Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights

Issue 20 - Evidence


SASKATOON, Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 9:07 a.m. to study issues pertaining to the human rights of First Nations band members who reside off-reserve, with an emphasis on the current federal policy framework.

Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: I would like to thank the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre for giving us the opportunity to use their facilities, and also for being such good hosts to us today.

My name is Mobina Jaffer, and I am the chair of the committee. I will ask committee members to introduce themselves.

Senator Brazeau: Senator Patrick Brazeau from Quebec.

Senator Dyck: Senator Lillian Dyck from Saskatoon, member of Gordon First Nation.

Senator Hubley: Senator Elizabeth Hubley from Prince Edward Island.

Senator Harb: Mac Harb from Ontario.

The Chair: We are here to listen to you today and learn from you. Hopefully, we will be doing more listening than asking questions.

I now give the floor to Deputy Chair Brazeau to make some formal welcoming comments.

Senator Brazeau: Honourable senators, this is the twenty-sixth meeting of the Forty-first Parliament of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights.

I want to start by acknowledging that we are in Treaty 6 territory traditionally occupied by the Cree, the Saulteaux, the Assiniboine and the Dakota.

The committee is very pleased to be in Saskatoon today. Thank you for your warm welcome. I also thank the elder for the smudging ceremony and the opening prayer.

On a personal note, even though we are in Saskatoon, I would like to acknowledge a friend of mine who unfortunately passed away several days ago, Jim Sinclair, who was an ardent and strong advocate for Aboriginal peoples with the Native Council of Canada and also with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. I would just like to acknowledge his passing.

We are here because we have been entrusted by the Senate with a mandate to study issues respecting human rights in Canada and elsewhere in the world.

[Translation]

The committee was set up by the Senate to create a forum to discuss human rights at both the federal and provincial levels, and to monitor and guarantee equal treatment of members of minorities.

Over the years, it has submitted reports on such subjects as Canadians, the United Nations Human Rights Council, children, matrimonial real property on reserves and employment equity within the public service.

[English]

In March 2012, the Standing Committee on Human Rights was authorized to examine and report on issues pertaining to the human rights of First Nations band members who reside off reserve placing an emphasis on the current federal policy framework.

In particular, the committee will examine: (a) rights relating to residency; (b) access to those rights; (c) participation in community-based decision-making processes; (d) portability of rights; (e) existing remedies.

According to census data collected in 2006, it is estimated that Aboriginal people represent 3.8 per cent of the Canadian population. In the 1940s, nearly all Aboriginal people lived on reserve or in rural areas but this is no longer the case. In fact, in 2006, 54 per cent of Aboriginal people lived in cities off reserve, and this number continues to grow today.

With more and more Aboriginal and First Nations people living off reserve, there is a growing need to ensure that all First Nations people, regardless of whether or not they live on or off reserve, have access to the same human rights and protections as every other Canadian.

I would like to welcome our first panelist from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Vice-Chief Simon Bird.

Vice-Chief Simon Bird, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations: Greetings. My name is Simon Bird, Fourth Vice- Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

The federation is committed to honouring the spirit and intent of the treaties as well as the promotion and protection of the implementation of those treaties that were made with the First Nations more than a century ago.

With that, I just want to welcome senators and members of the audience to Treaty 6 territory, and I thank you for taking the time to listen to the issues. Hopefully this exercise will benefit everybody, not only those in First Nations treaty territories but those living in urban areas.

I understand that as the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, you will submit your final report regarding issues pertaining to the human rights of First Nations band members who reside off reserve no later than February 28, 2013, as well as publish your findings 30 days thereafter. I also understand that you are examining access to rights and the portability of rights among other matters.

With that said, I want to also thank our elders for the smudging ceremony. We want to make sure that we start everything in a good way.

[Mr. Bird spoke in his native language.]

I also want to thank our Creator for giving us the opportunity to meet like this so we can try and work to benefit those who come ahead of us.

All of Saskatchewan's peoples are treaty peoples, First Nations and non-First Nations alike. What is now Saskatchewan is situated within the territories of Treaties 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10. Treaties are sacred from a First Nations' perspective. The way I explained it to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development two days ago in the House of Commons was that the treaties were made between two nations, and more importantly, the agreement was made under and witnessed by our Creator. No government or one person has authority to break those treaties because they are very sacred. They have been acknowledged as sacred by the Supreme Court of Canada and must be treated as such. An integral part of the treaty process is that any violation of such key principles as honour, trust, respect, justice, peace, friendship, sharing, and good faith violates the sacredness of the treaties.

At the time of the negotiations of treaties, the First Nations concerned were facing scarcity of food. Incoming settlers were threatening our peace and our security. A common objective appeared to include their security and protection.

During your study, I am certain you will compile statistical profiles demonstrating that the same is true today. In February 2012, Chief Perry Bellegard stated to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that while Canada is rated number 6 on the United Nations Human Development Index, when First Nations statistics are applied to the same index, indigenous peoples in Canada are rated sixty-third. Obviously there exists a huge socioeconomic gap between First Nations people in Canada and the rest of the Canadian society.

This must be addressed by our direct and full meaningful participation with governments and industries in resource development so that we all benefit and see the socio-economic gap close.

Treaty First Nations need to be directly involved in the creation of formal resource revenue sharing agreements. Monies from resource revenues could alleviate poverty and improve the third world conditions that many of our people continue to live in within their treaty territories and communities located both on and off reserve, including urban centers.

First Nations people, as indigenous peoples, are distinct peoples and not simply minorities. Therefore, it is more important to treat the protection of inherent and treaty rights as a separate constitutional principle. The protection, security, and well-being of indigenous peoples have been reflected in Canada's constitutional instruments from the Royal Proclamation of 1763 to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Section 43 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides that the rights recognized thereby constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world. The declaration also affirms indigenous peoples' right to collective and individual security — section 7. When section 7 is read together with other provisions, the declaration affirms the right to environmental security, food security, human security and territorial security.

Existing processes are not sufficient to fully implement Treaties 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 so as to ensure First Nations peoples' rights, security and well-being.

The principle of portability is used throughout legislation and policy in Canada. For example, the principle of portability is written into the Canada Health Act. It is possible for governments in Canada to uphold the principle of portability where treaty rights are concerned.

During your hearings and study, I am certain that others will share the statistical profiles of urban First Nations, and I urge you to draw upon that valid, reliable and relevant evidence base in your analysis. We know that an aggregate of 50 per cent or more of our people reside in urban areas. We know that people leave their reserves because of a lack of adequate housing and domestic violence. Very little new First Nations housing off reserve has been funded in recent years when compared to the need. We know that a significant number of homeless people in the treaty territories of Saskatchewan are of First Nations ancestry. We also know that the educational levels are relatively lower than those of the general Canadian population. The rates of children in care are higher and driven in part by inadequate housing. The incidence of HIV and AIDS is particularly high in Saskatchewan.

Our people maintain a strong connection with their home communities and treaty territories. While our people reside in urban areas, the nature of the movement and maintaining a connection to our home communities and what all that means could be the subject of a further study.

Our individual and collective rights to security and well-being as promised in the treaties remain unfulfilled. While we are all treaty people, we have not benefited equally as treaty signatories. Once again, Canadians are sixth and we as First Nations people are sixty-third.

In October 2007, all our tribal councils — Prince Albert Grand Council, Saskatoon Tribal Council, Touchwood Agency Tribal Council, File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council, Yorkton Tribal Council, Agency Chiefs Tribal Council, Battleford Agency Tribal Council, Meadow Lake Tribal Council, and Southeast Tribal Council Number 4 — entered into an intergovernmental relations protocol agreement for urban service delivery. Here, our tribal councils agreed to work together to provide services to urban First Nations. While there are examples of urban service delivery by tribal councils, glaring gaps in urban service delivery in keeping with the portability of treaty rights remains, and we see this in the daily lived experiences of our people and the statistical profiles which you will compile. Given this, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations recommends that Canada act in accordance with the Treaties 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and uphold the honour of the Crown by engaging in good faith negotiations regarding overall implementation of treaties, including processes which lead to resource revenue sharing agreements, without resorting to legal action.

Canada and the provinces must ensure that indigenous peoples' collective and individual rights to security and well- being are acknowledged as portable rights. Canada and the provinces ensure that the international norms, standards, and laws are followed in the implementation of inherent treaty rights, such as the issues of inadequate housing, education, child welfare, violence against women, and the health, for example, are addressed.

Once again, poverty looks the same off and on reserve.

Senator Dyck: I would really like to thank you for your presentation, Vice-Chief Bird. I know that you have spent your life in the field of education. You were, I believe, a principal of a school and now you have become a political leader.

You gave a very good overview of some of the implications of the treaties, of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and so on. You talked about a number of political agreements with a number of different tribal councils across the province to ensure that urban First Nation people get service delivery.

