Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Aboriginal Peoples

Issue 1 - Evidence


OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 10, 2004

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:35 a.m., pursuant to rule 88 of the Rules of the Senate, to organize the activities of the committee.

[English]

Mr. Adam Thompson, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, as clerk of your committee, it is my duty to preside over the election of a chair. I am ready to receive a motion to that effect.

Senator St. Germain: I nominate Senator Sibbeston.

Mr. Thompson: Are there any other nominations?

Seeing none, I will put the question formally. It is moved by the Honourable Senator St. Germain that the Honourable Senator Sibbeston do take the chair.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Mr. Thompson: I declare the motion carried. I invite Senator Sibbeston to take the chair.

Hon. Nick G. Sibbeston (Chairman) in the Chair.

The Chairman: Thank you very much, honourable senators.

We have before us organizational forms of motions. We will work our way down the list; hence, we will deal with agenda item number 2, the election of a deputy chair. Is there a motion to nominate a deputy chair?

Senator Mercer: I nominate Senator Johnson.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

The next item is number 3, the subcommittee on agenda and procedure.

Senator Christensen: I so move.

The Chairman: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Christensen that the subcommittee on agenda and procedure be composed of the chair, the deputy chair and one other member of the committee, to be designated after the usual consultation, and that the subcommittee be empowered to make decision on behalf of the committee with respect to its agenda, to invite witnesses and to schedule hearings.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

Agenda item number 4 is a motion to print the committee's proceedings. Is there a senator who will move that motion?

Senator Chaput: I so move.

The Chairman: It is moved by the Honourable Senator Chaput that the committee print its proceedings and that the chair be authorized to set the number to meet demand.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

The Chairman: Next is authorization to hold meetings and to print evidence when a quorum is not present, agenda item number 5. Is there a motion?

Senator Christensen: I so move.

The Chairman: Senator Christensen moves that, pursuant to rule 89, the chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive and authorize the printing of the evidence when a quorum is not present, provided that a member of the committee from both the government and the opposition be present.

Senator Carney: Is that a normal procedure? Normally, we need a quorum. I do not remember that before.

Mr. Thompson: Honourable senators, that is the normal procedure. It only allows for the hearing of evidence, the hearing of witnesses. It does not authorize the committee to make any motions in the absence of a quorum, but rule 89 authorizes the committee to make that determination — to allow the committee to hear from witnesses without a quorum.

Senator Carney: So it is not a new addition, but a standard procedure. Thank you.

I do not think we ever used it, in all fairness, unless we were on the road. It has not been abused as far as I know.

The Chairman: Any further discussion?

Senator Christensen: It seems reasonable. If witnesses are scheduled and, for some reason, not all committee members are able to get to the meeting, this motion allows us to hear evidence — in other words, not send the witnesses away without hearing evidence.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Motion is carried.

The next item is number 6, the financial report. Is there a mover for this motion?

Senator Mercer: I so move.

The Chairman: It is moved by Senator Mercer moves that the committee adopt the draft first report prepared in accordance with rule 104.

Just before we vote, I would ask the clerk to give the committee some information about this.

Mr. Thompson: Rule 104 requires the committee to table a report within the first 15 days of a new session on the expenditures incurred. It is a very straightforward report. A copy of it is being passed around as I speak. It outlines, under the various categories under the financial guidelines, the expenditures that the committee incurred both in its examination of legislation and with respect to its special study.

Honourable senators will see that witness expenses are listed on the report. However, I wish to point out that those expenditures did not come from the budget allocated directly to the committee but from the global budget that exists in the committee's directorate. Our share of that money is indicated in this draft report.

The Chairman: Any further discussion on this motion?

Senator Carney: Out of interest, why would transportation be $25? I think it should be noted that we read these things.

Mr. Thompson: I believe that $25 expense was for a taxi. I will verify that and get back to you, senator.

Senator Carney: Whether it is a typo or a taxi, it is an anomaly.

