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Perry Bellegarde
View Perry Bellegarde Profile
Perry Bellegarde
2019-06-18 11:26
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
[Witness spoke in Cree]
To all the distinguished members of the committee, I'm very happy to be here acknowledging you all as friends and relatives. I also acknowledge the Algonquin peoples for hosting this on their ancestral lands. For me, from our AFN, I'm happy to be here.
I want to share some perspectives. I'm very honoured to speak here on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations regarding Bill C-100. I'll also say a few words about the process to negotiate, ratify and implement the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement.
Trade in resources and goods in this land, I always say, began with us, the indigenous peoples. The participation now in 2019 in international trade should not be seen merely as part of history. Going forward, how do we get more involved?
As self-determining peoples, we have interests and rights respecting today's international trade agreements. We've always said that for far too long we have not seen the benefits from international trade flow to our businesses or to our communities as first nations people. These facts should form a part of legal and political frameworks when Canada explores new free trade agreements. I've always said, from a first nations perspective in Canada, that whenever Canada goes out to negotiate or discuss anything from softwood lumber to trees, anything from potash in southern Saskatchewan, to uranium in the north or any oil, coal, or whatever natural resource it is, indigenous peoples should be involved and should be participating, because there's respect or reference that we still have unextinguished aboriginal title and rights to the land and territory and resources. It's a simple fact. So we need to be involved.
When Canada, through Minister Chrystia Freeland, welcomed me to be on the NAFTA advisory committee, it was very important, because to date, indigenous peoples haven't been involved. We also had indigenous officials working as part of the working group. In the end, we'll say that this work resulted in the most inclusive international trade agreement for indigenous peoples to date. It's not perfect, but to date it's the best that we have in Canada.
With the ratification of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, we would take a step to making international trade more aware of and more equitable in its treatment of indigenous peoples, and especially for indigenous women entrepreneurs. We still have more work to do.
We believe the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement is a step in the right direction with the new general exception for indigenous rights with respect to inherent and aboriginal and treaty rights. As well, with specific preferences to carve out procurement benefits and other opportunities for indigenous businesses and service providers, there's also a promise of future co-operation to enhance indigenous businesses. As well, importantly, the investor-state dispute settlement process, which was a threat to indigenous people's rights, will be phased out for Canada. This is the groundwork for positive change.
While the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement is a new example of the difference it makes to engage with indigenous peoples at an early stage, there must be increased opportunities for first nations participation not only in international trade negotiations but also in trade missions.
Canada should extend an official role to first nations in negotiations of all international agreements on trade and investments that impact inherent treaty aboriginal rights. This would better reflect the nation-to-nation relationship and the whole-of-government commitment by Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the inclusion of first nations leads to better decisions and better outcomes.
With regard to Bill C-100, what I'm recommending to all the committee members here is that there should be in place a non-derogation clause. It's a safe clause, that nothing in this agreement will affect existing aboriginal treaty rights, which are affirmed in section 35 of Canada's Constitution. I'm making that recommendation as well as that it be interpreted and implemented consistent with those rights in section 35. It's good to have it ratified by Canada, the United States and Mexico on one hand, but each nation-state will come back and do some sort of legislation with the implementation. That's the piece we're looking at making the recommendation on. I'm not advising that we open up the agreement; no, leave it the way it is, but move in tandem with the other two countries to get it ratified. We have to be careful to be not too fast and not too slow, because if one of the three countries doesn't get it ratified, the deal is not going to be implemented.
It's not just that international trade and investment agreements can impact our rights, but also how the agreement is implemented through domestic regulatory and policy matters. That has to be looked at. Once the agreement is ratified, we must work together to realize the economic gains and ensure the provisions related to indigenous peoples in international trade agreements are implemented in a manner that brings greater economic equity to first nations peoples.
The first area where indigenous peoples can see the benefits from this agreement is government procurement. Procurement is always a big thing. Everybody says this should be easy, that it's low-hanging fruit. Canada must move from policies and objectives to mandatory requirements for procuring goods and services from first nations businesses. The Assembly of First Nations is ready to work with Canada to make sure we develop legislation together for social procurement that benefits first nations and other indigenous peoples.
