Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry

Issue 5 - Evidence - February 19, 2008 - Afternoon meeting


YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES, Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 1:41 p.m. to examine and report upon rural poverty in Canada.

Senator Joyce Fairbairn (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable senators, we have four eager persons here this afternoon, each of whom has a story to tell.

[Translation]

Dorice Pinet, Assistant Director General and Project Leader, Fédération franco-ténoise: Madam Chair, honourable senators, on behalf of the Fédération franco-ténoise, it is an honour for me to provide you with a few comments on the causes and consequences of rural poverty, and how individuals and communities are dealing with its repercussions on their socio-economic infrastructure.

From the outset, it may seem paradoxical to talk about the poverty of our French-speaking citizens who have decided to settle temporarily in the Northwest Territories in pursuit of a unique experience and jobs that generally pay better. This is just the tip of the iceberg. One must look further.

We are aware of the time limits in which we will strive to deliver the following message and summarize it in brief points.

Geographic isolation has a significant impact on transportation costs, swift access to large urban centres, and causes limited access to all kinds of resources. The flexibility of businesses is restricted in terms of accessing raw materials as well as a diverse range of expertise.

Transportation costs are a distinct factor because of their impact on the purchase of services, travel, material goods, and tourist attractions.

Great geographical distances, have an inevitable impact on delivery times. Air transport is often the only means of reaching many communities. Flights are not always available within desired timelines, and one does not have the luxury of waiting for airfare sales.

This isolation also results in a significantly reduced access to certain types of commodities. Many businesses operate in more populated urban centres, depriving our consumers here in the Northwest Territories of broader economic choices. This relative poverty of resources has consequences on options with regard to quality, reliability, diversity and level of excellence.

Housing costs — be they residential or rental — are also prohibitive and take up a substantial portion of the higher wages.

The human resources turnover rate, which hovers around 25 per cent per year, has a considerable impact on businesses and community organizations and reduces the ability to create organizational culture, and limits a deeper knowledge of our field, and of our overall realm of intervention. This high turnover rate results in expensive additional costs relative to recruitment, the time and money needed to train our staff and volunteer administrators. Because of this high turnover rate, the total period of human resources productivity is reduced, and community service delivery is weakened accordingly. This is the case for all business, including public, community and private ones.

The high turnover rate of volunteers and human resources also has considerable repercussions on the stability of our governance and staff. The fact that local resources are rare has an impact on volunteer and employee workloads. Many are forced to take on additional duties, and spend time on several tasks. This has an impact on occupational health, brings about health risks, and exhaustion gives rise to a boomerang effect.

The extremely dilapidated state of our community infrastructure has a major impact on individual and community development and vitality. Our two schools began in trailers, and remained there for years. When buildings were finally built for them, compromises were made in order to accelerate the move. As such, the two francophone schools of the Northwest Territories, located in Yellowknife and Hay River, are still without gyms, and students do not have workshop space.

On the local community level, francophone organizations in the capital city have worked relentlessly on this issue for the last 20 years. These organizations still have no space to pool their services and take advantage of synergy to better coordinate their activities. There is no guarantee that a community school centre will be completed in the next two to three years, which would be a reasonable timeframe.

As regards infrastructure, there is a lack of French-language post-secondary training, be it formal education, ongoing education, adult education, or employment training education. The community has not received valuable assistance to develop its human resources and to meet the needs of the labour market.

Insufficient funding of our organizations devoted to community development gives rise to an overextension of our resources because of increased bureaucracy and paperwork in compliance with government, and particularly federal, requirements. A national study on time allotted to fulfil our responsibilities as government partners will provide clarification on how time is allocated, and on volunteer hours worked. These factors influence our ability to retain human resources.

Another impoverishing element is the fact that we are at a great distance from places where decisions are made. Federal government authorities represented locally do not enjoy a high enough level of decision-making power and as such, decision makers are further removed from the reality on the ground. One-on-one contact between government authorities and businesses and community workers in search of assistance has a direct link to timely interventions. This is very important and the situation must be improved. It is much easier to do business with people we know and see.

The Northwest Territories' system of government is based on a government of consensus, a fact that sets the Northwest Territories apart from the political reality of the rest of the country. We are reviewing the impacts of this difference on our territory's integration into the rest of Canada, its legislation and policies. We cannot deny that there is a lack of comprehension on the part of our elected officials with regard to federal legislation, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and especially the recognition of linguistic rights. This has an impact on communication and services to our community, our citizens and families.

These are a few brief comments on our socio-economic reality and some of the factors that are contributing to regional poverty.

Construction jobs made up 8 per cent of total employment in 2004, and there is a significant shortage of skilled labour, as well as a lack of infrastructure to transport material. We need to provide fertile ground to equip our young people and workers with skills. The astronomical increase in construction costs over the last two years indicates that there is a need to regulate the too-few companies that are present in our territory and seem to be taking advantage of that fact.

In the tourism sector, we believe there is great potential for a renewable industry in this area in the Northwest Territories. The wilderness, our unique cultures, and hunting and fishing serve as exceptional natural and cultural attractions. The challenge we foresee has to deal with encouraging the development of new products and services and promoting them.

In the transportation and storage sectors, our roadways are the most sensitive to climate change due to the high number of road networks over ice in the winter time, serving both communities and companies. Almost 2,000 people work in this field, representing approximately 10 per cent of our labour force. There is a shortage of local northern workers whose salaries must compete with those in the mining and oil sectors. Road infrastructure greatly reduces the cost of supply and storage. Assistance is needed to improve education for the workforce and to address the shortage which has a significant impact on costs.

In the forestry sector we have 33.3 million hectares of forest, or 8 per cent of all Canadian forests. The sector's potential however is poorly developed in the Northwest Territories, if one considers the variety of possible uses for forest products. We believe our state of poverty is due to the fact that we lack the knowledge we need for sound forest management. Among other things, we need scientific databases specific to the northern reality which reflect the particular growing conditions in the North. We also need data in order to monitor the harvesting of these natural resources and their growth and development in relation to our needs and the needs of future generations.

The manufacturing sector is not very active in the Northwest Territories, but we have however seen significant growth in this area over the last decade. There are now approximately one hundred companies and 400 workers in this field. However, the northern market is limited. The transportation costs be must bear in order for us to access the markets to the south seriously hamper our potential market expansion. It is necessary to promote our manufacturing sector here, and to support the transportation industry as is done for so many other companies throughout the other Canadian provinces.