The Chairman: Is it agreed, honourable senators, that we adopt this motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

The next item deals with research staff. Does someone wish to move this item?

Senator Johnson: I so move.

It is moved by Senator Johnson that the committee ask the Library of Parliament to assign research staff to the committee; that the chair be authorized to seek authority from the Senate to engage the services of such counsel and technical, clerical and other personnel as may be necessary for the purpose of the committee's examination and consideration of such bills, subject matters of bills and estimates as are referred to it; that the subcommittee on agenda and procedure be authorized to retain the services of such experts as may be required by the work of the committee; and that the chair on behalf of the committee direct the research staff in the preparation of studies, analyses, summaries and draft reports.

Any discussion? Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

The next item deals with the authority to commit funds and certify accounts. Members will have had a chance to read this draft motion. Is anyone prepared to move the motion?

Senator Pearson: I so move.

The Chairman: Senator Pearson moves that, pursuant to section 32 of the Financial Administration Act, authority to commit funds be conferred individually on the chair, the deputy chair and clerk of the committee, and that pursuant to section 34 of the Financial Administration Act and guideline 305 of Appendix II of the Rules of the Senate authority for certifying accounts payable by the committee be conferred individually on the chair, the deputy chair and the clerk of the committee.

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

The next item is number 9, travel.

Senator Carney: I so move.

The Chairman: It is moved by Senator Carney that the committee empower the subcommittee on agenda and procedure to designate as required one or more members of the committee and/or such staff as may be necessary to travel on assignment on behalf of the committee.

Any discussion?

There being none, is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

The next item deals with designation of members travelling on committee business.

Senator Mercer: I so move.

The Chairman: It is moved by Senator Mercer that the subcommittee on agenda and procedure be authorized to determine whether any member of the committee is on official business for the purposes of paragraphs 8(3)(a) of the Senators' Attendance Policy published in the Journals of the Senate on Wednesday, July 3, 1998; and consider any member of the committee to be on official business if that member is attending a function, event or meeting related to the work of the committee or making a presentation related to the work of the committee.

Any discussion of the motion?

Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: The motion is carried.

Travelling and living expenses of witnesses is our next item of business. Is there a mover for this motion?

Senator Léger: I so move.

The Chairman: It is moved by Senator Léger that, pursuant to the Senate guidelines for witness expenses, the committee may reimburse reasonable travelling and living expenses for one witness from any one organization and payment will take place upon application but that the chair be authorized to approve expenses for a second witness should there be exceptional circumstances.

Any discussion of the motion?

If not, is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Our next agenda item is number 12, electronic media coverage of public meetings.

Senator Chaput: I so move.

The Chairman: It is moved by Senator Chaput that the chair be authorized to seek permission from the Senate to permit coverage by electronic media of its public proceedings with the least possible disruption of its hearing and that the subcommittee on agenda and procedure be empowered to allow such coverage at its discretion.

Senator Tkachuk: I have a question about something that has bothered me for a number of years. Electronic coverage means that the subcommittee agrees to particular coverage of an agenda item by CPAC or any other media at its discretion; am I correct? Do they send in a request to cover? How does that work exactly?

Mr. Thompson: Are you referring to how the decisions are made as to which committees will get covered?

Senator Tkachuk: I am asking what this means exactly.

Mr. Thompson: The Rules of the Senate only allow a committee to broadcast its proceedings, other than in audio form, with its explicit permission.

This motion will, first of all, authorize the chair to seek that permission from the Senate and then authorize the steering committee to make the determination of when cameras should be requested to film particular meetings.

Senator Tkachuk: Why can there not be a motion that states that all meetings are open unless the committee says they are closed? Why does the media need permission to come to a Senate committee? Why not open meetings, unless we agree to discuss private business or a future agenda in camera, as we often do? Why would we not have all other sessions open?

The Chairman: I do not know. It seems to me that there ought to be a motion to apply generally that, wherever possible, we allow media to televise and record our meetings. This sounds as if we need to seek permission, and I do not know whether there is an initial seeking of permission that applies to all of our meetings. I am wondering what the practice has been.