The only other thing I'd like to share here before concluding is there are three or four very important bills we want to see passed before this week is up. Bill C-91 on languages, Bill C-92 on child welfare, and two private members' bills, Bill C-262 and Bill C-337, all need to be passed. If in the event the legislature is called back, those should form the priority. But we're hoping and praying that all MPs, all the leadership here on Parliament Hill, will get behind and pass those pieces of legislation as soon as possible.
That's it, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the time.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
The interim report was really a compilation of all the previous reports, and so that was what we were able to respond to. I think, regarding the needed changes to child and family services that are reflected in Bill C-92, we need to be aggressive about those changes. We know that there's significant money being invested, unfortunately, in lawyers apprehending children and in agencies and non-indigenous foster families. It has to go to community to prevent that. That's where, I think, there needs to be significant work. I don't think I really understood that certain communities were doing much better because they just refused to abide by provincial laws and kept jurisdiction of their children.
I think the other issue is the ongoing racism and sexism in policing. We are calling on the Senate to pass Rona Ambrose's bill. We have to get that judicial education, and we have to do a much better job on that. I think the racism and sexism throughout all of our institutions is something that the commission has really underlined, how prevalent and sinister it is across our country.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, I would have to disagree with that, honourable member.
After the interim report, there was an off-cycle budget for $50 million that included the money for healing, the money for commemoration, the special unit in the RCMP and in policing. There are billions of dollars here in the estimates on housing, and all of the things that are truly moving forward. As I've said before, to me, as a family doctor and as a mother, the changes to child and family services, Bill C-92, are transformational. The fact that once again nations will have jurisdiction over their children and their youth and will no longer be vulnerable, preyed upon, to me, is transformational.
As well, the commission really made strong calls for justice on language. I think that Minister Rodriguez, in Bill C-91, has done important work there. Everything we have done is about changing the relationship, which was a colonized approach, one of paternalism, of disempowerment, to one of empowerment and a real respect for indigenous rights, and a relationship based on respect and partnership and co-operation.
View Carolyn Bennett Profile
Lib. (ON)
In our first budget, we maintained historic investments. In 2016, the government provided $2.6 billion over five years to respond to call to action 8, which calls for the elimination of the discrepancy in education funding for first nations children being educated on reserves and first nations children being educated off reserves. In 2017, the government invested $1.7 billion over 10 years to respond to call to action 12, which calls for the development of culturally appropriate early childhood education programs for indigenous families. In 2018, the government invested $1.4 billion over six years to respond to call to action 1 and help reduce the number of indigenous children in care in the child welfare system. There was also Bill C-92, which is very important.
View Seamus O'Regan Profile
Lib. (NL)
Before getting into my remarks, I would like to, first of all, thank members of the committee for their work over the last month studying Bill C-92 and the proposed amendments. The amendments accepted last week from all sides strengthened this bill. As many of you know, I was glad to see that it passed third reading last night unanimously. Thank you very much. Your hard work on this was really appreciated.
A vital component of our government's renewed relationship with indigenous peoples is our commitment to take action and dismantle the colonial structures of the past. Since the Prime Minister's announcement on August 28, 2017, my officials and Minister Bennett's officials have been working hard to establish the necessary structures and processes to make this transformation a reality.
In 2019-20, we look forward to dissolving Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and in its place creating Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada as one department and Indigenous Services Canada as another. This change will better enable the government to continue its work on a renewed relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. It better positions the government to build that relationship while closing the socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous people and improving the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis people. It finally responds to a very clear recommendation by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Our focus at Indigenous Services Canada is working with partners to improve access to high-quality services for indigenous people. Our vision is to support and empower indigenous peoples to independently deliver services and address socio-economic conditions in their communities as they move forward on the path to self-determination.
As Minister of Indigenous Services, I am continuing the important work of improving the quality of services delivered to first nations, Inuit and Métis. This includes ensuring a consistent, high-quality and distinctions-based approach to the delivery of these services. A rigorous results and delivery approach is being adopted, focused on improving outcomes for indigenous people. Over time it is our goal that indigenous peoples will directly deliver programs and services to their peoples. We are working with partners to do this. I am working my way out of a job.
