Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 10 - Evidence - June 22, 2016
OTTAWA, Wednesday, June 22, 2016
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 6:58 p.m.
to study best practices and on- going challenges relating to housing in First
Nation and Inuit communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good evening. I would like to welcome all honourable
senators and members of the public, who are watching this meeting of the
Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples either here in the room or via
I would like to acknowledge for the sake of reconciliation that we are
meeting on the unceded land of the Algonquin peoples.
My name is Lillian Dyck from Saskatchewan, and I have the privilege of
chairing the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. I now invite my
fellow senators to introduce themselves, starting with the deputy chair.
Senator Patterson: Thank you, Madam Chair, and good evening. I'm
Dennis Patterson from Nunavut.
Senator Raine: Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia.
The Chair: Senator Watt has just arrived, and he will take his seat.
There may be other senators coming in as we have just concluded business
The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters relating
to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada generally. This evening, we will complete
our testimony on the northern housing study, with a mandate to study best
practices and ongoing challenges relating to housing and First Nation
communities in Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Northwest Territories.
We will hear from government representatives. We have, from Indigenous and
Northern Affairs Canada, Stephen Van Dine, Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern
Affairs Organization; and Allan MacDonald, Director General, Implementation
Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal Government. From the Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation, we have Charlie MacArthur, Senior Vice-President, Regional
Operations and Assisted Housing; Carla Staresina, Vice President, Affordable
Housing; and Luisa Atkinson, Director, First Nations Housing.
We will have you do your statements first, and after that senators will have
questions for you. Please begin.
Stephen Van Dine, Assistant Deputy Minister, Northern Affairs
Organization, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: Thank you for the
invitation to return to the committee and follow up on this important issue.
It is a pleasure to be here with my colleague from Indigenous and Northern
Affairs Canada, Allan MacDonald, Director General, Implementation Branch,
Treaties and Aboriginal Governments Sector. I am also pleased to appear again
with colleagues from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
In order to improve outcomes for northerners, Budget 2016 announced important
funding for northern and Inuit housing. The budget provides up to $177.7 million
over two years starting in 2016 to provinces and territories through the
Investments in Affordable Housing initiative for affordable housing in the North
and in Inuit communities.
Specifically, over two years, $8 million will be provided to Yukon, $12
million to the Northwest Territories and $76.7 million to Nunavut. Further
investments are also being earmarked for three Inuit regions: Nunavik, $50
million over two years; Nunatsiavut, $15 million over two years; and the
Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories, $15 million over two
As stated in the budget, this funding will be delivered through the
Investments in Affordable Housing initiative, which is a Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation program. I will say that we are working with CMHC to ensure
that this funding flows to indigenous groups in a way that benefits indigenous
groups in these communities. The CMHC is working with its provincial and
territorial partners to make efforts to engage the Inuit on Budget 2016 in
As we discussed last time I was here, helping communities to adapt to climate
change is critical to ensure the sustainability of housing investments. To this
end, Budget 2016 announced $129.5 million over five years starting in 2016-17
for climate change adaptation to seven federal departments and agencies to
implement programming focused on building the science base, informed decision
making, protecting the health and well-being of Canadians, building resilience
in the North and indigenous communities and enhancing competitiveness in key
To address the high cost of running homes in the North, Budget 2016 commits
$10.7 million over two years starting in 2016-17 to Indigenous and Northern
Affairs Canada to implement the renewable energy projects in off-grid indigenous
and Northern communities that rely on diesel and other fossil fuels to generate
heat and power. As I'm sure you've heard over the course of your study, the
operating costs for homes in the North are extremely high as 72 of 99
communities in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut
rely almost exclusively on diesel power generation. Funding to look at
alternatives to diesel may not have immediate impacts on the costs of operating
a home in the North; however, this work is essential to find alternative, more
environmentally friendly and affordable energy solutions and in turn to reduce
the operating costs for northern homes.
In closing, I would like to thank the committee again for looking at this
important issue. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is working closely with
the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
We are a strong advocate of ensuring that we bring the necessary attention to
support innovation and positive improvements in northern housing. I'm sure your
report will help to advance this important issue.
The Chair: Thank you. The next presenter is from CMHC.
Charlie MacArthur, Senior Vice-President, Regional Operations and Assisted
Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation: Thank you, Madam Chair and
members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be here again on behalf of Canada
Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
I'd like to begin by thanking Senator Moore for his comments last week during
the debate of the budget implementation act. My colleagues and I at CMHC
understand and appreciate his frustration. As I noted when I appeared before the
committee in March, the challenges of providing safe, affordable housing in the
North are unique and the needs are prevalent.
Households in the North are more than twice as likely as other Canadian
households to be overcrowded and inadequate. A short building season, high
construction costs and the remoteness of some communities only heighten these
difficulties. Together with our partners in the North, we are constantly looking
for new and better ways to deliver housing programs.
As you know, the Government of Canada has provided an initial response to the
housing challenges in the North and elsewhere with significant new funding in
Budget 2016, which was tabled in the House of Commons shortly after I last met
with the committee.
As part of the government's new social infrastructure fund, the budget
includes $2.3 billion over two years to improve access to affordable housing for
Canadians. This includes $732 million set aside for northern, Inuit and First
Nations housing. Of this amount, $178 million will be provided over two years to
the provinces and territories through the Investment in Affordable Housing
initiative to be used specifically for housing in northern and Inuit
communities. Almost $77 million will be allocated for Nunavut; $27 million for
the Northwest Territories, including $15 million for the Inuvialuit Settlement
Region; $8 million for Yukon; $50 million to Quebec for Nunavik; and $15 million
to Newfoundland and Labrador for Nunatsiavut.
An additional $138 million will be delivered through CMHC's on-reserve
program to improve housing and living conditions in First Nations communities.
The remaining $416 million will be delivered by Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Budget 2016 also includes a further $10 million to be provided over three
years and delivered by CMHC to support the renovation and construction of
shelters for victims of family violence in First Nations communities. Northern
residents will also benefit from other Budget 2016 investments in housing that
are of a broader national application.
For example, federal funding under the Investment in Affordable Housing will
be doubled over the next two years. This amounts to more than $504 million in
additional federal funding, which will be matched by the provinces and
territories and used by them to deliver a range of housing programs from new
construction and renovation to rent subsidies and shelters.
As well, $574 million will be provided over two years for the renovation and
energy and water efficiency retrofit of existing social housing units across
Canada. More than $200 million will also be invested in affordable housing for
low- income seniors, and close to $90 million will be provided for the
construction or renovation of shelter spaces off-reserve for victims of family
I also want to mention two additional initiatives in Budget 2016 that are
designed to encourage the development of affordable rental housing across
Canada, including in the North. The Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund
will invest $208 million over five years to test innovative financing, operating
and partnership approaches to lower the costs and risks of financing for
affordable rental housing projects. This fund will be administered by CMHC. CMHC
will also consult with stakeholders on the design of an affordable rental
housing financing initiative, which will provide up to $2.5 billion in low-cost
loans over five years to municipalities and housing developers during the
earliest phases of the development.
The housing investments announced in Budget 2016 will address the most
pressing needs, while spurring short-term economic growth. For the longer term,
the government is committed to developing a comprehensive national strategy that
will promote innovative approaches to the housing challenges and opportunities
that exist across the country. The strategy will inform the next phase of
investments under the social infrastructure fund.
Supported by CMHC, the government will soon consult with provinces,
territories, municipalities, indigenous people and other stakeholders to
identify innovative, long-term solutions to current and future housing
The strategy will cover the entire housing continuum, from homelessness to
market housing, and will include a range of policy and program responses that
recognize the diversity of housing needs across Canada.
We recognize that the opportunities and challenges for housing in the North
and in Indigenous communities warrant tailored approaches and separate
consultations that are integrated into the overall national strategy. CMHC is
working closely with INAC in this regard.
More details on the national housing strategy consultations will be announced
in the near future.
Again, I want to thank the committee for the opportunity to be here. I would
be pleased to answer any questions you may have at this time.
