Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 13 - Evidence, March 6, 2002
OTTAWA, Wednesday, March 6, 2002
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 5:55 p.m. to examine access, provision and
delivery of services, policy and jurisdictional issues, employment and education, access to economic opportunities,
youth participation and empowerment, and other related matters.
Senator Thelma J. Chalifoux (Chairman) in the Chair.
The Chairman: This committee is not only involved in studying issues, but also it is developing an action plan for
change on urban Aboriginal issues. I understand that the primary focus of the Department of Indian Affairs and
Northern Development is on reserve, but the majority of Aboriginal people live off reserve. We have to sit down and
have some good discussions on the responsibilities of the department toward people moving into the cities.
I have personal experience with that because I have grandchildren who live off reserve. I should like to know what is
the responsibility of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development once a person leaves the reserve and
moves into the city.
Ms Chantal Bernier, Assistant Deputy Minister, Socio-economic Policy and Programs, Indian Affairs and Northern
Development: Thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to be here on behalf of Indian and Northern Affairs
Canada. You have heard from other departments — Statistics Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, and
Canadian Heritage, to name a few.
Today I am pleased to add my remarks to this discussion on issues affecting urban Aboriginal youth in Canada.
As you rightly noted, the mandate of INAC relates to two major programs, namely the Indian and Inuit Affairs
Program and the Northern Affairs Program.
Today I am going to talk to you about the Indian and Inuit Affairs program, in which our primary responsibility is
to First Nations living on-reserve and Inuit.
We recognize that our department's policies have a direct impact on the lives of many young aboriginal people. Our
programs and initiatives have led to many improvements in communities across the country, and by working
cooperatively with as many groups as possible, we are maximizing our ability to reach aboriginal people all across
While our programs are aimed specifically at First Nation and Inuit communities, INAC participates in many
initiatives with various partners to address broader aboriginal issues.
These partners include leaders in First Nations and Inuit communities, along with other lead federal departments,
which administer Aboriginal policy and programs to develop more effective ways of coordinating our activities. We
also work with other levels of government, aboriginal businesses, the public and private sectors.
Before I go on, Madam Chair, I wish to address the issue of portability, which was specifically mentioned in your
invitation to come here today. As I mentioned earlier, INAC's mandate lies on reserve, so most of our programs and
services are tied to residency on reserve. For example, the housing program is accessible to people living on reserve.
However, some programs have to be off reserve, which brings consequences and implications. For example, there is the
post-secondary education program, where the students mostly attend institutions off reserve.
I shall move now to programs and projects of the department in relation to children and youth.
I want to talk about youth — clearly a Government of Canada priority, particularly for INAC, as they represent
more than 60 per cent of the on-reserve First Nations and Inuit populations.
Ms Bernier: I wish to speak to you about youth, one of the highest priorities of this government and of the
department. They form 60 per cent of Inuit and First Nations communities. I shall first speak about youth and then
about our programs relating to education.
Madam Chair, the early years in children's lives are critical to their growth and well-being and lay the foundation
for their future participation in learning and work. The Speech from the Throne acknowledges that a strong head start
in life will help to create stronger First Nations communities, and this has been reflected in the December 2001 budget.
The Government of Canada recently undertook to improve and expand programs that support early childhood
development, to reduce the number of newborns affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, and to do more to meet the special
needs some aboriginal children have in school. Over the next two years, an additional $100 million will be provided to
enhance programs such as child care and head start.
We believe that the best way to achieve improvements and quality of life for First Nations and Inuit is to provide
them with the tools and resources they need. These tools include everything from a good education system to policies
This is brings me to education. Since we recognize that First Nations communities must have ready access to
necessary resources and tools to develop prosperous economies, we believe that primary among these is a well-educated
population. One important part of our mandate involves funding First Nations to provide elementary and secondary
education for students living on reserve, education comparable to that received by other children in Canada.
Some children face special learning challenges in school because of physical, emotional or developmental barriers to
learning. They can include the ongoing impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. To support children
living on reserve who have special needs at school, funding will be increased by $60 million over the next two years.
Today, 98 per cent of schools on reserve are administered by First Nations, and enrolment is up by 11 per cent.
Although there has been significant progress, there is still an unacceptable gap. For example, in the 1996 census, the
most recent census from which information is available, we learn that 29 per cent of status Indians between the ages of
15 and 24 have completed high school compared with 38 per cent of Aboriginal people off reserve and 57 per cent of
Fewer than 2 per cent of Aboriginal people are university graduates, compared with 6 per cent of the non-
Aboriginal people between 25 and 34 are only two thirds as likely to have a post-secondary certificate, diploma or
degree. Only one third is likely to graduate from university and nearly twice as likely not to complete high school
compared to the non-Aboriginal population.
Still, there are some positive trends that we can build on. For example, Aboriginal people also have a greater
tendency to go back to school. Ten per cent of Aboriginal people between the ages of 25 and 34 were full-time students,
compared to 7 per cent in the non-Aboriginal population. There has also been a steady increase in the number of status
Indians enrolled in post-secondary institutions, from 14,000 in 1987-1988 to 27,000 10 years later.
