Right Hon. Paul Martin (LaSalle—Émard, Lib.):
First of all Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank you and the other members of the committee for having invited me in connection with the review of Bill C-292.
Mr. Chair, I want to thank you for the opportunity you're providing Mr. Goodale, Mr. Scott and me to speak to you as you commence consideration of Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord.
What is the accord about? First and foremost, it's about reducing the shameful gaps between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians, gaps that exist no matter where they reside, gaps in health, in education, in housing, in clean water and economic opportunity.
It's about working better. It's about governments and aboriginal leaders, working in partnership and in collaboration, finding new, innovative solutions, holding ourselves accountable by setting targets and by reporting on results.
Each of the policy areas agreed upon in Kelowna was subject to careful cabinet consideration. They were fully costed and built into the fiscal framework. I want to state without any equivocation--and I'm sure the former Minister of Finance who was with me will confirm this--that the $5.1 billion committed to in Kelowna was fully within the fiscal framework. Any suggestion that we had not accounted for these expenditures is without foundation.
The Kelowna Accord was what triggered a specific commitment: over a 10-year period, to take steps to reduce an unacceptable socioeconomic divide.
The accord commits the government authorities, whether federal, provincial or territorial, to develop implementation plans and to set objectives for each of the provinces and territories, working together with the appropriate Aboriginal authorities in each province and territory.
Mr. Scott and I, for example, following Kelowna, were able to conclude with the Government of British Columbia and the British Columbia first nations leadership the Transformative Change Accord, which is a focused action plan that sets out specific shared goals and the steps to achieve them, all in the areas, as I've mentioned, of education, clean water, health, housing, and economic opportunities. This was the first of what would have been action plans in each part of the country to allow us to tailor approaches to the unique circumstances of aboriginal Canadians in each province or territory.
Mr. Chairman, the question really is partnership and collaboration, innovative solutions, hard targets, and reporting on results. Why does anybody want to shy away from this? Why would anybody object to hard targets, to all of the governments coming together to deal with the very issues that are at the foundation of the shameful poverty in which aboriginal Canadians find themselves?
On September 12, 2004, first ministers and national aboriginal leaders met to address important aboriginal health issues. At that meeting we made a federal investment of $700 million in the aboriginal health blueprint. This was to help build modern, integrated health services for first nations and other aboriginal Canadians, and to train aboriginal health professionals to work in nursing and in medicine.
At that time, the first ministers and aboriginal leaders agreed that there should be a first ministers meeting directed at the root causes of aboriginal poverty. This was the beginning of a journey that 14 months later led us to our destination--the meeting held in Kelowna, British Columbia.
Those short months allowed all governments and each of the aboriginal organizations to consult academics, community professionals, and experts. Those months allowed all of the aboriginal leadership gathered under the various organizations to ensure that all who were present were equipped with the best solutions, both in and out of the box, going into the meeting.
As first ministers, we were determined in Kelowna, Mr. Chairman, to develop better harmonization of programs and services, recognizing the central role of aboriginal governments and service providers in this whole area and seeking to end the jurisdictional turnstile that limits program efficiency and effectiveness.
For instance, the aboriginal health blueprint was designed to ensure for the first time that we had a seamless harmonization of our health delivery systems for aboriginal Canadians in every province and territory. Officials and ministers worked to ensure that the issues of aboriginal women were front and centre, and we committed at Kelowna to hold an aboriginal women's summit to move forward on issues too long ignored. That summit should have been held by now.
We worked to ensure that no longer was the Métis nation excluded from intergovernmental processes and that all governments were committed to ensuring Métis-specific adaptation of programs and services. We worked hard to ensure programs for the Inuit that were tailored to work in the unique conditions of northern Canada, and we worked to ensure that for the first time ever, federal funding was available to assist provinces and territories in adapting approaches to serve the very pressing needs of the growing urban aboriginal population in very significant ways.
All of the governments agreed that education was essential for any progress to be made, and that it was the key factor in improving the economic status of Aboriginal Canadians, and for providing them with better employment prospects, for giving them the means to exploit economic opportunities, and in general improve their health and living conditions.
We agreed under the Kelowna Accord to establish a regional school system for the first nations and to provide them the support they desire in addition to the legal authority needed to implement modern institutional structures and to manage institutions responsibly so that young Aboriginal people can be provided with a quality education.
