comments on chapter 4 of the Auditor General's spring 2010 report, “Sustaining Development in the Northwest Territories”.
With me today is Frank Barrett, the principal responsible for the audit, and Kim Leach, the principal who also worked on this audit.
The federal government has a mandate to promote political and economic development in the Northwest Territories and to protect the environment. Our audit looked at whether responsible federal departments had laid the foundations for sustainable and balanced development in the Northwest Territories. Specifically, the audit focused on whether Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Environment Canada, and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada had adequately implemented key measures to prepare for sustainable development.
These measures included settling comprehensive land claim agreements and self-government agreements; establishing and implementing a regulatory system that protects the environment; and supporting appropriate economic development and skills training programs for aboriginal peoples in the Northwest Territories.
Comprehensive land claim agreements and self-government agreements set out governance rights and the ownership of land and resource rights. These agreements are therefore important for economic development. They help to provide a level of certainty and predictability for business, industry, communities and governments. Almost all of the Northwest Territories either lies within settled land claim areas or is the subject of ongoing negotiations.
At the time of our audit, four land claim agreements had been finalized. Other land claim and self-government agreements were under negotiation. We found that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada had made constructive efforts to negotiate these agreements and had followed the established processes for their negotiation. As well, the department had used alternative approaches when negotiations appeared to be stalled.
While much remains to be done, in our view the efforts to settle land claim agreements and self-government agreements represent a significant achievement and an important step towards sustainable development in the Northwest Territories.
We have also looked at the environmental regulatory system. Protecting the environment is important particularly because aboriginal communities in the Northwest Territories depend on wildlife, water, and land for subsistence and for economic development opportunities.
We examined whether Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Environment Canada had established and implemented an adequate regulatory system in the Northwest Territories. We found that, in regions with settled land claim agreements, there are systems and structures that support land use plans and provide a means of adequate consultation with communities.
In regions without comprehensive land claim agreements, however, there was uncertainty about aboriginal title to the land, how it might be used, and who should be consulted. Moreover, in those regions without land claim agreements, we noted a lack of specific mechanisms for developing land use plans. Without a formal land use plan, development decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis. Decisions related to project approvals may therefore take longer, because it has not been determined where different types of development should take place and what conditions should be applied.
AANDC also has specific responsibilities for monitoring the cumulative impacts of development. This information is important because it provides co-management boards with environmental information to support informed decision-making on development proposals. Our audit found that 11 years after receiving a mandate to do so, AANDC has not yet put in place a program to monitor cumulative environmental impacts. Similarly, funding for Environment Canada's program that would support cumulative impact monitoring ended in 2007. As a result, neither department has implemented this program.
Our audit also examined skills training and economic development programs for aboriginal communities. We found that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada had established clear objectives and targets for both of their programs that we examined but that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's economic development programs did not have clear objectives and that the department did not monitor its programs' performance or review information reported by funding recipients.
Overall, we concluded that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and Environment Canada had not adequately implemented key measures designed to prepare for sustainable and balanced development in the Northwest Territories.
We have done other audits that have addressed broad issues around environmental protection and sustainable development that affect aboriginal communities. One issue that we hear about from communities, particularly in the north, is the impact of climate change. In another 2010 audit we examined how the federal government was helping communities prepare for and adapt to climate change.
The federal government has confirmed that climate change is already under way, and its impacts will affect every major economic sector, every region, and many communities. Observed impacts are already under way in Canada's north. We found that while good work was under way in helping community leaders understand the localized impacts of climate change, the demand from across Canada was outstripping the ability of the federal government to keep up.
In another 2010 audit we looked at the capacity of the federal government to prepare for and respond to oil spills from ships. Last week the Auditor General was in Iqaluit and heard from their public accounts committee about their concerns around the possible opening of the Northwest Passage and the implications of an oil spill in the north.
Finally, we have also audited different aspects of freshwater management. In 2005, and again in our 2011 follow-up audit of programs for first nations, we found that drinking water quality on reserves was significantly worse than what was found in most Canadian communities.
I should point out that these audits to which I refer are over two years old and we have not looked at these issues since then.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my opening statement. We'll be pleased to take questions from honourable members.
Thank you.
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Harry Bombay
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Harry Bombay
2012-03-08 15:57
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Thank you very much.
I too would like to acknowledge the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation, particularly the Pikwàkanagàn, whose traditional territory we are now meeting on. My thanks to them. I would also like to thank the standing committee for the invitation to be here.
With me is Brad Young. He is our senior policy adviser, and I am the executive director of NAFA, the National Aboriginal Forestry Association.
First I'll tell you a bit about NAFA.
We are a non-governmental first nation-controlled organization focused on research and advocacy activities in the forest sector. We advocate for policy frameworks that address aboriginal rights, values, and interests leading to a more equitable sharing of benefits from the forest resources of this vast land we call Canada.
We wish to contribute to the goal of building an aboriginal forest-based economy. We recognize that an aboriginal forest-based economy cannot be achieved in isolation from the broader forest sector or from the economic realities facing all forest industries in Canada; we do, however, have circumstances, challenges, and opportunities unique to the aboriginal forest sector.