It is also important to know that 77 per cent of recent graduates began working right out of school.
Last year, the budget for our department's post-secondary education program was close to $300 million. In
addition, there is significant private-sector sponsorship, which awards 400 grants totalling about $2 million. The
reason for this is simple: The interest of private-sector sponsors has grown exponentially.
I shall now turn to employment programs and initiatives.
Madam Chair, the Speech from the Throne links Aboriginal prosperity with the prosperity of all Canadians and
reinforces the Government of Canada's belief that securing a better future for First Nations and Inuit will benefit all
Canadians. It will lead to stronger economies both locally and nationally and will encourage investment and economic
While I recognize that you have already heard from Statistics Canada, I would like to highlight a few facts that
continuously guide us in the department.
First of all, the labour force participation rate in 1996 was 66 per cent for non-Aboriginal people, 52 per cent for on-
reserve Indians and 60 per cent for Inuit.
Over the period of 1985-1995, the average individual income of non-aboriginal Canadians increased to $25,452
compared to $18,809 for Aboriginal Canadians as a whole, $12,397 for on-reserve Indians and $16,743 for Inuit.
The Aboriginal working age population (ages 15-64) is expected to grow by 72 per cent between 1991 and 2016,
compared to only 23 per cent for non-Aboriginal Canadians.
These statistics demonstrate the economic and labour market disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
people, as well as the growing importance of Aboriginal youth as a percentage of the Canadian labour force. To help
bridge the gap, the department has several initiatives for First Nations and Inuit designed to support increased
participation in the labour market and enhance economic development.
INAC administers the First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy, with an annual budget of $24 million.
Its aim is to help First Nations and Inuit youth gain skills and work experience to make a successful transition from
school to the work force. Since the Strategy began in 1996, it has helped over 90,000 First Nations and Inuit youth gain
skills and work experience.
In 2000-2001, this Strategy created opportunities for over 24,000 First Nations and Inuit youth through INAC's five
programs, with more than 600 First Nations and Inuit organizations designing and implementing projects in their
This Strategy also helped create over 7,000 summer jobs; led to more than 7,000 First Nations and Inuit youth
attending science and technology camps; supported over 4,000 students participating in on-reserve cooperative
education programs; enabled more than 1,200 unemployed, out-of-school youth to accept 6- to 9-month work
placements linked to personal learning plans; and provided counselling to more than 4,000 First Nations and Inuit
The goal of this last program, Madam Chair, is to foster entrepreneurial spirit among First Nations and Inuit youth,
help them get started and then allow them to direct their growth as they see fit.
As well, there is the department's Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative, initially launched in 1991 but
renewed and enhanced in 1996. It works to facilitate partnership among stakeholders, that is, Aboriginal communities,
businesses and organizations; public and private corporations; all levels of government; industry and trade
associations; professional associations; labour unions; and educational institutions. In other words, the purpose of all
this is to facilitate access to work.
The AWPI has visited communities, spoken to youth groups and participated in career fairs as part of a strategy to
help aboriginal youth make the right educational and career choices. AWPI has also worked with employers, not only
to make them aware of the growing Aboriginal labour force, but to encourage them to adopt youth-oriented practices
such as mentoring, summer employment initiatives and work experience programs. This helps build stronger, healthier,
more self-reliant communities and complements other federal employment and economic development programs.
I must say that when I meet business people, their comments on this AWPI initiative are always very favourable.
I should now like to move to economic development initiatives. Honourable senators, the Government of Canada is
committed to supporting the economic development and self-sufficiency of First Nations communities, and we are
working to ensure that basic needs are met for jobs, health, education, housing and infrastructure.
INAC has increased economic development funding five-fold in the last two years, to reach $125 million, which has
brought unparalleled support from the private sector, First Nations and Inuit communities, and other governments,
and leverage around $400 million in economic activity.
To date this fiscal year, we have invested $63 million in 242 economic development projects. The ventures, which
range in scope from dental clinics to large-scale irrigation projects, are supported through five economic development
programs. With Aboriginal entrepreneurship growing at twice the rate of the national average, there are now 20,000
Aboriginal businesses across the country.
Recently, more than 150 Aboriginal youth came together from across Canada to discuss the national Aboriginal
youth strategy. It took place over a weekend, and they all fully participated, which is a sign of their keenness to define a
better future for themselves. They did so at the invitation of federal, provincial and territorial Aboriginal leaders.
These federal, provincial, territorial Aboriginal meetings, in short FPTA, provide a forum to encourage meaningful
dialogue with leaders of the five national Aboriginal organizations. Participants raised for future discussion a number
of key priorities, primarily in the areas of culture and language, education, leadership and social issues.
Let me now turn to housing and infrastructure. As important as healthy economies are, healthy communities are
just as critical. Safe housing and infrastructure can help to create the right conditions for raising healthy First Nations
and Inuit youth.
By working in partnership with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, with First Nations and Inuit
communities, and with thousands of other organizations, the department has achieved great progress in this area.
Although a great deal remains to be done.