In the energy sector, we note that over 30 per cent of our energy needs are being met by oil. Electricity costs in our community, in Inuvik, as an example, are far higher than elsewhere. We believe that the three hydro-electric projects which should produce over 170 megawatts of energy may help reduce diesel consumption by several millions litres. Because the cost of fuel here is higher than elsewhere in the country, we believe hydro-electricity in the territories should be further developed as should the transmission grid servicing our smaller communities.

Tremendous growth is occurring in our trades and services sector. This could mean greater opportunities for development in tourism and natural resources. Over 3,000 jobs were created in this sector over the last six years. The excessively high price of gas, heating and labour costs are seen as challenges to be met. The labour force in our communities is also lacking training.

In the mining sector, exploration and mining operations generate economic activity representing 35 per cent of the territories' GDP. Despite how much of an asset this major sector is to our economic vitality, we note that only 4 per cent of our soil is known and catalogued. We also note significant shortcomings in labour force education, and resource databases are not as developed as they should be given the significance of this sector.

In the oil sector, we have also noted a lack of specialized local labour. The low level of education among NWT residents in general remains a challenge. The geological databases are also underdeveloped in this sector.

Food and sport fisheries are the mainstays of our fisheries sector. Now would be the right time to promote the high quality of our wild products on the market. We also need to ensure control over resource harvesting to support this sector.

With respect to hunting, we see domestic and commercial use as an integral part of the Northwest Territories economy. Subsistence hunting could be a useful alternative to food imports. This sector would benefit from interjurisdictional coordination, adjustments to various procedures and the simplification of processes. We want to push for continuous monitoring in order to ensure a sustainable and healthy wildlife resource. It would also be advisable to better identify underused resources in order to target possible areas of growth.

On behalf of Mr. Fernand Denault, President of the Fédération franco-ténoise and of the franco-ténoise community, we thank you for your attention and welcome you to the Northwest Territories.

English)

Arlene Hache, Executive Director, Centre for Northern Families: The Centre for Northern Families is a drop-in centre that has an emergency shelter. It has family support programs and therapeutic programs. A medical clinic is located in the facility. A daycare is located in the facility. It has a community advocacy program. I wrap that description up by summarizing the centre as a place where people who are most in need go.

When people come to our facility, our job is to figure out how to help them. It is not our job to say, ``Go somewhere else'' or ``We have a program here and you do not fit that program.'' We try our best to be as inclusive as possible and make sure that we place people first and not programs. That is the organization I work for.

I came to the Northwest Territories 30 years ago. I hitch-hiked here, fleeing childhood violence. I landed in Yellowknife. I felt at the time as a young person that I would never be able to contribute much to the community or to society. I was homeless and desperate. The people of Yellowknife and, in fact, the people of Dettah and N'Dilo, which are Aboriginal communities outside Yellowknife, kindly embraced me in their communities. Through the elders and the people in those communities, I gradually recovered to the point where I eventually could give back to my own community and to my peers who are homeless.

The work that I do at the Centre for Northern Families is personal. In fact, when the centre first started, we operated for four years without any funding at all. It was excruciatingly painful. We managed to do it. Eventually, we persuaded the government that we are a worthwhile endeavour in that we provide support to our peers, to help them recover and move forward.

When I approached the committee about making a presentation, I was not sure what to focus on because I have been doing advocacy for 30 years. Poverty impacts every area that you can imagine. I counted on everybody else to give you statistics and I counted on everybody else to give you the technicalities of the situation.

What I thought I would focus on is the homelessness and research that we carried out around homelessness in the North. A pan-territorial study was done of Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. It was completed last year and released a couple of months ago.

It has such a solid pattern, meaning that if there is any negative stat to be had, it will be in the North. The situation generally is the worst in Nunavut. NWT is generally second and Whitehorse is third. The rest of Canada is much better off than the North. That is how the stats generally roll so I will not bore you with all the stats.

What I would say though is that research project was done across the North. Two hundred and five participants took part in that study. Fifty-three per cent were Inuit, 30 per cent were First Nations, 10 per cent were Caucasian, 1 per cent were Metis and 1 per cent were immigrant families. The project studied and looked at the characteristics of homelessness in the Northwest Territories. I will give you a wrap-up of the findings.

The characteristics of homelessness in the North have to do with remote geography. They are related to under- developed infrastructure, a harsh climate, a small population base, the high cost of living, limited employment and in some communities, no employment for the people who live in those communities, the lack of accessible and affordable transportation, inadequate access to appropriate social services meaning culturally relevant and community controlled social services and supports, the high cost of labour and material to increase housing stock, the high rates of social issues including addictions, violence against women, family violence and intergenerational dependence on income support and government assistance that was created through the colonization process.

Those sorts of characteristics were revealed in that research. It is hard because I always try to keep people in my mind when I talk about facts that do not appear to have a face to them. I will talk a little bit about the determinants of homelessness in the North.

One of them was the fact that every woman is vulnerable in the Northwest Territories. They can have a home one day and it can be gone the next day. Part of the problem goes back to the expensive living in a community. Part of it goes back to the lack of housing in a community, meaning that the government, in many communities, is the only housing provider. If they boot someone out, they are booted out. There is nowhere to go.

The other huge factor is behaviour and circumstances of partners, meaning that many women we see have lived in, and live in, violent relationships. They are penalized financially and they are evicted based on their partner's behaviour, drug use and all that sort of thing. Women are relocated from one community to another. Half the population of the Northwest Territories lives in Yellowknife. That outcome is shocking. Many women I talked to over many years now are fleeing all kinds of things from their home community because resources are not invested in the small communities. Then they come to Yellowknife because they think it is better and different. It is different, but it is not better. They end up in an urban environment. They do not know how the city functions because it functions differently from the communities.

Of the women who stay at the women's centre, for example at the Centre for Northern Families, they all have children, but their children are not with them because what the children are used to doing in a community is considered dangerous in Yellowknife. I will give you an example. In the communities that I have been to anyway, kids tend to run around until all hours of the night and have a ball. They are out having fun and they run all over the place. The community generally keeps an eye on them. Generally, they know what is up with all the kids. However, when the kids come to Yellowknife, they cannot run anywhere without being in danger. Child welfare apprehends kids because parents are not used to this structure and how it works here.

Another factor is the lack of adequate support. Another is people's personal capacity for wellness. A study was done by the Department of Health and Social Services. It said by this year, 2008, that 50 per cent of the territorial population will be in need of mental health services. What population are they talking about? They are generally talking about community people. They are not talking about visitors or people who are transplanted to Yellowknife and into the territories. That should be, in my view, an immediate red flag that says we are in deep trouble here. That is what that statistic says to me.