The Chair: Thank you. We will now have questions from the senators,
starting with our deputy chair, Senator Patterson.
Senator Patterson: Welcome back to our committee. You have been here
before, and we're delighted that you're back again now that our study is well
I'd like to ask Mr. MacArthur, representing CMHC, a question. We're very
sensitive that we are a federal parliamentary committee and that our advice is
to the federal government, to CMHC and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
We can't advise the territorial governments, which deliver housing programs in
my region and the other territories, how they should deliver those programs.
One thing I'm really curious about is this: When you transfer money to the
Northwest Territories or to Nunavut — I'll speak about territories, but it also
goes to provinces, as the recent budget spelled out — is this money transferred
without conditions and basically at the discretion of the territory as to how it
is spent, or do you have a relationship with the territories such that you can
influence important issues that we've uncovered, such as innovative approaches
to ways of supporting home ownership?
We'll be making our recommendations to the federal government because we're a
federal parliamentary committee. Does the money go to the territories and
provinces where Inuit live without conditions, or do you people have some
influence over how it's spent? This is all about getting value for money. This
is taxpayers' money. We want to ensure it's well spent. That's my question.
Mr. MacArthur: I'll answer a couple of things. There is a framework,
where all provinces and territories agree to four broad categories of spending:
new construction, renovation, affordability, which can take two forms — rent
supplements for folks or home ownership — and special needs. That could be
seniors or folks with disabilities and the like.
Within those broad categories, that's where the spending can take place.
Then, the provinces and territories are responsible for the design of the
individual programs within that broad framework, and they can't go outside of
that framework. That's where the money must be spent. But, as you can imagine,
the needs in the Northwest Territories are different than the needs in Nova
Scotia, so they would have the flexibility, locally, to adapt the programs for
their local needs and to determine where the money, within those categories, is
We have an accountability framework, so we get claims from the provinces and
the territories, at a project level, except for one category, which is the rent
supplements that go to individuals and the like. We get that at a program level.
It's audited, so we have good controls to ensure that the money is spent as it's
meant to be. We will be evaluating the program in the very near future. We have
those controls. That's that program.
We also, as indicated, have the responsibility to administer an innovation
fund, going forward, that we're working on the details of at the moment. We will
be able to look at innovative and creative solutions. We have strong and ongoing
working relationships with the provinces and territories. We do research. My
colleague in the bench is there. We do research, in a cooperative way, to try
and identify solutions to some of the challenges, be that humidity in homes and
how we could make better heat recovery ventilators or how to make them work
better and the like. We do do that.
We have broad categories, and the decision, the design and the delivery is by
our provincial and territorial partner.
Senator Patterson: Okay. I think I understand your answer, that they
do basically determine how that money is spent, within those frameworks.
Mr. MacArthur: Yes.
Senator Patterson: I'd like to ask another question about the
Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund, if I may, Madam Chair. One thing
we've learned, in looking at the situation of Inuit housing in the Inuit
regions, is that home ownership, as we know it, has been a real challenge, a
real struggle. It's the high costs of construction and the high costs of
maintenance. I will say, frankly, that I felt that the Nunavut Housing
Corporation was kind of discouraging about the potential for home ownership to
wean social housing tenants away from ongoing dependence on the government and
on your declining O&M funding programs.
One of the things we've been hearing is that maybe we have to think outside
the box. One of the options that seem to be floating in Inuit communities is
co-op housing, where there would be kind of a collective ownership and a
collective responsibility for collecting rents and maintenance and that kind of
thing. Our committee is still formulating its recommendations. I don't want to
pre-judge what we're going to recommend, but I'd like to ask about co-op
housing. Does CMHC have a co-op housing program? Could it work in the North,
where people have kind of a more collective approach, sometimes, to issues, even
ownership? Will this Affordable Rental Housing Innovation Fund consider new
approaches like co-op housing, which really hasn't been done much in the North?
As an MLA in the territorial assembly, I was involved with a very successful
co-op housing project in Iqaluit, but I remember, at that time, being told, "We
don't do this program north of 60. The guidelines have to be adjusted because
costs are so different from Southern Canada.'' It was kind of seen as a real
aberration, which I've fought hard to implement.
I'd like to ask you about that. Is this fund going to allow you to explore
new approaches? I don't mean to make a speech, Madam Chair, but we can't build
enough houses in the North, even with the generous capital contributions that
were announced in the recent budget. And even if we build the houses, we can't
afford to maintain them, so something has to change.
Tell us more about this innovation fund. Will it look at co-op housing and
different approaches to make things more sustainable?
Mr. MacArthur: Absolutely. It's a fund, not a program. We're looking
at ways that we can seed and invest in unique ways in moving forward that may
not have been tried in certain areas in the past.
We are looking at what the things are that are going to work in a particular
area. If there's a community or a collective approach to housing that would work
in the North, we would be most interested in listening to the proponents. Like I
say, we will be announcing the guidelines of this in the coming months and the
like. But we would be in a position to work not only with sophisticated players
who can come forward but also with those who need the help to work and refine
their programs or approach.
These would be the kind of things we would be interested in looking at.
We don't have strict parameters; we will have principles and controls in
place, absolutely. But we are looking at things that we can test and try so that
we can help a community or a proponent get off the ground and look at things
New approaches — we need to be informed by the past. We've done co-op
housing. We haven't done any new loans since 1993 — decisions that were made by
the government. So we do have experience of how those work that could help us
inform proponents in the North, if that was an idea that was brought forward.
We will be out in all regions and all areas of the country promoting this to
make sure we've got a good diversity of ideas that come through the door.
Senator Watt: First of all, welcome again. Nice to see you all. Just
to carry on the point that the senators before me have highlighted: innovative
ideas. I'd like to try to see if I come up with a possible solution that might
be doable. I want to see if it fits into your program. I'm basically talking to
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
If an individual Inuk decided to come up with an innovative idea of providing
for his own needs — I call it "Inuit technology'' in a similar sense, in the way
that they can build a snow house. I'm not talking about the snow now; I'm
talking about completely away from the snow, but it's a similar type — dome
houses, for example.
If an individual person came up with the innovative idea that he knows will
cost a lot less than it normally costs, and he might come to the conclusion that
"this is the only way I'm going to be able to keep myself alive,'' to survive
because of economic conditions of the North and things of that nature, can he be
eligible to access the program, whether from Indigenous Affairs or from the
CMHC? Is that a possibility? An innovative idea — if someone came up with it, is
it possible they could have assistance from the government in terms of subsidies
and things of that nature?
Mr. MacArthur: If an individual had an interesting idea that might go
forward to solve not only for themselves but in the community or that other
individuals might see that as a path forward and a viable option, we're not
closed to it. That's why it's a fund, not a program: We don't want to have
parameters around it saying that this is all it can do.
We're interested in finding those unique solutions, and those could come from
anywhere. Those could come from individuals; they could come from groups that
have been thinking about things for a long time. It could come from anywhere and
We're really interested in what's different: How can we do it differently?
How can we adapt something to the environment broadly and replicate it?
As I said, we're designing it as we speak, so we're rushing forward with it.
We'll know what that's going to be, but the idea is for us to be able to look at
unique, innovative solutions that, if they're working, we could say, "Okay, here
is one that works. How can we now replicate that and where do we go with that?''
Senator Watt: In other words, you would be prepared to accept a
proposal — at least take a look at it and see what it means?
Mr. MacArthur: Absolutely.
Senator Watt: If it seems to have a life down the road, not only for
that person's interest but to apply to a larger area — an open space — you would
welcome that idea?
Mr. MacArthur: Absolutely, senator, yes.
Senator Watt: That's nice to hear. There are a lot of individual
people up there, as you know, who are struggling, living in crowded houses and
trying to find a way to rectify that matter. It's not only causing them a
headache but costing them life, also. There is so much suicide among the people,
and the health aspects are not getting any better, either, so we have to do
Mr. MacArthur: Yes.