Between 1995-1996 and 2000-2001, the number of houses has risen by 14.9 per cent and the number of houses
considered to be inadequate condition has increased from 39,000 to 50,000. The department now spends approximately
$138 million annually to support First Nations housing on reserves. To maximize the impact of this investment we
partner with other groups such as CMHC, Health Canada, HRDC and Natural Resources Canada.
There have also been significant improvements in many areas. We continue to work with First Nations and with
other groups such as Health Canada to expand and enhance the training of plant operators and the upgrading of older
facilities to help ensure the safety of water supplies for communities.
Madam Chair, recent changes in the department are allowing us to follow through on all of our Throne Speech
commitments. We now have in place a renewed and revitalized organization in which social programs are designed to
ensure that programs and services will reach those in greatest need — taking into account program redesigns in the
provinces — and put expenditures on a sustainable track.
The examples I have outlined today demonstrate how our department is working actively with First Nations and
Inuit communities towards a prosperous future for their children.
It is our belief that partnership is a key strategy in preparing youth to successfully contribute to their communities.
Alternatively the Strategy will better prepare those who, for whatever reason, decide to move away from their home
communities and pursue prosperity elsewhere.
The Chairman: Thank you for a very interesting presentation.
Can you explain the rationale for the federal government's current policy that its responsibility, with a few
exceptions, extends only to Indian people resident on reserve?
Ms Bernier: The limitation is only for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Other departments, for example,
HRDC, has programs that extend to Aboriginal people off reserve. It is only our department whose mandate is
confined to reserves.
The Chairman: You still have not answered my question. What is your current policy that your department's
responsibility, with a few exceptions, extends only to Indian people resident on reserve?
Ms Bernier: That is a good question. It is an issue of the machinery of government. The way that the federal
government has presently divided its overall responsibility for Aboriginals in Canada is to have given to Indian and
Northern Affairs, on the basis of the Indian Act, because it is the Indian Act that is our enabling legislation — so on
the basis of the Indian Act our minister only has jurisdiction for Indians on reserve. It is not a policy. It is based on the
act that has set up the department.
Certainly one could consider other machinery of government possibilities. One could consider, for example, that it
would be better that our department also cover Aboriginal people off reserve. One could consider that on the contrary
it should remain as it is and perhaps the federal government would want to change the way the other departments are
providing services to Aboriginal people off reserve and do a different arrangement with the provinces.
There are quite a few permutations for that. The reason our department at the moment is set up like that is that we
apply the Indian Act. We are responsible for the Indian Act, and the Indian Act, as you know, is confined to reserves.
The Chairman: Are you telling me that even though a person is born a status Indian — and I do not like to use the
term ``Indian'' because it is generic and to me it is very derogatory — and does not live on reserve the department has
reneged on its responsibility to that person who has moved from the reserve into a community? The department is
denying that person their human rights under the Indian Act because they do not live on reserve. Is that what you are
Ms Bernier: The way that the federal government has divided responsibility for Aboriginal people, yes, once a status
Indian moves from the reserve to, for example, Winnipeg, that individual would then receive services from either the
Province of Manitoba and/or HRDC, which does have programs for status Indians off reserve.
The Chairman: The department has then reneged on its responsibility to a person who has a birthright that the
Department of Indian Affairs is responsible for. That is what you are telling me. Who made that policy?
Ms Bernier: It is not a policy. It is the way the enabling legislation of the Department of Indian and Northern
Affairs is drawn.
It defines the responsibilities of our minister as they apply to Indians on reserve. As I said, certainly, that is an issue
for debate. I see your point and I can see how one could put a very valid argument forward for reconsidering that. I
also see arguments for the way it is now. I am not taking a side one way or the other. I am saying that this is how the
federal government thought, that it was better to divide it that way, so that INAC would have responsibility on reserve,
allowing us to have a coherent approach on reserve, and that Aboriginal people off reserve would either get services
from the provinces or from other departments who do have a pan-Aboriginal program.
The Chairman: It interests me that you say ``other Aboriginal people.'' The minute Aboriginal people leave the
reserve, they have lost their birthright.
Ms Bernier: I would not say that. I would say that, from a bureaucratic point of view, yes, they are outside our
The Chairman: They have lost their birthright.
Senator Sibbeston: Ms Bernier's information has been interesting, but I do note that it is mostly about Indian people
on reserve, and Inuit people. Basically, Ms Bernier has outlined programs that are available to Aboriginal peoples on
reserve, including the Inuit.
Our study here is on urban Aboriginal peoples. It is like two ships crossing in the night. We are not connecting.
I am concerned that your information, while it is good and interesting, does not meet or deal with the problem or
the issues with which we are concerned, which is primarily Aboriginal urban people. In some respects, that is too bad. I
do not know if you have helped us very much with the information you provided. We are not talking about the same
thing. You are talking about your department, INAC, dealing with people on reserves and Inuit people in the Arctic.
We are dealing with urban Aboriginal people.
You say that you are not responsible once people leave a reserve. Maybe that really does indicate clearly the
problem, that Indian and Northern Affairs does not deal with Aboriginal peoples in cities and urban settings. It only
deals with Aboriginal peoples on reserves and Inuit people up North.