I would like to turn your attention to the reason that I am here today. I am now pleased to present to you my department's main estimates for 2019-20, which would total $12.3 billion if approved by Parliament. The 2019-20 main estimates reflect a net increase of about $2.9 billion, or 32%, compared to last year's main estimates. The net increase in budgetary spending primarily reflects the continuation of our investments in budgets 2016, 2017 and 2018 and in our most recent budget: all in all, investments totalling $21.3 billion to support stronger indigenous communities and to improve socio-economic outcomes.
Here are a few examples of where this year's increase will help.
There is $404.1 million in renewed funding for Jordan's principle: supporting children who need orthodontics, medical transportation, respite, land-based culture camps, medical supplies and equipment, educational assistance, mentorship, wheelchair ramps, vehicles, nutritional supplements.
There is an increase of $481.5 million for the first nations water and waste-water enhanced program, improving monitoring and testing of on-reserve community drinking water, and building on investments that have not only led to the lifting of 85 long-term drinking water advisories since 2015, but that also keep us on track to lift all LTDWAs by March 2021.
There will be an increase of $357.9 million related to non-insured health benefits for first nations people and Inuit.
There will be an increase of $324.8 million for infrastructure projects in indigenous communities.
There is an increase of $317 million for the first nations child and family services program, ensuring the actual costs of first nations child and family services agencies are covered fully, but also supporting initiatives to keep children and families together.
There is an increase of $300.2 million for first nations elementary and secondary education, supporting a renewed approach for K-to-12 education on reserve as co-developed by us and the Assembly of First Nations.
There is an increase of $113.6 million to build healthier first nations and Inuit communities, including our work to eliminate tuberculosis in Inuit Nunangat by 2030.
And there is an increase of $101.1 million to advance the new fiscal relationship with first nations under the Indian Act.
These investments continue to build on the work we have already done to foster a renewed relationship based on respect, co-operation and partnership. Together with indigenous partners, we are working hard to improve the quality of life for first nations, Inuit and Métis people. Through budget 2019, we are making investments in first nations and Inuit health, social development, education and infrastructure.
In addition to Jordan's principle and ensuring first nations children now receive the services they need when they need them, our investments in the child first initiative ensure that Inuit children have access to the essential government-funded health, social and educational products, services and supports that they need when they need them.
Budget 2019 proposes an investment of $220 million over five years to the Inuit-specific child first initiative, which will address the immediate needs of Inuit children. This investment would also support the ongoing work among the Government of Canada, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Inuit regions, and provinces and territories to develop a long-term Inuit-specific approach to better address the unique health, social and education needs of Inuit children.
There are also new investments to address urgent health and wellness needs to reduce suicide rates in Inuit communities. In order to deal with the ongoing suicide crisis in the Inuit communities, $5 million has been set aside to support the national Inuit suicide prevention strategy.
The government is also making unprecedented new investments in indigenous post-secondary education, including 2019's proposal for $327.5 million over five years to renew and expand funding for the post-secondary student support program while the government engages with first nations on the development of integrated regional education strategies.
There is $125.5 million over 10 years, and $21.8 million ongoing to support an Inuit-led post-secondary strategy, and $362 million over 10 years, and $40 million ongoing to support a Métis Nation strategy.
Starting this fiscal year, a new transfer to first nations communities, entitled “Grant to support the new fiscal relationship for First Nations under the lndian Act”, more commonly known as the 10-year grant, has been implemented.
More than 250 first nations expressed interest in the 10-year grant; 103 first nations were determined to be eligible based on criteria that we co-developed with first nations partners. They have received an offer, and I am happy to say that 83 first nations have now signed 10-year grant agreements.
The new grant, representing $1.5 billion, is funded through the existing programs of Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, which are primarily related to education, social development, infrastructure, and first nations and Inuit health programs.
To ensure that the 10-year grants grow with the needs of first nations, budget 2019 proposes that starting April 1, 2020, funding for core programs and services provided through the 10-year grants will be escalated to address key cost drivers, including inflation and population growth. The 10-year grant provides communities with the flexibility and predictability needed to support effective and independent long-term planning. This initiative is a key part for establishing a new fiscal relationship that moves towards sufficient, predictable and sustained funding for first nations communities.