Senator Watt: I don't think the Government of Canada is going to come
up with the massive dollars that are going to answer the needs immediately,
because its' a huge amount of dollars that is needed. The way it is being
treated, it's not getting any better; it's getting worse and worse every year.
Again, a complement to the first question he asked whether there are strings
attached — the money that is coming from the federal government to the province
and the territories. I would like to talk a little bit about that, not only the
fact that the money departed from the federal government to the province or
territory, but when the money departs from the province or territory, are there
any strings attached at the lower level in terms of holding back, let's say, a
certain amount of dollars that might be identified or allowed to certain
regions? Is there a holdback, or are there reasons why there is a holdback? Do
you know that we're getting our money's worth in terms of the federal government
that will have to be transferred from the provincial down to the grassroots
level? How does that work?
Carla Staresina, Vice President, Affordable Housing, Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation: We did look at admin fees with all our agreements, and
in all the North, overall, none of the admin fees for any of the agreements was
over 4.3 per cent. So of the four Inuit regions and three territories, our admin
fees range from 0 per cent — they did it within their own resources — to 4 per
Senator Watt: That's the administrative fee — 4 per cent?
Ms. Staresina: Yes.
Senator Watt: So that would be on the territory or just provincial?
Ms. Staresina: Provincial. They are taking our money. When we targeted
money to victims of family violence, they've used that whole money — that entire
budget — for that program.
Mr. MacArthur: If I might add to that. With regard to it, we pay on
claims. Do we hold it back? We don't put the money out up front. The money is
put out after. We've committed the money, and then they claim the money from us
after they've made the commitment to the individual. They say, "We've made the
commitment. They're doing the construction; the renovation or the rent is up''
and they claim it after they put it in place.
Senator Watt: In other words, after they spend the amount of money
Mr. MacArthur: Yes. After they commit it and they're under
construction, they're doing the work and the like. So it's not a transfer, as
such. They have to claim. They have to come and say that they're building an
affordable apartment in Iqaluit or Cape Dorset or wherever, and they're in
construction. It's this much, and we're working with this group. Then the
territory would manage the cash flow out to the proponent.
Senator Watt: Okay. What kind of a deal can the contractors themselves
make with the municipal authority allowing them to do the construction work? I
imagine that getting the contract from either the minister or the housing
authority at the community level, and so on, would have to take place, correct?
Mr. MacArthur: It would be different in each place, but the
municipality might be responsible, for example, for providing the land.
Senator Watt: Then does the municipality or any housing authorities
that have the right to pay the money to the construction company — from time to
time, I know for a fact that they hold back a certain amount before the
construction is finished. It's a lot of time; they end up having taken a
shortcut and they have to negotiate with the community authorities to try to
rectify that matter. How do you deal with that?
Mr. MacArthur: It would be our partner. For example, the housing
corporation would contract to have the construction done, and they would be
responsible for ensuring that it's built according to —
Senator Watt: The contract.
Mr. MacArthur: — according to the contract, the plans and the like.
They're on the ground, and it would be up to them to make sure that they didn't
flow the money out before they're satisfied that it's been built according to
Senator Watt: It is only after the inspector comes in to inspect the
site and the construction site that they let go. In other words, they make the
payment. Is that what you're telling me?
Mr. MacArthur: I wouldn't know how it works in each province, but the
provinces and the territories, according to our law in Canada, are the ones
responsible for enforcing the building codes and the like. It's like any of us:
Before the money flows, you need to get an occupancy permit. That's sort of the
final sign-off, and the like.
Senator Watt: Just one more.
The Chair: A short question.
Senator Watt: I'm trying to get to the bottom of the biggest problem
here, and if we don't know that, we don't know how to make recommendations.
With regard to the contractor that has a contract with a community and has to
put up X number of houses, after the construction is done, even during the
construction period, you should have an inspector on site, which doesn't happen
very often. Also, they should be examining the quality of material that is being
brought in and is used for construction, at times, because the contractor
notices it's going to end up costing them a hell of a lot of money and they try
to find a way to take a shortcut.
On account of that factor, sometimes we end up with a very low quality of
materials, and then we start having problems, and before the 15 years is up, you
have to renovate those houses again.
This is an ongoing problem in the North. I wanted to point that out. I'm not
saying I do have a solution, but I'm saying the Department of Indigenous and
Northern Affairs and, probably, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
should have closer ties with the people actually administering it at the
community level so that they would know exactly what is happening with regard to
the construction itself.
Senator Raine: If you don't mind, I'm going to change the subject a
little bit. I presume all of you have visited the North, and Nunavut, and you
have seen the condition of some of the houses and the tragic overcrowding that's
happening, which is creating a lot of social problems.
We spoke to one young person who said they graduated from high school. We
asked him how he managed to do that, and he said it was because he had his own
bedroom. The family situation was such that he had his own bedroom, which was
We've heard so many things; it's really been something. But the thing that
really stunned me and that I need an explanation on is that, in Nunavik, where
it is part of Quebec, it appears that the funding flows through Quebec social
housing policies into Nunavik, and it is different from other Inuit housing
We heard of young people who had gone out and gotten a university education,
were qualified to be a nurse, teacher or whatever it was, applied and got the
job. But when they got there, they found they didn't qualify for staff housing
because they were from there, they weren't from the South. It seems to me that
policy, somehow, was put in place by Quebec's — I don't know how it went. To me
it seemed completely illogical and wrong. You want to have policies that
encourage people that the best way to get high up on the house or on the social
housing list is to get an education, get a job and do those things.
But it appeared to us that it was the reverse. I don't know how this is
working, but when you go higher up the list for not completing your education
and for having children very early, and those who complete their educations
can't even make it up the list, something is wrong.
How does the housing list work for Nunavik? How is that controlled?
Mr. Van Dine: I'll attempt to respond to some of those dimensions,
senator. Thank you very much for the question.
There are, as was pointed out by our colleagues, arrangements in each
jurisdiction with the province for the receipt of the funding through the
funding parameters that have been inscribed by CMHC in the delivery and
I think what you've been referring to are a couple of different types of
housing. Certainly, in the case of the federal government in Nunavut, we offer
federal Crown housing to federal employees, whether or not they're Inuit
beneficiaries; as long as they're federal employees living in Nunavut, they're
eligible for Crown housing.
In a lot of cases, people are making employment choices based on housing as
an incentive to work with the Government of Canada.
In the cases of provinces that are offering a housing benefit in a remote
setting, they, too, may have their own programs to entice qualified people to
work in terms of how they distribute that benefit to employees in their
eligibility requirement. That would be for each jurisdiction to decide for
itself, on a case-by-case basis, how they're going to provide a housing benefit
for people living in a remote setting.
With respect to the social housing in Nunatsiavut and Nunavik, there are
relationships in the case of the province of Quebec. I'm now venturing a little
further away from my day-to-day vocation in this area, but I will say that there
are arrangements with the province to assure that there is a social benefit to
all citizens within the province. As a result, we have heard from Inuit regions
that they're of the view that they don't believe that they're receiving their
share of the social housing benefit and therefore have advocated for specific
funding for Inuit social housing needs.
The government has heard that message and in Budget 2016 has set aside
specific dollars for Inuit regions for Inuit housing, and my colleagues at CMHC
are now working closely with the territorial and provincial governments on how
to ensure that those dollars go to those purposes. There is an incremental
addition to address the urgent housing needs in those areas.
Senator Raine: Could I perhaps ask a question of Mr. MacDonald? You're
Director General of the Implementation Branch, Treaties and Aboriginal
Government. You must be aware of the James Bay treaty and the stipulations in it
Are you satisfied that the obligations that we, as Canadians, have in that
treaty are being met, and in Nunatsiavut as well?
Allan MacDonald, Director General, Implementation Branch, Treaties and
Aboriginal Government, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: There are a
couple of things to mention in the context of treaty implementation across the
North. All of our treaties are very different from one another. They all have
different provisions with respect to housing.