I wondered if you could elaborate a little bit on that. For instance, we know that often times there are problems with health delivery. Who were those agreements made between? Would it be Saskatoon Tribal Council, the provincial government and the federal government? Has that agreement been useful in terms of getting better services for people who live within cities?

Mr. Bird: I am not privy to or knowledgeable of the exact details of all the agreements in place by each tribal council and the respective city. I do know that services provided by the tribal councils are much needed, and First Nations have utilized the agreements in place accordingly.

I can give you the example of Regina that I learned about from talking to one of our chiefs. One of the interesting things that came about was the rapid growth of non-profit organizations delivering services in urban areas. Our chief mentioned that those services were not geared to benefit our First Nations people. That is why the protocol agreements were born, because First Nations wanted to make sure that they took care of those coming from reserves or their respective First Nations bands and those living in urban areas.

Senator Dyck: You mentioned a number of issues, housing, education, child welfare and so on, but one of the issues that has come up in the Aboriginal Peoples Committee, of which I am a member, is when it comes to off-reserve First Nations — and I fall within that category — is there in your view a good communication between the people on reserve and off reserve?

For instance, when it comes to elections, do off-reserve people know their rights with respect elections in terms of being able to vote? Are they informed when there are big decisions? For instance, you talked about resource development. Do they know about what is happening so that they can express their viewpoints to the band council and the chief so that their input is taken into consideration? Would you say that it is a good system overall here?

Mr. Bird: You are talking about 74 First Nations within Saskatoon. I can tell you that I, as a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, have access to one of the band councillors in charge of an urban area, and I receive information as to what happens back home.

The Chair: I also want to recognize the fact that you had to give up some appointments in Ottawa to be here, and so we really appreciate your presence here today.

From your presentation and knowing the kind of work you do, you are familiar with on-reserve access to services. In your opinion, are those services comparable to services available to First Nations people living off reserve? Is there a gap? What is the difference in services?

Mr. Bird: Sorry, but I am going to have to repeat your question so I know exactly what you are asking. Off reserve, on reserve, are they comparable in terms of services?

The Chair: Yes.

Mr. Bird: Could you give me an example of what kind of services you are asking about?

The Chair: For example, let us say the education provided on reserve and the education provided for people off reserve, health on reserve and off reserve.

Mr. Bird: I will talk about education first since that is my portfolio and I have a background in education.

Right now, the education system on First Nations is severely underfunded, and you can expect the comparability level to be as such. It is different. I have always made the statement, and I stand by it, when I talk to our own people, especially in our own schools, that no other people work harder for our people than our own people. I have seen this time and time again. I definitely feel as though there is a different standard when it comes to comparability because both are not resourced the same. I believe it was the Auditor General who stated that schools are severely underfunded.

In regard to health, just as many rural areas may not have doctors within their immediate vicinity, First Nations face the same issue. I believe that the Medicine Chest in Treaty 6 was one of the guarantees that we would have access to health care, and yet again, here we are, 2012, and our treaty rights have not been fully implemented. Instead, we have become a program that always takes a look at the bottom dollar, I guess you could say. When you go into an agreement, for as long as the sun shines, the rivers flow, and the grass grows, you expect that agreement to be fulfilled.

Senator Dyck: On the question of education, what about language instruction? You are probably one of a few people who speaks your own language. Is there good enough language instruction? Is the language instruction on and off reserve comparable? Is there a gap? What sort of situation are we in with respect to retention of First Nation languages?

Mr. Bird: From my experience, language instruction is really at the mercy of the available resources, and I know that some of our First Nations off reserve in urban areas may have gotten the local school board to invest in language development and cultural protocols, which is what our grassroots people have always pushed for.

On reserve, language development is resourced by the creativity by the school or the First Nations itself or the available resources, but I do know that it is a very high priority. Our treaty elders have always stated that treaty rights on education is one of the areas that should have included, but does not include, the development and retention of language and culture. Currently we do not have adequate resourcing for education itself without including languages and culture.

The Chair: Before I ask my second question, yesterday we were at a powwow ceremony in Winnipeg in honour of the children. As a grandmother, I was so proud to see the little children dancing the cultural dances with pride, wearing the dresses with real pride. It is something we will always remember.

The Supreme Court has recognized that in some of its significant decisions relating to First Nations people, that a decision to leave a reserve does not mean a decision to abandon one's culture, and yesterday we saw a real expression of that. I would like to hear from you in your experience how our local First Nations people are maintaining their cultural ties, and is it through contact with their reserves or establishing First Nation communities within urban or rural areas, or is it a combination of the two?

Mr. Bird: In my experience, First Nations relate to one another by the commonalities. I have been to university, and I am never surprised how much First Nations will sit in sections with each other — common last names, family ties, First Nations areas, treaty territories, bands, tribal councils — and the same applies for the urban centers.

You become more engaged with your own culture the more you know about it, and it is institutions or facilities such as this that provide an opportunity for a common meeting ground. That is why a lot of our people who maybe do not have a strong background in their own culture will go to such places and seek out the teachings that they may be wondering about.

For example, not all First Nations have the family background to engage in the smudge ceremony or the powwow that you talked about, so it is more of a development process and it is each to its own. Each person is on their own journey to find or to relate or to go back home to learn about their language, their family members and their culture.

Senator Hubley: I would like to first thank you for your presentation this morning, Vice-Chief Bird, and for the warm welcome that we have received here in Saskatoon.

I am going to revert now to the portability of rights and the gaps that we see exist. Statistics Canada in 2006 indicated that when they looked at the social issues, which would be health, education, housing, they saw a gap between the on-reserve and off-reserve Aboriginals. They also saw a gap between those two groups and the rest of the Canadian population.

I do not know if that is an issue of being able to access more things in an urban setting or not, but I am wondering if you have any thoughts in that regard?

Mr. Bird: You are asking me if the gap between off reserve and on reserve has anything to do with the available —

Senator Hubley: Available services would be one. Indeed, there may be opportunities within an urban setting to access more services. Is that the reason? We see a difference between on reserve and off reserve accessibility, and actually, statistically those off reserve fair better in some of those areas than those on reserve, but they are still not up to the standard that we as Canadians would like to see.

Mr. Bird: I will use education, for an example. It is widely known that education is underfunded. I think I have already answered your question by my responses to Senator Dyck and Senator Jaffer. It only makes sense when you do not have adequate resourcing on reserve and you have available a little bit more resourcing off reserve that there is going to be a difference.

Senator Hubley: Yes. I was wondering if that might be the case.

Under the heading of health, would you also comment on the availability of medical care both on and off reserve, and I guess the big question there is with regard to the portability of rights. Where are we falling short here? Why are we not able to provide adequate health, education and housing for Aboriginal people, both on and off reserve?

Mr. Bird: I believe it is because we do not get adequately funded on reserve.

Senator Hubley: Is it a funding issue?

Mr. Bird: Yes. If you take a look back at the treaties, they are a guarantee in exchange for the territories that we shared and the peace that we maintained. Obviously one party to those treaties is not holding up their end of the promise.

Senator Hubley: Would you comment on the Indian Act?

Mr. Bird: In regard to what?

Senator Hubley: We do hear from time to time that perhaps the Indian Act is not the best vehicle for two nations to serve and respect each other. I am wondering if you feel that the Indian Act is the vehicle you need to secure your rights within this country or if the Indian Act needs to be revamped and perhaps rewritten or looked at by both nations?

Mr. Bird: The Indian Act has definitely been a hot topic here in the past while. I remember your Prime Minister saying that he will not touch the Indian Act, that it is like plucking a big tree and will leave a big hole in the ground. Yet one of your MPs goes around wanting to change it unilaterally.

I have a story that I share with my students when I teach treaties. If you take a look at any old picture regarding the two gentlemen who are shaking hands, you will see a war club on the ground and the First Nations man is shaking hands with his left hand by his side. On the other side, you have the Queen's representative with his right hand out but you do not see his left hand. One of the things that some of our elders will say is that he was hiding the Indian Act behind him.

You asked about the Indian Act. It is not something that we asked for; it was something that was imposed on us in 1876. When you have First Nations that are now just coming to a place where they are thriving, you cannot unilaterally take it out. You do not know what kind of implications or drastic changes it will have on individual First Nations. We are working ourselves out. We are a nation. We agreed to that treaty relationship nation to nation.

Also, I as a vice-chief cannot make a recommendation to change this and that on behalf of all 74 nations because our treaty elders have always said it is a nation-to-nation relationship. I will leave it at that.

Senator Brazeau: I will focus specifically on voting rights for my first question.

As you are aware, there are different ways in which First Nations people can select or elect their leaders. One way is under the Indian Act, section 74. As you are probably aware, a Supreme Court decision in 1999 that gave the right to off-reserve band members to vote for their leaders.

However, there are also some First Nations communities who select or elect their leaders via custom or what they call custom. Some of these customs are written, some are unwritten, some are Charter compliant and some are not Charter compliant.