The provinces and territories committed to this and agreed to cooperate in setting up such a system, to ensure that it would mesh with the existing public education system and train future teachers and education professionals to work in these institutions under the authority of the first nations. They also made a commitment to take various measures to improve learning conditions for young Aboriginal people in the pubic education institutions that most of them attend.
These measures include the following: encouraging family participation in education; establishing local objectives about the number of young Aboriginal people completing Grade 12; facilitating the transition of public education systems to the new first nations education system and vice-versa; working together with Aboriginal educators and parents to meet the needs of children encountering learning difficulties and on curriculum development; lastly, and this is every bit as important, to increase the number of teachers and education professionals who are Aboriginal people and to increase the Aboriginal content of programs of study dispensed in each province and territory.
Mr. Chairman, I could speak to the other innovative aspects of the Kelowna accord. Undoubtedly, we will get into this in the discussion to follow. But given the time constraints, let me close by speaking to a very different area of importance. That is the agreement that all governments, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, are to hold themselves accountable to reporting publicly on progress.
Governments have never been short on rhetoric when it comes to the aboriginal file. Setting agreed-upon objectives, establishing regional targets, and public reporting were designed to ensure that all governments—aboriginal and non-aboriginal, federal, provincial, and territorial—were accountable for progress. In this way, the results, not rhetoric, become the objective. Despair would be replaced by hope as we move forward. We set ambitious targets to eliminate the gaps in educational achievement and housing and to make significant strides in health care and clean water. Mr. Chairman, these targets are fully achievable with the right innovation, investment, and partnership.
A new forum of federal, provincial, and territorial ministers, and aboriginal leaders would ensure progress and keep us on track. The accord specified this forum would meet annually and that it would be mandated to take corrective action. This forum, Mr. Chairman, should be meeting now. The days of empty promises were over, to be replaced by a focus on the results achieved and the successes won. What all of us believed is that we had to establish an accountability framework, and that the setting of goals, the reporting of data, and the court of public opinion would ensure that each government and each organization would challenge its respective officials and institutional partners to make progress. In that way, real results would benchmark the track that we were on, to share the best practices based on what each jurisdiction was doing better than another, to bring progress everywhere, and to ensure that no one was left behind.
Parliament and parliamentarians now have the opportunity to act. All the parties to the Kelowna accord—the aboriginal leadership; provincial and territorial governments, of all political stripes; and all opposition parties in the House—support the Kelowna accord. They support its goals and its principles.
Mr. Chairman, the Government of Canada gave its word in Kelowna. So let me just say that first ministers, aboriginal leaders, and Canadians across the country are watching us. I would encourage all members of this committee to support the speedy passage of Bill C-292.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.):
Thank you very much.
Ms. Neville, I appreciate the questions, and without getting too abstract about the way the Department of Finance works, let me just say that Mr. Martin has been emphatic about the money issue, and so have I, because it's true.
There is a document within the Department of Finance that is maintained and updated on a regular basis. It is known as the sources and uses table, which you referred to. This is the instrument by which the Minister of Finance keeps a running tally of the revenues coming in and the expenditures going out, especially between the annual budgets and the formal fall update. You could say that the spring budget is the ultimate sources and uses table and that the fall update is the penultimate table. But government has to function all the time, not just twice a year. So the sources and uses table is that ongoing, up-to-date tally of the government's fiscal position.
As Mr. Martin has said, the Kelowna accord was the product of 18 months of hard work and consultation among the Government of Canada, the provinces and territories, and Canada's aboriginal organizations. In the several weeks leading up to Kelowna, the federal cabinet examined and approved the policy ideas that the Government of Canada would put forward at the meeting. They were debated and costed by Mr. Scott's officials in INAC and by my officials in the Department of Finance. The Prime Minister and I agreed upon a financial envelope in the range of $5.1 billion to $5.2 billion to meet the policy decisions that the government had taken.
When I presented the 2005 economic and fiscal update on November 14, the Kelowna meeting of course had not yet been held and the accord had not yet been concluded at that point, but we were at that point able to anticipate where things were headed. So in the update, I signalled the importance of the Kelowna process and the items that would be coming from the Kelowna meeting, and I committed to investing, as Minister of Finance on behalf of Canadians, in the outcomes of the Kelowna meeting, and the money was earmarked for that purpose.
The meeting was held 10 days after the fiscal update, on November 24. The results were exactly what we anticipated. They were announced, as Mr. Martin has indicated, and the booking of the required money in fact occurred on November 24, 2005, in the sources and uses table bearing that date, under the heading “Post Update Decisions”--not plans, not ideas, not suggestions, not vague notions. The word was “decisions”, and the amount booked was $5.096 billion.