I should like to hear you on that subject, whether you admit to what I have said stated, that we are not connecting
and you are not helping us very much.
Ms Bernier: I do see that, and it is important for me to be honest about that.
Quite a few links can be drawn. The first one, as I mentioned, is post-secondary education. Our program helps
students, who then go and study in urban centres, most of the time.
There are other impacts. For example, the reasons for migration go directly to our programs — some do and some
do not. For example, we know that a very important reason to migrate from the reserve relates to family issues. Lack
of proper housing is another reason people migrate toward cities. That is certainly something that my department
hears as a sign for improving the housing situation on reserve. That is one link to the urban migration.
A third link is economic development. This is within our mandate. If we could continue to create greater dynamism
in Aboriginal economies, if we could continue to support them in overcoming the barriers they face, then we will create
job opportunities and economic opportunities on reserve and therefore will allow youth to live where they come from if
they so choose.
The other aspect of mobility or impact of our programs on urban Aboriginals is that if they receive a good
education on reserve, their options are then much better for a brilliant future anywhere in Canada.
Senator Sibbeston: Maybe INAC should consider the issue of urban Aboriginal peoples. In the Northwest
Territories, where I come from, native people have been coming off the land, from living in the bush, as it were, over
the last 20 to 40 years and moving into towns. In the south, native peoples are moving from reserves, from rural areas,
to cities and urban areas.
It is human agony. It is a process of moving from one way of life to a different way. I call it an agony because it is a
process that is often painful. We are studying that. For Aboriginal people in urban settings, there is difficulty in
adapting, in changing. Everything is so different in the urban physical setting, in terms of living on streets and in
houses. As well, native people often do not have the education and skills for the jobs that are there. What we are seeing
is human agony.
I am wondering whether the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is missing the boat and not doing its job in
not paying attention to that area. The result is evident in urban settings, with the gangs, unemployment, violence,
crime, poor housing and the sorry state of Aboriginal peoples. This is what we are dealing with. This is what we are
trying to find solutions to and trying to deal with.
I wish you could see our point of view, to try to help us. What you have provided is nice, easy, positive information
about native people on reserves, but you are not helping us. You have not provided information or focused your
attention to the problem we are considering. We are like ships passing in the night; there is a problem.
Ms Bernier: First, as you know, the machinery of government is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. If Indian and
Northern Affairs Canada were to change its mandate, it would be because the Prime Minister has so decided. It is not
for us to decide.
Second, I have stated the connections that are there, and there are very few. That is why I had to tell you in my
opening statement what our mandate is.
One aspect of the support that needs to be given to youth, and fortunately we have the mandate to give it, given your
eloquent description of what it is suddenly to find yourself in a big city, having left your community, is through the
post-secondary education program.
Ms Caverhill, who is with me here, is the acting director for the learning, employment and human development
directorate in my sector. Ms Caverhill could speak more to the support we provide to youth who are attending a
university in a big city. We do as much as we can to support them in a holistic fashion. Perhaps I can turn to Ms
Caverhill to speak about that.
The Chairman: Before Ms Caverhill speaks on that, I wish to comment on education. First, you do not provide any
funding for primary, off-reserve education.
Ms Bernier: No, not off-reserve education.
The Chairman: You do not provide any funding for junior high. The reserve schools have the highest drop-out rate
that I know of.
Further, one person that I know of left her reserve to go into Edmonton to take a nursing course. She was born and
raised on that reserve, and lived there all her life, but when she went to Edmonton to take her course she had to take a
student loan. I understand exactly what you are saying about post-secondary education, but how can they reach post-
secondary education without assistance in the earlier grades?
Ms Bernier: We had elementary and secondary education programs.
The Chairman: Only on reserve.
Ms Bernier: No.
The Chairman: Yes. I raised my granddaughter, who was born a treaty Indian from Hobbema, and I was not
allowed to get help for her when she went from grade one to grade nine. She then quit school.
Ms Bernier: If the child is put in a provincial school, the provincial school bills us for that child, so we do cover
children who reside on-reserve but attend school off-reserve. We do cover tuition costs.
The Chairman: They have to live on reserve, and that is my contention. Her mother passed away and I raised her. I
am a Metis. I do not live on a reserve. I would not ever live on a reserve, because to me it is a concentration camp. That
is beside the point. I have some strong concerns about education and how you work with the people. Not only that, but
many of the jurisdictions have been given over to the band and I would like to know how that works. The
responsibility of funding is turned over to the chief and council.
Ms Bernier: The responsibility for delivering the program has been transferred. We fund education, but in the 1970s,
the First Nations had produced a landmark report called ``Indian Control of Indian Education.'' From that moment
on, it became clear that we should devolve the responsibility of providing education to the First Nations to make sure
that the children are educated in a relevant educational system.
Right now, we provide all the funding, but the programs are 98 per cent administered by First Nations.
Senator Christensen: In your presentation, you highlight a major problem in the study that we are doing, as far as we
are concerned. The department is in fact dealing with on-reserve. We are dealing with off-reserve and are trying to
come up with some suggestions or recommendations on how that can be dealt with.