To make a long story short, more than 50 per cent of First Nations communities in Canada conduct their elections by means of custom, which means that these communities can specifically exclude their off-reserve band members from the right to vote.

Given that little preamble, how many bands in Saskatchewan vote by custom? You mentioned that you have the right to vote and you are informed and that is great to hear, but the fact is that many grassroots First Nations people living off reserve cannot vote. They do not have access to the same programs and services that their brothers and sisters on reserve have.

I will just mention in passing with regard to post-secondary education as well, many First Nations people living off reserve cannot access post-secondary because of discretionary decisions taken by their leaders.

Coming back to elections, do you have the data at hand? If not, then that is fine, but I would like to know for those First Nations people who cannot vote here in Saskatchewan, and maybe to those First Nations communities who are discriminating against their own people and disallowing their votes, what is the Federation doing to ensure that those people have a voice?

Mr. Bird: Is that a question or a statement?

Senator Brazeau: Both.

Mr. Bird: Since you know all the parts of your answer and question, why do you come to us with questions? You are from Quebec, right? In Saskatchewan, we do not go and dictate to any of the 74 First Nations on how they elect and how they select. It is up to them. They have the inherent and treaty right to do so. They have an electoral body, and the people have that authority. The people have that sovereignty. It is the leadership who speaks on behalf of the people.

Like I said, as a vice-chief, I work for the people within those 74 First Nations. It is not a top down approach. It is the people who have that authority, and I only take what is given to me as a spokesperson.

Senator Brazeau: Thank you for that. I fully understand that as well. I fully understand the hierarchy of the different organizations, but you are obviously a spokesperson for the chiefs here in Saskatchewan.

Correct me if I am wrong, but if I understood your answer, it is that if a First Nations community decides upon their own electoral system, custom system and specifically excludes people because of the fact that they live off reserve, did you just say that that is their inherent right to do so?

Mr. Bird: No, I did not.

Senator Brazeau: Could you please elaborate then?

Mr. Bird: You asked me how many bands in Saskatchewan are under custom law. I cannot provide that information for you.

I think what you are getting at is the same thing we dealt with on Monday. Your Conservative government wants to make changes in their big omnibus bill regarding the Indian Act. There are specific sections talking about land surrender.

I heard from the Standing Committee of Aboriginal Peoples and Northern Development that they want to basically find a shortcut to putting votes on what individual First Nations want to do with their lands. You want to have a small majority among those who show up. For example, let us take this meeting, 75 people. If half of them vote in favour to give up half of Saskatoon and we have more than 75 people outside these doors who live in Saskatoon and have a say in regard to their future, that is not a fair vote.

You need most of your people, and from my year and a half plus in leadership communicating with our First Nations leadership I know that not a single one of those leaders would never tell you that one part of their membership is more important than the other.

Senator Brazeau: I do not want to belabour the point. From what you just said, we are dealing with something entirely different. It is not something that the committee is dealing with at the current time, but, again, I go to voting rights.

As you mentioned, you are a spokesperson for the chiefs across this province. There are First Nations communities who deny the right to vote, and I am just dealing with voting rights here. I am not dealing with the whole gamut of issues because we are going to be here for months and months.

You are a vice-chief. You know people around this province. You have probably heard people who cannot vote because of custom elections, because of the fact that they live off reserve. As a spokesperson for the chiefs, could you please describe what you would do? Would you remain silent on the fact that this is happening? Would you perhaps sit- down with chiefs and say that perhaps it is not a good thing to discriminate against our own or that it is their right to do so?

I am trying to understand. The reason why we are here is to get to these really fundamental questions because, in my view as a First Nations person, it is inconceivable and it is just outright discrimination that I and many others who live off reserve sometimes cannot vote because of that fact.

I want to know what our leaders are doing to rectify the situation. To be quite honest and to be quite blunt and to be quite open about it, if some of these First Nations communities anywhere across the country were to allow their off reserve people the right to vote, given the fact that the majority live off reserve, perhaps it would skew and change the leadership on reserve. What are you doing about it?

Mr. Bird: You are asking me if First Nations are denied the right to vote. Nobody has ever come up to me and said, "I was denied to vote for my leadership back home."

Senator Brazeau: So nobody here in Saskatchewan has ever approached you, a grassroots member living off reserve, and told you that they could not vote in their band election. Is that what you are saying?

Mr. Bird: That is correct.

Senator Brazeau: Thank you.

Senator Dyck: Following up on the elections of the number of custom code First Nations, I am not even sure that FSIN would have access to that information, who are custom code First Nations. I myself have asked that same question of the department officials, and the information from the department is not forthcoming either. It is an important question to know just for the sake of knowing, and I am not sure that you would even, as an organization, have that list. To your knowledge, do you have such a list?

Mr. Bird: No, we do not.

Senator Dyck: So I am not sure that it is necessarily a fair question to ask because when I ask that question of the department, they do not really give me a direct answer.

I am happy to hear that, from your perspective, you have not heard of any problems of off-reserve First Nations not being able to vote. Your information seems contrary and it would be interesting if you could table the information that you do have that is contrary.

I guess that is more of a comment than a question.

I do know there are custom code elections held here in Saskatchewan. I have been contacted by one or two, and it was not to do with off-reserve members not being able to vote.

You were talking about resource development. What position do we take from the treaty perspective with regard to resource development, and should the benefits that you see accruing from resource development be distributed to both on-reserve and off-reserve members? Let us say, in my instance, they were looking at wind power and potash development. Would I, as an off-reserve member benefit? Should I benefit equally?

Senator Brazeau: Senator Dyck, you did ask for a supplemental, but you moved on to resource development, and we do have Senator Harb who would like to ask a question.

Senator Dyck: I apologize.

Senator Harb: Thank you. I would like to defer to the senator so she can carry on with her train of thought.

Senator Dyck: With regard to resource development, do you think that on-reserve and off-reserve members should benefit to the same extent?

Mr. Bird: We have First Nations who currently and have in the past made all their benefits from resource development within their traditional territories available to both on and off reserve. I personally have benefited from my First Nation and some of the First Nations that I have been involved with in terms of work.

I know that a lot of our urban members do come back to their First Nations for maybe a yearly — I do not know what kind of benefits I can name off the top, but, you know, definitely there are those benefits that are not only for First Nations living on reserve.

Another prime example is gaming. Gaming right now happens off reserve for the most part, but those benefits go to on reserve, off reserves, and also non-First Nations people through CDCs.

When you talk about resource benefit sharing, we are already doing it, but the one thing that is being denied us is the natural resources that continue to be extracted from our territories, and First Nations have no access to making sure that they benefit from those cases.

Senator Harb: Thank you very much for your presentation. You spoke a little bit about the United Nations Human Development Index and you mentioned that when we look at the First Nations, Canada ranks 63 on the world scale. Is that when you combine the assessment of First Nations with the rest of Canada or is it just First Nations on their own?

Mr. Bird: That is when you include the statistics with the indigenous peoples of Canada.

Senator Harb: One can take the position, then, if you were to look at the Human Development Index for First Nations and Aboriginals on its own, then the situation would be a lot worse. Would that be your position?

Mr. Bird: That is from what I understand, yes.

Senator Harb: That will, in essence, put the First Nations living conditions at par with some of the least developed countries in Africa, for example, and even worse in some situations?

Mr. Bird: I would agree that many of our First Nations in Saskatchewan and Canada are in third world conditions.

Senator Harb: You say that based on the fact that, for example, unemployment for youth is over 50 per cent, the fact that living conditions on reserve for housing is substandard to the tune of 45 per cent and the fact that First Nation diseases, diabetes and the other health issues, are far worse than that of other least developed countries?

Mr. Bird: Yes, it is those kinds of statistics that definitely play a major factor in the conditions outlined in the Human Development Index of the United Nations.

Senator Harb: Is it your position that the horrible living conditions on reserve contribute largely to the migration of First Nations off reserve?

Mr. Bird: I think it is a factor, but the major issue that we have on reserves is the lack of resources. I talked about education. Housing is another issue.

The federal government just made housing cuts at the same time that the AFN had their elections. There is a lack of resources on reserve, but let us not kid ourselves. The same lack of resources exists no more than 10 blocks from here. You would find neighborhoods that are lacking.

When the federal government talks about its new foreign policy and how economic development is the priority and does not even want to mention human rights, for example, you can see from that definite track record why things are the way they are.

Senator Harb: Two of the witnesses the day before yesterday described the situation with regard to the federal government as being "supervised neglect." Do you agree with that assessment?

Mr. Bird: Can you explain further your question?

Senator Harb: Housing, health, education are all federal responsibilities for people who live on reserve, and when we look at the outcome, it is not very good at all. As a result, although you are under the jurisdiction of the federal government on reserve, the federal government does not seem to be doing a good job, for whatever reason, in terms of taking care of the people who live on reserve, and that amounts to supervised neglect by the federal government.