It was broken down into the various categories that Kelowna discussed: education, housing and water, governance, economic opportunities, and health. Those are the policy areas that Mr. Scott led in the discussions, and that created the frame for the Kelowna outcomes.
How easily can the sources and uses table be changed? Not very easily. Once something is in the table, it can't be taken out unless you have the explicit concurrence of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
If you want to come back to the issue of corroboration at a later stage in the questioning, I would be happy to offer some of that.
Ms. Jean Crowder:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
And thank you, Mr. Martin, for coming before the committee today on Bill C-292.
Clearly the NDP supports Bill C-292, as it did the Kelowna accord.
I have a bit of a statement to make. I am deeply troubled by the fact that the issues around poverty, water, housing, economic development, and all of those issues are not issues that just arose in the last couple of years. There is long-standing, well-documented evidence that for decades the neglect in first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities has been substantial. I would argue that both your Liberal government and past Conservative governments have a great debt owing to first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples across the country.
I could name the communities now that are in crisis: Pikangikum, Kashechewan, Penelakut, Garden Hill, where we are talking about TB outbreaks, rheumatic fever.... It is shocking. The Teslin Tlingit people right now have a land claim that has been signed off, yet implementation is going exceedingly slowly. We can come back to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples of 1996. I have a few of the recommendations here, of which I would suspect very few have been implemented. And you mentioned the tripartite agreement that was signed in Kelowna, British Columbia.
Certainly the first nations leadership in British Columbia took the Kelowna accord on good faith. They subsequently signed an agreement between you, Premier Campbell, and the first nations leadership in British Columbia and in fact documented targets, goals, substantial time lines, and those kinds of things.
I am completely baffled at how a country like Canada that purports to be a champion of human rights and equality could wait until 2005 to take some steps that could be considered meaningful.
I wonder if you could comment on that.
Hon. Andy Scott:
Thank you very much.
The fundamental premise behind this exercise was the collaboration and inclusion on the basis of the fact that most, if not all, of the failures of the past can be attributed to the unilateral--well-intentioned perhaps, but unilateral--actions by national and provincial governments, in my view. So the collaboration happened.
In terms of dealing with the content--and this was collaboratively, deliberately established content--in fact, the substance behind the Kelowna accord would be a very large number of documents that are available to the government right now. I myself probably took 10 or 15 memos to cabinet on content, government decisions that we were going to do this. Once the government decided that they wanted to do it, I would go back to the Department of Indian Affairs and they would cost it. Then I'd have to come back to cabinet to secure the funding that Mr. Goodale was talking about, an elaborate system, and there were four ministers involved, because I did education and negotiations, Mr. Alcock did accountability, and Minister Emerson did economic development. Mr. Emerson went to cabinet with a plan for economic development and got approval from the government for that plan.
All those things came forward, all those things were costed, and the money was secured for all of it. So if the government genuinely wanted to implement the Kelowna accord, it could do so immediately, because the content is there, the collaboration is there, the support from the provinces and the first nations is there, and the money was there. So there's no question that it could be done. If it has to be done over again, as tragic as that would be, I would encourage that, because the model exists.
Mr. Steven Blaney (Lévis—Bellechasse, CPC):
I would like to thank the witnesses for having come to meet us this morning.
Mr. Martin, I would like to tell you that with Mr. Harper, our government has gone beyond the discussions held in Kelowna with respect to improving the living conditions for the first nations. As you know, spending in the last budget was higher than in all previous budgets, including Mr. Goodale's.
One thing was also demonstrated, namely that there never was an agreement. We know that there was a press release, but nothing was signed with the first nations. I think that this became very clear this morning. I feel that the first nations now want to be a party to the decisions.
I am thinking of the first nations in Quebec that were not involved in the exercise. I am thinking also of Mr. Picard, who said:
||Who are we trying to fool by announcing three, four or five billion dollars in Kelowna to magically combat poverty...
You spoke this morning about the $300 million for housing. The problem is that to meet the needs of the Quebec reserves alone, the total required would be $1.5 billion. We feel, Mr. Martin, that we have begun an exercise, well after the Kelowna meeting, working together with the first nations and the Government of Quebec. This happened a few months ago in Mashteuiatsh. I was there.