Other factors contributing to homelessness are disabilities, geographic factors, lack of structure in institutions and the powerlessness of women.

The cost of living: the primary landlords in small communities and in Yellowknife for people who live in poverty are housing authorities. I will give you an example. Housing authorities have begun giving families only three month leases. If they give them a three-month lease, they can test them to see if they are decent people. If they are not, they can evict them. That way, they avoid going to the rental office. They avoid that nice rental officer who gives people a chance. That is how the housing authorities put it to me. Community people end up having to go straight into the NWT Supreme Court for housing. Who, in the community, can appear in the Supreme Court when illiteracy rates are high? Of homeless women in Nunavut, 87 per cent had not finished high school. I was in court maybe two months ago and there were 17 evictions from Behchoko. Not one community person from Behchoko showed up at the Supreme Court to say, ``I should not be evicted, I want to stick up for myself; they are not being fair'' or whatever. No one from Behchoko was there to defend themselves.

Societal indifference and punishing attitudes are another factor. Generally, people here, because they do not understand the history and the huge impact that colonization had on northern populations have practised a punishing attitude for a long time about people's failure to function in a way that they recognize. For example, most of the child welfare workers in Yellowknife are non-Aboriginal. They are generally from Toronto or down south. They expect parenting styles that they see down south. We fly a psychologist from Calgary to Yellowknife to test parents to see if they are fit or not. The psychologist decides if parents can have their kids or not. The psychologist sits in the middle of Calgary and I can assure you that psychologist has never been to Aklavik or to a small community to know how parents parent their children.

The societal indifference and the punishing attitudes have had a devastating impact. Across Canada generally, 40 per cent of the children in permanent care within the child welfare system are Aboriginal. In this jurisdiction, 95 per cent are in permanent care. Ultimately, we are concerned about the level of racism and the level of discrimination when they look at removing Aboriginal children still from their parents and the communities. In our view, residential school has not stopped. It has only changed its name.

I do not want to leave on a bad note so I will make recommendations that we think will help.

The three huge things that we want to leave with people are as follows. One is, there is little, and almost no, real investment in families and children. We find that the government plays with it, but there is not enough investment. The investment required is huge. Because the government asserted itself into traditional communities here, the level of damage that was created was significant. To recover from that damage takes a huge investment. That investment is not there from our perspective.

Another thing that we recommend is national standards. When the federal government transfers money to provinces and territories, in our view, they must set parameters around that transfer like they used to under the Canada Assistance Plan, CAP. I was around before CAP and when we lost CAP, it was devastating. I still remember feeling a little girl's back because she was malnourished. Our government, at least at the time, went into a horrible period where people were given five dollars a day to feed their children. To me, that was literally impossible when a litre of milk in small communities was seven dollars. I do not even know what word to use, but the impact of losing CAP in the Northwest Territories was so devastating to families when there were no expectations around the delivery of social assistance. It was horrific.

The other huge factor is that the government still seems to think that it is the best body to deliver community services and it is not. We have gone 20 years backward. I have noticed that across Canada, and not only in the territories.

Another huge factor in Yellowknife anyway, because it has such a high cost of living, is the fact that the salaries of people who work in the non-profit sector are at 59 per cent of what a government salary is. We cannot attract staff and we cannot keep staff. People go to work for the government. Government now complains that those people go to work for the diamond mines.

Four things that would make a huge difference is real investment in children and families; national standards and parameters for the transfer of funds; and real commitment to the non-profit sector. The federal government has a charter with the non-government sector, valuing the work of the non-government sector, or the voluntary sector. It is like a voluntary sector charter but it does not pan out in reality.

Homeless women, to take their place and contribute back to the community, need appropriate support for themselves and their children. They need access to services and they need a way of making decisions about what services they receive and how they receive them.

I think our organization is marginalized. The difference between our organization and other organizations is that our board and all our staff have all needed services. We have all recovered to the point where we can give back to our own community. It makes a difference in terms of how we provide a service to our peers.

Another thing we are looking at is making sure that there is a range of housing options around transitional housing, emergency housing and long-term housing for people who will never earn the income required to live in this community. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment, I think, is now $1,300 a month.

The final thing is systemic change. We believe that should be driven by the federal government, and not provincial and territorial governments.

I will end on that point. Thank you for allowing me to make a presentation and for coming to the territories.

Nancy Peel, Executive Director, Native Women's Association: I find it amazing that Ms. Pinet has been here only for 11 days and she can talk for that long on what she talked about and she is not even from here.

I thought I would make that comment because often, people in the Northwest Territories come in and they have knowledge about what should work for us and what should not work.

I am new in my job and I can speak only from my own experience. I did not prepare anything. I have been with the Native Women's Association for only one full day and a partial day today. I have spent most of that time reading.

Speaking from my own experience as an Aboriginal woman living in a small community, I grew up in poverty with ten brothers and three sisters in a small shack with no running water and no central heating. We heated with a wood stove. We cooked on the wood stove. On many days, I would walk home from school at lunch time wondering if there would be anything to eat. A lot of times, there was not. However, a person learns something about pride. They become proud of who they are. It does not matter. They learn it somewhere. I think I learned it from my grandparents on the Chippewan side of my family.

They used to give biscuits to kids at school who were perhaps not eating properly and the biscuits had vitamins in them. They were gross. Some days, I wanted to eat one, but I did not want anybody to know I was poor. I would rather go hungry than to put up my hand and say, ``I am poor and I need it.'' So I did not. I never ate it. I knew from someone giving me a little piece of the biscuit in the playground that it was gross, but it filled that empty hole in the stomach.

It is my belief that alcoholism played a big part in the poverty in our home at that time. There was a lot of physical violence.

One thing that hit me yesterday when I had a few minutes to find some information was that there is a lot of gambling in our communities. A lot of people have given up drinking and drugging but have turned to gambling. I know from having worked in a small community that they leave their kids with whomever for all hours of the night. They do not go home until six o'clock in the morning. The kids are basically homeless because they have an adult who has been gambling all night long, goes home and goes to sleep while the kids run wild in the house.

I understand that funding for services and programs has been capped for the last ten years. There is no change for people living in our smaller communities, and for people in Yellowknife. In doing a little research, one thing that was said that hit me was that poverty is the new colonization. It overtakes the spirit, the physical and emotional well-being, and negatively affects cognitive potential. That statement really hit home for me because that rings true. It is the new colonization for our Aboriginal people in rural communities. It is so true.