With respect to the community you mentioned in Nunavik, we do have specific
treaty obligations to fund housing up there, and we do have an existing
arrangement with Makivik and the Kativik regional housing up there. They are
doing a good job delivering housing, and then I think another key factor in
determining how and what the actual affordable housing gets spent on the ground
With respect to Nunatsiavut, the Inuit territory in Labrador, as part of
their self-government agreement we have a large fiscal financing arrangement
with them where we flow all kinds of funding to them. They made the internal
decision to allocate a certain percentage of that money to housing, and they
have their own particular housing corporation up there, which serves to buttress
the other investments that come from the province and territories.
Senator Raine: It's pretty obvious that there isn't enough housing.
Did the treaty not foresee the population growth? How is it that we're falling
so far behind in the provision of housing? Most people feel it is their right to
Mr. MacDonald: It really depends on the treaty that you're looking at.
Absolutely in the context of Nunavut there are specific obligations for housing.
There aren't specific obligations with respect to housing in many if any of the
other treaties in the North.
We fund housing through a variety of other means. My colleagues have talked
about some of those, and that's how we allocate and distribute funding in the
North. It's not always a treaty-specific mechanism that we can use to support
The Chair: I want to ask a supplementary on the question just before
the last one that Senator Raine posed. I'm getting a little confused here. When
you were talking about the transfer of dollars and treaty obligations, I believe
you mentioned the Nunatsiavut region. They were here as witnesses last week and
indicated to us that within their modern treaty there was a provision that any
money for housing should come to the Nunatsiavut government directly and not
flow through the Newfoundland and Labrador government. So they would say that
the money that's being directed should come to them directly; otherwise, you're
contravening the treaty.
Is the money going to the Newfoundland and Labrador government from the
federal government, or is it going to the Nunatsiavut government?
Ms. Staresina: I can answer that right now. As you're aware, the
Government of Canada announced the funding in Budget 2016, and they did that for
two reasons: to start addressing the need for affordable housing immediately and
to draw short-term economic growth. So the IAH, Investment in Affordable
Housing, with those existing 13 agreements, was chosen because it's proven to be
flexible and adjustable, but it's very short-term, and we're looking through
that national housing strategy and with our colleagues to see if in the longer
or medium term there's another solution, and so that will be explored. But for
the short term immediately, it will be driving through the provinces and
The Chair: I don't think you answered my question. Senator Moore,
maybe you can ask it.
Senator Moore: Yes. We had an elder here from the Inuit community last
week. After 19 years of negotiating they arrived at an agreement with Canada,
and the monies for housing go directly to them. They didn't sign an agreement
with anybody else to change that agreement after that 19 years was concluded, so
why is this money not going to them directly?
Does anyone want to answer that?
Ms. Staresina: I can say right now the way we were directed in the
budget was to go through the existing mechanisms we have at CMHC, which is the
13 jurisdictions through the provinces and territories.
Senator Moore: Before you decided that, did you sit down with the
elders in the community and discuss that and acknowledge their rights, or were
you just carrying on the same old way?
This is so bloody upsetting, I want tell you. I read this stuff here. "We're
going to talk about it, we're going to talk to the stakeholders, soon we're
going to consult.'' What is this? How long has CMHC been in existence and
Indigenous and Northern Affairs? How long have you been in existence?
You don't have those numbers now? You don't know where you're going by now? I
mean, really, if this were the private sector it would be a God damn insult.
It's terrible; just terrible. Those people who deserve the money, you should be
giving it to them, and nobody should be skimming 4.3 per cent, either.
It's terrible. I don't understand it. It's just beyond me. "Soon consult.''
What does that mean?
"All the national housing . . . will be honoured in the near future.'' What
is that? We know what the needs are. If you talk to the people and go visit them
in the North, you'll know what their needs are.
"Innovative financing.'' All you've got to do is get up there and talk to
those people. They know what's needed, and they can do it.
The Chair: As a supplementary question, Senator Moore does clearly
point out that both of you from INAC and from CMHC have mentioned that you will
consult with the Inuit. Mr. Van Dine, you say, "we're making efforts to engage
with Inuit on Budget 2016 housing delivery.'' And in the CMHC presentation it
says "the government will soon consult.''
When is this going happen? When and how? We think it should have happened
before. If they could have a response, then I think Senator Watt wanted to
Mr. MacArthur: Thank you. There are two parts. One was to put urgent
funding into the system because of recognition of the need that was there. There
was $2.3 billion invested quickly to make it flow fast because of the
recognition that there is significant need out there and we had mechanisms that
In the medium term it is the national housing strategy so that the insights
of all the folks — and acknowledging that we have been in the North, we have
folks who work there, and we understand the horrible situation on the ground.
It's not lost on us. We really understand that, and we're deploying the tools we
have as efficiently and as effectively as we can and trying to maximize the
outcomes. And we know there's urgency in the need. We had tools that could
deploy the interim or the short-term funding quickly and get it out in this
The Chair: Any other comments? Mr. Van Dine?
Senator Raine: I have a point of verification.
The Chair: Senator Raine, I think Mr. Van Dine wanted to comment
Senator Raine: Yes. Go ahead.
Mr. Van Dine: Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll approach this slightly
differently, just in hopes of helping to clarify the intent and the approach and
trying to disentangle the implementation choices and some of the goals that have
been set in Budget 2016.
The need for an immediate influx of cash to enable an increase in the number
of houses to be built in Inuit regions was made very clear to the government in
preparation of Budget 2016. In the implementation of that funding to deal with
the urgent and immediate needs to deal with some of the social questions that
have been raised around housing shortages, the instrument choice that was taken
to be the most expedient in order to get shovels in the ground as quickly as
possible was the mechanism that my colleagues at CMHC described with provinces
I don't need to tell senators about the budget process. You're very much
familiar with the budget process and where that brings us into the construction.
The sealift season in remote settings requires that decisions need to be made
quickly if we're going to be making available time-limited dollars. And those
time-limited dollars are in fact time- limited.
To try to address the limitations of that approach, my colleagues, based on
some work we have done collaboratively with them, have committed to undertaking
a significant engagement exercise to say that over the medium and long term, a
better approach needs to be found to deliver and respond to the ongoing
structural needs for housing in Inuit communities. That was the compromise that
was determined through the Budget 2016 process, on the one hand, to get a large
infusion of dollars out the door quickly to address urgent needs in the short
term and, in the medium term, undertake those conversations that I understand
from the comments made and questions posed by many members would see Inuit
taking greater control and greater hands-on approaches to solving their urgent
and structural housing needs.
Senator Watt: I realize there are limited things you can do as
administrators. I think, at times, as a committee we touch upon political
issues, which should be taken up at a higher level. I think we understand that.
I think all of us do.
Where we need some direction from you is on problem areas that you find that
need to be focused on, and I think you have. I think we are sharing that
information, and I appreciate that.
This is something that we will have to wrestle with as committee members,
whether we have to elevate it to a higher level to deal with the issue that my
friend Senator Moore was talking about. The communities are suffering, and we
all know that and you know that.
How quickly can we elevate this matter and rectify it? I don't think there is
a quick solution on this issue, but it would be helpful if you could help us to
identify certain areas that from time to time we highlight that make you feel
uncomfortable. It also makes us feel uncomfortable. Give us directions as to
where we should go with those issues we bring up from time to time.
Having said that, I would like to turn my attention, Madam Chair, to the
person who coordinates the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. I guess this
is Mr. MacDonald's responsibility.
When I was listening to what your role is and what you are capable of in
terms of the mandate that has been given to you, I understand that. But at the
same time, I think we should start off with the amending formula that was
negotiated back in 1972 leading up to 1975. Not very often do I hear the
administrators, the government side, the people from Canada Mortgage and Housing
Corporation or Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada mention that amending
formula. How is that amending formula arrived at? You have to set up a
tripartite committee, which we did in the early years, and I don't even know if
that tripartite committee exists today. That is for the provincial government,
the Inuit and the federal government to sit down and figure out how the money
will happen. We never got to that point.