I would like to know how we can add money without making structural changes. I would like to hear your comments on this subject. I would also like to know what you think of Mr. Picard's statement to the effect that he felt he had been fooled by the Kelowna Accord.
Mr. Gérard Asselin (Manicouagan, BQ):
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Messrs. Martin, Goodale and Scott, I represent the riding of greater Manicouagan in Quebec, on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence River, where there are several Aboriginal communities, all of which are Montagnais: Betsiamite, Uashat-Maliotenam, Mingan, Pointe-Parent, Romaine, Saint-Augustin, Shefferville and a number of others.
Mr. Martin, the government and the three opposition parties need to agree to on the fact that the Kelowna Accord is essential. Bill C-292 must be adopted if the government is to deal with the needs of the Aboriginal communities.
After several years of discussions, I would even say after a very long time, we were nevertheless able to come to an agreement that gave a glimmer of hope to the Aboriginal communities that were expecting help from the federal government. The Aboriginal communities have health, housing, drinking water and education problems, and a very high level of poverty, all of which compromise their quality of life.
The Kelowna Accord was debated in the House of Commons and put to a vote on several occasions. Even if the three opposition parties, which form a majority in the House of Commons, were to adopt Bill C-292, there could still be a problem: according to information provided by the chairman, royal recommendation is required to enact this bill.
Mr. Martin, as a former Minister of Finance and former Prime Minister, could you tell us whether you think that Bill C-292 can be enacted if Parliament does not grant royal recommendation.
Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm a new member on this committee. In one of my first meetings with Prime Minister Harper, I requested to serve on this aboriginal affairs committee not because of any specific expertise, but because I have a strong desire to see aboriginal issues advanced, to see issues of poverty, education, shortfalls, and so on, addressed.
I actually thought that when I came to this committee, we, as a committee, would sit down and work collaboratively to move ahead on addressing many of the changes that need to be made. Instead, week after week, month after month, we've been here for I don't know how many meetings, and we have spent inordinate amounts of time discussing this so-called Kelowna accord. We've ignored all of the positive things that our government has brought forward in terms of budgeting initiatives and studies that we could have been doing. Instead we're wasting all of this time not only at this committee, Mr. Chair, but in the House, talking about a so-called accord that does not exist, an accord that does not have clear benchmarks—at least I have not seen any—in terms of accountability and expectations.
I have not heard a stronger message in terms of wanting accountability than that coming from our aboriginal groups in these last number of months. So, Mr. Martin, my question is how you could recommend that we proceed with a bill that has no clear measures of accountability and reporting.
Ms. Jean Crowder:
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you once again for your patience with this process.
I want to reiterate a point that was made earlier. I'm very disappointed that the committee and the House spend an inordinate amount of time arguing about whether Kelowna was a signed legal document or whatever.
In my experience and in my understanding of working with first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, many of the first nations people rely on an oral tradition and, hence, these long discussions that took place face to face, in a respectful way, led to an expectation that, whether or not there was a signed legal document, there was a spirit and an intent around what happened that signalled to first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, the provincial government, and the federal government that there was an intention to move forward.
Much has been made about the fact that there were no timelines and what not. I won't read this entire document, but this is the B.C. tripartite Transformative Change Accord in which the leadership in British Columbia--the first nations leadership and the Province of British Columbia--actually sat down and took the discussions that happened in Kelowna and documented clear, concrete, detailed steps, such as K to 12 completion rates, the number of first nations teacher, and K to 12 curriculum models, and said, we trust that Kelowna happened and that it's going to become a reality.
I want to come back to a comment you made in your earlier statement about leadership. Back in the RCAP report, there were any number of recommendations around leadership, around nation-to-nation status. For example, one of them talked about this: “The federal government, following extensive consultations with Aboriginal peoples, establish an Aboriginal parliament whose main function is to provide advice to the House of Commons and the Senate on legislation and constitutional matters relating to Aboriginal peoples.”
I would argue that unless first nations, Métis, and Inuit leadership are at the table on an equal basis, not only in the consultation process but in the actual decision-making process...because too often what happens is that we come out and we ask lovely questions and we have a great consultation process and then we shut the door on people's faces and say, you're not at the table when we're actually going to make the decisions.
I'd like you to comment on what elements of leadership you see that are absolutely essential for us to move forward the spirit and intent of the Kelowna accord and to make sure we can be addressing those very critical issues in first nations, Métis, and Inuit communities.