From my experience, domestic violence accelerates with alcoholism and living in poverty, but also because of gambling and the inability to handle money. I worked in a small community for about six years and we had the diamond mines open. One of the things we found was that they were making big dollars, living in little shacks and buying big widescreen TVs, top of the line trucks and you name it, but they lived in these shacks. There was alcoholism and drug abuse. People were unable to use their money in a constructive way. They did not have the knowledge or the experience to budget their funds.

The men would come back from the mines after working there for two or three weeks, and their wives would have spent all their money while they were gone. Of course, that resulted in violence in that particular home.

We still have children who see that and hide it. You ask them and they say, ``Oh no, everything is fine.'' We learned to keep our secrets.

I think that is all I have to offer; short and sweet.

Cece McCauley, Chief, Writer, News North newspaper, as an individual: I write every week for the paper and I am controversial. I feed the people information.

I think I am one of the oldest people in the Northwest Territories. I was born and raised here and have lived here all my life. We were raised on the land. My father was a Scotsman and my mother was a treaty Indian. We had a good life. We were poor, but we were not starving. We were happy like everybody was when you think of those days.

I gave you each a package and it tells almost the whole story, but that is not even half of it. We hear about all these problems all morning. It is the same thing we heard year after year, but nothing seems to improve.

Ordinary people have solutions and we have tried to talk to the government about them, but they do not listen. I have written about them. I have talked to MLAs. I think solving all these problems has to do with all these organizations at the local level, in each little community. We have some good people there. This is what I always say.

When I speak, I speak for the Aboriginals. A lot of our people are in what I call the 20-year gap. A lot of our people are 45 and they are not educated enough to work in government or big jobs. They are too young for Old Age Pension so there is that 20-year gap. I brought this up to the chiefs about 15 or 20 years ago. I gave them a good idea. I said, Let's find something for these people to do because they are healthy. If you look around our towns, the 45-to-65 age group can do a lot of things and solve the problems at the grassroots level and that includes men and women.

Something has to be done. I was born and raised here and the only government we had, as we say, was Hudson Bay who taught us debit and credit, the missions who taught us how to read, write and religion, and the RCMP who looked after the little crime we had. Everybody was good. They never fought. We never heard of all these problems we have today. In those days, we still had battered women. I do not know if there is something in a man that when he is married, he thinks he possesses the woman and owns her. However, that will never go away unless you find a solution to shame them.

We have to do something. I gave you papers and you have maps of the Sahtu region. That is where I come from. I will speak about the Sahtu region. Then there is another map of the whole Northwest Territories region.

In the Sahtu region, we are in a different world. We do not have a highway. We are isolated. The only way to deliver freight there is in the summertime for two months on the river and in the wintertime, on winter roads, for about two months if we are lucky, or maybe a month and a half. The rest of the time, we fly everything in and it is costly. We have a lot of problems with young people because they are not like young people in Yellowknife or other regions where they can spread their wings to travel.

The women in the Sahtu region, out of desperation, in 2000 formed the Women Warriors of Sahtu to fight for a highway. Believe it or not, in 2000, I spent two months in Ottawa and I had a package this thick, a binder with studies. You have some of them. I passed the binder to every senator. Nick passed it around for me. I received a few replies from Senator Marjory LeBreton whom I know well. She wrote me letters, ``Keep up the good work.'' We received letters from about 90 MPs who are relevant to our situation, housing and all those things, saying, ``Keep up the good work. You need a highway. Good luck to you.''

We need a highway. No matter how we try to solve problems, and the people now realize it, we need a highway. I think we will get the highway, but I do not want to wait ten years. I want them to start this year.

There is something wrong in the Northwest Territories. If you people open your eyes and ears, you will see when you read our articles and talk to people. When the federal government came to the North in the late 1950s, we had no government. We only had the Hudson Bay and the mission. They decided to come North and I figured maybe they had too many ex-soldiers who needed jobs and they thought they would come up North and open it up. A few ministers trekked from Ottawa all the way through to Aklavik. In those days, the only towns were Fort Smith, Fort Simpson and Aklavik. Fort Norman where I came from was only little camps you might as well say. We had a church and the RCMP, too. They came up North and had meetings and told the people, ``We will introduce a government to you. We will bring a government to you. It will be good for you. We will help you. We will educate you.'' However, we have no schools, only convent schools.

They pranced around the North for two years. They gave us the right to vote in 1960. We could not vote before that. After two years, some civil servants decided to create their own government: what they could do with the goose that laid the golden egg. It has been 50 years since they formed NWT. There is something wrong because of all the problems we have. The number one thing is, why are the Aboriginals not educated? It is black and white. I am Native and, a white man in Inuvik, a businessman, had two children, a boy and a girl, who went to school and finished their high school and right from there, they went to university. One became a doctor and the other a lawyer. This white guy said to me, ``Cece, there are two kinds of education in the North, one for you and one for me,'' meaning one for Native people and one for whites.

I started asking kids questions. I said to my son, ``Do the teachers spend more time with white kids?'' He said, ``Yes.'' I looked into it and we heard that because white teachers and government think that Natives are a lost cause, they spend more time with the white kids. Look at the statistics now.

In the eastern Arctic, in Nunavut, I do not know if you read about that but you should be aware of it, they moved the Eskimos up to Grise Fiord for sovereignty reasons and they shot their dogs or something. There was a big scandal about shooting all their dogs so they would not come back south. That was in the 1950s. While their kids were growing up, their parents told them about all these hard times they had. They were starving. Now their kids are grown up and they have a bit of education. They are looking into it and they are suing the government and demand to have a truth commission. I will tell you it will cost the feds millions of dollars because they will ask to be paid for all that hardship that their parents suffered.

Something must be done in the Northwest Territories. I have tried and tried. We have now been working since 2000 on this highway. You read the history and you will not believe it. It started with Diefenbaker in 1975. If not for Diefenbaker, we would not even have roads to Fort Simpson or Wrigley. After a different government came in, they stopped building and there is no highway. We are isolated. I hear stories from people that 20 pounds of potatoes, for instance, in Edmonton and Yellowknife, cost $3.90 or something like that. In Norman Wells, the potatoes cost $40 because they fly everything in. I bought a ham about the size of a football the other day at one of the Northern Stores. I came to Yellowknife and looked — I kept the ticket price. The same size ham is $13 in Yellowknife. You guys are lucky.

We talk about no more child poverty. It is a joke. You have the last word, senators. They are trying to get rid of the Senate. If you are still there and you have the last word, Parliament passes laws, but you have the last word, we need your help on this highway.

I do not know what the government does with things that we send to ministers and senators because they say they never receive our letters. In fact, a minister in Parliament asked, ``How come when one of my constituency members asks for something, it is a year before they receive an answer?''