I know for a fact that the Grand Council of the Crees has taken the matter to
court, and there was litigation on it. I don't think they really rectified in
terms of what it should be, but in return they got compensation for something
like $7 million on account of the fact that there was a breach of the agreement
and a delivery mechanism was never fully utilized. I think you should go back to
that issue to study it and see whether there is a need for modification or
whether what was negotiated before is still workable.
What makes it difficult for us is that we entered into negotiations with the
Crown. We arrived at the conclusion that we have a treaty. If it will be left up
to the administrators to alter that any time they want, that's not why we
entered into negotiations with the Crown. I just wanted to mention that. Thank
The Chair: Do you have a question with that?
Senator Watt: No, I don't have any questions because I've asked many
persons many times in the past. I don't have an answer.
Senator Raine: During the committee's visit to Nunavut, several
witnesses said that CMHC's Investment in Affordable Housing initiative requires
that the housing corporation set public housing rent as a percentage of the
principal tenant's income. Witnesses said this serves as a disincentive for
social housing tenants to work because if they earn more income, their rent goes
How do you address concerns like that? What are the rent-setting requirements
under the Affordable Housing Initiative? Do the local agencies have flexibility
in how they set their rents? The situations are different in the small
communities such as Iqaluit. I'd just like some comments on that.
Ms. Staresina: For the Investment in Affordable Housing and the rules
around that, it is left to each province and territory to set those rules on who
goes into social housing and what those rent limits are. In some jurisdictions,
it may be 30 per cent, in some it may be 25 per cent, and it may vary. But under
older programs that CMHC may have delivered directly, we would have set those
rules, but that's a misconception now. It's left to each jurisdiction to set.
Senator Raine: That's good to hear; great. When it comes to the design
and construction of housing, that is also, I believe, left to the local
authorities. They're in charge of those designs?
Ms. Staresina: Absolutely.
Senator Raine: Does CMHC have any role to play in design? Or is that
completely left to the local agencies?
Mr. MacArthur: It would be left to the local agencies. The role we
would play is on the research end of our business. We are involved in northern
communities with demonstration homes trying to prove different concepts in the
idea, but the design is left to the local jurisdiction.
Senator Raine: Has it always been that way, or has that also evolved?
Ms. Staresina: It has evolved.
Mr. MacArthur: Oh, my gosh. Within my memory, we may have, when we
were directly building houses and were involved. We may have years ago, but I'm
not sure. I believe it has been for many years the responsibility of the
provinces and territories. I'll check for sure.
Senator Raine: Okay. Obviously, when you build a house it's in
everybody's interest that the house is properly maintained and looked after,
because if they don't last, it just adds to the issues.
There is a program where the contribution for the maintenance of the housing
is now decreasing. I don't see any source of funding without federal help to
pick up that cost, and I'm afraid that this will contribute to declining quality
of the housing stock. Are you concerned about that at all? Perhaps Senator
Patterson might want to comment on that because there seems to be a shortfall in
budgets for some of the territories in terms of the O&M.
Mr. MacArthur: We're very aware. The territories have raised the issue
of operating and maintenance budgets and the declining amounts. We haven't
entered into new agreements since 1993, and the government policy was to sign
social housing agreements.
There are a variety of things within the social housing agreements. They're
not all subsidies. Some of them are a buy down of interest rates as opposed to
the operating. It is declining. I'm sure we will hear that raised in the
national housing strategy consultations. The government in the interim did put
$574 million over two years to address the most pressing needs into the
renovation and retrofit of social housing. It's money to address the immediate
urgencies while the broader national consultation unfolds. That will give us a
Senator Raine: It is interesting when you look at the numbers that
you're quoting. The government's social infrastructure fund includes $2.3
billion over two years. I don't know why they don't just say $1.15 billion,
because the numbers are all over two years.
Wouldn't it be possible to have core funding so that you don't have to keep
going back and renegotiating? Money you can count on and plan ahead until such
time as they catch up to national standards, then you can re-evaluate it. Are
these numbers always up for renegotiation?
Mr. MacArthur: At the time we signed the social housing agreements,
there was a known funding stream over the period of time for each of the
programs, depending on what the program was. When we signed that out to 2038,
that stream is known. As the agreements end, the funding stops. We're required
to go back on an annual basis for appropriations and approval of our budgets, so
it's done on an annual basis.
Senator Raine: But it's pretty automatic, subject to obviously the
Mr. MacArthur: Yes.
Senator Raine: When you see that that's not enough money to keep up to
the demand, then you go in and ask for another chunk that also runs out to 2038?
Mr. MacArthur: Depending on the will of Parliament and the priorities
of Parliament and the direction, we get our appropriations and then we try to
maximize those appropriations. Social housing is a contractual obligation, so we
don't have the flexibility to increase that on an ongoing basis.
Senator Raine: Thank you.
Senator Beyak: My apologies for being late. Thank you for your
presentations. We had Royal Assent in the Senate. Some of us had to stay.
My question is very practical. I'm a real estate broker of 35 years. I
retired about 10 years ago. There are beautiful homes all throughout the North
in Nunavik, Iqaluit, everywhere for the general population, and beautiful
government homes that are well maintained and well built. What would be your
expert opinions on why we can't do that for Aboriginal people? They're
I still do real estate online across Canada. They're well built and to
standard and to code. Why can't we get those same standards for Aboriginal
people? Is it funding? What do you think, in your expert opinions?
Mr. MacArthur: Our social housing on-reserve represents plus or minus
24 per cent of the stock that's out there. When we do it, we make sure that at
the time of handover it has been built to the National Building Code, but then
we run into things.
I was in Ahousaht, a First Nation community, a few weeks ago. The vice chief
was talking to me and she said her home had multi-generations. The challenges
on-reserve are often broader than the physical unit. At my house right now
there's nobody. This young lady was telling me that there are multiple
generations there. They're cooking, showering, using the house. There are
economic challenges, employment challenges, so it makes the utilization of the
physical unit different than in other communities. There are deep-rooted issues.
We need to do better. We absolutely need to do better. These are Canadians that
need the best that we can do so that they can do for themselves.
It makes me cry when I go to a First Nation community. When I go to Iqaluit
and I see the price of a house, and I see what income is, it's difficult to make
the math work. It is a challenge. We have the tools. We try to squeeze as much
as we can out of the tools that we have. It's difficult. It's by no means lost
I grew up very poor, and I know what a new window will do when the ice is not
on it. I know that makes a difference. Maybe it's warm enough to study. I grew
up without indoor plumbing. I feel it deeply. I work for this organization
because there are many people who feel that deep need to make a difference. My
heart is on my sleeve. We need to do better as a country.
The Chair: Senator Raine, did you have a supplementary?
Senator Raine: Well, it's not really a supplementary, but it follows
along. Obviously we all want to do more. That means more money. We are also very
cognizant of the fact that tax dollars are scarce and there are lots of needs.
I think we should go to the public and set up a Canada Savings Bond, a
housing for the North bond. You can buy that bond as a person who cares and get
a guaranteed return on it where it's backed by the government, just like a
Canada Savings Bond, but it's targeted specifically to Inuit housing. We're
looking right now at Inuit housing, not First Nations. In many ways the
challenges are the same, but they are also different.
First of all, when you put your money in the bank now, you get just about
nothing. I would put all my savings into a bond like that if I knew that was
going to help us solve the housing problem faster. Is that possible?
There are Indian tribes in the U.S. that are doing this quite successfully to
get non-taxpayer money into housing. Do you think this could happen? If it
could, do we have the right administrative setup in CMHC? They do a great job,
but would it work? Could you be one of the partners in that operation? Obviously
you need to have controls.
Mr. MacArthur: Earlier we talked about the innovation fund. What's the
innovative financing? It's not a program. We're looking for those good ideas
that come forward and become bigger.
Yes, we do have expertise in bonds and insurance and those sorts of things,
so I'm not sure. Of course we would do whatever the will of the government is,
but we do have mechanisms for the commercial side of our business. How can we
learn from that and take some of those over to the social side of our business?
