Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue 10 - Evidence - February 8, 2012
OTTAWA, Wednesday, February 8, 2012
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology met this day at 4:16 p.m. to study social inclusion and cohesion in Canada.
Senator Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
My name is Kelvin Ogilvie, and I am a senator from Nova Scotia and chair of this committee. I would like to start the meeting by asking my colleagues to introduce themselves, starting on my left with the deputy chair.
Senator Eggleton: I am Art Eggleton, deputy chair and a senator from Toronto.
Senator Cordy: I am Jane Cordy, and I am a senator from Nova Scotia.
Senator Martin: I am Yonah Martin from Vancouver, B.C. Welcome.
Senator Demers: I am Jacques Demers from the province of Quebec.
Senator Seth: Welcome. My name is Asha Seth. I am from Toronto.
Senator Eaton: I am Nicky Eaton, from Toronto.
Senator Seidman: Good afternoon. I am Judith Seidman, from Montreal, Quebec.
Senator Callbeck: I am Catherine Callbeck, from Prince Edward Island.
The Chair: For the benefit of our newer members, I am going to take a minute to remind us that we are dealing with a study on social inclusion and cohesion in Canada. As background, we completed the first phase of this study on poverty, housing and homelessness in major urban centres with a tabling of a report in December 2009. At that point, the committee moved on to the second phase of its study focusing on social inclusion and cohesion.
Eleven meetings were planned for this phase of the study, and six meetings were held prior to the dissolution of Parliament on March 25, 2011. A new order of reference was received on November 22, 2011, authorizing the committee to continue the study. It also authorized that the papers and evidence received and taken and work accomplished by the committee on this subject since the beginning of the First Session of the Thirty-ninth Parliament be referred to the committee.
This is our seventh meeting. I want to go over the agenda with my colleagues and remind us that we have two panels. The first panel will end at 5:15 p.m., and the second panel will begin with the briefest of delays and end at 6:15 p.m.
Is that agreed, colleagues?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Today, we will hear from those on the front line working to assist excluded groups to become more actively engaged in the social and economic lives of their communities. I welcome Dwight Dorey and his colleagues Angela Mojak and Jerry Peltier to our meeting. Thank you so much for joining us today. I understand that Mr. Dorey will give the presentation, and all three will be available to handle questions. Mr. Dorey, you have the floor.
Dwight Dorey, National Vice Chief, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples: Thank you, and good afternoon, Mr. Chair, and to members of this Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank the Algonquin people, on whose traditional ancestral homeland we are gathered here today.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you concerning the topics of social inclusion and cohesion in Canada, and specifically where it applies to economic integration for urban Aboriginal peoples.
My name is Dwight Dorey. I am a Mi'kmaq from Nova Scotia and the National Vice Chief for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, or CAP. I have been actively involved in advocating for the rights of off-reserve Aboriginal peoples for more than 30 years. As you know, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is a national Aboriginal organization which represents the rights and interests of off-reserve, non-status, status and Metis Aboriginal people living in urban, rural, remote and isolated areas throughout Canada. I would like to reiterate our support for the work that this committee has undertaken researching the social inclusion and cohesion pertaining to Canada's largest cities and the Aboriginal peoples residing there.
Although there has been some positive change since 1971, social issues continue to negatively affect our cities, our societies and our people. With the advent of improved technologies, accessibility poses a significant challenge and highlights the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.
The Congress of Aboriginal People reaffirms our support for the Senate subcommittee report and recommendations about poverty reduction, the development of a national housing and homelessness strategy, early childhood education, health, and specifically the recommendation that an Aboriginal working group be formed to identify priorities for urban Aboriginal peoples. As we have previously stated, we would like to offer our help on the formation and implementation of such a working group.
The recommendation to continue and expand support to Statistics Canada for the collection, analysis and dissemination of accurate data is critical to improving education and social programming. It is also important to, and supported by, the congress. This data and information is necessary to make key evidence-based decisions on policy and programs for Aboriginal peoples living in urban areas.
Numerous research initiatives have been done on Aboriginal youth indicators and impacts on criminal activities. The criminal research results confirm the same research results for health and sociological, that exclusion, poverty and oppression are linked to criminal activity.
Through CAP's work on numerous Aboriginal youth gang-related activities, it has been discovered that their participation is not necessarily a conscious decision. Their families and friends live in low-income areas within the urban centres, and this lifelong exposure to this lifestyle situation results in similarly focused living patterns and activities. We are now starting to see and witness second generation gang members.
Pride, and an acknowledged cultural identity, is critical to Aboriginal youth not engaging in substance abuse, joining gangs or criminal activities.
As a result, we discovered that Aboriginal youth are falling through the cracks of the current educational system. It is not the right time to utilize this extensive research — completed and developed solution models — that addresses Aboriginal poverty, education and employment in urban communities.
It has been demonstrated that a link exists between poverty and disease. The result of numerous years of research regarding the onset of social problems and severe health problems has brought us to that conclusion. As a result, there are examples of social exclusion and a lack of community cohesion in communities where both variables exist.
As previously stated, Canada continues to deny section 91.24 jurisdiction over Metis and non-status Indians under section 35 of the Constitution Act. As a result, over 600,000 Metis and non-status Indians have become trapped in a jurisdictional limbo where there are limited or non-existing government programs for those Aboriginal peoples.
The economic downturn of 2008 lasted longer and hit harder for Aboriginal populations than the rest of the population in Canada. This is according to Statistics Canada, Census Canada, TD Economics and First Nations Regional Health Survey (2008/10) Preliminary Results.
Statistics Canada Aboriginal labour market update issued May 13, 2010, identified that the jobless rate among Aboriginal peoples in 2009 was almost double that of the non-aboriginal population in Canada. The corresponding Aboriginal peoples' jobless rate was 13.9 per cent compared with 8.1 per cent among non-aboriginal peoples for that particular year.
On April 28, 2010, the premiers and leaders of the five national Aboriginal organizations met in Toronto. They were provided with a report from the provincial and territorial ministers and Aboriginal officials which was entitled A Framework for Action in Education, Economic Development and Violence Against Women & Girls.
The report and resulting recommendations were adopted, and officials were directed to implement the recommended actions and to focus on three goals. I will cover one here today which is economic development and the closing of the income gap.
In the area of economic development, premiers directed the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group to explore regional opportunities related to infrastructure, microfinancing and resource revenue sharing, as well as sharing of economic development best practices.
Ministers and leaders have confirmed that a strong and collaborative process involving the provincial and territorial ministers of Aboriginal Affairs and national Aboriginal organization leaders as well as the federal government is critical to improving social economic conditions and to closing the gaps that continue to separate Aboriginal peoples from non-aboriginal Canadians.
Further, it was agreed that many priorities are shared between the working group members and the federal government. Where policies and programs exist or are contemplated in shared priority areas, federal government participation is critical to achieving concrete and measurable results for all Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Federal participation in fulfilling the report's recommendations is also critical to its success.
In addition to our Aboriginal working group involvement and its work, CAP has developed an economic development strategy that provide for action-based results. I will describe two of the recommendations for you now.
The first recommendation is for Aboriginal entrepreneur development where the congress would facilitate support services for new and existing Aboriginal businesses, such as business assessments, business and marketing plans, as well as mentoring for business owners.
The second recommendation would be to focus on developing Aboriginal human capital. CAP would assist by arranging for full access for Aboriginal peoples for skills development and training specific to their businesses. CAP would also assist in the provision of business acumen skills training necessary to allow the entrepreneur to own and manage a successful business.
These recommendations and action items can be easily transferred and used in each of CAP's provincial and territorial organizations.
We have a real opportunity to raise awareness and work together with the federal government as part of the Aboriginal working group and provincial teams and begin to address and resolve some of those Aboriginal economic issues.
I believe the future holds hope that all Aboriginal peoples will take their place as contributing, distinctive and capable communities empowered with the political tools for protection of our identities, cultures and societies. In closing, we ask those of you here today to not allow this or future generations of Aboriginal peoples to be forgotten.
I thank you. I have provided as a handout a book. It is a little dated, since it was published in 2005, but I think you might see a lot of the issues that you will be looking at in regard to economic opportunity for Aboriginal peoples. You might find this interesting to read. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Dorey.