Mr. Bird: Take Attawapiskat for an example. When the First Nation said, we need housing, what did your federal government do? They put in a third party manager and said, "You are neglecting the services that we tried to provide for you, so we are going to put one of our own people in there and make you suffer even more." That kind of fiduciary responsibility, that is definitely neglect. That is definitely not investing in our indigenous peoples in Canada.

Senator Harb: You spoke about the portability right, like we do with health care. If I live in the province of Ontario and I move to another province, whether to visit or for whatever reason, I am allowed, under the Health Care Act, to receive health care.

If a First Nation person leaves the reserve, his or her rights stop at the border of the reserve and provincial jurisdiction takes over. Therefore, you come under the rules of the province, and the province provides health care, education, and so on.

What I hear you saying is that you want to have some sort of a mechanism whereby you would have some sort of a standard for people who go off reserve. How would you see that standard being developed? Do the provinces have to be a partner or is it the federal government itself who will decide or is it the First Nation who will decide, or all of the three together sitting at the table?

Mr. Bird: Thank you for the question. I got to make it very clear that is your interpretation of the portability of treaty rights. The interpretation of the treaty rights and as negotiated and as understood by our treaty elders at the time of treaty signing and still today was those treaty rights were always supposed to be portable. They never agreed that once they leave the reserve those treaty rights would diminish or be extinguished and another entity, like the province, which did not even exist at that time, would take over.

Your time line has to be very specific. In regard to how I would do things, I would invest in First Nations so we get a better future for both First Nations and non-First Nations in this province and in this country.

Senator Brazeau: I will ask one final quick question. The federal government's own statistics state that for every $8 spent on reserve, they only spend $1 off reserve. The statistics generally also point to the fact that those who live off reserve fare better than their on-reserve counterparts, albeit there is still a gap between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal and First Nations who live off reserve. There is an eight-to-one ratio, and perhaps that is another study and perhaps that is another question, but given the fact that more First Nations people live off reserve than on reserve and the fact that we are talking about human rights and access to programs and services and mobility rights, do you believe that First Nations people who choose to live off reserve or who are kicked out or for whatever reason end up off reserve, should have the same rights, access to programs and benefits, as those who live on reserve, and do you believe that they should have equal access to resources as those who live on reserve?

Mr. Bird: You are talking about portability of treaty rights again, and that portability needs to go past the boundaries of First Nations, the reserve.

Senator Brazeau: I guess what I am saying is that if, for example, funding that a reserve community receives on a per capita basis would entitle one individual living on reserve to $15,000 to cover everything, should the First Nations person who lives off reserve receive the same amount as well?

Mr. Bird: If the federal government was to properly fund our treaty rights, the same $8 on reserve would go to each individual living off reserve because there would not be that discrepancy of jurisdiction.

Senator Brazeau: Thank you for that.

I will just add as a First Nations person, that I do not think that any government should fund rights. I think that rights are meant to be exercised, but perhaps that is another conversation all together.

Obviously we could have much more discussion, which is always healthy and always needed. I want to thank you. It was nice to meet you, and I am sure we will meet in the future. I am sure this committee will hear from you in the future, but I will turn it over to Senator Dyck for closing comments.

Mr. Bird: If it is okay, I would like to add my own comments.

You, as a First Nations person from Quebec, have that right to be a senator, to be working for the federal government. You also have a right to go back and help your own people, to maybe be a leader, maybe be a teacher. I do not go and tell you what to do and how to do things, and in the same way you have no right to tell me how to do things and where my priorities are. I am exercising my right to make sure that I uplift and uphold the treaty rights to education and health care. Socio-economic status needs to be improved.

Thank you very much.

Senator Dyck: I especially want to thank Vice-Chief Simon Bird for his presentation this morning and for answering all the questions and comments. It has been a lively discussion, and as Senator Brazeau has indicated, I am sure it will continue. I thank you for coming here and making the time because I know you, like many people, are very busy and you just came back from Ottawa.

I also would like to acknowledge our elder for the prayer this morning because I believe that has helped open up discussion. Thank you.

The Chair: Our next presenters are the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan, and we will start with Gwen Bear.

Gwen Bear, Executive Director, Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan: First of all, I would like to acknowledge Madam Chair and distinguished members of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. I want to give you a warm welcome to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and thank you for acknowledging Treaty 6 land that we are meeting on today.

My name is Gwen Bear. I am Cree from Muskoday First Nation and the Executive Director of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan. This is my first official presentation to your committee as ED of the AFCS, and I thank the committee for this opportunity to present on behalf of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan.

I first want to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about who we are. The AFC was founded by urban Aboriginals who desired a provincial coordination and representation structure. The Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Saskatchewan is a non-profit organization that acts as the administrative body for the 11 friendship centres across our province.

We are governed by a volunteer board of directors comprised of representatives from across Saskatchewan. The mandate of the AFCS is as follows:

The Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan's mission is to promote, advocate for and represent member Friendship Centres at the provincial and national levels, as directed by the Centres while respecting their autonomy, by sharing expertise, resources, and exchanging ideas that will provide a forum to assist our Centres to carry out their mandate. To maintain this by respecting our Elders, helping Aboriginal peoples through friendship, harmony, quality service, cultural integrity, cultural awareness, and sharing.

The AFCS administers the following programs: The Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program, the AFCP, which is our core funding, the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth Program, and the Young Canada Works Program.

All programs came over from Canadian Heritage this year and were transferred to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. All these programs are not differentiated according to living on or off reserve or being Inuit, Metis, or registered status or non-status Indian. They are basically status blind and are available to Aboriginal people to support them in making transitions.

Finally, the Urban Aboriginal Strategy: The AFSC was approved to be the capacity holder for the Regina Urban Aboriginal Strategy and the Saskatoon Urban Aboriginal Strategy this year. We feel this is a perfect fit since we are, in fact, an urban Aboriginal strategy.

Our 11 friendship centres offer an array of services to over 64,000 First Nation members as of last year, Inuit and Metis of Saskatchewan and non-status Indians. It mobilizes over 200 volunteers. It provides sustainable employment to over 200 persons and reaches over 5,000 youth in the youth programs. Each Aboriginal friendship centre has become in the heart of the urban sphere an incubator for initiatives, a privileged space to express the needs and claims for the off-reserve status, Metis, and Inuit and non-status population.

The centres provide specialized and culturally relevant services that communities do not offer and which must, in the heart of a non-Aboriginal urban setting, allow for the advocacy of the Aboriginal dignity and cultural identity, regardless of the nation of origin.

Friendship centres offer programs and services to urban Aboriginal people to help fund housing, health, and social services, employment, and training opportunities, prenatal programming, healthy babies, Head Start, youth programs, diabetes clinics, and drug and alcohol prevention programs. They also offer family cultural sports and recreation programs.

Friendship centres are driven by their communities' needs. Programs are adapted and developed to fit the needs of each unique community. Therefore, each centre offers a different range of programs and services that may differ one from the next.

I have a couple examples of that: After a rash of suicides in Ile a la Crosse, the community, the province, along with an Ile a la Crosse Friendship Center pooled together resources and built a youth centre. This needed youth centre is a place that youth can call their own, and the grand opening was held last year in October.

The Battlefords Friendship Center: With the growing demands on homeless services at the Battlefords, the Friendship Centre has witnessed a massive increase in clientele from 379 to 567 total individuals utilizing the in-house homeless shelter at the Battlefords Friendship Center.

I have a list of some of the priorities for the friendship centre movement in Saskatchewan. Salary: Our level of salary is not commensurate with private or public sectors. Low pay levels discourage active engagement and foster disenfranchisement due to a perceived lack of value. Despite these challenges, friendship centres pride themselves in keeping executive directors and staff more than 35 years and up to 35 years.

We have very limited capacity to address core concerns. The friendship centres struggle with our current capacity to address core concerns such as health, justice, education, and employment. Competing for limited funding does not help, nor does it encourage knowledge sharing and cooperation among organizations. Despite funding challenges, we still operate with fantastic rates of success and elevated outcomes.

The proactive versus reactive approach: Operating on a minimum budget to function day-to-day, the AFCN and its member friendship centres are constantly reacting to the situations that arise versus taking on a proactive approach to planning, research, collaboration, and development of programs. The friendship centres have become resilient as a result.

Community based research: Our world is complex and dynamic. It requires a continuous base of research and community support in order to effectively communicate concerns and priorities pertaining to the socio-economic nuances of Aboriginal policy and rights. A lack of evidence pertaining to the specific situation of Aboriginals can lead to overgeneralization and subsequently creates false perceptions of Aboriginal issues. The urban Aboriginal knowledge network partnership grant proposal approved by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through the NFC has pushed for community-based research to help address this gap.

Essential programs: Our friendship centres lack consistency among programs including, but not limited to, the alternative secondary school and employment program. A funding gap between on- and off-reserve students and those of the general population are effectively paralyzing the growth of Aboriginal students as they strive to become effective leaders and citizens. The priority of education is crucial for our nation, which desires informed democratic citizens which contribute to the collective fabric of Canadian society.