I think about the affordable lending program. There are some successful
operations in the North, such as Northern Property — and they been successful in
building rental housing in the North. We've got programs that bring in private
dollars because an investment is made. It's leveraging the private dollars.
We're building a program that will look at market housing in an innovative way,
so there are maybe some lending opportunities.
We need to get creative, we need to be innovative, and we need to be open to
listening. We have been formed by the past but not bound by it.
The Chair: Senator Raine, would you go on second round, please?
Senator Oh is waiting.
Senator Oh: I follow my colleagues who have clearly illustrated that
there are serious problems up North with housing. Obviously, you know the market
conditions, the supply and demand, application for housing needs and the return
on investment. What is the problem? How many units have you completed in the
last few years up North?
Mr. MacArthur: I have that here somewhere.
Ms. Staresina: Starting with the Investment in Affordable Housing in
the Yukon, the number I have is from 2011 to 2016. If you want it broken down,
we can provide it to you year by year, but in the Yukon we constructed 124
units, and we renovated 269.
Senator Oh: From 2011 to 2016?
Ms. Staresina: That's through Investment in Affordable Housing.
Senator Oh: Only 124 units?
Ms. Staresina: Yes, new units. That doesn't take into account those
households that might have been helped through a rent supplement or home
ownership. That's just new construction that that territory would have done.
Renovation was over 200.
For N.W.T., they only constructed 27 new units, but they did renovations on
650 units. So they used their money for renovations. They also had a big program
on rent supplement and shelters. They also did some construction on
accommodations for victims of family violence and renovated a lot of units for
victims of family violence as well.
Senator Oh: You're using a lot of your funding for renovation, but
there is a big demand for putting in new units. Why?
Ms. Staresina: We would direct our money to the province or territory.
They match that money under this program, and then they design and deliver the
programs that meet their needs. They are the ones that would decide.
Senator Oh: The province decides whether to build new units or
renovate the old units?
Ms. Staresina: Yes.
Senator Oh: In that case demand is constantly there. You cannot meet
up with the demand required by the local folks.
Ms. Staresina: Yes.
Senator Oh: So you are falling further and further behind?
Ms. Staresina: Yes.
Senator Patterson: I think Senator Oh has asked a good question. We're
nearing the end of our study, and we're hoping to prepare a report with
recommendations to the government in the fall.
I don't expect the answer tonight, but could I ask Indigenous and Northern
Affairs Canada and CMHC to tell us what has been contributed to housing in the
Inuit regions — that's Nunatsiavut, Nunavut, Nunavik and the Northwest
Territories — through the territorial governments and the provincial governments
over the last five years by Canada through CMHC and INAC, and what has been the
product? How many houses have been built and how many houses have been
Senator Watt: And the cost.
Senator Patterson: I hope that's a doable assignment. I think that's
what Senator Oh was getting at. If we could get the numbers for five years, I
think it would be a useful way for us to assess the money-for-value proposition
that we should care about and taxpayers should care about.
If I'm not getting too ambitious here, there's also the O&M piece. What has
been contributed to the operations costs and maintenance of those homes? I think
that would be exclusively CMHC, if I'm right. What has been contributed for O&M
for those towards housing in those five years? I think that would be useful
information for us to have as we prepare our report on housing in the regions.
Can that be done?
Mr. MacArthur: Absolutely. I won't read the last one you have; I've
written it down here. We'll put in a coherent package for you.
The Chair: We'll move to second round now.
Senator Patterson: Let me be very clear and specific, because there
are answers that we need tonight, and we're very grateful that you folks are
I think the federal budget was a budget like none other with respect to
housing. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I've been around for a while and I've
been watching these budgets and looking at housing closely. For the first time
the budget said: "Government has set aside dollars for Inuit housing in Inuit
regions.'' That got our attention. If we were really vainglorious, we would say,
"My goodness, they anticipated our study,'' because that's what we were looking
at in our housing study.
This budget came out and said "Inuit housing in Inuit regions.'' Of course,
it got the attention of the Inuit organizations in those regions, specifically
the Makivik Corporation and the Nunatsiavut government and also the Inuvialuit,
all of whom have made presentations before this committee.
Is this a different description of the federal contribution than we've had
before? Am I right about that? Has it ever been described that way before?
Ms. Staresina: Most definitely different than ever described before.
In a previous budget, we had housing that went to Nunavut to meet the needs in
that particular territory and the demand a few years ago, but we've never seen
it described or laid out in the budget as it was this time.
Senator Patterson: Okay. Now here is the second part of my question. I
think we've flirted with this a bit and skated around it a bit, but I want to
try to be very clear.
We were in Kuujjuaq; we met all the key players. They said, "We have a
construction corporation under Makivik. It is a non-profit corporation. We are
convinced that it has credibility with the community and that they've had input
into the design. They have smart strategies. They bring the materials up in the
summer and then build in the spring instead of trying to do it all in a frantic
season before the snow falls.'' That was one example.
Then they said, "When the money goes through the Government of Quebec,
there's leakage, administrative costs and we just don't realize the
efficiencies. The money should go to us. We can handle it. We know what we're
doing. This money for Nunavik — and there's $50 million for the next few years —
should go to us.'' It was the same thing in Nunatsiavut. It was a clear message.
We were told clear evidence.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador doesn't even have a presence in
Labrador. It's all administered out of St. John's. The Nunatsiavut government
has some great new partnerships. They've got Memorial University helping them
with a sustainable housing initiative. They've designed a prototype sustainable
house that actually faces south — compared to many units that we saw are
fighting the north wind — and it has a cold place underneath for meat and skins,
and it's a multiplex, which allows economies of scale. They are figuring out
that you can't build on permafrost, and they're mapping their communities so
that they build on firm ground.
They're saying Canada shouldn't filter the money through Newfoundland and
Labrador. When it goes through the provincial government, it gets dissipated and
sometimes they don't even see it.
Senator Moore, you will help me, but one of the Nunatsiavut leaders had done
an analysis, and he said that in the last 60 years $400 million has been sent by
Canada for housing in our region.
Senator Moore: Nineteen units, wasn't it?
Senator Patterson: We got 50 units in 60 years. It was one unit a
year, as I recall. We don't need to get into the details.
You've just said that provinces are claiming up to 4.3 per cent
administration. That is $7.6 million on $178 million that is in the forthcoming
budget. It seems like a lot of money to me.
Senator Moore: It is a lot of money.
Senator Patterson: And the Inuit in those regions would say that
sometimes the money doesn't get to their region; it goes to other provincial
And our committee wrote a letter to the minister who is responsible for CMHC.
Am I right, Madam Chair?
The Chair: Yes.
Senator Patterson: Our committee wrote to the minister for CMHC asking
them to consider urgently transferring the money directly, because April 1 was
the new budget, and we're convinced that because you've said Inuit housing in
Inuit regions and because these people have got their act together in Nunavik —
we didn't say Nunatsiavut; I think we're going to write another letter on that
issue shortly — would you consider transferring the money directly? Are you
aware of that recommendation and can that happen? When you put Inuit housing for
Inuit regions in the budget, expectations are that there is going to be a better
way of doing things.
We even have some indication that the Government of Quebec would not be
opposed to that. I don't dare speak for them, but they were involved in a
tripartite study in Nunavik that we were told about, and they apparently
endorsed that idea and blessed the good work that the Makivik Corporation is
I was hoping tonight we'd get a clear answer on that.
Mr. Van Dine: Thank you for the question, senators.
As my colleagues have pointed out, there's no doubt been a significant shift
in the language used in Budget 2016 to describe how the government intends to
approach Inuit housing.
The timing of your study of this matter is excellent in terms of being able
to assist greatly as the government is looking to try to actualize that over the
So we'll see what the budgets for 2017-18 and 2018-19 look like, and it will
be based, no doubt, on the engagement that's going to happen, the Senate's
deliberations on this and the recommendations that come out.