Mr. Thompson: With regard to electronic broadcasting, Senator Sibbeston would make a motion in the Senate requesting permission that the committee be able to authorize this. This motion would delegate that authority to the steering committee. The steering committee could make a general determination that the media would have blanket authorization to set up their cameras at any time. The second part of this motion delegates that authority to the steering committee.

This deals primarily with filming by Senate broadcasting, the tapes of which are provided to CPAC, rather than individual media outlets. However, should an individual media outlet make a request to set up their cameras, this would give the steering committee the authority to make that determination on behalf of the committee.

Senator Tkachuk: If we pass this motion, Mr. Chairman, would you undertake that all meetings would be open unless the committee decides that it has private business to discuss? This should all be public business.

The Chairman: That is the approach I would take. If members are agreeable, that is the practice we could adopt, subject to your approval, of course. I believe our meetings ought to be recorded, whenever possible. I think the work of the committee will be interesting and exciting to the general public.

Senator Tkachuk: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That would be great.

Senator Pearson: It is a given that our meetings are open unless we go in camera. Under the Rules of the Senate, every meeting is public. We are doing public business. That is not the issue. The issue has to do with whether the meetings are covered by the media. Our meetings that are not in camera are recorded and there is a transcript of them.

This is just a technical question. We do not have media coverage in the Senate chamber, although we do have a recording. Committees are a creature of the Senate. Therefore, I can see that the rationale for this motion is that we cannot make a decision that has not gone through the Senate itself.

Senator Tkachuk: We have media coverage in the Senate. Any media person can come in and observe the proceedings. We simply do not have television cameras.

Senator Pearson: The electronic media is the issue.

Senator Tkachuk: It is my view that, if a newscaster wishes to set up a camera here, unless we say otherwise, he or she should be allowed to do so. Why not? There may be situations where we do not have enough room for cameras or the cameras would disrupt the meeting, but if a newspaper person and a photographer can come in here, why not a television camera?

Senator Christensen: Why can a television camera not come into the Senate?

Senator Tkachuk: That is a rule of the Senate. We have a different rule for the committees.

Senator Carney: This is an interesting subject, but I think that the chair and the steering committee are aware that the feeling of the committee is to have meetings open to all media, unless there are specific circumstances for holding meetings in camera.

It is useful to have this discussion. Unless anyone objects, I think that we can leave this in the hands of the steering committee. You know the will of the committee.

Senator Tkachuk: I asked the chair that, and he said he would undertake to do that.

The Chairman: In my brief experience, I have found that television coverage makes for a good and interesting meeting; people know that whatever they say will be seen on TV.

Senator Munson: If a member of the media has to ask permission to come in, they will not do it. If they know that they can automatically come in, unless the meeting is in camera, they will come in and take a peek and report our proceedings.

The Chairman: Some committee meetings are filmed and others are not. Who decides what will be filmed? I imagine there is competition among Senate committees to get coverage. Someone must determine when the cameras come into meetings.

Mr. Thompson: Senate broadcasting currently has the capability to film two meetings simultaneously. They can film in rooms 160-S and 257 in the East Block, and in rooms 505 and 705 in the Victoria Building. Because of that limitation, the scheduling of meetings does limit what can be filmed. In the last session, this committee requested television cameras for virtually all of its public hearings and received it for virtually all of them. That was not a problem. At times, conflicts arise, and in those cases the leadership gets involved.

Senator Johnson: It is my experience on this and other committees that studies are given priority for coverage but that general meetings are not. Also, meetings on studies are often replayed often on CPAC. As the clerk said, we are restricted in terms of the ability to record, but each time we have done studies with witnesses, we have had full television coverage, and it is always repeated. I was watching CPAC the other night and saw that the November 4 meeting was replayed for several hours.

Senator Christensen: CPAC has a contract and can film two committees simultaneously. What would be the process for CBC or another broadcasting company to videotape certain portions of a meeting? For example, on the Nisga'a issue many people were here and the hearings were very high profile. What would be the process for them to tape such meetings?