Another essential program is addictions. They are very limited with no long-term programs or specific gender or age-related services in this province. This is where the friendship centres can really make a difference given the opportunity.

The court worker program is not offered by all the friendships centres in Saskatchewan and deserves a higher level of integration as well. Fair and accurate legal representation in addition to a continuum of legal services free of charge would lessen the over representation of Aboriginals in the prison system, which contributes to the continued failure of Aboriginals integrating into the mainstream economic and social communities, where policy and legal barriers exacerbate the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups.

Marginalization: Although the goals and objectives of each of our friendship centres are laudable, we require more involvement with non-Aboriginal groups to identify and proactively deal with problems we face as a community.

Minimal short-term funding: There is a lack of funding to invest in long-term capital acquisition. Many friendship centres pay rent for additional space for programming instead of contributing to a mortgage.

Capital enhancements: Eighty per cent of our friendship centres in Saskatchewan own their own buildings. The friendship centres have reached their threshold and require space for growth. Our new friendship centres require capital for startup.

Those are some of our issues that our friendship centres deal with in the province with.

Moving forward, we are very honoured to receive recognition today from the Senate committee, and would ask that it recommend to the Government of Canada that it make better use of our existing service structures as friendship centres; that it consider recapitalization for existing infrastructure in order to support the growing urban community; that it encourage provincial governments to match the core funding of friendship centres and commit to this population; that the government grow its working relationship with the NAFC, our national office, and use the proven accountability and delivery mechanisms to better and more efficiently deliver other programs and strategies — most importantly, the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, we feel, should be run through the NAFC and its provincial counterparts; that the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth program be delivered through the friendship centre structure in order for it to be effective for the youth. Currently the government is directly delivering half of it and not in a reliable way.

The urban Aboriginal population is very young and growing, with over half of the Aboriginal population living in urban centers and increasing. Friendship centres are one of the first points of contact for a lot of Aboriginal people. Working together with other Aboriginal organizations and with our federal and provincial governments, we can provide needed services for off-reserve First Nations people, Metis and Inuit, and non-status Indians.

The AFCS is very encouraged that the government recognizes the friendship centres and the very important role they play for the future of the Aboriginal population.

Thank you to all of you for your kind attention, and I look forward to more dialogue on the issues impacting the lives of the urban Aboriginal population in Canada.

The Chair: Before we hear from Mr. Mintram, I want to at this time recognize and acknowledge the fact that we are in the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan's traditional territory, and I very much on behalf of the committee appreciate being here.

Thank you, Ms. Bear, for your presentation.

William Mintram, Acting Assistant Director, Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre: Hello, and once again thank you for the honour of being able to come and present here today.

The Saskatoon Indian and Metis Friendship Centre started in 1968 and we have been in this facility that we are currently in today since 1974. We are a non-political, autonomous, charitable and non-profit organization. The heart of our operations is our mission statement, which is to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people in the city of Saskatoon. The staff of the SIMFC is dedicated to serving our community and goes out of its way to make Aboriginal people in our community feel at home, supported, and engaged.

Saskatoon currently has an estimated population of 236,600. That is for 2012. However, the latest numbers for the Aboriginal population that we have is from the 2006 census at 19,820. That number has grown and is growing.

As we serve a community of this size, it requires that the Aboriginal organizations such as the SIMFC partner and collaborate with other organizations. We are proud to work with the City of Saskatoon, STC and various other organizations around the community to network, refer and share resources that impact the community.

As First Nations people move from a reserve or rural setting into Saskatoon, the SIMFC is often the first stop as a community resource in connecting people with finding homes, jobs, accessing social services. As these individuals connect with programs that provide the assistance they need to connect with their community, they also engage in our cultural community programs, in events that build strong relationships and a stronger sense of community within Saskatoon.

On a daily basis, hundreds of people come through our doors and access or engage in the following services: SIMFC general services, which include our lobby and gymnasium, are available to the Saskatoon community. We are in essence a community centre. We offer photocopy services, fax services. We do whatever we can to try and help people out and to bring people together and engage them in our community. We have our program department which organizes events and programs that are family, elder, and children oriented, including National Aboriginal Day activities, Indian Metis pavilion for Folkfest, elders dinners for Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, children's summer program, children's parties, and other community-based programming.

In response to a gap that has been identified within our community, people who are experiencing homelessness who do not have access to meals in the evening times, we have a meal program that is currently running five evenings a week to serve those individuals.

We have our youth department, which provides youth with accessible and no-cost educational, recreational, and cultural programming. Annual events include a youth round dance, jigging competition, celebration of culture, Native graduate recognition night and program showcase. Youth evening programs include a youth centre, beading class, regalia class, jigging, piano, guitar, sash weaving, powwow song and dance, volleyball. A lot goes on here at the centre in engaging youth.

We have family violence workers, which is a program that provides emotional support and empathetic listening to clients, raises awareness of the negative effects of family and domestic violence, and we work with the Saskatoon Domestic Violence Court as it relates to the treatment of offenders and victims. They also provide referrals, workshops, advocacy, home and hospital visits for returning and drop-in clients.

The responsibilities of our family support workers are two-pronged. They work with individuals who are referred from Social Services as well as with drop-in clients who need support in a variety of areas in their lives, and those may be issues around poverty, homelessness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and cross-cultural issues.

Assistance may include simply helping them to have a shower, giving them shampoo and that type of thing, or to make a long distance phone call or referring them to social services or other community services or networks within our city.

Our Youth Works Program is a youth restitution program providing training, life skills, and employment opportunities for youth to work in our community and pay the victims of their crimes.

We also have our resolution health support workers. This program provides Indian residential students and their families with emotional support before, during, and after their Independent Assessment Process hearing. In providing this service, we also provide elder services and staff to support these individuals.

To round out what we do as a centre, I just want to share a story about a family who had come into our centre looking for help and assistance. A grandmother, her husband and their son were facing medical issues. Their son had children and they were looking to try and care for all of them and they did not know what to do.

They had come to the centre, met with the family violence workers, and had received assistance in finding a six- bedroom home. Following that, the grandmother had gotten involved with our regalia class and learned the basics and life skills around sewing and was able to create an outfit for the grandson who came out to the powwow song and dance class. He was able to learn more about his culture and identity and to use the outfit that was created to go and dance in different powwows over the last year.

That is one example of someone accessing a service and being able to not only receive assistance with what they are looking for, but connecting within the community. They meet people who want to support them and help them build relationships and a stronger community. That is a part of the heart and essence of Saskatoon Metis Friendship Centre and the friendship centres.

The Chair: We will now go on to the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert. Mr. Sayese, I have to tell you that I have often been to Prince Albert and it is one of my favorite cities.

George Sayese, President, Indian and Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert: Madam Chair, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to present on behalf of the friendship centres of Saskatchewan and my home center in Prince Albert.

I am a proud Metis. I belong to Local 269 in Prince Albert. I also belong to the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, and I would like to thank you for acknowledging that these lands that we are on are also Metis.

I would like to give you an overview of the Indian Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert. The IMFCPA has been delivering services, assisting with housing, communication, employment, and social programs since 1963 in the City of Prince Albert. The City of Prince Albert is a gateway to the north. We have an approximate population of 35,129, which has increased by 2.9 per cent since the last census. We see many transients and families move to our community and utilize our services. A large portion of this population is off-reserve First Nations people.

We host very important community programs such as the Aboriginal Court Worker Program, Fine Options/CSO Program, the Resolution Health Support Program for Indian Residential School Survivors, the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth as a W6 agent. We also host a family wellness worker and a family service worker. We work with a diverse group, and as a status blind organization our doors are open to everyone. We work closely with the City of Prince Albert to fill in the gaps of services for those struggling with mental health, addictions, and social issues.

The Indian Metis Friendship Centre of Prince Albert is a member in good standing of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan and the National Association of Friendship Centres. Our executive director sits on the Citizen's Advisory Board for the Homelessness Partnership Strategy and the Prince Albert Social Infrastructure Committee, formerly the Race Relations Committee. Our board members work with housing agencies and other Aboriginal organizations as board members or employees.

The City of Prince Albert has a unique opportunity in working with the First Nations population incarcerated in one of our seven penal institutions and in addressing the issues facing the large population of Aboriginal people incarcerated within our community.

We continue to host cultural programming and services for First Nations individuals that are new to our community. We were the first to step in and host the National Aboriginal Day in our community, and we continue to host this very important community gathering. We hosted the regional Truth and Reconciliation event in our centre in February and March 2012. We offer a welcoming atmosphere, a knowledgeable and caring staff. We reach and assist approximately 200 to 225 people daily through our various programs and services.