The term “aboriginal forest sector” is probably one you have not heard frequently, or possibly ever before, yet it is probably one the oldest economic sectors in North America, predating the arrival of Europeans and others. For multiple generations, aboriginal people have depended on forests for food, shelter, medicine, and a wide range of forest resources to produce goods and materials, thereby sustaining their livelihood and culture.
For aboriginal people, forests today are every bit as important as they were centuries ago. We have to recognize the significance of forests to future generations of aboriginal people and the potential they offer for the socio-economic advancement of aboriginal communities. It is important, therefore, that the aboriginal forest sector be considered a contemporary concept and an integral component of Canada's economy.
In our work at NAFA with first nations, we have found it necessary to differentiate the aboriginal forest sector from the broader forest sector in Canada. What is different about the aboriginal forest sector is that our forest values with respect to forest land and resource use does not mirror those of the dominant forest industries. Also, the form of business ownership and forest management governance is community-based rather than controlled by multinational corporations. Statutory and jurisdictional arrangements with respect to our forested lands, though largely inadequate from a management and development point of view, are specific to first nations. The focus of aboriginal forest-based development is on smaller-scale operations and value-added products and services rather than the mass production of commodities. Finally, there are niche markets for aboriginal-produced forest products that differ from those of large forest companies.
My purpose in emphasizing that the aboriginal forest sector is different is to point out the need for specially focused programming, policy, and institutional support to advance the aboriginal forest sector. The federal and provincial governments provide access to forest resources for the broader forest sector and have helped to support the forest industries in many ways. Programs like the pulp and paper green transformation program, the Canada wood export program, and others have been a means by which the federal government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years in forest products development and in the industries that produce them. The aboriginal forest sector, however, receives no such recognition and support.
Considering that the federal government has constitutional responsibility for Indians and lands reserved for Indians and that 80% of first nations communities are located in forest-producing areas of the country, creating the conditions for aboriginal forest development should be a priority. The new federal framework for aboriginal economic development does not reflect this as a priority.
Despite the lack of attention to the aboriginal forest sector as an important segment of the economy, aboriginal people are gaining prominence in forest sector activity. Through court decisions, land claim settlements, and increased access to provincial forest tenures, aboriginal people in some parts of the country now have access to resources in significant volume, warranting new approaches to support the diversification of the aboriginal forest sector.
To advance the aboriginal forest sector and its diversification, policy and program support is needed in the following areas: capacity development support to first nations governance to enable effective, sustainable forest management at the community level; human resource development in professional and technical skill areas related to forest-based development; investment capital, of course; forest research and research and development support with respect to forest land management and forest product development; marketing and market development support for existing businesses and new entrants to the sector, which would advance the aboriginal causes in the sector; and institutional arrangements with respect to management of the forested land base, which would enable forest resource access and effective land use consistent with community values.
Now, concerning the aboriginal land base that is potentially available to aboriginal people for forest sector activity, there are basically three categories of land: provincial crown lands, treaty settlement lands, and Indian reserves. These three categories of land each come with different jurisdictional arrangements.
Right now, the vast majority of first nations and aboriginal people and companies involved in forest sector activity operate on crown land. Stated another way, aboriginal forest resources development occurs in the traditional territories of first nations in accordance with provincial tenure systems or through contracting with forest companies.
Though reluctantly, some provinces are engaging first nations through consultation processes, resulting in an increased number of aboriginal-held forest tenures. Forest tenure is becoming an acceptable interim measure to aboriginal and treaty rights recognition for some first nations.
Currently first nations collectively hold across the country approximately 13 million cubic metres of timber. In some parts of the country, the issue is becoming market access for aboriginal producers, considering that the forest industries in Canada are experiencing a long-term downturn as a result of their decreased competitiveness at the global level.
With respect to forested land under the jurisdiction of first nations that have settled land claims or have entered into modern-day treaties, land management regimes addressing forest management are being implemented. There are, however, only a handful of such cases, and where this is occurring, it is normally the practice to adopt provincial standards. As you know, most land claim settlements have occurred in the northern regions of the country, where commercial forestry is not prevalent. Thus, we don't have a great deal of experience in terms of forest management through land claims and treaty land settlement agreements.
The reserve land base falls under federal jurisdiction, specifically under sections 93 and 57 of the Indian Act and the Indian timber regulations made pursuant to those sections. The inadequacy of this management regime has been described in numerous studies and reports, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996, and by the Auditor General on at least three occasions since 1986.
The forest management regime provides authority not to first nations but to the Minister of AANDC, and only for the cutting of timber. The forest management regime does not address environmental or sustainability issues, nor does it call for forest management planning on the part of first nations. The result has been overharvesting, lack of reforestation, inadequate site tending, and overall mismanagement on Indian reserve lands.