We need help. I do not care what you hear, it is all so sad and we have heard this for years. We need to do something. The only thing that will save us is a highway. The highway is on this map. It is up to Wrigley now. It has to go to Tuktuujaqrtuuq.

In the seventies when we had the boom in the Beaufort Sea, the Yukon government knew a lot of money was up there so they built the Dempster Highway just like that. Why are the Northwest Territories so dense when it comes to opening up the North? They talk about economic development. We will not have that until we have roads. They have been told that. There was a big meeting in Alberta with the Chambers of Commerce from Alberta, B.C., the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Of course, the Northwest Territories tried to tell B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, ``We need you to do business up North.'' Apparently, they were told, ``We would love to do business with you in the Northwest Territories, but you do not have roads.''

You are the Agriculture Committee. In the Sahtu region, we cannot manufacture anything because we do not have any way of shipping it or bringing anything in. We have the best clay, almost pure. We have the best lands for agriculture. Long ago, before the government came in, everybody had a garden. My dad was a trapper and we lived on the land. We had a big garden and we had vegetables in April in our root cellar. We had the best gardens. In those days, with Morganson Telegraph, you used to hear what was going on up the river and down the river. We used to know the guy up in Arctic Red River, by Inuvik, and he had the best garden. He had cabbages. Now, the government comes and they will save us? They made a bunch of bums out of us. Nobody has a garden anymore.

I asked someone in Fort Norman where I come from in Tulita, How come nobody has a garden? Welfare is too easy. It is too easy to get welfare. They made us all so useless. There are no incentives to work for ourselves. Why should we? They give us everything. The more they give to people, the more they want.

Some people pay only $32 a month for a three- or four-bedroom house because of the sad stories told about housing. You should investigate. In fact, the Auditor General recently came out with something and she is looking into housing. It is a joke. The Northwest Territories government is a joke.

I will sue the federal government. You can tell them that. Tell Harper, and I will ask for a truth commission. I will write and ask all the people to send me information. We have to do something. I will not go on anymore with our kids not able to read. Even Diavik Diamond Mines hires people who cannot read directions. One man has Grade 12 and he cannot read. You have to look into the education system. For us to go anywhere, we need education, we need highways, and we need mobility.

You can come and see for yourself. Education is no damn good. Help us. I am so fed up. I have been fighting this situation for eight years. I try to scare people in my articles. I say in the Arctic Ocean, we are sitting ducks with global warming. We need the army back up here, in Inuvik, because I do not trust Russia. They are getting worse. It is true.

You have to wake up the government about the Arctic Ocean. In fact, anybody interested in the highway phones me. About three years ago, someone called me to tell me about a woman who was broadcasting in Calgary and talking about bringing the army back up to the Northwest Territories. How will we get them here? There are no roads.

Get that road in. It can be done. Forget about money. You heard of the Mack group. The Gwich'in and the Dogrib formed a company called Mack. They have a consortium of six big companies that build roads, highways, pipelines or anything. They have been working on this project for about a year now. In June, they phoned me. There was a big meeting with chiefs in Yellowknife. They asked me to go and put in a plug. I went and I was a little bit late, but I talked to some of the chiefs. Apparently, they tried to pass a resolution. The chief from Tulita where I am from said, ``I cannot support the resolution because some of my people do not want a road.'' I saw red. A lot of leaders do not want to change things because their living depends on the people being put down. They have big jobs because they are leaders.

You have a lot to read here and there is a lot of information. That is not even all of it. We need the highway and the people in my area are getting frustrated. You would not believe it. A young man from Fort Good Hope came to me and said, ``Cece, I wish we had the highway before I die. I want to take my family out on a trip.''

A man from Fort Good Hope, down the river from us, told me they did not get their freight because the boats did not make it on time because of the weather. He said, ``Enfalac is $28 in Good Hope. It is $16 in Norman Wells.''

How can children eat? Children do not have milk. I see white women in my town, Norman Wells, go and buy fruit and they put some back because it is too expensive. I do not think you people realize, or the government realizes, how bad it is.

I will make waves though. I was in Vancouver for Christmas and my son said to me, ``Mom, Jesus, you have been working since 2000. Do something. Go to jail. Do something to go to jail where you will have publicity. You cannot go on a hunger strike, you are too skinny. You will die.''

I heard about a truth commission, so I will do it. I have two pro bono lawyers who will work with me.

There is so much. You should read my articles every week. That is all I will say.

The Chair: I can remember, too, shortly after I became a senator, that these issues were talked about. I can remember coming here and I can remember going to Iqaluit. People were packed into the galleries in the Senate. They stood up and told them the price of eggs and the price of this and that. It was one of the most powerful things that I have ever seen.

We thought, this response will trigger something. It will get something going. It did a little bit, but then it did not go far enough.

Ms. McCauley: Somebody like me should be there.

The Chair: You should be standing at the door every day.

Ms. McCauley: Another thing, our organization, in 2001 and in 2002, two years in a row, was invited to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, once in Ottawa and once in Edmonton. I poured my heart out, but it did not do any good. Is it only an exercise in futility or what?

The Chair: We understand that. Thank you very much.

Senator Mercer: I have no idea why this highway has not been built with you behind it.

Ms. McCauley: It is coming though. I told you about the Gwich'in and the Dogrib that have the Mack group and six big companies. They went to Ottawa to see some government, federal or something. I said, ``Do not bother with that. Demand a meeting with the Prime Minister and his inner circle.'' What those people need is an irrevocable letter to say that they will find the money themselves, but for the feds to pay them in 20 years, 30 years, 50 years or whatever. I said, ``Harper cannot refuse that.'' However, they still have not done it. I keep saying what is wrong with men.

Senator Mercer: Mr. Harper can refuse it and his commitment is underscored by the absence of the senators at this hearing and in the North. I would not count on that happening tomorrow.

I look at your map of the highway. There are a lot of bridges on this highway.

Ms. McCauley: They are only creeks. They are small.

Senator Mercer: There is still a bridge and a bridge costs a lot of money. It does not matter —

Ms. McCauley: We have one big river, the Bear River. They planned to start two years ago but could not because there was no steel so they postponed it.

Senator Mercer: We recently closed a steel plant in Nova Scotia. We could have been building bridges in the North. I am a couple of years too late here.

I have a couple of comments. Ms. Peel, you said that poverty is the new colonization of Aboriginal people. It sounds like a catch phrase, but when we look at what is happening in the North in particular, but elsewhere in the country, it really is. Poverty, in many ways, is worse than what we were doing before and that was pretty darn bad.