We continue to see a number of problems facing those now living off reserve as they move into the urban setting. Housing, education levels and access, employment, and poverty are the most common barriers for those coming from reserve to our urban community. Beyond these, language integration continues to be somewhat problematic for our elderly population. Youth secondary schooling, graduation rates, and an alarming increase in addictions and mental health are other issues to affecting many of those coming off reserve.

We have also noted that many do not receive any assistance from their home reserves because they do not know what their rights are as off-reserve band members. Currently we assist these individuals in addressing their rights, completing paperwork, phone calls, and providing information services.

Other urban tribal service organizations are strong entities for their members, although many of their clients struggle to access information. We work daily with clients from the following reserves and communities, including Black Lake, Cumberland House, Fond du Lac, Hatchet Lake, James Smith, Lac La Ronge, Montreal Lake, Peter Ballantyne, Shoal Lake, Red Earth, Sturgeon Lake, Wahpeton, as well as many clients not represented on this list.

We continue to work with several more of the progressive reserves in hosting elections off reserve, opening our doors to bands that wish to have a local meeting place to hand out assistance with Christmas monies and gifts for band members, hosting general meetings, and acting as a first response to clients in finding assistance from their reserves for band members experiencing crisis. Several of these bands that we work with are not affiliated with the local urban tribal organization, PAGC. Partnering with PAGC, we have hosted events for and co-hosted events with PAGC. A shining example of this was during the H1N1 influenza alert. PAGC chose our centre as the ideal location to reach urban members for information sharing purposes.

Many of the northern communities do not have adequate health services that are needed for members, and therefore members often move to PA for treatment. Although they may get some financial assistance from their band, there are many more needs that are not being addressed. For example, many of the elders utilizing our services feel a strong sense of isolation being away from family and friends. To combat this, we have implemented a membership driven structure, and for a $2 yearly fee, we offer cultural support, elders' teas, and outings.

Again, membership in our organizations allows people to feel more included in the decision-making process and gain a sense of pride in being affiliated with our organization.

It should be noted that we have no criteria for membership, although to vote in our AGM you must be of Aboriginal ancestry.

Proudly our centre hosts a youth initiative through the federal Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth Program. Through this program, we work with some of the more troubled youth within our city to assist them with alternate and healthier lifestyle choices.

An additional concern we have is that several of our clients that do get assistance from their band are required to pick up their cheques from their home reserve. This causes a multitude of problems for those individuals. Often they have no way to get to many of these northern communities except by hitchhiking or waiting for a ride. Once they do reach home, they have no way back. It is our belief that we could address this by providing an urban address and being a service provider to those that utilize our services already. For so many that are struggling, this is an additional barrier on top of those they already face.

We have a history of growth and representation in our home community of 49 years. We are fiscally responsible, a non-profit agency in good standing. We understand our corporate responsibility. We have a strong board of directors, and we continue to build on strategic planning and board knowledge.

We are centrally located within our city and are continually building on partnerships. Each day our 18 full-time employees strive to meet the needs of our clients. What matters most to them matters to us, whether it is assistance with their child tax pension forms or income tax, family violence, housing, youth issues, and other social issues, including food banks. Our services are always done in a respectful and empathetic manner.

In conclusion, we ask for the support of this Senate committee to recognize our role as a responsible, well-rounded, and culturally significant agency. We ask that you consider our historical significance as an agency established to assist rural and off-reserve Aboriginal people in the delivery of services and transition from rural to urban. We ask that you take into account our fiscal responsibility and our commitment to the well-being of all Aboriginal peoples in our community.

Through this recognition, we ask the Senate recommend to the Government of Canada that it make better use of the existing service structure of friendship centres, that it consider recapitalization of the existing infrastructure in order to support the growing urban community. We also suggest the Senate encourage provincial governments to match its core funding of friendship centres and commit to this population.

With respect and gratitude, I thank you very much.

The Chair: Mr. Sayese, could you please elaborate on your work of hosting elections for people off reserve. Is this a model that we could implement elsewhere?

Mr. Sayese: Implement elsewhere in other service organizations?

The Chair: In other parts of the country as well.

Mr. Sayese: I believe so. We do not really get into the meat and potatoes of reserve elections. We provide the place for them to have their polling stations, but I believe that would be an idea that would work.

The Chair: If I understand correctly, you provide the facilities, but you do not get involved in who can vote or who has voting rights.

Mr. Sayese: No, we do not.

The Chair: Just provide the facility?

Mr. Sayese: That is totally up to the bands that rent our facilities, but by using an Aboriginal friendship centre, Aboriginal people are more apt to come and cast their votes.

Senator Dyck: Does your friendship centre provide a similar service for provincial or federal elections?

Mr. Sayese: No, we do not.

The Chair: We will now go on to Ms. Brown, who is from the Kikinahk Friendship Centre.

Kayle Brown, Board Member, Kikinahk Friendship Centre: Thank you very much. This report has been prepared by my executive director, Ron Woytowich in La Ronge, A lot of the stuff in here is repetitive to what my peers, my friends — because we are friendship centres — have said, so I am going to summarize some of it.

The Kikinahk Friendship Centre values are respect, trust, compassion and leadership. Our mission is to promote individual and community development, enhance Aboriginal cultural identity, and encourage mutual understanding among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people through a team passionate about doing our best.

I will leave the vision and the strategic goals for you to read through.

The friendship centre is registered as a non-profit corporation with the province of Saskatchewan and is always current in providing the ministry, overseeing the Information Services Corporation of Saskatchewan with regular audited financial statements and other required information.

In 2012, Kikinahk celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary. Our centre, influenced by our constitution, is designed to further and promote our vision of promoting healthy living and racial harmony. Our membership, though predominantly Aboriginal, has always been open to everyone. As a reflection of this, our board, is made up of a broad mix of ethnic and vocational backgrounds and has a composition representative of our communities. It consists of a mix of females and males, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, and one position reserved for a youth from our community that is between the ages of 18 and 25.

Our executive director is Ron Woytowich, an individual presently into his eighteenth year working at Kikinahk Friendship Centre, first functioning as our financial administrator and since 1996 as our executive director. A lot of the centres do show that loyalty because a lot of people stay on for so long because it is a great honour. For me as a youth, it is a great honour to be here, and given everything that I have learned and the programs that we offer, you can see why there is that loyalty that makes people want to stay around.

Kikinahk is the hub of the social activity scene in La Ronge. People are comfortable in our centre and go there for various reasons, for advice, assistance, and activities. These reasons include the following: a professional, non- bureaucratic atmosphere, unlike feelings sometimes felt in more restrictive practices found in official governmental service centres; a central activity centre for all services in their own language by Aboriginal professionals, a good portion of whom hold one or more relevant certificates or university degrees; a status blind centre willing to assist whoever it may be with their programs, and a centre that is nonpolitical in any way.

As I already mentioned, this next paragraph goes through some communities that we offer programs to off the reserve, and I am not going to recap that. Due to timing, I will leave the next portion out as well. I think the main focus is on our programming, on page 5.

The following is a list of everyday programs offered by Kikinahk. Aboriginal Head-Start Pre-Kindergarten: This program is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, provides pre-kindergarten education to 42 Aboriginal children residing off reserve in the community of La Ronge. Supplemental to this, the Northern Lights School Division has bought an additional 18 spaces and provided a full-time teacher to ensure that a total of 60 children can take part in this program.

Special Needs Pre-kindergarten: Northern Lights School Division provides full-time assistance and program materials to ensure that any special needs children age 3 and 4 can be a part of the Aboriginal Headstart Program. The norm is to include one or two children each year.

After School Program: This program is self-funded with some assistance provided for food by the Nutrition Development Program from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education and by our cable and internet supplier Access Communications. On average, we have 24 children that approach our centre after school each day to receive some cultural or arts program, an afternoon lunch, and on some days take in some gym activities, all facilitated by two part- time grade 12 students.

Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program: This program funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada provides much needed assistance for pregnancy to the six-month age of the child to, on average, 60 mothers each year.

AFCP (CORE): The funding is delivered by the National Association of Friendship Centres through a funding agreement from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, formerly known as Canadian Heritage, and provides funding to our centre for the payment of administration costs.

Diabetes Awareness and Prevention Program: Funding from First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, FNIHB, provides for a full-time coordinator who makes the community aware of developing diabetes and works with individuals and families in a prevention program that includes workshop, cooking classes, traditional practices, berry picking, et cetera, and promotes an active lifestyle. Over 100 individuals take part in various activities on a regular basis.

Extra Judicial Measures: This program, funded by the Ministry of Corrections, is broken into three components. Approximately 60 youth each year go through the justice-related program. Restitution, our target number is 12 youth per year whom we help find meaningful work and to ensure they meet a court ordered restitution award. Stop Lift, the teaching tool is used for each individual charged with shoplifting from any of our stores in the La Ronge, Air Ronge or immediate La Ronge-based businesses.