Senator Eggleton: We are focusing on social inclusion and social cohesion in the context of our cities, and we are now told the majority of Aboriginal peoples in this country live in our cities. You have talked a bit about some of the pressures and concerns that you have in this off-reserve city life. Let me ask you first of all about the problem of youth gangs. You mentioned in your presentation that you are even witnessing second-generation gang members.
I believe your organization has an Aboriginal youth council, and I was wondering how the activities of that or the activities of your organization are helping to overcome this problem and what further assistance you think we could be, government could be, in terms of helping to reduce this problem of youth gangs in our cities.
Mr. Dorey: The congress does have a youth council that meets on occasion. The difficulty that we find tends to always be a lack of adequate resources to facilitate the kinds of activity that the youth would like to engage in. Other than the meetings that they will have periodically at the national level to discuss some of their common issues and that, they do work amongst themselves to develop projects and proposals for various activities that are focused on the whole issue of youth gangs and preventative measures primarily in that area.
Senator Eggleton: Do they work with the police or other community organizations in this regard?
Mr. Dorey: Yes. It does vary across the country with respect to the local youth initiatives and activities. In some areas, it is a little more cohesive, working with police forces, friendship centres and other organizations that are there for the supporting of the youth.
Senator Eggleton: Does the community help to bridge into the wider community, or is there a tendency for just the community to look after its own situation as opposed to trying to develop more relations with police and other community organizations?
Mr. Dorey: That varies, depending on the situation. In some of the larger urban areas, there is more cross-cultural and cross-sectoral involvement. In the smaller areas, it may be not quite so much, again depending on the activity that supports initiatives for the benefit of the youth are being undertaken in those particular areas, whether it is provincial or municipal types of programs or services.
The Chair: Mr. Peltier, did you want to comment on this aspect?
Jerry Peltier, National Advisor, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples: Just a short brief comment, Mr. Senator: We had two national forums, last year and the year before. One was held in Winnipeg and the other one was held in Regina. We could probably share our findings from those two important meetings. We had invited everyone that is associated or had professional expertise in dealing with law enforcement and dealing with people that are incarcerated. There were police forces involved. There were also other support groups there. We plan some more meetings once we get additional resources.
Senator Eggleton: In the economic development area, how much of a problem is racism, discrimination and stereotyping of people who are Aboriginals? Is this on the rise or on the fall? How extensive is it in the cities?
Mr. Dorey: Well, it is definitely still there. It is a problem in many areas. Again, it also varies from city to city. We often find that our people have a tendency to keep amongst themselves because of that.
Senator Eggleton: Okay, but they have to get into the wider community to get some of the jobs, so they face that problem.
I can understand that people who have a lot of challenges in making ends meet, getting decent work and the kind of services they need, say, at a municipal government level would tend to not get too involved in wider community activities. In my years on city council in Toronto and my years as Mayor of Toronto, I do not recall, and I may have forgotten, anybody of Aboriginal origin. I do recall one senior police officer who was of Aboriginal origin. There is not enough involvement in the wider community, not enough comfort, perhaps, given all the other challenges that they have to make ends meet in life and get proper work and food on the table and et cetera. Is this still a major problem in terms of a greater interaction between the Aboriginals and the broader community? That is what I am getting at.
Mr. Dorey: I would say my experience is that it is still a problem. There always continues to be some of our people who do fairly well at advancing and integrating, however you want to describe it, short of assimilating, but it is a rare kind of quality, I guess, of that individual that can advance like that. A lot of our people do feel the cultural difference. If it is not direct discrimination, it is somewhat overt or however, and they do have a difficult time with it. We find in various sectors, our people that even do make an effort to get into whether it is your local police job or joining the military or whatever, they will get in, but often they will not stay very long, and it is still remains a problem.
Mr. Peltier: The Congress is a political, national organization, and I think the kind of questions that you are asking could be best answered by the National Association of Friendship Centres. I believe they are appearing before you today.
Senator Eggleton: They are coming next.
Mr. Peltier: They are on the front line and on the ground. You could get some answers from them.
Senator Eaton: In our report that we worked on last year, we learned that, for instance, in community health care, it worked very well when it had originated from First Nations themselves who could call on expertise when they needed it, but it was kind of from the ground up. It was not programs that were imposed or brought in. Do you have programs or have you devised programs yourselves that there is simply a lack of funding or manpower that could help? I guess you have to look at the generation coming up, the generation that is in school now that will make the difference. With people our age, I mean, it is what it is.
Do you have programs in place you would like to kick-start that need either financial support or other specialist support?
Mr. Dorey: We do somewhat, but most of that activity is done at the provincial and territorial levels, so our provincial-territorial affiliates get fairly involved in developing programs that are —
Senator Eaton: Unique to each locale?
Mr. Dorey: Yes, and that are geared to community needs, are culturally sensitive and that sort of thing. We do on occasion engage in developing and promoting programs on a national scale, but that is not too often.
Senator Eaton: For instance, when you meet with the federal government, do you come to them with ideas for programs for education — which I think is probably the biggest hurdle — in areas that young indigenous people are interested in? Do you go forward to the federal government and say, "This is what we need to get X percentage of our kids into school," or "This is what we need to get better health care"?
Mr. Dorey: We do to a limited degree, again because education is primarily a provincial jurisdiction. Our people are those who are off reserve.
Senator Eaton: If they are off reserve, the federal government does not look after them, right? They fall under the provincial framework?
Mr. Dorey: If you are non-status or Metis, that is pretty much it. With that said, some of our provincial organizations still do develop a limited degree of programs that are culturally oriented, in particular for preschoolers and younger kids.
Mr. Peltier: Just recently, under the new mandate of this current government, as you probably all know, they changed the role of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. It is now Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has new authorities. They can now directly meet with the representative of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
We are engaging with the federal government, sitting down and putting together a roadmap of how we can work together at the national level. On the same token, we are also meeting with the provincial governments and their ministers of Aboriginal affairs. This cannot be done by just one government; it has to be a partnership among federal, provincial and, of course, municipalities.
Senator Eaton: Am I right in saying it is better if the programs originate from you as opposed to someone from outside the community coming in and imposing them on you?
Mr. Peltier: For sure.
Senator Cordy: If we look at the social issues that in many cases are unfortunately having a negative effect on Aboriginals living in urban areas, it is hard to divide them up because they all meld together in order to make things better.
I guess the former teacher in me wants to go back to Senator Eaton's comments about education. You are having lower education rates, and the statistics I am seeing show that large numbers of Aboriginal students are dropping out of high school, which in itself creates a barrier to inclusion in society.
As a committee, looking at social inclusion — and it is a pretty sad when we see our First Peoples being included in our society in the year 2012 — what should we be looking at in terms of suggesting or making recommendations in relation to social issues, specifically education, but social issues overall to ensure Aboriginal inclusion in our urban areas?
Mr. Peltier: I can try and answer part of your question. You will probably be visited by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. I think they have been here. We have met with them, talked to them and we are working in partnership with them. One of the concerns we share is when this Canada Social Transfer comes up for renewal. The Canada Social Transfer, which transfers funding to the provinces and territories, supports post-secondary education, as well as social assistance, social services, early child development and early learning and child care. We want to be consulted and be part of any discussions if there will be funds transferred to the provinces.
There was a meeting that took place about three weeks ago where provincial premiers met in Victoria. Aboriginal leaders were not invited, but we did invite ourselves. Going back to the question, however, in order to address the needs of our Aboriginal communities and people, we have to be at those tables and we have to be part of that process.
Senator Cordy: We should recommend that for issues related to the social transfer, Aboriginal peoples should be part of those discussions?
Mr. Peltier: For sure.
Senator Cordy: Do you think that would help with education specifically?
Mr. Peltier: We have had past experience where the funds transferred from the federal government to the provinces are lost in the big transfer envelope. By the time we access those dollars for our community members, a lot of it has already been taken up by administration costs or whatever.
If there is a way we can specifically identify a certain amount of that money based on our population by using the statistics and information that is there, then an equal per capita portion would go to our Aboriginal peoples.
Senator Demers: After Mr. Peltier spoke, I wanted to talk about youth and gangs, but I determined that possibly the next committee would be a more appropriate time to bring it up. I will wait for the next committee because Mr. Peltier indicated it would be the better time.