Certainly, your department does have a mandate. Urban Aboriginals do fall between the cracks when they go to the
city. Municipalities and provincial governments say it is a federal responsibility, and the federal government says no,
they are not on-reserve. There is this pushing back and forth. The people who need the help fall between the cracks.
On page 4, you said the government gave $2.2 billion over a five-year period to the provinces and territories, and
there will be another $100 million added to that over the next two years for child care and head starts.
Would those programs be delivered by the territories and the provinces to First Nation persons in urban areas? How
do they access that? How is that delivered?
Ms Bernier: The $2.2 billion is part of a transfer agreement of September 2000 from the federal government to the
provinces and covers Aboriginals off-reserve. It covers all children, so it is not specific to on-reserve.
Senator Christensen: Is it for Aboriginal people?
Ms Bernier: It is Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. Unquestionably, Aboriginal children in urban centres have access
Senator Christensen: Do all children have access to that?
Ms Bernier: Absolutely, including Aboriginal children off-reserve.
However, that agreement speaks to off-reserve persons. The enhancement, the extra $100 million that you saw in the
December budget, is for children on reserve. There is some money for children off reserve, but that is part of Human
Resources Development Canada and Health Canada's mandate, so I will not touch that. There is a part that does go to
children off reserve.
Senator Christensen: Are you saying that $2.2 billion is for young children in urban areas, or anywhere that the
territories or the provinces want to deliver it?
Ms Bernier: Yes. The $2.2 billion is for all children in Canada.
Senator Christensen: Your department has provided that.
Ms Bernier: No, we were not part of that.
Senator Christensen: That is fine.
With the success and percentage increases that you have listed on education and program development, housing and
economic development, and all the things that are happening on reserves, it seems to me that more problems are being
created than solved.
Reserves take up a limited area of property. They are comparable to a small municipality. People are encouraged to
participate in these programs, to upgrade, to get a secondary-school education, and they are still able to access the
other programs, health, not paying income tax, all of the benefits that First Nations are able to get under the Indian
Act. The minute they step off the reserves they lose that. There is no encouragement for them to go. They are
encouraged to stay there, but there is no way you can create economic development in those small areas for all the
people who are going to need it.
You are creating a major social problem because those people who have successfully been through the educational
programs do not want to lift up their families, take them away, and lose all of their benefits. You are giving with one
hand and taking away all the advantages with the other. I am not blaming you. It is the system that is doing that.
Surely there is some way we can make the system such that it is a win-win situation.
Ms Bernier: Let me address this from a few angles. First of all, when a person moves from a reserve to an urban
centre, that person does not lose the right to social assistance. Simply, social assistance is not provided by the same
government. It was the same when I left Quebec. I lost the right to vote in Quebec, but now I vote in Ontario. They still
have rights. They simply receive those services from another government.
A second interesting point you make — and I like your reference to jurisdiction. That is an important issue and we
are working at resolving that. The whole point of the federal-provincial-territorial Aboriginal forum is the issue of
whether or not to stay on the reserves. When we meet with chiefs, First Nations, or First Nations educators, they
would like to see the reserves intact in terms of the sense of community.
In a recent meeting I had with Aboriginal educators, they said that they do not want to see their youth move to
Toronto. They want to see their youth trained in nursing, informatics, all those innovative knowledge-based economy
skills, but they would like to seem those skills and that training applied in the community. In that way, the community
will survive as a community, they said.
Hence, there is that other point of view, where they very much want to keep their communities alive. It is more than
a piece of land. It is a community.
Senator Christensen: That is all well and good, but a community can only absorb so many nurses, so many doctors,
and so many teachers; eventually, there will be a spillover. Because the numbers who are achieving those degrees are
smaller, they perhaps can get work in those communities. However, those who do not have skills and training usually
fall by the wayside; they get into major social and family problems, so they migrate to the urban centres.
Once they are in the urban centres, they fall into other jurisdictional programs — and then the relevant jurisdictions
argue about whose program they fall under. ``That is not our program, that is the federal program.'' The federal
government response is that because the Aboriginal individual is off-reserve it does not come under their program.
Again, they fall through the cracks. We are forcing the disadvantaged off the reserves. It seems we have got things
mixed up. We have to straighten them out.
Ms Bernier: At this point, there is no danger of having an excess of skilled people on reserve. There is such a lack of
nurses, doctors and public administrators to govern their communities; at this point, the communities are in dire need
of more skilled people who actually live there.
Senator Pearson: We are struggling with the vision that you have opened for us, which I think we have all sensed in
our discussions, that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is attached to a piece of land, it is not attached to people. If
you were attached to people, then the programs would flow with the people. I know the whole problem about
mandates, but you have opened for us a problem that we must deal with in our recommendations. We have all raised
this in different ways.
When you think of a program that you mentioned here, like the First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment
Strategy, where they acquire skills, then match that with the question of the population growth, we know that if they
stay on the reserve there will be a completely reverse pyramid. There will be many young people and very few older
people, which is quite different from the rest of our county. There cannot possibly be room for all those young people.