Next is the Family Services Program. Funded by the Ministry of Social Services, this program works with approximately 250 people each year providing them assistance to reach various government assistance programs or to overcome some social obstacles in their lives.

The Hub: Kikinahk is an accountable partner for the new initiative titled The Hub, which works with every agency on and off reserve to better provide services, including intensive oversight of individuals who are in trouble with the law or have fallen through the cracks and need social, judicial, or health assistance.

Kids First North, funded by Northern Lights School Division, the program provides home visitors who work intensively with families who have a very high risk score — the score is determined by health and social service agencies — and who require intensive support and education. Our target is a minimum of 24 families.

Northern Human Services Partnership: Funded by the Ministry of Health, this program works intensively at the interagency level to research and develop best practices for assistance for social, education, health, housing, and other initiatives in our northern communities.

Skills Link: Service Canada has regularly provided funds to our centre to interview, develop a work plan and provide meaningful job training for a number of youth in our community. Our target is six youth per year.

Can Sask: The Ministry of Economy —

The Chair: Ms. Brown, before you continue, you have given a very good submission, copies of which we have. I would respectfully ask that you touch the highlights because we have so many questions and we want the time to have a good dialogue.

Ms. Brown: In closing, like you said, the programs are there. There are a few more teen and youth parent programs, CCAY, and Youth Outreach. We also have a kitchen in our centre that allows for stuff in the community, like special events. We work closely with all other agencies.

I would just like to recap that each centre is specific to what is needed in their communities, so the problems that are faced in the communities reflect the programs that we have in the friendship centre.

The Chair: We will now go to Mr. Rose, who is an addition, but we are very happy to have him here.

Dylan Rose, Regional Desk Director, Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth, Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan: I would first like to thank you for allowing me to present as a last minute agenda item, and thank you to my colleagues, community members in attendance, and the Senate committee for being here today for these really important meetings.

My name is Dylan Rose. I am the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth regional coordinator for the province. I am also an off-reserve band member from the Red Pheasant First Nation. I am present this brief on behalf of Dave Bighead, who is the executive director of the Newo Yotina Regina Friendship Centre.

I am going to start with an overview, a little bit of discussion based on their AGM, and then a closing.

The NYFC began operations in Regina, approximate population of 200,000, in April 2010. They grew from approximately 50 members in that first program year to over 300 in the current program year. They house a variety of programming such as youth-based S.H.A.P.E. program, powwow dance instruction, parenting classes, smart recovery program, financial literacy training, and S.E.E.K., an after-school program for girls aged 11 to 14 and a sewing class.

They are currently in discussions with the Regina Catholic School Board to partner in an Aboriginal-focused daycare facility, which is something very much needed in their community. They have developed several partnerships over the past two and a half years with well-known and long-standing community organizations that have given them support throughout their development.

They are members of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan as well as the National Association of Friendship Centres. They service between 60 and 120 people on a daily basis, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.

Based on their decisions at their AGM, dialogue through their programming and day to day interactions with their clients, they believe the following: Many of their urban Aboriginal members living off reserve are being subjected to third world living conditions. Lack of affordable housing is a major issue in their community, which is the direct cause of the high homelessness rate. They have several clients who inhabit their centre from open to close as they are without residence and are subjected to sleeping outdoors on a regular basis.

Training and education opportunities are limited for our Aboriginal members as there are several barriers preventing them from pursuing these objectives, such as housing, transportation, and affordable child care. Many of their clients lack bank accounts or any type of credit. Financial literacy training is not something being offered in the community outside of their centre.

Many of their members lack basic life skills and are therefore prone to substance abuse, crime, poor parenting skills and other detrimental behaviors. Elder support in their community is a factor only because it is lacking. Some organizations employ elders to be present on a daily basis; however, community consensus is that they need more. A lack of identity among our Aboriginal population could be the tipping point in our community. Elders are needed to ensure our language, culture, and traditions remain with our Aboriginal people.

Gangs are becoming more and more prevalent, both in our community and as well surrounding First Nations. Gangs have begun recruiting kids younger than ever before and are finding great success due to the lack of family supports. The high gang rates in their communities correspond directly with the high Aboriginal incarceration rates in the federal and provincial correctional institutions.

Several of the factors that have led urban Aboriginal members to migrate from their respective First Nations to the Regina community are: The lack of employment opportunities: Several studies have shown that unemployment rates in Saskatchewan First Nations are 90 per cent and higher.

Lack of educational opportunities: High school graduates living on reserve are unable to receive post-secondary funding due to the federal government's underfunded First Nations Post-secondary Student Support Program.

Unhealthy relationships in families: this is common on our First Nations as well as within the Regina community. The Newo Yotina Friendship Centre has tried on several occasions to secure funding to develop family wellness programs that would address this very important issue. They have been turned down by both the federal and provincial governments repeatedly. This type of program is absolutely needed.

Substance abuse: Isolation, unemployment, peer pressure and boredom are all contributing factors to abuse and are more prevalent on reserve than off. Hopelessness: This is very real and very dangerous to our on-reserve First Nations people as well as the Regina community members. Our high suicide rates confirm this.

There are many services in our community that address a lot of the issues discussed above; however, they continue to see the same people day in and day out with the same problems walking through their doors. The services offered in their community are not comprehensive enough to retain clients or to follow up with them one, two, or six months after the fact. Clients are bounced around from one program to another hearing and learning the same thing over and over again as duplication is a major issue.

David Bighead is the father of a 16 year old and firmly believes that change starts with the parent. If your child grows up witnessing substance abuse, verbal abuse, is subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse, has parent or parents who have never worked, never shown affection, and have never stressed an education, he or she has little chance of breaking out of that cycle.

Governments on all levels have to invest more in programs and services that focus more on the wellness of Aboriginal families living off reserve. The difference can be made by giving our next generation a chance to live with the same quality of life as their non-Aboriginal counterparts.

The Chair: Mr. Rose, we all know that the Aboriginal population is a fairly young population and is growing and the youth issues are of particular importance in the community. Can you tell us of some of the strategies that you have found to be effective to engage Aboriginal young people in social, cultural, and political issues, and also is peer support important for the Aboriginal youth as well?

Mr. Rose: Definitely, peer support is very important. We need strong role models within our community for our youth to have people to look up to.

In regard to the first part of your question, what kind of structures and programming are you asking about?

The Chair: What have you found in the programs that you implemented to be effective?

Mr. Rose: From the top down, one of the major things is continued funding that is not being cut down or reduced.

The Chair: Do you mean sustainable funding?

Mr. Rose: Sustainable funding, sorry. That is the main thing. So these youth programs that are supposed to be running throughout the province, if the funding is getting frozen and we have to lay off staff and start again, it does not add to continuity and people leave and find other things to do. We need to keep that continuity in the youth programming. It is different in every friendship centre. It is relevant to their community and what their needs are. That is the main thing consistent funding so we can retain the staff and continue to have this successful programming that we are seeing in friendship centres throughout the province.

The Chair: Let us dream for a second. If you did have sustainable funding, what are some of the programs that you have seen to be effective if the funding was in place?

Mr. Rose: There are all different types. For example, Regina is doing a financial literacy program right now, which is really important to those people without basic banking skills to deal with credit and stuff like that. La Loche has a canoeing program that teaches kids about teamwork and traditional ways of life. Given the federal government's priorities getting young Aboriginal people fully engaged in Canada's economy, that kind of programming. It is hard to put it into words, but such issues are huge factors in those Aboriginal youth becoming successful participants in Canadian economy.

The Chair: To all of you, one of the things that we noticed in Winnipeg is that the service providers or the friendship centres do not look at people who come to their door and ask them to show a status card, be they status, non-status, Metis, Inuit. It is a person who needs help and they provide help. We hear from your presentations that you serve the people who need help and you do not look behind for status. Yet, federal programs look at status, non-status, and so on. Could you comment on that?

Ms. Bear: I will make a comment on that. One of the reasons why I am working at this particular organization is because it is non-status, non-political. I believe that political leaders should do their job and service providers should do their job.

When I was a little bit younger, I was a non-status Indian. I had married off the reserve. I was quite young, and a place like this is where I belonged. It was really the only place I could belong because I no longer was a status Indian, and after regaining my status I had to think of my children, who felt they did not belong anywhere because they were not raised on my reserve.

So places like this are home for so many people, for our Metis brothers, for our non-status people, for our people traveling here from other provinces; a lot of them do not have the services available for them. Our friendship centres really provide vital services for people traveling. People come to school here from other provinces as well. This is a place that they can call home.

The Chair: Anyone else?

Mr. Rose: As you all know, we are a status blind organization, and some of these federal funding programs that are coming through require or would like to see status or non-status Indians, Metis and Inuit people accessing these services. Throughout the province, no friendship centre turns away non-Aboriginal people who want to take part in these programs. They are open to all.