Mr. Thompson: There would most likely be two separate processes. First, if the committee had an arrangement with Senate broadcasting to film a particular meeting, any media organization would be able to plug into the Senate feed and get the videotape for any portion of that meeting.

If we had not already arranged for video cameras but a media organization arrived at the door with its cameras looking to set up, I would bring the matter to the attention of the chair and the deputy chair, to ensure there were no problems and to coordinate the location. It would be at their discretion, provided this motion is adopted and that the committee received permission from the Senate.

[Translation]

Senator Gill: Exactly what are we talking about here, aside from CPAC and the broadcasting of the Senate proceedings? Are we talking about public media coverage, such as television and radio coverage? We have all kinds of Aboriginal community television and radio stations across the country. Is this a reference to media in general or to CPAC in particular?

I understand that CPAC is currently negotiating to have the number of broadcasting hours increased. That might mean more coverage. However, in this instance, are we talking about public radio and television?

The Clerk: We are talking about public televised coverage. Committees already have permission to broadcast the audio feed of their meetings. That is true of all meetings, that is coverage is available on the web site and also on Oasis. Permission is needed to provide televised coverage.

Senator Gill: Permission from the committee?

The Clerk: We need permission from the Senate. The decision rests with the steering committee.

Senator Gill: As a rule, we request permission from the Senate. Once permission has been granted, the steering committee gives the green light to broadcasters. Correct?

The Clerk: That is correct.

[English]

The Chairman: Is there any further discussion about this?

Hearing none, is it agreed, honourable senators, to adopt agenda item number 12?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

The next item is number 13, the time slot for regular meetings. I would ask Mr. Thompson to indicate what he has found out. I have asked him to seek slots for our meetings.

Mr. Thompson: I understand the time slot for regular meetings will be the same as in the last session, that is, Tuesday mornings from 9:30 to 11:00 approximately, and Wednesday evenings beginning at 6:15 p.m.

In the previous session, met earlier to allow more time with witnesses. In this session, given that no other meeting is scheduled in this room prior to ours, the committee could choose to meet earlier, if it so wished. I do not believe that would be a problem.

The Chairman: May I have a vote as to whether nine o'clock is preferable, as opposed to 9:30?

Senator Carney: Nine o'clock here in Ottawa is six o'clock Pacific time. It is hard to continually get up at 4:30 and 5:00 to get to these meetings, so I think 9:30 is much more appropriate for this committee.

The Chairman: It appears that 9:30 is the best time for this committee to meet on Tuesdays. Is Wednesday at 6:15 a good meeting time for everyone as well?

Senator Carney: Normally, committees do not meet Wednesday nights. This committee does not often meet Wednesday nights.

Senator Johnson: That is correct. The committee meets on Wednesdays only when it is doing studies or special legislation, but that time slot is available to us if we need extra time.

Senator Mercer: I have a question with respect to this week. If we do have something scheduled for Thursday evening, is it our intention to meet tomorrow evening as well?

The Chairman: No, there is no intention to meet until we have bills before us. I would ask the clerk to give us an indication of what bills the Senate may get from the House of Commons over the next few weeks that eventually will come to this committee.

Mr. Thompson: My understanding is that there are three items of proposed legislation the government intends to introduce that could potentially be referred to our committee. One of those is Bill C-19 from the previous session. My understanding is that the House of Commons will vote today on the motion to reintroduce bills from the previous session. We should have some indication this week as to what stage that bill is at. There were two other bills.

Senator Carney: Could you refresh the memories of new members with respect to Bill C-19?

Mr. Thompson: Bill C-19 from the last session was the proposed First Nations fiscal and statistical management act. I believe in the last session it got as far as report stage in the House of Commons.

Another piece of proposed legislation from the last session was the Westbank First Nations self-government agreement act, Bill C-57. The government introduced it just prior to prorogation. Those bills will get new numbers in this session.