We should be following them. Unless we come up with a plan that integrates what is happening on reserve and off
reserve with other Aboriginal peoples, we will promulgate more disasters, one after the other. This is a political issue. It
is up to us to make recommendations. I am not trying to put you on the spot.
This kind of report that you have given us is detailed but faceless. I am trying to imagine the kids that you are
talking about, put faces on them and personalities and so on, and you talk about 700 summer jobs. What were they
doing? What kind of summer jobs were they doing? We need to get a feeling for these young people if in fact we are
going to find ways in which we can engage with them.
You talked about partnership. To what extent are you engaging the young people in the decisions about what they
will do? Is it a service culture or is it a community culture? This reads like a service culture. We think that what we need
are young people from the age of two who have begun to engage in their communities and in the construction of their
own lives and to make decisions about their lives. In the delivery of the programs, which involves a large amount of
money, where are the young people in the decision-making process?
Ms Bernier: I will answer that question, but you have also raised some other good points that I would like to give
you information on, if I may.
You said, for example, that the services are attached to the land rather than to the people. That is a good way to put
it, and we are reconsidering that. We have started a fundamental policy reform, so fundamental that in fact I have had
to assign a whole team exclusively to that. One of the issues that that team is addressing is that of eligibility. Right now
— you are absolutely right — it is based on residency. We are wondering, however, whether that really is a good idea.
Does that truly reflect the true identity of the person? The person is just as Aboriginal on the reserve as off. Perhaps we
should attach eligibility to the person rather than to the residency, and that is one of the policy options for reform that
we are considering.
Senator Christensen: You should have put that in the paper.
Ms Bernier: It is not done yet. We are presently working on that and I have staff coming up with options.
I will now answer your question about how we involve youth in the decision-making process. That is absolutely
crucial and so many of us think that. I remember you being present when I made the presentation on the NCB
reinvestment, and I think you saw from the video that the youth are deeply involved in the projects that are funded
with the NCB reinvestment. That is not the only pool of money where children and youth have been involved,
Under income security reform, which is also an initiative to find better ways for transition into the workforce, we
have developed some wonderful projects where youth came up with ideas to develop skills that would then take them a
step further towards the labour market.
I want to dwell for a moment on the federal-provincial-territorial Aboriginal forum that I talked about. I did
mention the fact that they met on a weekend. These are young people who usually do other things on a weekend, and
150 of them came together to set their priorities. They set those priorities, they put them to ministers, and the ministers
adopted them. Clearly, that is the way to go, and I hope we can come up with even more examples of that.
Senator Christensen: Were the Aboriginal youths at the conference from reserves or from other areas?
Ms Bernier: They were Aboriginal youths, and the conference was in Edmonton.
Senator Cochrane: Some Aboriginal and non-profit organizations have argued that they are limited in their ability
to extend programs and services to all Aboriginal groups residing in urban centres because of the restrictions imposed
by government policies. In particular, some agencies have complained of not being able to extend services to the Metis
and off-reserve Indians because the funding that they receive from DIAND is earmarked exclusively for work with
status Indians and Inuit. Are you aware of this concern?
Ms Bernier: That is, unfortunately, the limit of our mandate. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to define the
mandates of each department. A law is drawn and adopted by Parliament to define that mandate. On the basis of that
mandate, each policy that a department wants to develop is then followed by a cabinet decision. That decision provides
policy authority followed by a Treasury Board submission that the case may be to provide program authorities. That is
where a department receives authorization to expend the money — within the strict framework that cabinet and
Treasury Board have provided. Our authorization to spend money is strictly defined by those limits — by those
parameters. If we spend outside our authority — for example on an urban Aboriginal centre that was outside what
cabinet would allow us to do — that would be an expenditure in violation of our authority.
Senator Cochrane: Is the department taking any measure to address this particular issue?
Ms Bernier: I suppose the reference group of ministers on Aboriginal policy will address whether the present
machinery of government in relation to Aboriginal people is the right one. They could turn their attention to that issue.
Senator Cochrane: We have been hearing about these programs by various government departments. Your
department has been focused on providing such programs for many years. What programs and initiatives have
worked? You talked to us about the summer employment program, the entrepreneurial program and the partnership
programs. What has worked? Which ones have worked and which ones have not worked? What factors are
fundamental to program success?
Ms Bernier: First of all, you have to define ``what works, what does not work.'' If my definition were ``it has only
worked if it has resolved the issue within five years,'' then nothing will work, because it takes longer than that. It is
important to not forget that the gap is closing — the programs are working. If you look at the socio-economic
conditions on reserves and everywhere else in Canada, the gap is still unacceptable; however, it is narrower than it used
to be. We must constantly grasp that and continue because it is not an impossible task.
What programs have worked the best? Those that have involved the communities in the decision making, for
example, income security reform, ISR. In that area, we decided that the way social assistance was set up was too
passive. The chief agreed and so we began thinking about how to develop a social assistance policy framework that
would be more active — a true relief measure rather than a passive support measure — and be a transition to the
workforce measure. With the First Nations, we simply created a pool of money and they chose how they would meet
that objective of an active transfer to the workforce. They decided how they would spend that money to achieve that
objective according to their realities, their aspirations and their vision.