Ms. Hache, I have worked in the non-profit sector for most of my life. When you say that the salaries for non- governmental organizations are 59 per cent of the government salaries today in Yellowknife, that really says that the not-for-profit sector in this territory is not only disadvantaged by numbers, it is also disadvantaged by not being able to attract the people it needs to do the job.

Ms. McCauley: I will tell you a story and this is no lie. Two white men came up to me and they said, ``Cece, I want to talk to you.'' They were engineers, hired by the territorial government, but there was no work. They said, ``We are not doing anything, but we are on the payroll.'' I wrote about it, but nothing happened. I do not know if they were fired or what.

Senator Mercer: Ms. Hache, you talked about the housing authorities giving three-month leases to determine whether the tenants were decent people. My question is, since when did the housing authorities only rent to decent people? People in need are not always decent people. Some people who are not in need are not decent people either, although most people are decent. I find that situation shocking. How do they phrase that when they tell people; that they have a three month lease and we will review it? It sounds to me like discrimination.

Ms. Hache: They are the only landlord in the Northwest Territories that can enter into three-month leases. Any other landlord can not do that.

Senator Mercer: These landlords are the housing authorities. Are there two housing authorities?

Ms. Hache: Yes, they are the housing authorities. There is a housing authority in every community, but it is controlled by the NWT Housing Corporation. Under the legislation, regular landlords could never do that to people. Only people who are housed by the NWT Housing Corporation or the local housing authorities that flow from the housing corporation enter into those three-month leases that are allowed under the legislation. Essentially, anyone living in poverty that requires subsidized housing is at a disadvantage. I believe it is a human rights violation.

Senator Mercer: Who determines what is decent?

Ms. Hache: Clearly, it is the landlord. The housing authorities decide if they will renew the lease, give them a different lease and that kind of stuff.

Senator Mercer: My standard of decency and your standard of decency may be much different than Ms. Peel's standard of decency. It is all by degrees.

Ms. Hache: The housing authorities in small communities, in particular, are the only landlord. If they do not have a place there, they do not have a place, period.

Senator Mercer: Then, you said that someone from Calgary comes to review files. Is nobody here qualified to do the same job; someone who lives here, who breathes the air and who lives with the people who have problems?

Ms. Hache: Generally, we are concerned because the practice has increased, not decreased. The apprehension of Aboriginal children in the Northwest Territories is at 95 per cent. We are concerned that the people who make those decisions are non-Aboriginal people, non-Aboriginal government and non-Aboriginal workers, and they do not even look at what is the norm in a community. For example, we have tried to have elders, cultural experts for lack of a better word, go to court and generally, they have not been considered experts because they do not have a doctorate. So if you have a PhD from Calgary, the court gives them more weight than they give an elder from a community. The racism is around the system itself.

Senator Mercer: It may be someone with a PhD from Calgary who is spending their first hour in the territory.

Ms. Hache: It may be the first 20 minutes talking to a family. They determine the fate of those children in a two- hour conversation.

Senator Mercer: Who pays that person with a PhD from Calgary, the territory or the federal government?

Ms. Hache: They are paid by the child welfare system.

Senator Mercer: That is the territorial government.

Ms. Hache: Yes: The other big factor to consider is that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that Aboriginal children are protected. That responsibility was transferred to the territorial government.

Senator Mercer: You are walking down the same path I am because we talked to people this morning the revenue leaving the territory and going to Ottawa. We cannot take the money without responsibility as far as I am concerned. If we take 100 per cent of the money, we must take near 100 per cent of the responsibility even though we share how it is administered with the territorial government. I do not think the federal government can walk away from its federal responsibility.

The chief's highway is an interesting issue because it is an economic tool that can change a lot of this situation. It will not change how people behave in their homes and whether people are abused. That will not happen, but it will open the options for the people who are affected, and probably change the economy of the region.

You are right. I think we are going in the same direction. I feel frustrated by the fact that Ottawa takes all the revenue from the resources and then, allows, using this example only, some joker from Calgary to come up and in 20 minutes, make a decision about children, families and communities that he or she has never seen before.

Ms. Hache: The other factor to consider, too, is that in the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government toward Aboriginal children, the federal government basically says that it is no longer any of their business because they transferred that responsibility. However, we are in a different scenario here because down south, for example, if an Aboriginal child is apprehended from a reserve, which is mostly down south, then the bands can go to court to say they have a stake in what happens to that child. They can go to court and say, ``I am here to speak for that child because he or she is a band member.'' In the Northwest Territories, we do not have that same ability.

Senator Mercer: There is not the same structure on the Aboriginal side.

Ms. Hache: It is not the same structure. Down south, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs funds band reps to go to court to say they have a stake in what happens. Up here, there is no such thing.

Senator Mercer: Is there a way to create that ability?

Ms. Hache: Easily, but the federal government generally says it is not their business. Can it be constructed? Yes, it can.

Senator Mercer: Would it be easier for the Aboriginal communities in the territory to come together and say on this issue that they have a stake in what happens to this child and this family?

Ms. Hache: It would be easy. They have not invested the resources. For example, they can essentially fund the position within the Dene Nation or the Native Women's Association. There are different avenues to fund that position through but they have chosen not to do that. However, we need resources. For example, under our child welfare legislation, bands are supposed to be notified if children are apprehended.

Senator Mercer: Are they?

Ms. Hache: They are, but then bands receive the papers and they ask what they are supposed to do with them. They have no idea. They have not been trained. It is difficult to go to court to say they have a stake in what happens to this child. Under the legislation, the bands are required to be notified, but they do not have the ability to attend court. We have had kids apprehended down south in Calgary and parents cannot go there. Those kids are apprehended permanently, forever, from even the nation.

Senator Mercer: Everything you say underscores what Ms. Peel said about poverty as the new colonization. We have that vicious circle going around and no one wants to jump in the middle of the circle to say, ``Hold it.''

Thank you very much to all of you for the work you are doing. If I sound frustrated, I am.

Ms. Peel: I have a little comment in regard to child apprehension. I believe it is easier to do south of the sixtieth parallel because in the South, they have reserves. Apparently, the federal government has more control there than they do in the Northwest Territories.

Having worked for a First Nations community myself, we received, on occasion, court documents from the South asking us if we had a vested interest. I did not know where we were supposed to do with that information, as Ms. Hache said. I think that we can do something about it. It is a matter of stepping up to the plate and putting our neck out, I guess, and doing something about it.

Senator Mercer: It perpetuates that poverty cycle, too.