The third item was not introduced in the previous session but the minister has indicated his intention to introduce legislation concerning the Tlicho agreement.

The Chairman: This is an agreement with the Dogrib people, just close to Yellowknife. They have finalized their agreement and so are now in the process of having it legislated. That will come forward at some point.

Those are the three bills that we are likely to see this session. I have no idea when those bills will come forth from the House of Commons, but when they do our committee will get them after they have received second reading in the Senate.

It may be a number of weeks before this committee meets again; I do not envisage any meetings prior to receiving the bills I just outlined.

Any comments or thoughts on that?

Senator St. Germain: Mr. Chairman, I think a review of DIAND is in order, regardless of any proposed legislation we may or may not pass. In terms of the implementation of any agreement, I believe there is mismanaged by the department in its entirety.

I am speaking for myself; I am speaking for our native peoples and their leaders. The plight of our native peoples has not been improved one iota in the last 50 years. Everyone is just going through the motions, spending billions of dollars. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I would ask you to consider studying this matter. Until we get rid of the empire that operates over there — and I am referring to DIAND — nothing will change. The more things change, the more they stay the same. We have to demonstrate leadership. We are supposed to be non-partisan. I am fed up with doing studies, passing legislation and witnessing roadblocks in the implementation process of agreements.

In any case, Mr. Chairman, this issue needs attention — and I am not being partisan here. The Speech from the Throne promises to do this, that and the other thing for Aboriginal peoples. Granted, the odd thing goes through that seems to work, but the majority of the agreements that have been reached with our Aboriginal peoples have met with roadblocks. The department is throwing roadblocks in the way of our native peoples improving their plight.

The Chairman: Thank you. Perhaps one way of approaching this is for members to submit ideas or suggestions vis- à-vis what our committee could do in the way of a study. I would encourage honourable senators to take the initiative to bring forward proposals for terms of reference. I am open to suggestions.

Senator Carney: I will speak to that, and then I have a question. The urban youth study was originally cast as one part of a series of studies. One of my interests that resulted was Bill C-33 and the problems faced by Aboriginal women, their loss of native status and the creation of ghost reserves, which we heard about in committee.

Committee members may want to review the original terms of reference to determine the status of continuing that work. The committee is at the will of the committee, but because there was a format and a plan, committee members may want to consider that.

My second point is that the study on the matrimonial rights of Aboriginal women was mandated to the Human Rights Committee and not to the Aboriginal Peoples Committee because we were supposed to be studying the Indian Act and, as such, were not supposed to have sufficient time on our agenda for another study.

We may want to determine whether there is any legislation, although it is a provincial issue, or any proposed legislation, from that study. The minister at the time asked the Senate to make recommendations in that area. Obviously, relevant bills would come to the Aboriginal Peoples Committee and not to the Human Rights Committee.

I will ask the clerk of the committee to determine the status of any legislative proposals that have resulted from that study and to review the terms of reference from the urban youth study. In that way, the committee can decide on the next phase of that study, with particular attention to areas affecting the loss of native status within some bands.

The Chairman: We could have that information ready for the next meeting.

Senator Gill: In response to Senator Carney's question, we will have to try to understand the elements of the Speech from the Throne. It is my understanding that we will need additional studies, as well as the continuation of certain studies, but we will have to change our methods. Currently, we have the Prime Minister's involvement through the PMO's committee, as stated in the Speech from the Throne. It is my reading that we have to include specific people seriously — Aboriginal peoples and First Nations.

We may want to continue in the same way that we have worked for many years, but it seems that we must consider the message in the Speech from the Throne to determine how the work could be done within that spirit.

Senator Mercer: I do not disagree with Senator St. Germain's wanting to review the work of DIAND, but I think we should be more realistic and look at our current timetable. There are references to the Speech from the Throne that indicate that proposed legislation will come forth that will eventually end up before this committee. We all know that the timetable would appear to contain a spring election. Therefore, it would be wise for us to plan a review of DIAND but not to embark on that review because we would be interrupted by the election. We would then have to start again. We should be realistic about what we take on.