Senator Callbeck: You mentioned the meeting in April 2010 with the premiers. There was a report presented then, which had recommendations on economic development, education and violence against women and children. Then it goes on to say in your brief here that the premiers directed an Aboriginal Affairs Working Group.
Was there any mention of the federal government in this report or this whole framework for those three issues?
Mr. Peltier: I guess I can take this question because I am on the Aboriginal Working Group representing the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. Chief Dorey was just elected back in October, so he is kind of new to this file.
I participated in those discussions. There was one occasion the federal government did show up. I think Minister Strahl made an appearance when he talked about the federal action plan and his economic development strategy, but they have been silenced ever since. We have had no participation by the federal government in the working group since then.
Senator Callbeck: In the recommendations that were put forward in this report entitled A Framework for Action in Education, Economic Development and Violence Against Aboriginal Women and Girls, was the federal government mentioned in any of the recommendations?
Mr. Peltier: We are working on a framework agreement that will be presented to the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for Aboriginal affairs at a meeting in April of this year in Toronto. At that time a recommendation will be made to the provincial premiers and the Aboriginal leaders that we ask for a first ministers conference on education.
Senator Callbeck: The recommendations of this report were adopted, but the federal government was not mentioned in any of them. You talk about the economic development and you mention micro financing. Have you had time to explore that area or are there programs now set up for Aboriginals?
Mr. Peltier: No, it is still a work in progress.
Senator Callbeck: You have outlined what the recommendations were in economic development. What were the recommendations on violence against women and girls and also on education, which were the other two goals?
Mr. Peltier: That specific file is being chaired from the Aboriginal side by the national association for women. We are participating in that, but they have the lead on that file.
Senator Callbeck: Okay, that is violence. What about education?
Mr. Peltier: As I said, on education we are putting together a framework agreement that will be presented to the premiers, and then the premiers will be writing a letter to the Prime Minister requesting a first ministers' conference on it.
Senator Callbeck: You are going to be recommending involvement by the federal government in this?
Mr. Peltier: Definitely.
Senator Martin: How would off-reserve Aboriginals and non-status Indians in urban centres access the resources and services that would be available to them? Is your presence in urban centres like the friendship centres? Is it an office or is it more remote, such as online? For instance, in Vancouver, where I am from, how would the Aboriginal community seek the services and resources that you provide?
Mr. Dorey: The congress has an affiliate in British Columbia called the United Native Nations of B.C. that has offices in downtown Vancouver. If people are looking for programs and services in the urban area, they would go there. In many instances the friendship centres have more programs and services for the benefit of their urban people than do organizations, but there are some.
Senator Martin: Do your affiliates with the friendship centres in the regions work together on certain files?
Mr. Dorey: That is exactly how it works. It varies from one urban centre to another depending on the various programs or activities in which each are involved.
Senator Martin: I am curious about the urban Aboriginal community. Do the individuals have the information about these resources readily available? Are they aware that they can access these resources? What kind of outreach is done to ensure that information about all of the programs is there? Access to information could be a barrier in many instances. What kind of communication is done to ensure that the information gets out in an effective way?
Mr. Dorey: In the urban centres that information is more readily accessible as are the available programs and services. In rural areas and smaller towns it is a bit more difficult. Some of our organizations and affiliates provide extended programs and services that reach out to the people. In other cases, that is not available. Much of the information on accessibility and availability is exchanged through local community meetings or just by word of mouth.
Mr. Peltier: To follow up on dissemination of information or gathering of information, the provincial government working groups are setting up on their websites what they call information or success stories where people can access this kind of information. I believe the federal government is doing the same thing. In this day and age we have a lot of FBIs, Facebook Indians, so they are able to share this information readily.
Senator Martin: It can be a culture shock for people coming into the cities. I had the opportunity to interview an Aboriginal high school student who talked about the shock she feels every time she goes back to the reserve in the summer. What kind of information is on the reserves for those who are thinking about leaving? For immigrants, immigrant service providers do preparatory work and education prior to a move.
Have those gaps been addressed? The culture shock could be prepared for in advance.
Mr. Dorey: When our kids are going to the cities for post-secondary education purposes, there is a very strong network and information support is readily available. However, when people make a sudden decision to go for jobs, for example, the supports are not so much in place. Having said that, it again depends on the resources available, be it through to our provincial affiliate or the local friendship centre. There are those programs and services and most of our people do seek them out. They communicate with people in the area.
Senator Martin: Access to information is not a concern. Do you feel that that information is being accessed effectively?
Mr. Dorey: Yes.
Senator Seidman: Chief Dorey, in your presentation you proposed two recommendations from your economic development strategy. I would like to know what CAP sees as the greatest hurdle for Aboriginal people to better participate in the economy in urban settings.
Mr. Dorey: It is predominantly the resource issue for us. For example, we are in the process of looking into hiring economic development officers or workers within each of our affiliate organization and even to have someone at the national level. We do not have those people in place yet nor the resources to put them there.
When it comes to economic development, for the most part all we can do is provide information on where to go, such as to Aboriginal Business Canada or to the local bank that may have an Aboriginal lending officer or someone like that. That is pretty much what we are limited to when it comes to economic development.
Senator Seidman: What do you consider to be the greatest hurdle for young Aboriginals in the city to overcome in order to better participate in economic development and the economy?
Mr. Dorey: It is really access to the resources, both capital resources and also support resources, through, as I said, things like economic development workers, people that are there for that specific purpose.
Senator Seidman: Do you have any particular suggestions, your top two or three suggestions on how we could better support the Aboriginal off-reserve people trying to participate in the economy?
Mr. Dorey: Yes. As I indicated, we have a proposal in now to the federal government for resources to hire economic development workers within each of our provincial affiliates, and that is where we feel would be the most beneficial initiative for our part to help those people, to have somebody there that that is what they do, and then they can direct people, whether it is a business loan that they are looking for or some business training. Those people are there to support that kind of initiative.
Senator Seth: Mr. Dorey, I would like to ask one question. When Aboriginal people move from the reserve area to cities, do they have any medical problems that are not serviced by a health care professional? When they come from the reserve area, perhaps their self-esteem is low, they have less confidence, and that can lead to depression. Do they require any special medical care, or if they do, do they seek medical help? Do you feel there are any difficulties there?
Mr. Peltier: I can try and answer your question. First of all, I think there are some Aboriginal support health centres out there for our Aboriginal population. The one I guess that need the most support is the non-status population, and Chief Dorey alluded to that because of the non-recognition under section 91.24.
My personal experience, I am from the Mohawk community of Kanesatake. When I come to Ottawa, if I need medical attention and if I have to get a prescription, we take the position that our rights are portable and health is a treaty right. However, once we left that community, I experienced this last week in Ottawa that they would not accept our Indian status card, the one that I carry, as a recognition that our health benefits, our prescription drugs, should be covered.
Now I do not know if that was unique to that one specific drugstore, but I am sure there are cases where we run into this problem.
Senator Seth: I am a health professional myself, a physician. I do see some patients, and they come from different areas. They are fully covered, dental. They are much more covered than we are as non-Aboriginals. The question sometimes I feel is that the follow-up has the difficulties rather than the prescription drugs and all that. I do not see any filling of the prescriptions. They are given the first priority in fact. So my experience here is different, and I feel it depends how much they want to use it. There is total openness as far as the medical area is concerned. They are given the full support.
Mr. Peltier: I am sure the Aboriginal health professionals that are involved that have more information can help you answer some of those questions.
Senator Seth: Okay, thank you.
The Chair: Chief Dorey, I was really impressed with your two recommendations because I think really that is the kind of crux of the issue, and if you could get those under way, they provide a framework to move people forward recognizing the need as individuals for better training in order to become part of the entrepreneurial effort. In fact, your recommendations parallel recommendations that I am very much aware of that occur in other parts of society with regard to moving communities or parts of the community forward. The ideas of developing entrepreneurial character and being able to have the supports in place so that when entrepreneurial initiative occurs it can be nourished and move forward.
I know that from our experience in Nova Scotia we are aware that there are a number of really successful Aboriginal initiatives in the business areas and so on. Of course, there are in other parts of the country as well, but I am particularly aware of those things that have occurred in Nova Scotia.