Ms. Peel: Our children who are apprehended and put into homes go mostly into non-Aboriginal homes. Some people who are foster parents are making a killing looking after our kids. They are making big bucks.

Ms. Hache: We have children in foster homes where there are 11, 12 or 13 children. Essentially, they make $750 a month per child. It is a business.

Senator Mercer: I recognize that a cost is associated with that care, but it is still a lot of money.

Ms. Hache: For sure, but parents do not receive that. I always go back to the government saying, it takes five dollars a day to feed a child if they are a parent, but the government gives a foster parent $25 a day to feed the same child. It is the inequity of the system.

Senator Sibbeston: I want to ask a general question about poverty. I know when I speak in the South and in the Senate, I am generally proud of the fact that I come from the North. I say that things are pretty good in the North. We have diamond mines, we have prospects of a gas pipeline, and people are relatively happy in the North. Global warming is coming so some of the winters are milder and so forth. Places like Yellowknife are booming. At one point, Yellowknife had the second highest per capita income in Canada. People in Yellowknife generally make a good living and you see the prosperity of the city; all the big houses, the cars and the shopping malls.

One coming into Yellowknife would say, ``Wow, what a wonderful place. People are lucky in the North for the type of society that was created.'' However, in spite of this prosperity, there is poverty. You showed that to me. The mayor earlier in the day said 826 people were in shelters in different organizations; the Salvation Army, your organization and others that provide sheltering for people who are on the fringes and out in the cold.

I was interested in your comments, Ms. Hache. You said you are involved in the Centre for Northern Families and you existed four years without any funding. Obviously, your organization is in demand and doing worthwhile things. Why did it take so long for anybody to recognize that the need was there?

The Salvation Army, to their credit, do good work throughout the country. They are in Yellowknife. They have a nice big facility. I presume they can house hundreds of people there. It is big. Your organization, in comparison, is small and you deal solely with women. Do you want to say something about why it took so long? What funding and support do you have now?

Ms. Hache: In my view, it took so long because we touched people that nobody else would touch. For example, when we first started out, a woman ended up living in our offices because nobody else would take her. She had epilepsy. Number one, she smoked like a trooper, and she would be out like a light on the floor. She would wake up and she would not even know where she was.

Not one agency in this community would provide her with a place to live because they were afraid of what would happen. We were in a little house at the time and we said, we cannot have this woman on the street. We cannot humanly do that so we housed her. We got into trouble because people said we should not do it because of insurance and so on. I find what happens is, people generally run programs. We generally do not do that and we get into trouble for that all the time. We try to talk to people and figure out what they need. Then, we try to make sure they receive what they need.

Generally, the government comes back to us and says, ``You do not have a program for that,'' or ``You are not funded for that,'' or ``Why are you paying for that when you do not receive funding to do that?'' The government thinks in terms of programs and community people think in terms of people. It does not matter whatever community I have been to, people in communities are frustrated because they are always defined by a program. They are never defined by themselves and what they might need. The government, in my view, cannot help themselves. They are stove- piped and rigid. They cannot think outside of a program. We do that.

I think it took a long time because people do not want to invest in the neediest in the community and that is who we serve.

Another thing is that they cannot recognize how the neediest in the community function so our organization is marginalized. I will give you an example. The YWCA runs a battered women shelter. They have a free facility. It does not cost them any mortgage or rent. I am happy about that. They receive half a million dollars to run that facility. I am happy about that. They say they do not have enough money to pay staff properly so we are trying to support them so they can pay staff properly. However, for the facility we are in, we must pay $4,000 a month in mortgage. Already, we are not surviving as well as the YWCA.

Another thing that happens is that we receive only about $300,000 to run the shelter and we provide twice the beds that the YWCA does. Mainstream groups like the Salvation Army or the YWCA are middle class. They are seen to be much better than we are because we keep street women and I was one of them when I first came here. Senator Sibbeston knows me. When I first came here, I found it difficult even to keep a job. I had my little struggles.

I think that is part of the answer. Because we provide services to women, men and families, too, we are marginalized and therefore our agency is marginalized. When the YWCA says they cannot function on the money they are given, the government says, ``How can we make sure that you can function?'' However, when I say we do not have money to function, they say, ``That is because you are not doing it right. That is your fault so you must figure out how to do it better and you must prove to us that you can do it right.''

There is discrimination and racism, and there is a real difference in how the government perceives the middle class agencies versus an agency that reaches out to the most marginalized groups in the city. That is my take on the situation and I do not think I am wrong.

I do not know if that answered your question.

Senator Sibbeston: How many beds do you have now, and how many people do you look after?

Ms. Hache: We have nine beds that are actual beds. We are funded to provide beds for 16 people, but 24 to 30 women live there and they have lived there a long time because no transition housing and no long-term housing are available for homeless women. Women who are homeless cannot get into housing at all because they do not have children. It is tough. They have addictions. They cannot function. They are illiterate. They are dealing with a whole bunch of issues. That is the reality, and our goal is to make sure they do not freeze.

The truth of the matter is people thought that of me when I first came to Yellowknife. They thought I was useless, irresponsible and that I could do nothing. I was fired from tons of jobs. I still remember ducking into a store because I ran into a boss and I was embarrassed. When I first came to Yellowknife, I could not keep a job. The RCMP even came looking for me once because I disappeared on an employer and the employer was worried about me. They phoned the RCMP and told them to look for me because they had no idea where I was but that I worked for them. I still laugh about it today.

The reality is, when I first came to Yellowknife as a young person, highly traumatized, not one person thought I could contribute anything, and I sure did not. It took a lot of years to recover, to develop the skills, to keep a job and to be confident. It also took a lot of personal work and a lot of patience from elders and people whom I worked with to say that I had a lot to offer this community. They did not say I was useless. I never say that to people who come to the centre. However, that treatment is common. When I have gone to meetings with parents and child welfare, workers have said, ``You are useless,'' or ``This is your last chance,'' or, ``We will never give you another chance.'' I do not believe in no chances because I would have been written off.

Senator Sibbeston: I never saw you like that and I think it is a credit to you. You make the point that it takes people who have had experiences like yours to be able to help. Otherwise, people will not believe you. People who are desperate and down and out do not believe. One thing about alcoholism and so forth is, they have lost hope. They do not believe anybody. It takes somebody who has been down and out to say, ``Yes, you can do it;'' encourage them and so forth. I give you credit.

I do not know whether anybody has told you this recently or you ever received words like this, but obviously, you are working in an area where you are doing good things for society and I commend you for that.

Ms. Hache: Thanks, Nick.