Last, I think it's imperative for me to highlight the work of everyone involved in making progress on our commitment to end long-term drinking water advisories on public systems on reserve by March, 2021. Since 2015, a total of 85 long-term drinking water advisories have been lifted, and 126 short-term drinking water advisories were lifted before becoming long term. We are well on our way to meeting our commitment. This will be aided through the 2019-20 main estimates by an additional $66.7 million proposed by budget 2019, which has been dedicated to keeping us on track. I am extremely proud of this, as all Canadians should have access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water.
We have made, and are continuing to make, important changes in the government's relationship with first nations, Inuit and Métis people. While there is still a lot of work to do, our government's historic investments are making a difference in closing the gaps that exist, and improving the quality of life for indigenous peoples.
I'd now be happy to answer any questions that the committee may have.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
I'd like to call the meeting to order and thank everybody for attending.
We have very important work to do today. We are going to go through a very significant bill related to child and family services.
We are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people. It is part of the initial process of understanding the truth of Canada's history and moving toward reconciliation. I am privileged to be a resident on Treaty 1 and the homeland of the Métis people.
As is customary, are there any objections to moving the definitions and the preamble to the end? I see none, thank you.
I believe I've asked for printed copies be circulated.
Since we have no amendments in clauses 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, shall clauses 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 carry?
(Clauses 2 to 6 inclusive agreed to)
(On clause 7)
The Chair: We have a proposed amendment on clause 7.
Mrs. McLeod.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Madam Chair, we heard through the committee hearings that the degree of discussion with the provinces and territories was anywhere from minimal to, in some cases, non-existent.
This Liberal government prides itself in saying it is collaborative, that it's going to work in collaboration and build relationships. I believe all the provinces probably exceed the standards or are equivalent, but to take a piece of legislation and impose it on the provinces in an area of their constitutional jurisdiction is sort of.... It should have had agreement and sign-off by the provinces, as we also heard from some constitutional lawyers.
The amendment to clause 7 is meant to respect the provinces and territories. This government has work to do in that area.
View Mike Bossio Profile
Lib. (ON)
Based on what we heard during the co-development of this bill, the proposed legislation was meant to be binding on the provinces and territories. To proceed with such an amendment would reduce the impact of the bill, as its principles and provisions would not be applied by provincial and territorial service providers.
We do not recommend supporting this amendment.
View William Amos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View William Amos Profile
2019-05-28 8:55
I have a brief comment further to that notion that this is somehow trenching on provincial jurisdiction. It's very clear, and we've seen multiple academic journals and received testimony to the effect that it is fully within federal jurisdiction. To suggest otherwise would necessarily be suggesting that the indigenous peoples of Canada don't have these rights. That's not only incorrect, but bordering on offensive.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
I take exception to that comment.
When you perhaps have someone who is living off reserve in Toronto, or another urban setting where the communities have not assumed responsibility, you have a provincial system that has responsibility under our Constitution.
This is not offensive. This is strictly about ensuring you have had that conversation with the provinces and territories. You talk about co-development. Co-development should have included the provinces and the territories.
View Kevin Waugh Profile
View Kevin Waugh Profile
2019-05-28 8:57
Madam Chair, I would agree with the last statement.
We heard from the Saskatoon Tribal Council, off reserve, where there are issues in my city of Saskatoon. There are issues in Manitoba. There are issues in Saskatchewan and Ontario.
I just want it on the record that there are issues off reserve, and this is why this statement is important.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(Clause 7 agreed to on division)
(On clause 8)
View Mike Bossio Profile
Lib. (ON)
There were many requests made for Canada to incorporate, as a purpose to the bill, a reference to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We've heard that call and would recommend adding a third purpose to the bill, which would seek to clarify that the bill aims at contributing to the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
We will be supporting this amendment.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
If this amendment is adopted, then NDP-2 and Independent-1 cannot be moved. The concept of UNDRIP is already covered by the LIB-1 amendment.
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: We have PV-5.
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