Are there opportunities for those who have been successful in starting businesses, and indeed we have some reserves who as a reserve are operating major developments in Nova Scotia and other places? Is there an effort to take those people who have spearheaded those successes or who have been successful in various parts of the businesses of Aboriginal communities to act as mentors for other people in the broader community to act as the kind of focal point to initiate the basis of your two recommendations here?
Mr. Dorey: Yes, some good points there, Mr. Chair.
The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business has been in business for quite a number of years. I am a former board member of that organization, and that exactly is the kind of initiatives that they facilitate in terms of the mentoring aspect of it. They have a large membership of successful Aboriginal businesses that do that kind of thing, and it is also one where they provide a role model to young entrepreneurs from all the Aboriginal communities, and it is one that they are having success, some success with.
On your first point, I would refer again to my book here. One of the contributing authors is John Borrows who was a professor of law at the University of Victoria on governance and Aboriginal justice, and in his chapter here called "Challenge, Change and Development in Aboriginal Economies," I will just quote one paragraph here related to capital. He says:
Perhaps the most direct barrier to Aboriginal economic success and the lack of access to natural or physical capital. Natural or physical capital includes both financial resources (e.g., investment capital, collective income pooled in credit groups, buildings and/or machines) and natural resources (e.g., land, minerals, and/or water). A community can have an array of physical resources to call on, but productive circumstances will require the proper combination of fixed and variable capital.
Again, it goes with the initiative that we are currently undertaking to try and identify resources where we can have economic development officers that are specifically geared to helping the off-reserve people in the major urban centres and help them access this capital, training, mentoring. In particular, mentoring is very important.
The Chair: Thank you very much, because I do think these are two very important recommendations, and I am delighted to hear your response to my question.
You have deferred a couple of questions to the next panel, and so we will probably have some challenges keeping that panel to time. Senator Eggleton wanted to ask one more question. If he can focus it, we will try to answer it quickly and then wrap up this session.
Senator Eggleton: I, too, think you have two very good, compelling recommendations. If that helps urban Aboriginals in terms of being less marginalized and more inclusionary in our cities, then I think that is quite valuable.
I have a quick question on a couple of the statistics. You are saying that the unemployment rate is 13.9 per cent for Aboriginals compared to 8.1 per cent. Would you happen to know what it is for youth? Youth unemployment is generally quite a bit higher, and there are a lot of young people in the Aboriginal community. Would you happen to know that offhand as a comparable statistic?
Mr. Dorey: Not so much I guess specifically on youth, but I was just recently reviewing some statistics from the tourism industry, and this comes from Saskatchewan. The Sask Trends Monitor estimates that by 2013, 15 per cent of the labour force population between 25 and 59 years of age will be Aboriginal. By 2023, it is estimated that 21 per cent of the labour force population between 25 and 59 years of age will be Aboriginal.
Those projections show that it is the youth today that are moving into that area, and that is of real prime concern.
Senator Eggleton: We have to make sure they get the employment opportunities.
Mr. Dorey: Absolutely.
The Chair: It brings back the focus to where you started with your report, that the determinants that are required in order to have them reach a point where they can actually enter the workforce to receive the motivation, the training and the motivation to complete access to training and the support service to be able to fully participate.
I want to thank all three of you on behalf of the committee for the frankness with which you have responded to the questions and for helping us understand the real importance of the fundamental issues that are not only limited to the Aboriginal community with regard to urban issues but, as we are seeing, to the larger community as well, although they are clearly focused aspects that you have illustrated here today.
Mr. Dorey: I want to thank you very much, senator, for the opportunity to be here. Again, I would suggest that you all pick up a copy of this. There are much better experts than I who have contributed to this publication who might answer some of your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Our next panel has now assembled. I invite, you, Mr. Cachene, to open with your remarks.
Larry Cachene, Chief, Yellow Quill First Nation, Saskatoon Tribal Council: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to, first of all, thank the Senate for the opportunity to come and speak about the issues facing our Aboriginal people in the urban centres. We do face many of them. I will cover as many as I can in my time to speak, but thank you and good afternoon.
Yellow Quill First Nation, part of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, has opened urban offices in Saskatoon and, a little over a year ago, in Regina, and we are dealing with a range of issues. To get to the point I want to make, we need to start engaging our Aboriginal people in the city to take part in learning and training that is available in the city and also to deal with the developments in their lives and the social issues that they are dealing with personally. In setting up our office to deal with those, there are child and family service issues that we face in the community, and the addiction problems that we face when we hit the cities. How do we deal with that as a community or as a city? Looking at the problems we are facing, we want to play a bigger part in what is happening provincially or in the city.
We need to start looking at those issues and the root causes of those issues. Right now, we are asking our people to run before they can walk, so we need to get the skills for them to move forward, the personal skills development that they need to deal with the range of issues.
We are looking at the child and family services, the addictions piece and the social housing that is stretched to the max in our cities. How do we properly house these people coming into the city?
We also have our post-secondary dollars that are stretched to the max. We want to start dealing with all of those problems and range of issues. Yellow Quill is a bit fortunate with social workers that are coming from our community that are helping in our urban office development.
We are looking at the personal piece, the development for the individual. What are the problems they are facing and how do we start to deal with them; what is the programming that needs to be developed internally? We have programs in the province that are not working. Why are they not working? We want to answer that piece, and then to start the development from our end so that we can start to make the impacts and create those benefits for our members.
I think the contact that we have started with the urban offices in Saskatoon and Regina is a start. However, the first problem we face is the financial resources that we need to develop programming and support services. We do not have that right now, but we are looking at developing programs or proposals for running and developing the services in our city.
We talked a little bit about the economic development that has to happen. If we do not develop our communities and the people, then our economic development will take a step back a little bit. It will take a lot longer to move forward, to develop the resource base ourselves.
You have Saskatchewan, where bands want to purchase land and get into partnership with the mining industry, but the restrictions are there. The sales are not going through or the offers are not being accepted on lands that have minerals like potash or oil and gas. They are very limited. I know a First Nation in Saskatchewan, Gordon First Nation, is wanting to purchase land for economic development and they cannot do it, so there are restrictions there.
That whole range of issues that I talked about is something we need to look at in the big picture. If we start dealing with one and not with the other, we are just going to be set back again.
You take the educational needs in our community; one of the senators asked earlier if our students are getting prepared for leaving the community. Some communities are fortunate that they do. I know our community is more focused on preparing the child with English and the maths, but even that is not enough to compete or to take on post- secondary education.
We need math and science to expand in our communities. If we cannot hire the teachers, then we are set back already again. For them to go into post-secondary education, they are not as prepared or the doors are not as open if we do not have the programs in our schools.
I will end there for now and then we can probably get into questions afterwards.
Jeffrey Cyr, Executive Director, National Association of Friendship Centres: I know time is limited. I will try to be quick with my opening comments.
I wish to acknowledge the traditional land of the Algonquin Nation where we are meeting today. My name, as you know, is Jeff Cyr, a member of the Metis Nation from Manitoba and Executive Director of the National Association of Friendship Centres. I thank the committee for the invitation and this opportunity to present on behalf of my organization.
I want to start my presentation off by asking an important question: What is life like for Aboriginal peoples living in Canadian cities? The answer, unfortunately, for most part is that it is bleak.
The lot of life for Aboriginal peoples living in Canadian cities is not much different than it is for Aboriginal peoples living in rural, remote and isolated communities. Yes, there are some positive examples of success, of people employed, of owning businesses and of good health. Unfortunately, and for the most part, our conditions of life include low education and literacy rates, poor employment training opportunities in spite of federal funding under programs such as the ASETS, the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy.
We have poor health and are experiencing high rates of diseases such as diabetes. Our youth are challenged to decide whether to join gangs or to seek a better, wholesome life.
I wish I could describe a thriving urban Aboriginal workforce, one with sustained full-time employment, high rates of literacy and high school completion, and one of healthy families living above the poverty line, but sadly this is not the case. However, friendship centres are there to help.
Friendship centres across Canada have worked hard over decades — and that is six decades now for friendship centres since the 1950s — to obtain the thriving goals I mentioned above, but we have not completely achieved these yet. We are undaunted, we are committed and we will not give up.