In 1996 NAFA proposed a first nation forest resources management act as optional and alternative legislation to the Indian Act. This is much like the First Nations Land Management Act. Our legislative proposal, however, encountered major stumbling blocks, particularly those centred around federal liability for the past mismanagement of reserve forests and also the cost of forest land rehabilitation.
The primary reason Indian reserve forests have not garnered much attention lately has been the reduced demand for timber by the large forest industries. It has been said by certain parties that on their own, Indian reserve forests are small, and the majority do not contain merchantable timber in volumes sufficient to support any notion of a viable forestry operation.
This is not our view at NAFA. Our view is that Indian reserve forests should be models of sustainable forest management practices in Canada, despite their small size. This should begin with forest management regimes that value uses other than timber and enable first nations to innovate and combine reserve land resources with those acquired otherwise, such as forest tenure from the provinces.
To conclude, we feel it is important for the federal government to acknowledge the aboriginal forest sector, its needs and potential. The federal government could play a key role in implementing measures to support the aboriginal forest sector. In the broader forest sector, the federal government is responsible for issues of importance to the national economy, including trade and international relations as well as federal lands and parks, and it has constitutional, treaty, political, and legal responsibilities for aboriginal peoples and their interests.
The federal government has jurisdictional responsibility for “Indians, and lands reserved for Indians”, a fiduciary obligation for the good management of first nations interests, and a constitutional duty to protect aboriginal treaty rights and in some circumstances to accommodate aboriginal treaty rights. Despite this responsibility, the federal government has been quite silent on the relationship between aboriginal rights and interests and forest management in Canada. Supporting the aboriginal forest sector would be thinking outside the box and would be considered a proactive approach to many of the aforementioned issues.
Thank you very much.
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Gilbert W. Whiteduck
View Gilbert W. Whiteduck Profile
Gilbert W. Whiteduck
2012-02-07 16:32
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There are not a lot of environmental issues because we have put in place an internal system in which we try to make regulations. I will give you an example concerning the transfer of contaminated soil.
This year, we observed individuals who have lots in the community that went and got contaminated soil from the village of Maniwaki to put on their allotments within the community. So we wondered what we could do. We contacted Environment Quebec, Environment Canada and the Department of Indian Affairs, but no one wanted to do anything. The soil is now there and it is going to have an impact on the water. We are trying to introduce an administrative regulation to control this sort of situation. We expected that representatives of Indian Affairs, who are always concerned about responsibility issues, would intervene or even that Environment Canada would intervene, but no one wanted to act. That is unacceptable.
So we are going to put in place regulations that will be a bit tougher. We look at what Quebec has already put in place to figure out what we can introduce in the way of regulation. These are examples of what private individuals can so sometimes when they own lots. There have to be regulations.
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View Dennis Bevington Profile
NDP (NT)
Is there any ability for a band to understand where the permits, the ATRs, are within the system? Is there some transparency within the department such that you can say, this is now on this desk or that desk?
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Gilbert W. Whiteduck
View Gilbert W. Whiteduck Profile
Gilbert W. Whiteduck
2012-02-07 16:46
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To some extent there is, but it took me four years to convince the regional office to provide me with a timeline chart so that I knew where a file was when it was out of their hands and they were waiting for a response. The representative finally did produce one. It was helpful, but it took four years.
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View Wladyslaw Lizon Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would like to direct my first question, through you, to Mr. Sibbeston.
In your presentation you referred to the Dehcho First Nations and the offer that was rejected. What brought you to the conclusion you presented to us that the federal government and others were trying to take advantage of the Dehcho First Nations with that offer? Why would you come to that conclusion?
As you probably very well know, in any approach to a project or to exploration or eventually to a mining project, the project has to be very widely assessed on the economic side, as well. Anybody who wants to explore and eventually mine is looking for a profit. If the undertaking were not profitable, they would withdraw. They would not proceed.
Why would you come to the conclusion you presented to us?
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View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Sticking with the tripartite agreement, you mentioned accountability for tax dollars. Does the framework have an accountability mechanism built into it? How are we ensuring that there is accountability for the federal dollars and federal investments in first nations health?
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View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
CPC (NU)
View Leona Aglukkaq Profile
2011-11-21 16:13
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Thank you for that question.
That agreement does include accountability measures, not only financially, in the area of annual audit functions, but also in terms of accountability measures on what population health indicators we're dealing with and targeted investments related to the challenges in population health. The accountability goes beyond just the dollars, but rather how we improve better health outcomes based on the health of first nations in that jurisdiction.
Through the signing of the agreement, we're promoting a better model of health services to integrate that. It integrates with provinces collectively for before hospital care and hospital care, because the provinces deliver provincial hospital care. So it's a better integration of that.
When we signed the agreement in October, we agreed to provide resources. As I said, the first nations health authority will organize a governance structure with principles that are legally binding. There are a number of provisions, again, for accountability of the board—they will need to meet, health outcomes, financial pieces. So the accountability measure is quite broad. But again, it’s the first of its kind in health, not just this agreement but with any agreement in Canada. This is the most focused in all aspects of delivering health, not just the financial piece of it.
Thank you.
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