That has given rise to some successful programs. For example, a community near Whistler, B.C., said that they
would use the ISR money to start a training school for catering. They are right next to Whistler, and so it is perfect,
and they trained many people who are now employable in the hotel business at Whistler.
Another community wanted to transfer skills but also wanted a sense of tradition and culture. They determined that
their ISR money would be used to build totems poles and canoes so the youth would learn how to use the tools and
about safety in the construction business, as well learn about their culture. It was very uplifting. That is part of another
video. We found that as long as we involve the community they get it right because they know what they need.
Therefore, clearly, community-based intervention is the one that is most successful.
Senator Cochrane: I have seen a Web site that shows some of the housing that has been built on the reserves, and I
must say, some of those homes are large and beautiful, from what I can see on the Web site.
How are funds for the housing program distributed? Who receives the funding? Where does this money end up?
Does the money go directly to the band council or to the individual who wants to build a house? What about the
materials that go into the house? Who builds the house? Tell me about the funding, please.
Ms Bernier: The funding goes to the band, which has a housing policy or plan. The will spend the money according
to needs; the band administers the housing money. The money will be spent to build new homes, to renovate old homes
and to clean homes that have mould, for example. The band makes those decisions, according to the housing needs.
Senator Cochrane: When this money is given to the band council, do you step aside and allow them to do whatever
they feel is necessary with this money?
Ms Bernier: There are accountability mechanisms, such as reporting requirements. We ask them to account for the
money that has been given, and they report on a regular basis where that money has been spent. Therefore, we know
exactly how the money is spent. They also share with us their housing plans ahead of time.
Senator Cochrane: Have you gone into the reserves to see the final project?
Ms Bernier: I go into the reserves regularly.
Senator Cochrane: Not you, but rather the department.
Ms Bernier: The regions do that. We do not have as many resources for inspection as we would like to have.
Unfortunately, it is a capacity issue — we simply do not have the people to do the level of inspection that we would like
to have done. However, as much as we can, yes, we do go into the communities. We have regional offices where
assigned officers go into the communities.
The Chairman: To whom do you target Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative, AWPI?
Ms Bernier: That is Aboriginal youth.
The Chairman: Does it include the Metis?
Ms Bernier: That is a good question. I will check that and get back to you. Perhaps Ms Caverhill knows.
Ms Caverhill: No, I do not.
The Chairman: Getting back to the housing issues, I know that you no longer have jurisdiction when people move
from the reserve to the cities. Several years ago, you had off-reserve housing. The policy was changed several years ago.
Some of my friends got off-reserve housing, so that I know for a fact.
Meanwhile, in the training programs such as the one at Whistler, how many of those people are working? How
many of them have regular jobs?
They do not have the expertise within the reserve system. There is nothing for them to return. That is the tragedy.
People are leaving the reserves mostly for housing reasons, but there are many other reasons. Of all the money that
you put into housing, only a small portion of it gets to the reserve. On the reserve close to Edmonton, your department
allocated millions of dollars. The budget breakdown was that $8,000 was for housing. That was all.
You paint a very good picture, but when I go home I see people living in Third World conditions. I see people
moving into the cities because they cannot survive on the reserves. All the positive steps that you feel you are taking are
Our children have an 8-per-cent higher suicide rate. Why? They leave the reserves. Gangs are becoming more
prevalent. The Aboriginal gangs are larger because it gives an identity.
I appreciate your presentation tonight because it has given us a very good insight on the terrible gaps that we as
Canadian people, not just as government, are pushing onto our own Aboriginal people.
I go home — and thanks goodness I do not have to live it, but I see it all the time. It is a tragedy.
Yes, you do provide some post-secondary education, but our youth need to go to technical schools. They need
upgrading. Only 3 per cent of any population is eligible for university. The majority of our population are trades
people. The trades are important, and there are good jobs available in the trades. You do not provide any funding for
that. That is the tragedy of the whole situation is.
It makes my heart ache when I hear about all the nice things that are supposedly happening, and then I go home and
face the reality. That is the sad part. There are many things that we have to do, and many things that we have to
I have never heard you say ``partnership.'' There has to be a partnership between all levels of government and the
Indian and Metis governments of this country, and that is not happening.
Ms Caverhill, would you like to make some comments? I see that you have been writing like mad.
Ms Caverhill: I can speak to some of your comments. I can speak to them from the same reality that you have,
Madam Chair. My family and I own property at Tyendinaga on the beautiful Bay of Quinte. I grew up with my
Many of my friends and relatives were unable to access appropriate programs and elementary school. They dropped
out at elementary school level. My sister left school at grade 9, and was never able to complete it because there were no
services for her.