The National Association of Friendship Centres is comprised of 121 urban, community based service organizations across Canada. These 121 friendship centres are assisted in their daily work by 7 provincial and territorial associations and by our national office here in Ottawa.
The early history of friendship centres is found in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver in the 1950s. The friendship centre movement continues to grow and expand, and remains focused on meeting the transitional needs of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in urban centres across our country.
Friendship centres not only provide invaluable services to Aboriginal people who utilize the programs — and I will just note there are about 1200 programs in friendship centres — the movement also provides employment opportunities at the local and regional levels. Nationally, the friendship centre movement employs over 2,600 people, 72 per cent of which are women.
An overall purpose of friendship centres in Canada is to improve the life chances of urban Aboriginal people. Our cadre and continuum of services include: education and early childhood programming, including Aboriginal Head Start; literacy programs; youth programs; health programs, including mental health and wellness; and employment and economic development support services, all of which are vital programs that help urban Aboriginal peoples to become productive participants in Canada's growing economy.
While friendship centres have long-term successes in offering and delivering these vital services, there are many challenges we confront, which is why I assume we are here today to some degree. Some include demographic realities while others pertain to organizational capacities.
The urban Aboriginal population of Canada continues to increase. In 1996, it was 47 per cent; in 2001, it was 49 per cent; in 2006, it was 54 per cent; and we estimate it is around 60 per cent today. Most Aboriginal people are living in urban centres. As well, our population is extremely young; 40 per cent are under the age of 25.
These demographic realities place strong pressures on the human and fiscal capacities of the centres, especially in light of the fact that federal core funding of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres program has been frozen at $16 million since 1986.
In 2011-12, friendship centres provided over 2.6 million points of contact, which means that our services were accessed and delivered that many times to Aboriginal people seeking support. This statistic is itself quite remarkable, but one that I am more proud of is that friendship centres leveraged that $16 million at an 8:1 ratio. For every federal dollar going into core programming, $8 comes out somewhere else, whether through provincial, municipal or private sources.
In 2009, the NFAC membership at its annual meeting passed a resolution on poverty and social exclusion. The resolution said: Poverty is significant among urban Aboriginal people due to the environmental factors, including employment, inequality, poor housing, a low educational attainment, and that poverty is one of the key factors that leads to social exclusion.
In response to this resolution, we conducted an organization-wide volunteer study on poverty and social exclusion, with findings that said 94 per cent of respondents agree that social exclusion is an issue with their clients; 58 of the respondents say that social exclusion is a major factor in creating poverty.
The study identified the main reasons for social exclusion of urban Aboriginal people — and you said some in your previous panel: racism, prejudice, stereotyping, poor education and literacy, poverty and unemployment, lack of government policies and programs for urban Aboriginal people, and unwillingness of governments to include urban Aboriginal people in their policies.
The key messages from the study were essentially that poverty and social exclusion among the urban Aboriginal population in Canada are very serious issues that impact many thousands of children, youth and single families in their daily lives; and that the impacts of poverty and social exclusion are having devastating impacts on the health, social, education, economic well-being and future lives of Canadian urban Aboriginal people.
When asked what the remedies are that could be implemented, the respondents said fairly straightforward things: more funding and programs to support direct urban-based services for employment and training; more Aboriginal awareness; more Aboriginal content in school curriculums; and more programming to improve literacy and education of Aboriginal peoples.
We have a copy of the study here, which we will provide to the clerk when I am done.
I want to bring you back to the original question: What is life like for urban Aboriginal people? I want to change that to: What could life be like for urban Aboriginal people in Canada? In order for urban Aboriginal people to make the right choice, we need to give them the right opportunities, and friendship centres are uniquely positioned to do this. Friendship centres are bridges between urban Aboriginal people and the economy.
If we as a country want to access this key labour force, and in doing so create demonstrable change in the lives of over 60 per cent of Aboriginal people in this country, what should we do? We should invest in friendship centres. We would build this core capacity and build on our successes, because it is already a success. We would take programs such as the Urban Aboriginal Strategy and run it in concert with friendship centres. We would support friendship centres to have greater access to funding, such as the ASETS program I mentioned earlier, which only one region in this country can access under friendship centres. We would support innovation and change at the community level and, finally, friendship centres are essentially a one-stop shop where we can deliver on employment and training opportunities and support Aboriginal people to fill jobs.
The national association calls on the Government of Canada to work with us and build prosperity for urban Aboriginal people. We are successful, we are capable partners and the time to do this is now. I want to emphasize that the national association is the only national network of urban Aboriginal service providers and the only ones who are capable of meeting this challenge. We are also the only ones in the world and the largest in the world doing this.
The friendship centre movement is here. It is a global best practice providing services to indigenous peoples living in urban environments. I just want to say that investing in the infrastructure of friendship centres is investing in community social cohesion, because that is where it is occurring at a community level in 121 cities across the country.
Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you.
I will now invite Leona Carter, Director of Aboriginal Relations Office, Community Services, for the City of Edmonton to make her presentation.
Leona Carter, Director, Aboriginal Relations Office, Community Services, City of Edmonton: First, I would like to acknowledge First Nations of this territory that we are visiting today.
[The witness spoke in her native language.]
I would like to thank the members of the standing committee and fellow guests for this opportunity. I come from a place now called Edmonton; a gathering place for North American tribes dating back 8,000 years. To this day, our Aboriginal peoples continue to migrate to Edmonton.
We include diverse First Nations peoples, though predominantly Cree, more than half of us are Metis, we include a growing Inuit population and we never forget our non-status brothers and sisters as well. We share a common history, some common world views; however, our languages, customs and our cultures represent a wide range of differences.
Aboriginal people come to Edmonton from across Canada for employment, education and an improved quality of life. In 2006 we made up more than 5 per cent of the Edmonton population, which is the second largest urban Aboriginal population in Canada. Nearly half of us are younger than 25 years of age. More than one in four of us is under 15 years of age. Our population growth is three times that of other Edmontonians.
Our people continue to experience many challenges. Their "Your City, Your Voice Report," which the City of Edmonton and partners completed in 2006, and our Aboriginal Edmonton Statistical Story of 2009, document ongoing issues with poverty, housing, employment, health, education, justice and short life expectancies. Though as a group we are increasingly well educated, Aboriginal peoples in Edmonton experience chronic unemployment, underemployment and low incomes.
Prior to the mid-1990s there was a limited municipal engagement with the Aboriginal peoples of Edmonton. Thanks to the municipal political will in the 1990s, this disconnect was recognized by city council which, in its wisdom, appointed the first Edmonton urban Aboriginal affairs committee. This strong commitment from our elected officials continues on through our mayor and council today. This commitment led to a collaborative initiative to engage the Aboriginal community in a meaningful dialogue process, and subsequent groundbreaking relationship building and new ways of working together.
This community engagement would not have been possible without the direct involvement of all three orders of government and other stakeholders. The City of Edmonton's commitment to working with the Aboriginal community are now embodied in council's declaration, Strengthening Relationships Between the City of Edmonton and the Urban Aboriginal Peoples document of 2005; the Edmonton Urban Aboriginal Accord Relationship Agreement of 2006; establishment of the city's human resources Aboriginal outreach consultant position of 2006; the tripartite Aboriginal workforce participation initiative, and the establishment of the city's Aboriginal Relations Office, the first municipality in Canada to have such an office, and inclusion of indigenous concepts in the city's strategic plans, The Way Ahead, of 2009, and The Way We Live, of 2010.
The city's administration priorities include improved relationships with the Aboriginal community, improved hiring and retention of Aboriginal people in the city workforce, improved delivery of city mandated services to Aboriginal people and supportive community development initiatives, supportive of the council-appointed Edmonton Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee and supportive councils of Aboriginal initiatives.
We have worked closely, and we think well, with administration counterparts in both Alberta Aboriginal relations and the Office of the Federal Interlocutor. The Urban Aboriginal Strategy on community consultations, joint planning, collaborations with the Aboriginal community and collaboration of governments with the community on issues of the magnitude experienced by the Aboriginal community is fundamental to making progress.