In 2015, I believe we mentioned the last time we appeared in March that we
did prepare work with the Nunavik housing working group as part of that
tripartite body that you just referred to. That was established to create some
recommendations aimed at addressing the short-, medium- and long-term housing
needs in Nunavik. That working group includes the Government of Quebec, Canada,
the Kativik Regional Government, the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau and the
They've recently, through some funding that we've provided them and others,
concluded a study, which I'm sure they've told you about. We are in receipt of
their interim report and recommendations that came in just earlier this year, in
January, and the final report will include some potential medium- and long-term
recommendations to follow.
So there is a significant amount of possibility of doing it differently in
the case of Inuit housing. The interest through these exercises, beginning with
an incremental increase in the amount of funding right now through Budget 2016,
was meant to be an infusion to deal with urgent requirements that were
recognized and well documented with a view to re- engineering how Inuit housing
can be delivered in a manner that can address some of the objectives that the
committee is asking questions about: efficiency, making sure that Inuit
organizations are not only the builders but are also the decision makers with
respect to what gets built, that the innovation dimension is taken into account
with respect to energy efficiency and lower-cost delivery.
There is a real opportunity at this time. I don't want to read too much into
the future, but the timing couldn't be any better from my standpoint as we're
now turning our attention to what are the longer-term structural innovations
that need to happen in order to deliver the programs better.
It is consistent with Minister Bennett's comments in other fora. She has
described herself as the minister of social determinants of health, and housing
is an important component in that, and she has become a very voracious advocate
for new approaches to deal with some of the major social challenges that the
committee is well aware of, including housing.
The reconciliation agenda that the government spoke to in mandate letters is
a very tangible and real commitment in every minister's mandate letter that has
been published to work towards reconciliation, and departments and agencies are
now gathering to try to put expression to that commitment of reconciliation in
designing new ways and approaches to do and engage with indigenous
organizations, including the Inuit.
I would be remiss if I left the committee with an impression that we are
starting from scratch. We are not. We have the benefit of what I would
potentially refer to as the lean years. We engaged through these different
working group bodies and studies and conversations through the treaty agreement
and other means to start doing the groundwork on things that could be done to
make the situation better for when dollars do arrive.
With your attention to this issue and with some of the early commitments in
Budget 2016, there is a real opportunity to make a long-term impact on an issue
that's been plaguing these communities for many decades.
I've given you a general answer to your very specific question. I'm aware of
that, Madam Chair, but I would say that in terms of the direction in which Inuit
housing issues are getting attention today, it is in a very different direction
than what it has been in previous years, and we're just getting started.
The Chair: Senator Patterson, did you have a follow-up?
Senator Patterson: I'd like to ask Mr. MacArthur to answer that
specific question for CMHC. This $178 million in the budget is coming from CMHC.
We haven't done our final report, but we did write a pressing letter to your
I should emphasize that we did not make that recommendation for Nunavut or
the Northwest Territories.
Senator Watt: But they were asking for that.
Senator Patterson: Although the Inuvialuit did indicate that they
would like to see the monies put in trust.
I would like to ask about Nunavik, because we did try to signal early on that
this would be a recommendation from our committee. We had the full endorsement
of our committee.
Is there any chance that the first half of the $50 million could be
channelled differently than in the past, directly to the Inuit, in keeping with
the budget commitment, which is — I'll read it again — dollars for Inuit housing
in Inuit regions. Can we pay it to the Inuit and not to Quebec City?
Mr. MacArthur: Again, like my colleague, we have our tool, and that's
what was chosen to deliver this. It is a carve- out, though. It is not in the
general pot. In the case of Nunavik, $50 million is to go to Nunavik, as all of
the Inuit housing is. We have our delivery mechanism that we can make it flow
quickly and meet the challenges of the building season, and that's how we're
proceeding at the moment.
Senator Patterson: I'm just trying to do the math here: 4.3 per cent
of $25 million. What is it? Is it $1 million? It would be $1.25 million,
roughly, maybe a bit less.
The Chair: Two houses.
Senator Watt: Two houses.
Senator Patterson: Is that what's going to happen again? It's going to
go to Quebec and they're going to take their administration fee? You said it
would be carved out. Are they going to get 100 per cent of the $25 million?
Ms. Staresina: I don't want to leave you with the impression that
they're settled on those. That's the historical. This new money, like the $100
million we gave to Nunavut a few years ago, is a carve-out. So that $50 million
would go for that region. We would expect none of that to see any admin taken
off at all. But as it is now, the mechanism would be through the provincial.
Senator Patterson: I'll let my colleagues follow up.
The Chair: You just said that you would expect that there's no
administration fee. Is that written down in any kind of agreement or memorandum
Ms. Staresina: We are in the process of negotiating with each province
and territory, and it's very clear what outcomes are and how they will report on
that. We would expect to see those dollars going to that region for Inuit
housing, yes. We are in the midst of discussing exactly how they would report to
the Canadian public on that.
The Chair: The question I was going to ask you is with regard to
Nunatsiavut. When they were here, they estimated that the administration fee was
15 per cent. I don't know where they got the number, but that's what they were
They made it clear that they considered that the money should not flow to the
provincial government because of their treaty. I know Senator Watt mentioned
some distinctions there. I don't know whether that same distinction applies to
what's happening in Nunatsiavut.
As you see yourselves proceeding forward, it sounds as though you still want
to have the money flow through the provincial governments, with the proviso that
there are no administrative fees attached to it.
Ms. Staresina: The mechanism we have right now at CMHC is through the
Investment in Affordable Housing. Those carve-outs for the Inuit and for other
things that we mentioned at the beginning, like seniors, we would expect to see
outcomes based on those dollars going direct.
Mr. MacArthur mentioned at the beginning that we had four areas for the
Inuit. We've asked provinces and territories to look at their negotiation with
us and how they're going to deliver on that.
Senator Moore: So you're talking to the provinces about what's going
to be done with the Inuit's money. I didn't hear the Inuit being part of that
discussion. Is that right?
Ms. Staresina: At CMHC, right now we're dealing with the provinces,
and the provinces —
Senator Moore: I heard you say that, but I didn't hear you say the
Inuit are part of it. It's their money, and they've got a treaty; they've got a
right. When are we going to start sticking to the rule of law and obeying the
agreements we've entered into? These people were all here last week telling us
some pretty sad stories, and I'm on their side. I just can't believe that we're
not sitting down with them.
Senator Patterson mentioned Makivik. You must know about that. They're able.
They're good. They can do that. That's a model.
So we don't have to do more studies. We know what can be done. We know how to
These people have come of age; make no mistake about it. They have matured as
entrepreneurs and managers. There are young people in their communities who want
a part of that, and we have to give them the hope and the opportunity to do
that, to get involved. They want to do it, and they deserve the chance. They
might make a few mistakes — we all do — but they will do it right, because they
have their community at heart, they're educated, and they want a chance.
I don't know why we wouldn't be sitting down talking with the same people we
had here last week with regard to their share of this money. That has to happen.
You're going to have to do it. We shouldn't make them go to court to make us
keep our word. It doesn't make sense to me. How many millions do these people
have to spend trying to get their rights? It's crazy. A Canadian is a Canadian
is a Canadian. They should get the money.
The Chair: Do you have a date when you are going to sit down with the
Nunatsiavut government and the Torngat housing authority? Have you actually set
Ms. Staresina: No, we don't.
Senator Watt: I guess my question is why. Why is it not happening? Is
it because they have no faith in the people? What is the reason? Is it a
jurisdictional question, a political issue? What is it? This is one of the
reasons we entered into a treaty. We ended up doing things on our own. But now
you're telling us we have to channel through the provincial government, if you
want something from the federal government. That was not the understanding of
Maybe it's time that this committee should come up with a report saying that
now is the time to review the modern treaties. They're not working. On both
sides of the government, federal and provincial, they're not delivering what
they're supposed to deliver.
We can't leave this. We went through the extinguishment. We signed the
release. If you're not delivering, maybe we will be calling that back. Maybe we
have no choice but to go to court.
I know it's not your level of responsibility, but this is something I would
recommend that you take to your higher- ups and make an issue of, because this
is what you're confronted with right now, and it's not going to stop. We're on
the housing issue now, and, eventually, down the road, we're going to be getting
into the other areas, the same thing. We have problems right through. Government
is not honouring the treaty.