Right Hon. Paul Martin:
I think you've actually summarized the situation very well. Aboriginal leadership has to be at the table. If we've not done as well as we should, which is understating the situation over these last 150 years, it is because they were not at the table and they didn't buy in. In fact, the decisions were made by people who really did not understand the conditions under which aboriginals live.
We did--and Andy can go into this--as much as we possibly could. For the first time, we had a cabinet committee at the very beginning meet with the aboriginal leadership for precisely the reason that you have given, which is to say that they have to be at the table and might as well be at the table, not just with the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs but with all of the other ministers who make decisions that impact upon them.
And that's what Kelowna says. Kelowna says, here's how we work together. What should now be happening is, rather than denying Kelowna, as you have said, we should now be doing that and working together.
Can I just pick up on your opening point? You talked about the oral tradition, and Mr. Merasty talked about it as well. You're dead on. I've talked to the aboriginal leadership, and they said this is the way we make decisions. I'd like to add something to that, about the way in which we make decisions, because you've just spoken, and I think quite well, for the aboriginal leadership. All of the provincial and territorial leaders were around that table. I have attended many meetings with provincial and territorial leaders, both as finance minister and as Prime Minister. At the end of a meeting, when somebody gives you his or her word, you don't ask them to write it down.
I gave my word, as the Prime Minister of Canada, not only to the aboriginal leadership but to the provincial and territorial leaders of this country, and they were entitled to take my word, and they gave me their word, and I didn't ask them to write it down. When the premier of a province or of a territory gives me his or her word, I'll accept it.
Mr. Steven Blaney:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This morning, we indeed spoke more about what divides us than what unites us, but I think we all share the same principles, and that we all want to see an improvement in living conditions for Aboriginal peoples. I think that Ms. Karetak-Lindell has highlighted the constructive work that is being done within the community, and I can assure the members of the committee this morning that we intend to continue, because the next priority is housing, and that is also one of the minister's priorities.
Mr. Lemay, as you know, there was an agreement for and by the first nations with respect to education in Mashteuiatsh. You know that we are very seriously interested in education.
Mr. Marc Lemay: Has anything been signed?
Mr. Steven Blaney: Yes, a memorandum has been signed, Mr. Lemay. And that is what we need to remember from this morning. We agree on the principles, and we are working through the agenda that was established to improve living conditions for the first nations.
Mr. Martin, you made significant efforts from the governance standpoint, but that is not an aspect that came out of the Kelowna Accord. How do you think, as a committee or as a government, the governance and autonomy of the first nations could be improved, please?
Ms. Jean Crowder:
Since this will be my last question, I would like to thank the chair now for attempting to keep some order here. I'd also like to thank our guests for coming and thank the people who are here listening to this important discussion.
I just need to correct a bit of information in terms of what the Conservative member said I indicated in my question. I did not say it was only the Liberal record for the past 13 years--although as a New Democrat, you know I'm very critical of the things that were not done over the last 13 years--but I did say that both the Conservative and Liberal governments over decades have failed to fulfill their commitments.
In terms of the tripartite agreement in British Columbia, on May 4, 2006, the First Nations Leadership Council from British Columbia wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, to Jim Flaherty, and to Jim Prentice, saying:
||Your government has reneged on this historic multi-government agreement, and has proceeded to unilaterally implement its own plan to address our issues without any consultations with us....The funds announced in your budget will do very little to remedy chronic under-funding or the crushing poverty and appalling socio-economic conditions of First Nations communities.
I guess one of the things I would encourage this committee to do is actually invite the leadership council--I am talking about the three leadership groups in British Columbia--to come and talk to members about their understanding of the Kelowna accord, their understanding of its commitment, their understanding of how it was going to be implemented, and their understanding of where the gaps are.
As well, we also need to highlight some of the successes--like Membertou, like Patuanak, like Westbank--and build on those successes. Members of the committee have talked about this before.
The other plea we've heard from first nations, Métis, and Inuit leadership and community members is that we rise above partisan politics and come together as a government, as communities, and as first nations, Métis, and Inuit leadership to address these critical, serious issues.
I think I need to remind each and every one of us here that we are talking about people. My very first duty, when I was elected in 2004 was to attend a funeral on July 1 for a first nations youth who had hanged himself.
You started to talk about leadership but were interrupted, and I would like you to go back to the issue of leadership. I wonder why we cannot bring together a committee that includes first nations, Métis, and Inuit leadership and this committee to actually meaningfully move forward. We've had too many announcements and not enough action.