Recent provincial and federal administration consultations and municipal discussions suggest that there are some primary areas for intergovernmental collaboration that may include prompt and accessible transitional services for new arrivals to the city, Aboriginal workforce development and employment mentoring and training options consistent with the city's AWPI commitments, Aboriginal economic development initiatives, culture and tourism focused initiatives, and incremental increase of resource allocations to Aboriginal and Aboriginal serving organizations.
For example, our city council recently identified base funding for an urban Aboriginal governance organization that brings our community together to work collaboratively with governments, corporations, agencies and the private sector; youth and leadership development initiatives that utilize recreation and sports as mediums for engagement; awareness and recognition initiatives that lend positive profile to Aboriginal economic, as well as social and cultural contributions.
We have engaged new partners and successfully invited Aboriginal people to join forces with other racialized groups in the racism free Edmonton initiative. There is also growing interest from the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation and the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on engaging Aboriginal youth in the business community.
Change is under way and there are positive new partners in the circle. It certainly will take all of us working together to change 150 years of history. Without a doubt, there are opportunities to advance Aboriginal people's interests in ways that will benefit all Edmontonians and all Canadians.
There are many issues that together we must address and they are challenging issues. For us these include sustained initiative aimed at dispelling the negative myths and stereotypes about Aboriginal peoples that prevent full inclusion and employment services and opportunities experienced by other citizens; a need for the continuous sharing of Aboriginal history with all Canadians through the rewriting of history books and embedding of Aboriginal history as a central part of our collective Canadian history. This can be accomplished by ensuring that stories and histories are shared that provide positive Aboriginal profile in such things as street names, public buildings, and displays showing the history of our cities. This will help engender a sense of belonging and pride in our Aboriginal peoples. For non- Aboriginal peoples, it will educate and promote a culture of inclusion and opportunities for intercultural learning.
There is a need for showcasing the positive contributions of Aboriginal people. We live in Edmonton, where we were pleased to host the annual National Aboriginal Achievement Awards in 2007 and again in 2011. We believe other similar opportunities at a local level will allow our youth to recognize and emulate successful Aboriginal role models with opportunities to see our people achieving, being lawyers, scientists, educators, bankers, entrepreneurs and doctors. At the University of Alberta alone in 2011, there were 26 doctors who had their convocation. This inspires confidence and positive life choices and hope for our youth.
There is a need for well-planned and properly funded urban transition services that bridge reserve and settlement experience with the challenges of adaptation to urban life; for example, housing, employment, education, health and other inter-related needs. In Edmonton, an Aboriginal organization and other service delivery organizations recently partnered to deliver the much-needed transition service. A collaboration between the province and city developed an Aboriginal welcome guide to assist Aboriginal people in their transition to Edmonton.
There is a need to address racism experienced in education, employment, housing, media and in our communities generally. The issues of racism and discrimination continue to be pervasive, in some instances overt but, in many instances, subtle and systemic.
There is a need for increased Aboriginal education and research opportunities through universities and other post- secondary institutions in Edmonton.
In conclusion, I would like to say that last year at a federal, provincial and municipal consultation in Winnipeg I was inspired by a city manager who asserted that improvement in Aboriginal relations will be contingent upon governments recognizing our governmental systems must change to meet the needs of the citizens we purport to serve.
As an Aboriginal person, for most of my life I have been told that Aboriginal peoples need to change to fully benefit from the good fortune of being Canadian. Experience and, hopefully, wisdom now tell me that our government is working together to change and true collaboration with Aboriginal peoples will determine success. To achieve our objectives with Aboriginal peoples, I believe that all three orders of government would do best to collaborate on sustainable initiatives that support our Aboriginal communities, reclaiming our identities, our languages, our culture, our prosperity and our autonomy.
Thank you. I am grateful for this opportunity to have your attention and consideration.
Senator Demers: Your presentation was great. It was clear. There was no problem understanding exactly where you are going. What to you is the future? You say you have had since 1986 $16 million and you have not been able to get more money to help those kids in those centres. Did I hear that right? The amount of money has not since 1986 gone up for you to bring those kids in when they come to you to help them out?
Mr. Cyr: Yes.
Senator Demers: We are talking 26 years here.
Mr. Cyr: It is probably a little bit more than that. At that time it was transferred internally. It was called the migrating peoples program many years ago and it was transferred to the Aboriginal friendship centre program, then it was given to my organization, the national association, to administer. We actually administer it to our own friendship centres. It has not moved since 1996. There has been no cost-of-living increase. That means an executive director sitting as a front-line service person makes a salary that you would make in 1985. You are not even properly paying for people there now who are doing the work. Volunteerism is strong in our movement, and thank goodness it is. All the boards in friendship centres are volunteer. The national boards are volunteer. The president on my national board does not take a salary. None of them do for their work. These are organizations created by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people.
Where this comes to a crux here in 2012 is that if those organizations struggle administratively, that $16 million equals about $132,000 per centre. Try to run a centre for $132,000. It is difficult. We estimate that it takes about $230,000 to $240,000 to make a go of it. They do a lot by managing multiple programs at the same time, whether that is early child education like Head Start, alternative high schools in Ontario, or recreation, sports, health programming, family parenting. You named a whole slew of programs. There are elders' programs as well. As a result, they are not able to reach out and do some of the other things they want to as centres. They are very much chasing exactly how to keep the centre open. You will see them struggle throughout the year, some more or less successful than others. It depends on the municipality and where they are.
You are right: $16 million since the 1980s, and it has not changed. We have been talking about this for a decade or more with the federal government to say, "You have already invested. This is already your money in here, federal government. You should continue to invest. You should improve upon it, because this is where community happens. If you want to build communities, that is what is happening inside cities."
Senator Demers: By having so little to work with, and obviously there are volunteers, but people need to earn their living, street gangs form and multiply where you cannot lend a hand. You open the door to some, and for many of them the door will be shut. That is a major problem, is it?
Mr. Cyr: Yes.
Senator Eggleton: They were impressive presentations from all three of you. I hope, Mr. Cyr, we can get a copy of yours. You have many statistics in it and, aside from your report, I would like to have a look at them.
Several years ago, when this committee was doing its report on poverty, housing and homelessness, In from the Margins, we heard about this freeze. I do not know whether it was you or someone else who came before us.
Mr. Cyr: I think you chaired the committee at the time.
Senator Eggleton: Yes, I did. It was you who told us you were frozen in terms of the federal contribution, and you still are, unfortunately, but you do an awful lot of good work.
I will go over to Leona Carter with my question.
You are doing a lot of impressive things in Edmonton. Can you tell me whether other cities also have Aboriginal urban affairs committees like you have and support Aboriginal initiatives? Are there other cities doing that as well? Can you tell me about some of the other major cities who might be doing it?
Ms. Carter: There are very few. Calgary has an urban Aboriginal affairs committee as well. The City of Thunder Bay in the last three years has hired a person such as myself to work within the city and to be a bridge between the Aboriginal community and the city services. Thompson, Manitoba, also has adapted our declaration to work with the Aboriginal community in their city.
Those are the only ones that I know of at the moment that are doing some work with this.
Senator Eggleton: Is there nothing happening in the big three — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver — that you know of?
Ms. Carter: Not that I know of.
Senator Eggleton: I believe the largest urban Aboriginal population is in Toronto, though not as a percentage of the population?
Ms. Carter: Winnipeg is actually doing some good work with the youth there. They have an agreement with the Aboriginal community as well.
Senator Eggleton: In your work, which is quite extensive, are you also helping in terms of integrating people from the Aboriginal community into the wider community? By integration I mean interaction. I am not suggesting assimilation of the culture or anything. For example, people getting appointed to boards or people running for city council or getting involved in the administration of the city in one way or another helps to create role models. It also helps to create those connections into local government that can help people set programs and provide assistance to friendship centres and things like that. Are you doing anything along those lines?
Ms. Carter: That is the crux of our work. I am glad you made a distinction between assimilation and integration. Assimilation is not something we try to do. We try to integrate. We keep our cultural ways of doing thing and share that with the rest of our community.
It is an educational process. The work that we do is educating our colleagues in how to have a better rapport with the Aboriginal community, but also educating our Aboriginal community in how to have a better rapport with the city administration and politicians. This was unheard of before. We now have had one Aboriginal person run for council in the last municipal election.