Anyway, I have one question that I would like to resolve, if I can, if I can
get an answer from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. When the
committee was in Kuujjuaq, we were told by the residents that they're having a
hard time getting mortgages from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. I was
trying to get to the bottom of that, to find out exactly why that is happening.
Then I was told by the housing authorities in Kuujjuaq that it's related to the
fact that the land is not part of the house. Somebody is concerned about the
insurance aspects of it, I would imagine.
Also, for example, if the Inuit person had to go to the financial institution
to borrow the difference in what he or she needs, the land doesn't belong to the
owner of the house — it's collectively owned. On that account, I thought we
resolved our problems 40 years ago with the 99-year lease. Now what I'm
understanding is that they don't want to go beyond five years. Why is it? Is it
that the financial institutions are losing money because of the fact that
they're helping out mortgaging individuals? Could you enlighten me in that area?
It has been bothering me for quite some time.
Mr. MacArthur: That's probably a specific issue that we need to dig
into, but we do do mortgage loan insurance in all areas of the country. We do do
mortgage loan insurance on leasehold lending. We do work with communities that
are setting up lease arrangements to ensure that they meet all of the
requirements so that they can be insured and can be mortgaged. It's something
that we do across the country, but we'll look into the specifics of the
community. We do do chattels, such as mobile homes, where there is no land
associated with it. We'd have to look at the specifics, and we can look into the
specifics of the community and see what the issue is from a mortgage loan
Senator Watt: The problem may not necessarily be one of the Canada
Mortgage and Housing Corporation, but I suspect — the reason why I'm saying
"suspect'' is because I have dealt with it before — maybe the financial
institutions are worried about the fact that maybe they are trying to persuade
the government to get away from the collectivity issue. I don't know. That's one
issue. It could be a political issue.
Then again, it could be caused by the landholding corporation. I don't know.
That's why I'm trying to get to the bottom of it, and I have not been given
clear answers. It doesn't matter who I ask the questions to on this issue. I
would appreciate it very much if you could look into that. If we do go back to a
99-year lease, instead of this five years, then I think that should be
satisfactory. It worked before. Why doesn't it work now?
Mr. MacArthur: I didn't understand that there was a five-year lease.
That could be the issue, but I'm not an expert anymore on mortgage loan
insurance, so I have to look into it.
Like I say, leasehold lending is something that we're comfortable with. We do
it in many communities. It's how we structure it.
Senator Watt: Can you get back to us in writing on that issue so that
we would take into consideration how we are going to deal with that in our
Mr. MacArthur: Yes.
Senator Watt: Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you. We have just a few minutes left. Senator Raine,
did you have another question?
Senator Raine: I did. We've heard along the way that — I think this
question would be for Indigenous and Northern Affairs — there are some programs
that are for north of 60 and some south of 60 to do with transport and sealift
and things like that. I think it doesn't make any sense to have north of 60 when
it comes to Nunavik because the sixtieth parallel runs right through their
territory. I just wondered if that could be looked at.
Mr. Van Dine: Thank you very much for the question. With respect to
freight and other means of moving goods, we effectively got out of that business
some time ago. As you probably heard through testimony, there are a number of
land claim organizations now that are proprietors of various transportation
companies as part of their economic development corporations for their region.
We do administer one program that deals with the transport of nutritious and
perishable foods, and that program is offered through five provinces and three
territories. It is not specific to north of 60. It includes communities below
the fifty-fifth parallel and some of the more remote areas of the country. That
program is the Nutrition North Canada program. It deals with the transportation
aspects indirectly insofar as, prior to 2011, Canada Post was their delivery
agent, using transportation post. In 2011, we moved the funding for that to a
subsidy to retailers and suppliers.
The economic model for that basis, and the business case for that change, was
to empower, essentially, the retailers and the suppliers to determine the most
cost-effective way of transporting goods, that government was probably not the
best mechanism to determine the most efficient way of shipping goods. Through
that program, we are now seeing a positive impact in terms of maintaining prices
below the rate of growth that has actually occurred in the rest of the country
for nutritious and perishable foods.
Senator Raine: I'm glad to hear that.
Senator Watt: What does that have to do with the north of 60?
Senator Raine: Because that was a program that was only for north of
60. Well, no, I think it's —
Senator Patterson: It's Transport Canada, I think.
Senator Raine: So, in other words, that's a myth that we were hearing.
In fact, the sixtieth parallel doesn't have anything to do with the
qualification for the different kinds of programs.
Mr. Van Dine: I'm speaking specifically for the Indigenous and
Northern Affairs Canada programs. We made some changes, and we are no longer
That being said, as has been alluded to, the Coast Guard is a major player
in, certainly, the sealift exercise that occurs on an annual basis, a seasonal
basis. Transport Canada, I had spent some time there, but I can't say that I
have a detailed knowledge of whether they're providing additional north of 60
kinds of programming. That would be best posed to Transport Canada if there are
any such programs that exist.
Senator Raine: Okay. Just one quick one.
The Chair: No, sorry, we're running out of time. Senator Patterson.
Senator Patterson: This will be really quick, Madam Chair. I know
we're short of time. CMHC has a Housing Internship Initiative for First Nations
and Inuit Youth. Not necessarily now, but could you tell us whether Inuit youth
have participated in this program that has budgeted $5 million for 2016-17?
That's my question. As I say, it doesn't need to be answered now, but maybe you
could follow up, unless you have the answer at hand.
Luisa Atkinson, Director, First Nations Housing, Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation: Thank you, senator. I would have to agree with you.
Inuit youth have not participated actively in the program. It's a program that
has been fully subscribed, but mostly for First Nation communities. Budget 2016
has given us additional funds to be able to target Inuit youth in the coming
year, so we are actively working with communities to do that.
Senator Patterson: Could you give us the information about previous
Ms. Atkinson: Yes.
Senator Patterson: Secondly, on the amortization issue — again, maybe
you can get back to us — we heard in Kuujjuaq that CMHC mortgage loan insurance
requires an amortization period to be longer than the term of a ground lease,
but ground leases in Nunavik cannot be longer than five years.
Can you get back to us on that? Are you aware of the problem, and can you
help fix it?
We are short on time, so I think if you could follow up, that would be
helpful to us.
Senator Watt: They have already agreed they're going to provide that
Senator Patterson: Okay.
The Chair: Thank you, honourable senators. We are near the end of our
two-hour meeting time. I must congratulate all senators for participating in
this meeting, because the Senate has officially adjourned for the summer, and we
are here doing extra duty. I want to thank the officials, also, for appearing
I would like to end by saying that the issue that was brought forward tonight
so strongly by Senator Patterson, Senator Moore and Senator Watt with regard to
the direct funding to the Inuit governments is one that should be taken
extremely seriously. As a committee, we wrote on May 19 to Minister Duclos, the
minister responsible for CMHC, and we raised this very specific issue, saying,
in Nunavik specifically, that the committee heard that local housing concerns
could be better addressed if federal funding for northern housing were
transferred directly to Makivik Corporation rather than to the Government of
We also noted that this would not be the first time that federal funding for
housing has been transferred directly to the Makivik Corporation. An agreement
signed between the Makivik Corporation and the provincial and federal
governments transferred federal funding for housing construction directly to the
Makivik Corporation in the 2005 and 2006 fiscal years. It would make sense to
I think all members of the committee urge that that be done. We will be
following up with regard to the Nunatsiavut government, which is in the same
sort of situation. We would urge you to take that advice strongly.
Also, we have other questions that we had for you tonight that we didn't have
time to pose to you directly, so would you be agreeable that we send our written
questions to you? Then you can respond by writing back to the committee. I see
everybody nodding their heads yes. Thank you very much for that agreement, and
thank you for answering all the questions tonight. I know some of them were a
bit difficult, but thank you very much to our witnesses from Indigenous and
Northern Affairs Canada and from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
(The committee adjourned.)