I look at my reserve as very progressive. If you have been there, it is a beautiful place. When I go home to visit with
my mother, I go to a house that she was able to have refitted to accommodate her disabilities through money from
Indian Affairs. I have much conflict because I am very aware of where I work and the discrepancies, not just between
Aboriginal and non-aboriginal in urban settings; I see it in the haves and the have-nots on reserve. It is tragic and
I work in the area of education at Indian Affairs. One of my programs is the post-secondary program. Day after
day, I get calls from people we know who have not been able to access funding for many reasons. When they phone the
band to get the funding, the quick answer is, ``Sorry, we are out of money.'' Those people are left to find ways to either
fund their education as best they can, or they get no education. I try to answer those people and give them the best
information I have.
However, if they live off reserve, then perhaps they do not have the same level of access as the person who lives on
reserve next door to the chief. A reserve is like a little village, where everybody knows everybody and everybody is
related. You do not do anything upon which comment is made one way or another.
There are hardships for the people who move away. The portability of rights is a real problem.
When I read the topic for our visit, I wondered what we had to say for urban Aboriginal people. I spent several
years on the board of the Odawa Centre. There are native people there who have moved to Ottawa and who are
suffering great hardships because there is no housing.
The programs are there, but it is not always that easy for Aboriginal people to access them, for any number of
reasons. One reason, as you mentioned, Madam Chair, is that they do not know how to access those. It is different
At home when my mother needed her house refurbished so it would be on one floor and it would accommodate her
wheelchair, she phoned her friend who phoned the chief and a program was found. Indian Affairs has a program for
refitting houses for people with disabilities. In a matter of days, she received word from that band council that her
house could be fixed.
I do not know where you are going to find the answers to the questions you are asking. They are monumental
questions. The programs that we have are good programs. I have learned that since being at Indian Affairs and
working in areas of the Youth Employment Strategy, which is the program that Madame Bernier referred to.
In that program, we run science and technology camps every summer for elementary and secondary students.
Almost $2 million is spent. That money goes to regional offices that have committees and mechanisms in place so that
people on the reserve can design their own programs and deliver that service.
It is for on-reserve native children. My sister moved off the reserve. She has young children, 8, 9, and ten years old,
who would benefit greatly from something like that, but they cannot access it because she lives in Belleville Ontario,
which is about 10 minutes from the reserve. Her children are not eligible for the science and technology camp. It is
always that push and pull, that dilemma. I do not know the answer. I do not think there is an easy answer. What we do
at Indian Affairs makes a big difference in a lot of lives for children on reserve.
The post-secondary education program does help a lot of people who have, for whatever reason, moved off the
reserve because they cannot access this funding. There are mechanisms in place so that the Inuit who have moved to
the South from the North can apply and receive funding for their education. When almost $300 million is spent and we
have 3,000 to 4,000 graduates from university and college programs every year, that program is a success by any
definition. Is it enough? Does it provide for everyone's needs? No, it does not.
How can we do more? We do what we can with the money we have. I think that is the same thing that happens on
the reserves. They have the youth programs; they can co-op education programs in the schools on the reserves. I was an
Aboriginal native counsellor at Cornwall for the students from Akwesasne. I helped with the co-op programs, where
we placed students in industries and businesses in Cornwall as well as on the reserve, and it works well that way. Some
of the youth programs that we are talking about do have that flexibility to help both on- and off-reserve native people.
The youth experience program, where students can be hired for a term over the summer, is like any other university
co-op program. It works very well. It exposes the children from the reserve who may have very limited experience.
Therefore, when they go to school off the reserve and make that transition to get further education or other work, they
have experience. It helps them not to experience culture shock. Those are all a success. They are little steps, but I think
we are going in the right direction.
Senator Pearson: It was a pleasure to hear from you, Ms Caverhill. We all recognize that somehow we have to have
the programs and policies follow the kids rather than the other way around. That is our challenge.
Senator Sibbeston: For Indian Affairs to be of any assistance to us in dealing with the issue at hand, apart from the
information given tonight, it would be useful for Indian Affairs to provide us with written information on any
programs that touch on urban Aboriginal peoples that you perhaps did not deal with tonight. If you could give us
information on programs that extend to urban Aboriginal peoples, so we do know there is a small segment of Indian
Affairs that touches Aboriginal peoples in the urban areas of our country, that would be useful.
I know you do affect post-secondary education and health. Health benefits apply to anybody, despite where they
are. Also, if you dare — I do not know whether the departments or government ever do this — we would be interested
in what you see as weaknesses or shortcomings in your mandate or in your programs. The situation is serious for urban
Aboriginal people. It is an area that, one hopes, will be focused on by government in the future. We need information.
We also need some recognition by departments such as yours that you are not assisting a significant number of
Aboriginal peoples that, because of their treaty or status, you are responsible for, and a recognition that they are
falling through the cracks. That kind of information would be useful to us. You would be helping our cause, as it were,
helping us to make some definitive recommendations at the end of our study.
Ms Bernier: We would be happy to provide that. It will be included in the letter in relation to AWPI. We could add
further description about the post-secondary education program.
The Chairman: Please send that to our clerk.
If there are no other questions or comments, I thank you very much. This has been most interesting, in that you
have identified so many gaps, which is also what we need to know.
The committee adjourned.