That is happening more and more. We see our people going directly to mayor and council, which was unheard of before.
Senator Eggleton: You are getting access?
Ms. Carter: Yes. We have more and more Aboriginals being appointed to our city appointed committees as well. It is growing. It is very new. It is only five or six years old, but we are working on that.
Senator Eggleton: Are the mayor and council satisfied with this direction?
Ms. Carter: By all means.
Senator Eggleton: It works for them and the Aboriginal community.
Mr. Cyr, I asked the previous delegation with respect to the Aboriginal youth council, but I think you have that council. Can you tell me, to follow up on the question of Senator Demers, how that is helping in terms of dealing with the issue of youth gangs?
Mr. Cyr: I will describe the Aboriginal Youth Council and how it works. It has been around for some 22 years on a national level, and of course it has regional variations. On my board of directors, one of the executive is a youth. We actually place a youth person in that role. They are voted in at our annual assembly.
The youth council, based on what they set as their priorities, works on specific issues that they need to deal with that are coming up from their own regions. This year, it happens to be, at the national association, suicide prevention. It is not directly a link to gangs. They are actually dealing with issues they find in their communities amongst youth. They are taking themselves into suicide prevention training, which we help facilitate in the national office.
They also bring a youth perspective into a variety of other programs, such as the culture connections for Aboriginal youth renamed federal program, used to be Urban Multi-purpose Aboriginal Youth Association, as it was called three or four years ago. The youth make all the recommendations on the proposals. It is not the senior people within the movement, but the youth say they are youth proposals they will support and bring forward. They come through us and get approval in that sense. They are involved intimately.
Those youth programs are from every facet of activity you can possibly imagine, whether cultural teachings to skills development. I will share with you a book called Success Stories that was created by our youth about how friendship centres took them off streets and drugs and in many cases saved their lives. The youth created this, and they created a video for it as well. It is powerful and inspiring to see that community social cohesion at the friendship level occurs for them and how that changed their lives in that sense. It is not directly pertaining to gangs, but it pertains to all those things about why you may or may not join a gang.
The Chair: Thank you. Maybe you could provide a sample to us in that regard.
Senator Martin: Thank you very much for sharing your insights and your presentation today. I have questions for both Chief Cachene and Mr. Cyr.
Regarding the friendship centres, having worked a lot with non-profits myself, I really do applaud the volunteers that are part of the program. I am sure, with six decades of work, that you must have so many community partners and a strong base of volunteers. For being able to make the friendship centres work as effectively as they do on a limited budget, I want to applaud your leadership and all the volunteers who make it possible.
With a lot of these non-profits, when they are applying for government funding, one of the questions is not so much on the form per se but to look at the overall operational budget. What part of that is from corporate sponsorship and diversifying that resource base? Would you speak to whether you have a fundraising arm? In Vancouver, they have the society and service centres, but they have a foundation where, on an ongoing yearly basis, there are all sorts of funding- raising initiatives. One, for instance, is the Walk with the Dragon parade that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a big multicultural event where people beyond the community come out and walk. It is a popular annual event and a successful fundraiser. If you are in survival mode, you may not have the energy or resources to devote to this, but what do you do in terms of diversifying your resource base?
Mr. Cyr: We have to break up the movement into its component parts to answer the question. There are 121 local friendship centres. Many of them are charitable organizations in their own right and do their own fundraising and do it well and are successful. There is fundraising at that level and charitable foundations at that level engaged in the local community. There is fundraising and alternative sources of income that also come into it. I will get back to that.
At the national level, it has become more imperative because of the lack of sustainability of federal funding or predictability of that in some sense. We are now in the process, for the last 10 months, of setting up a charitable foundation of our own. The purpose of the charitable foundation from our perspective is to fund the youth counsel, because that funding was suspended. We are looking at how to keep that youth council going and have that national voice, because they do some very important work.
In terms of alternative sources of funding, there are many innovative things going on. One of the things we were talking about across the friendship centre movement is social innovation, social entrepreneurship and the social economy. We have been working on it. In Quebec, there was recently a large conference that was co-sponsored by Quebec, and former Prime Minister Paul Martin was there as well supporting it, doing work about social economy and how you structure those initiatives. Our Ontario affiliate has started out a new process as well, looking at social economy. Sometimes you can think of that as the old style community development, but it is more principled in terms of how it goes into it. The British Columbia association of Friendship centres, one of our other affiliates, has also started the process of social economy and started looking at social impact bonds, trying to figure out how the British Columbia government can invest and show savings in health and social services and those other areas. When you talk social exclusion, you are talking massive impacts on the social welfare system. That is who the greatest users are. The bottom 20 per cent or 20 quintile has the greatest access to the health system.
We are trying to find ways to access and interact with federal and provincial governments — in this case, the success has been with provincial governments more — to find alternative forms of funding or to show why investment in these community-driven initiatives is a better way of investing your funds. There are a variety of social entrepreneurships. Friendship centres are notorious for spinning off businesses. People will come in, take part in it, get the skills, learn and spin off and go create other enterprises. I could probably name a dozen who have done it here in Ottawa alone. There is a lot that happens on that level as well.
Senator Martin: What you are describing is impressive. That innovation is there and it is an ongoing effort to diversify and do what you are doing, so I applaud you on that. You did not mention municipal dollars. Do the cities in any way participate?
Mr. Cyr: They do. Again, it is disparate across the country. Some cities are aware and engaged, like the city of Edmonton, and we would like to see more of that with the friendship centres that are there. In cities like Thompson or Duncan, B.C., for example, the friendship centre is the thing. The city is very engaged because it is sometimes the largest employer. In Duncan, the friendship centre is one of our biggest success stories. It owns 13 buildings in downtown Duncan. They can be large in that context. Many of the friendship centres are not at that level yet. It takes years to develop it, and we see core funding increasing to free them up to do that sort of stuff.
Municipalities have been good at saying no property tax for friendship centres. Sometimes you get into that situation, which is helpful. Sometimes you have problems with that where the federal government will try and take that funding away from you now that you have it covered. We have to be careful with what the left and right hand are doing. The important thing there is coordination. In some of the work they are doing in Edmonton, they are talking about coordination between the levels of government, which I would like to see more of.
Senator Martin: That was my next question. How is the coordination?
Mr. Cyr: It is not good enough. In short, a lot more work can be done to make sure we are not duplicating services and duplicating service providers and trying to do things that are already getting done. You are splitting your resources and your effort, so that does not become beneficial. I know I am off topic and taking up your time, but there are things like the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, which I think was a great idea, but it would be better if it were built on the backs of friendship centres and worked in concert with them so we are not recreating governance structures that do not need to be.
Senator Martin: Chief Cachene, with students transitioning from reserve to post-secondary, do you think that having them transition earlier is a better approach, if that is possible? The younger they are, they can transition a bit easier and adapt. The girl I was talking about is a high school student who did leave and she found that success, but do you think age is a factor there for students?
Mr. Cachene: It may, but it creates another problem. We have our students going into the city, and one of our students going to post-secondary, I think we provide around $900 a month for that person to find housing and to look at the transportation system, and even budgeting is probably still going to be there. The transition might be a lot easier, but I think the problems that come, that are harder to deal with, will still be there.
Senator Martin: If they had family support. Thank you.
Senator Eaton: Chief, is your community located in Edmonton? Is it a reserve? Is it outside Edmonton?
Mr. Cachene: No, actually, we are in central Saskatchewan.
Senator Eaton: Oh, I am sorry.
Mr. Cachene: We are three hours east of Saskatoon.
Senator Eaton: Sorry, I cannot read.
All of the friendship centres, integration, more and more young people moving off reserve to the cities, does it all go back to the Indian Act? Is it true that you are not supported once you leave the reserve? You do not have the same call on funding that is given to communities that are on the reserve?
Mr. Cachene: Not so much the Indian Act, but the treaties and obligations that come with treaty. Right now our treaties are portable. They follow us when we move to the city. The only thing right now that follows us is the poverty and social issues that come with us.
Senator Eaton: If I was a young person and I chose to stay on the reserve, would I have a chance at better funding than if I moved off reserve and into the city?
Mr. Cachene: No, there is no improvement either way.