Senator Sibbeston: I have a question for Ms. Peel. I know you come from Fort Smith. You have been around a long time. Many like us who have been raised in the North think that things like the diamond mines are a good thing. A company comes to the North and provides employment and so forth. People generally in a community think that opportunity is a positive thing; ``Wow, I will go there and make a few dollars and I will be able to buy things.'' The prospect of a gas pipeline is put that way; that it will provide employment, business opportunities and so on.

I do not doubt that a lot of people who find jobs there are benefiting, and through time, use their money wisely. I think we all go through a period of wasting money. I wanted to hear your take on something like the diamond mines. It is the biggest thing in this area in terms of economics. It is the biggest thing next to government in the North. Yet, you know people who work at the mines that make a lot of money, they buy big TVs and vehicles, but they live in a shack. Also, a lot of people turn to gambling.

I want to hear from you, an Aboriginal woman, on what you think about development in the North. Is it good or bad?

Ms. Peel: I was involved with the Yellowknife Dene First Nations for a number of years and we hired a couple of people to do a survey in the community, and we held workshops with various members of our community who worked in the mines, to find out how the mine affected their community and their families. The results were unbelievable. The negative results far outweighed the positive results of the diamond mines.

Part of that problem, I think, is lack of education. One thing I did not talk about was when the federal government came to the North and gave what they called, the ``Indians'' as they called them, houses. The houses were given for free. They ended up having running water and central heating. The houses had all kinds of stuff like that but there were major problems in the houses too. Many families lived in these small houses so there was moisture and mould. Things have changed, but the problem is basically the same.

There is a lack of education for our people about these kinds of things that will happen. Yes, they will be able to have a job that pays them $100,000 a year, but the responsibility of earning that kind of money comes along with it. They need to learn budgeting and how to spend it. They no longer will be able to live in a low-income house. They will be eligible to buy a home. The government will assist them to do that. People are not aware of those kinds of things because of lack of education. I am not saying education, school-wise. They need the knowledge of basic things that we take for granted, that I take for granted. There are things that I take for granted that I think everybody should know. Then, I find in my old age that not everybody knows what I know.

Senator Sibbeston: Cece, about the Mackenzie Valley highway, I know, for people in the North, it makes good sense to build a highway. I know the experience of having a highway. I live in Fort Simpson where the highway came in the early 1970s. It was generally a positive thing. When a road comes to a town, along with the good comes the bad. A highway immediately opens the community to all things coming from the South, good and bad. Some communities did not want the highway because they did not want all the social problems that come with their town being open to the world.

Building the highway makes sense now to people in the North. For myself, I am a senator in Ottawa and I have the opportunity to express my views on these things sometimes. However, I also wonder, why does the government not go ahead with the road up the Mackenzie Valley now? It seems that the federal government, sitting in Ottawa, as they look North, thinks about sovereignty and that they must do something about it. They think they will send the army up there and open up training in the Arctic to show Russians, Chinese and everybody else that we are up there and we have manpower. They talk about a deep sea port. That is how Ottawa thinks when they think about the North and the big issue of sovereignty. They do not think about the people very much. They forget that people are the best reasons for claiming sovereignty in the North; the Inuit people, the people in Inuvialuit and the Dene people who live in the North.

Recently, even Stéphane Dion, when he came North, said that if he was prime minister, he would have more search- and-rescue planes based in the North. Well, who cares? How will those planes affect an ordinary person? The political reality is that the highway down the valley is about the best thing they can do for people. People will have access, it will open up the country to development and it will provide a lot of opportunities. However, the politicians, the big leaders in Ottawa, do not think about these things. I guess it is incumbent on us who have little voices to say something. I see our MP, Dennis Bevington is here in the crowd. The onus is on us to voice these issues.

I want to ask you how badly we need the highway; how necessary do you think the highway is? Will it make that much of a difference?

Ms. McCauley: Oh my gosh, we need the highway. I get that every day. I ran into Charlie Snowshoe from Fort McPherson this morning at breakfast. He was all up in arms. Everybody wants a highway especially up there. He said, ``Nobody is writing in the papers, only Cece.'' I am only one little voice, and I am writing and pushing now, and have been doing that since 2000. Finally, people say it is coming, but when is it coming? They have the consortium of companies in the Mack Group. All they need to do is tell the government they will find the money; they need an irrevocable letter. It is as simple as that.

I talked to Frederick Carmichael who is behind me. Even young kids cannot afford to leave Sahtu. We are losing good teachers because their children are getting bigger and there is nothing in the Sahtu region; they cannot go anywhere. They come to our region and they are stuck there. They either fly or go by boat. We need the highway to get anywhere. GNWT should really get on it.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Bevington, for joining us, even for a short period.

Senator Mahovlich: How effective is a letter to the Prime Minister? I know you have written several letters.

Ms. McCauley: The Gwich'in and the Dogrib have a group called the Mack, Mackenzie something. They are politically strong. They have six big companies, a consortium of companies that can build highways and pipelines. They are in partnership with them. They went to Ottawa to see some minister, but nothing seems to come out of it. They called me in June, telling me they are doing this and that, and nothing is happening. I talked to Freddy Carmichael and he said we have to look at the Indian politics. I think they are passing the buck and using the Aboriginals because the majority of Aboriginals want the highway.

The Mack Group should write to the Prime Minister, demand an appointment and ask that he give them a letter. I am not saying you should give them the letter. The Prime Minister must do that. They will go find the money and the feds can pay them back in however many years. I do not know what is holding them up.

I think I will get my axe and start bush cutting with it.

Senator Peterson: How is the approval for the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline coming?

Ms. McCauley: I do not think that will ever happen because they are talking about liquid gases and they are building bigger ships now. However, we still need a little pipeline. As far as I am concerned, I do not give a damn if a pipeline ever goes through. We need the highway first.

Senator Peterson: That is how you will get your highway.

Ms. McCauley: We need the highway because the pipeline will be two or three years' work.

The Chair: First, let me thank all our people who spent a lot of time and effort in speaking with us today. We appreciate that. We also appreciate the others who sat quietly in the room, supporting you and encouraging us to keep on with the study.

Finally, I thank all the people who have come with us on this tour and are helping to keep it going and to keep all the microphones working. Most importantly, I want to thank my colleagues who have been patient and keen on what we are doing.

Thank you for coming to join us today while we are in your territory.

Ladies and gentlemen, that finishes our visit here and we will carry on to Iqaluit for hearings there.

Again, we appreciate so much that you have come to visit us and we have listened to you and we will do our best.

The committee adjourned.