Thank you, Madam Chair, for the welcome and the opportunity to be with you today.
I want to acknowledge that we are gathering for this meeting on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
It is a pleasure to meet again with the members of this committee. I would like to start by thanking you for the important work you are doing.
I appreciated your report on wildfires and fire safety on reserve, and I look forward to the results of your study on long-term care on reserve.
Last week, as you know, the Minister of Finance reminded us in his fall economic statement that the Government of Canada is committed to growing the middle class, which means creating an environment for indigenous peoples to access the opportunities that will enable them to be part of the thriving middle class.
It's no secret that those who have faced some of the most severe economic disadvantages in this country for a very long time are indigenous peoples. I want to assure committee members that we are hard at work to change this reality for indigenous peoples in Canada. We have made good progress in our work to close the socio-economic gaps for indigenous peoples.
I will be happy to answer any questions about that progress today.
Today I will be outlining my department's supplementary estimates A, funding which is crucial to address the broad socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada.
As you know, in January 2018, we identified five interconnected priority areas where Indigenous Services Canada plays an important role. These are child and family services, education, health outcomes, infrastructure and economic prosperity.
Although the appropriations in budget 2018 are reflected in the main estimates of the Treasury Board Secretariat, I would like to take a moment to outline some of the ways this funding is supporting these priorities.
We must address the humanitarian crisis of far too many indigenous children being taken into care. Budget 2018 provides more than $1.4 billion in new funding over six years for first nations child and family services. We are currently working with indigenous partners as well as provinces and territories to reform child and family services, with a focus on prevention and with the idea of keeping children safe and families together. This includes exploring the co-development of options for federal child and family services legislation and supporting the exercise of jurisdiction over child and family services by indigenous communities.
We must also address the unacceptable health outcome gaps in first nations and Inuit communities across the country. To close these gaps, budget 2018 announced more than $1.5 billion over five years, starting this fiscal year, and $149 million per year, ongoing, for health programs. This funding will help, among other things, Inuit-specific approaches to prevent suicide and eradicate tuberculosis. It will also provide resources to address the opioid crisis in first nations communities.
In terms of first nations education, we know the graduation rates don't match those of non-indigenous Canadians, and we've made progress on a co-developed education policy reform that puts the emphasis on self-determination in education. We have also built and renovated schools and increased funding for post-secondary programs.
Another area of priority is addressing the infrastructure need. Both budget 2017 and budget 2018 are providing $1.5 billion in funding towards distinctions-based housing strategies: a co-developed first nations housing strategy; an Inuit-led housing strategy for the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and lnuvialuit; and a Métis Nation housing strategy.
As well, Budget 2018 provides $172.6 million over three years for clean drinking water on reserve. To date, we are on track to lift all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. We have now lifted 75, with 66 to go. This information and all updates on changes to drinking water advisories are available on our website.
I want to spend a few minutes on our fifth priority, that of economic prosperity. The Government of Canada is committed to building a new fiscal relationship with first nations communities, one that will result in sufficient, predictable and sustained funding. This relationship will be built on co-created solutions that support self-determination and accountability of first nations governments to their citizens.
To that end, the Government of Canada agrees with first nations who have told us that the First Nations Financial Transparency Act needs to be replaced with a respectful approach to the accountability relationship between Canada and first nations. That is why we are moving forward with first nations partners on the co-development of a mutual accountability framework, which was a recommendation from the new fiscal relationship report that was produced with the Assembly of First Nations and published in December 2017.
My department and the AFN recently established a joint committee on fiscal relations, which will provide advice on this important co-development work. The recommendations from the committee will be shared starting in spring 2019.
Let me now turn to the supplementary estimates (A).
Indigenous Services Canada requires immediate funds to continue delivering on our mandate of closing socio-economic gaps and advancing self-determination.
These estimates reflect a net increase of $1.23 billion, which brings the total appropriations for 2018-19 for my department to $10.9 billion. The largest portion of this increase, $1.18 billion, is in vote 10, grants and contributions, primarily for water and other infrastructure, and for Jordan's principle. I will touch on three of these initiatives.
Funding of $423 million would be provided for the first nations water and wastewater enhanced program and to monitor and test on-reserve drinking water. This funding is critical to build on our priority work in this area. Projects like the water treatment plant upgrades and repairs, and the training of operators through the circuit rider training program are supported by this funding.
Jordan's principle ensures that all first nations children have access to the health, social, and education products, supports, and services they need, when they need them. Funding of $323 million will support care delivery under Jordan's principle. Since its inception, the reach of Jordan's principle has expanded to apply equally to all first nations children living on or off reserve. From July 2016 to September 2018, more than 165,000 requests for supports and services were approved under Jordan's principle.
To assist with the infrastructure crisis in first nations communities, we are requesting $287 million in funding through these estimates. The funding would address critical infrastructure needs, including housing, and help communities plan in accordance with the construction cycle. With this funding, communities would be able to explore innovative and new approaches to meeting their housing and infrastructure needs.
These supplementary estimates (A), should they be approved by this committee, would make a direct difference in people's lives, in a manner that advances reconciliation.
I thank you for this opportunity, and I am pleased to take your questions.