Senator Johnson: I echo Senator Mercer's comments. All the suggestions are excellent, and you have asked senators to put them forward, but we are working within a short time frame. There will be prorogation, so we have to be realistic about what we can do in the interim, if anything. I think a major study would be impossible.

Senator Tkachuk: I wish to support Senator St. Germain. The election is of no consequence to us. We do not know what the Prime Minister is thinking. The Prime Minister does not have to call the election until the year 2005, so we cannot set an agenda based on what the Prime Minister might do. That has not been our practice in the past and I do not think we should start that practice now.

Notwithstanding the fact that we have a senator who is close to the action and perhaps knows things that we do not know, my guess is that he will not tell us when the election will be but will only surmise when the election will be.

We do spend, by some estimates, close to $13 billion on Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This figure has increased from approximately $2 billion in 1991 — perhaps it was a little less than that — but I doubt that anyone is truly benefiting from it, either the Canadian people or First Nations people. It seems that the problems are always same. Maybe we should rethink the whole process of dealing with Aboriginal people and do something different. I am sure that Senator Gill agrees with me that we should do something different — however, what we think is "different'' will be two different things. Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile debate because the current process is not working.

The Auditor General's report at two o'clock today will give us a great deal of fodder on DIAND, which we should examine.

The Chairman: I appreciate your comments, honourable senators. Is there further discussion?

Senator St. Germain: Mr. Chairman, I sense partisanship, and if we are to run this committee on a partisanship basis, we will never get anywhere. As far as I am concerned, Senator Gill's comments echo my comments: the more things change, the more they stay the same — which will be the case again if we do not change our approach to this work.

I have spent a great deal of time talking with members of native bands. Just this past week I met with a group of natives from British Columbia. In that meeting, I mentioned that we are heading into a new session of Parliament. I asked them to express their opinions to me. They told me that, in their opinion, DIAND, from the outset, undermined their quality of life and the ability of Aboriginal peoples to exist with a certain amount of pride and self-sufficiency within the reserves. DIAND came to the reserves and told the natives what to do.

The individual native who spoke is a leader in the community. She, as a former member of the band executive, told me that her parents and grandparents loathed welfare from the very beginning and wanted to reject it. The welfare system has undermined economic initiative on some of these reserves — not on all of them. On the particular reserve where she lives, there has been initiative after initiative in the lumber, cattle and other industries, and each time the whole system breaks down when the natives force out external partners or leadership within the organization — and it can generally be traced back to DIAND.

This is not a matter of politics — Conservatism, Liberalism or NDP-ism — but rather a matter of common sense. Native people are not working on the reserves. On that particular reserve, 10 bundles of timber are required to be viable, but they cannot process any more than six bundles because the involvement of welfare and DIAND undermines the organization. They operate virtually at a loss. If it were managed properly, it would be a profitable organization. This committee must examine such situations if we are to help our Aboriginal peoples.

The Chairman: I encourage members that feel strongly about certain studies to be undertaken to bring forth their proposals for consideration.

Senator Johnson: Senators Mercer, St. Germain and Tkachuk have brought excellent items forward for the steering committee to review before the next meeting.

Coming from Winnipeg, I can certainly sympathize with many of the things that Senator St. Germain said. The situation, in many respects, has not improved, and much of the blame emanates from DIAND as well as the AFN. We could put it in writing and review it. We have to stay within the time frame but we could continue the work after the fact.

I would not suggest that we stop our work because of the potential election. Rather, I would suggest that the steering committee take the suggestions so that we can do what we can in the time available to the committee. We have proposed legislation before us that we have to prioritize.

Who is the other member on our steering committee?

The Chairman: We will have to decide that in the next short while.

Senator Munson: I have a question about the fate of studies when an election is called. Is a committee authorized to continue its studies?

Senator Johnson: No, it cannot continue.

The Chairman: If there is no further business, we will adjourn.

The committee adjourned.


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