I will give you an example. For our housing budget we get $387,000. That has been probably over 15, 20 years that that allocation has been there for our housing.
Now we have good intentions from the government to develop policies, like you guys need to start insuring your homes. That takes $110,000 off our housing budget.
Our water plant, you are all probably aware we lost a plant here two years ago and replaced it. The insurance comes from our housing budget again to insure that building.
We are looking at probably $160,000 coming off our housing budget. That applies right across on all programming. There is mandatory reporting or mandatory requirements that you need to meet, and that applies at the reserve level.
Now you are going into the city, and where are the programs there? For the number of people in cities, like the friendship centre here is running at $130,000 a year, you have other areas like the addiction programs and education and training programs that face the same shortages. It does not improve either way.
Senator Eaton: I am not arguing with you. I guess I always understood that once you left the reserve you were financially more on your own than if you stayed on the reserve, depending on what the reserve did with the funds, the allocation from the federal government. You are saying to me it makes no difference whether you are on the reserve or off?
Mr. Cachene: No, our dollars are set. For employment and training there is very little. If we want to get our people to go to an educational institution, that comes out of the same post-secondary dollars that we get.
We have 2,700 band members in my community on our list, and 800 of them are in the community while 1,600 are off the reserve. Of that, probably another 50 per cent of the eligible voters in our community are youth. We need to look at the funding levels and what is appropriate.
We have had proposals on labour developments that have been submitted. We got word that this was one of the best proposals that we have seen, but we need a little more detail, so come back. We are sending it back again. Then we hear, well, our pool is empty now, so we were going to have to look at next year.
The work we were doing is to try and create that workforce, a healthy workforce. Additional funding is not there for us to do that. Now we were looking at industry to partner up with some of the big employers in Saskatchewan, companies that have the 40,000 employees and are looking at that piece and seeing what they have for jobs that we need to get ready for.
Then we need to get our students and youth prepared to earn those jobs based on merit so we can compete for those positions.
Senator Callbeck: Thank you for coming today. You have been very informative in your briefs and in your answers to the questions.
Mr. Cyr, I am wondering about the friendship centres, you said $16 million. You mentioned, in an answer to a question, that you are setting up a foundation because you lost your funding for the youth council. Was that part of the $16 million?
Mr. Cyr: No.
Senator Callbeck: How much money was it?
Mr. Cyr: It was originally funded through the old Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centre program. It was a small amount, maybe $70,000 or $80,000 a year. That was then funded through the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth, and then a change in guidelines made it ineligible to do such a thing. It just evaporated altogether. That is a whole other program.
We continue to face a narrowing of program parameters through the federal government, which tends to be difficult to respond to. I will give you a small example of it.
In that particular youth program, what became ineligible were feasts. When you are talking about cultural connection for Aboriginal youth and you make feasts ineligible, which is a key cultural activity, it lacks a certain sort of logic, I guess. That sort of narrowing of parameters makes things very difficult for Aboriginal organizations.
As the chief pointed out, there is a big reporting burden on top of that. It is a very massive reporting burden, actually. We set up the foundation in order to take advantage of how we can bring corporate Canada and the philanthropic movement into this to say we are talking about Aboriginal youth, the future workforce and really the future of Canada. How do you come and help us help the youth? That is particular to the Aboriginal Youth Council nationally for us, because you are talking about youth from every region. It is not inexpensive to bring them together to discuss these issues; it is $20,000 or $30,000 a meeting, at least. That is just to fly them here, in this day and age, and to have them work.
Then they go on, and remember they are volunteering as well as youth. They are not getting paid to do this, so they go back and meet with their regional youth councils and they, as well, lack funding at the regional level because that is the same program that was narrowed.
It is an ongoing struggle on the youth side, and that is why we were all looking towards alternatives. It takes many years for a foundation to get up and work, though, and to do the things that are necessary.
Senator Callbeck: For how many years has it been established?
Mr. Cyr: We are just establishing it and getting there now. All the legal preparation work is getting into place. There are changes to the Non-profit Corporations Act that recently came in, as you know, so you have to reflect those changes as well in how our boards are structured. We are looking at six to eight months, maybe ten, hopefully sooner.
Senator Callbeck: What about the private sector, the amount of money they are contributing to the friendship centres? Is that increasing a lot every year?
Mr. Cyr: No. It is increasing, but not what I would consider "a lot" to be. I do not think it is enough.
At a provincial and local level, we were looking at more engagement of the private sector, bringing them into it, finding ways in which they can see themselves and helping the youth, and how that helps overall with what they are trying to do. In many places we are talking natural resource extraction near communities where a lot of friendship centres are. They are not just big metropolitan areas. Your workforce that is easily accessible is actually Aboriginal youth. If not, you are talking immigration. I know immigration is on the agenda these days. The same way we think about immigration services for new Canadians coming in, we should think about immigration or emigration services for existing First Peoples in this country. How do they get services? Are they funded to the same degree? I would argue probably not. We could probably look at how that funding is structured. It is something to look at.
The Chair: Mr. Cyr, I would like to finish this off by learning a bit more about the friendship association you have been describing. You have very clearly articulated a wide range of areas that it is involved with, and identified successes. You indicated it is a national organization. Did I understand one in of your responses to Senator Callbeck that you said that you are not incorporated as a non-profit organization?
Mr. Cyr: No, we are.
The Chair: You were referring to the other aspect. Okay, thank you.
You are formally incorporated as a non-profit organization. You are a national operation in terms of overall structure. You referred to funding from the federal government. Do you apply directly to the federal government, or do you operate through another Aboriginal organization or funding system to get that particular amount of money?
Mr. Cyr: We have direct relationships. We apply directly. The primary list currently comes from Canadian Heritage. We do an en masse application for all the friendship centres at once. We take on the administrative burden for that in my office and funnel that application. It makes things easier for the federal government. We are essentially administering it on their behalf. It is one contribution agreement for $16 million and the other programs that we run; then we distribute it. We set the terms and criteria internally, how it is supposed to work, and we manage it within our system. If there is trouble in a friendship centre, we go in with the provincial associations and look at how to resolve them.
The Chair: You gave examples of some friendship centres that are very successful, owning property of some significance and so on. Is each individual friendship centre separately incorporated as an individual non-profit organization and then a member of the national organization? Does it work something like that?
Mr. Cyr: It works exactly like that.
The Chair: Thank you. That is very helpful.
I think you answered the final question that I want to put to you in a number of different ways. I want to be certain that I interpreted your answer correctly.
My question was going to be whether you act as a mechanism to identify best practices — examples of successful entrepreneurs — and then make it possible to disseminate these examples across friendship centres to perhaps move mentors around to speak to different friendship centres and so on.
I think you gave a number of examples where very clearly you operate on that basis, identifying best practices and then trying to provide that information to the individual friendship centres where you think it is appropriate.
Did I interpret that correctly or do you have a more specific comment on that?
Mr. Cyr: I think the short answer is yes. The long answer is where we can, where we have the energy and resources to do that. As we can organize ourselves around things like social economy and those types of issues, we can take out these best practices and share our examples and resources that amongst what we call "the family" or the friendship centre movement. We do this all the time. We act as a research and policy hub as well.
We have an urban Aboriginal knowledge network, so we research with five universities on community-driven research. They determine what they want to research. We go out and look at it, whether it is new statistics from StatsCan, what it is telling us about migration, what it is telling us about housing in urban centres — or lack of housing in urban centres as it turns out — and those types of issues. We do research, policy, best practice work, and we have been engaged recently by the federal government. We are working with Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the United States, their federal governments and indigenous organizations to look at best practices for Aboriginal people in economic participation. That is participation in the economy, not jobs. It is how they participate in the economy in general. On an international level we were starting to work a bit more about this as well and bring people together.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Ms. Carter, Chief Cachene, and Mr. Cyr, collectively you have given us an exposition of key issues and also some very key ideas. I want to thank you for the clarity of your presentations and the directness of your answers. We have found it most informative.
On behalf of the committee, I want to thank the three of you for being here and helping us with this. If there are things you think of after you leave that you would like to communicate to us, please feel free to do so.
I would remind the steering committee that immediately following this meeting, we are meeting in this room.
(The committee adjourned.)