Mr. Sayese: As you know, we are under the Aboriginal Peoples Program, but friendship centres throughout Canada have found it necessary to open their doors to everyone. A person in crisis still needs help from somebody, and we have evolved from when we first opened our doors. We had to evolve. We just could not, as an organization, turn people away because of their race, their colour. Like I say, we are open to all citizens of Canada.

Senator Brazeau: Good morning to all of you and thank you for your presentations.

Part of the reason we are having this study is the reality in Canada that there are some individuals who live on reserve, some who live off reserve, but are treated differently; not all the time, not everywhere, but in many parts of this country.

We heard earlier this week from a friendship centre in Winnipeg and talked with other representatives of the service delivery organizations. They talked about the fact that in many cases when people move off reserve and try to get services from the different service delivery organizations, they cannot exercise the same rights as people on reserve. They cannot access the same programs and services in terms of voting, health care, housing, or, I guess, the overall program and service structure.

Representatives from the friendship centre in Winnipeg also mentioned that since First Nations people live off reserve and they form the majority in most communities, perhaps federal funding should follow where the people go.

Obviously this is sort of a taboo discussion and while we do not want to take anything away from anybody, at the same time that is the reality we live in. What are your views on the current funding that is available, and do you believe that it should follow where the people go?

If we do take the eight-to-one ratio — which states that for every $1 spent off reserve $8 are spent on reserve — there are two questions: Why are people faring better off reserve with less money and why are people faring less better on reserve with more money. As a friendship centre and given the good work that you do, through the services you provide, what are your views on that situation?

Ms. Bear: Being a First Nation and moving off of the reserve and, yes, not having those services on reserve affected me a lot in my younger years. However, now, when I watch our friendship centres and people moving into the city, one of the things that I would like to see is more of the programming that is out there flowing through the friendship centres because we can deliver them more effectively. For example, the Urban Aboriginal Strategy Program and the Cultural Connections for Youth Program within the friendship centres are administered partially through the government. If more of that funding came directly to friendship centres the programs would be delivered more effectively. We work directly with the communities, whereas the government, they are kind of away from the communities. That is said within all our friendship centres.

The other one is the Urban Aboriginal Strategy Program. Because of the overall Aboriginal strategy, a lot of the money that goes into that program is split up amongst so many little pots and may not be as effective as it could be.

When it comes to the $8 on reserve and $1 in the city, yes, I believe we should not take away from that. I think the money should be added to the city programs since we have more Aboriginal people living in the city.

Mr. Sayese: I do not want to comment on stuff of that nature, just for the simple fact that we have to work in Saskatchewan and we are trying to build our partnerships up with the Metis Nation. We are trying to build up our partnerships with the FSIN. I do not know if we are considered a major Aboriginal organization in Saskatchewan, but we are working toward that, so something to that effect, I have to respectfully say sorry.

Mr. Rose: Senator Brazeau, you were talking about where people are going. I am an off-reserve band member who lives and works in Saskatoon, but that does not mean I still do not have many family members still living on reserve and that I do not go back to the reserve. I go back to the reserve and come back to the city often enough.

Our biggest connection is to the land. We are Aboriginal people of Canada, so if one was to say, "Yes, we should put more funding into urban Aboriginal people rather than on-reserve people." my only concern is, will there continue to be underfunding?

The Chair: The federal government gives off-reserve people $1, but you do get support from provincial and municipal governments in addition.

Ms. Bear: A lot of the friendship centres do get provincial dollars, but not all, and we do not have other provincial dollars coming through the provincial organizations such as the other PTAs across Canada. We are probably the most underfunded provincial organization, and that is not to say that our friendship centres are not being funded by certain programs.

Senator Brazeau: I often quote the eight-to-one ratio because that is the federal government's number. Obviously I am not here to debate whether there is underfunding. In some cases there is and in other cases it is debatable. If there is underfunding and $8 is going toward on-reserve communities and we are not seeing the results that we would all like to see and $1 is being pumped off reserve but conditions are better, it leads to the following question: What level of working relationship do you have with the provincial governments? It is also a fact that the federal government transfers a lot of funding to the provinces for the benefit of all their citizens through different social programs, health care, education, and other areas as well. What level of working relationship do you have with the provincial government to perhaps hold their feet to the fire with respect to funding that they receive and should be spending on Aboriginal people?

Ms. Bear: We are beginning to work with the provincial government. I know that is what we need to do. Right now, they are not looking at us in many different ways; however, we are working towards that. We need a working relationship with our provincial government. We recently threw in a few proposals for education, for instance. We need literacy, one and two, within our friendship centres and they are looking at partnering with us in that regard, so that is a positive move.

There are some other cultural areas. Most of the friendship centres do receive cultural funding from SaskCulture. If we had more of a working relationship with the government so that we could administer those funds through our provincial association, it would be a much better way of working with that money.

We are beginning to work with our provincial government, and hopefully it will not be long before we start maybe receiving some core funds. That is one of the things that we had asked for. We need capital dollars, for instance, for our friendship centers that are old and falling apart, in need of repairs. That is a big issue, and core dollars is a request from every friendship centre in the province.

Friendship centres that do not own their property do not receive capital dollars. Most of the money they get is for funding programs, and none of that money can be used as capital money to buy buildings.

Mr. Mintram: Speaking specifically for the Saskatoon Metis Friendship Centre, part of our funding does come from the provincial Ministry of Social Services for our Family Workers Program. We also receive funding from, as Gwen mentioned, SaskCulture with their Metis Cultural Development Fund, Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Leadership Grant, Capacity Building Grant, various other forms of funding they have available to any organization that qualifies under their criteria, not just friendship centres.

We also put in applications to foundations within the City of Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Community Foundation. We put in grants with the City of Saskatoon with their collaborative funding, so we do receive funding from corporations, foundations, from governments at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. All of that may allude to the leverage that occurs with that $1 that you are speaking of because we are accessing various other pools of money available for programs such as ours but not be exclusively for Aboriginal peoples.

Senator Brazeau: I have a final quick comment on that. The federal government states that they have jurisdiction over those living on reserve while they say the provincial governments should have jurisdiction for those living off reserve. We have the provincial government saying, "Well, off — no, that is Aboriginal people, that is federal government." We should not accept either position. We should always hold feet of both levels of government to the fire.

Senator Dyck: Thank you for your presentations this morning. You have given us a very good picture of what friendship centres do across the province. In fact, it sounds like the programming could be described as more holistic as opposed to government programs which typically are departmentalized and not necessarily welcoming or effective.

I want to follow-up on the funding question. Ms. Brown, I believe, had a very good list of all the different programs. It is very clear that you get funding through such a variety of programs or the Ministry of Social Services. I will read out a couple here: Head-Start was the Public Health Agency. You would get money from FNIHB. You got money from Northern Lights School Division and so on.

When you do programming, how do you choose which programs to put forward? Is it dependant on the money, or is it dependant on the needs of the community?

Ms. Brown: I think it is both, but, personally, I believe that it is what is needed in the community. We try and base our programs around what is going to better benefit our community.

Ms. Bear: I really like the questions that have been asked. With that one, a lot of times the friendship centres have to compete for the funding that is available.

Sometimes there is no money out there for some of the needs of the community, and that is what I have experienced with all of the friendship centres. Some of the bigger centres are almost literally busting at the seams because they do not have enough programming for the needs.

I believe the answer can be yes or no. Yes, we do provide services for the needs of the community, but I do not believe there is enough money out there for the particular needs of each of the communities. There is a big lack.

Senator Dyck: Some of the presentations listed the number of recipients of a program, and it seemed to me that it was very low compared to the number of people that might be in the community. For example, I think you had 60 children in the Head-Start Program, but there must be hundreds within your community. Is there not enough money available to actually meet the needs of those children? I think you listed 24 children in the after-school program. Surely there must be hundreds out there. Is there a serious gap in money available to meet the needs of the people, especially children?

Ms. Brown: I do not know exactly how to answer because I did not generate this report. I am not familiar with all of the numbers. As an example, Northern Lights School Division wants to partner with us, put money into that program and work together on it, so there is definitely a need. Maybe the numbers are higher. I am not sure.

Senator Dyck: I wonder if the others could comment. You are servicing so many people. Is the funding that you are getting adequate to service the number of people who come through your doors?

Mr. Mintram: I do believe that the funding that we receive is not necessarily always adequate. It is a situation where we have that strong desire to serve the community to the best of our abilities, and we try and manage the dollars that we are given in such a way that we can reach and impact as many people or engage as many people as possible. If there were more resources available and the opportunity to expand those types of programs, then, yes, I would say that there is that greater demand that is not always being met.

For example on a recreational programming level, we have our Native graduate recognition night, which a couple years ago was at about 50 graduates in the city of Saskatoon. This last year, we had moved it up to 101 graduates who had attended. There is still demand for more, but the dollars to do that are much more significant as you grow those numbers. With what we receive, we try to do the best we can and reach as many people as we can, but we do not necessarily fulfill all the demand that is present.

Senator Dyck: Could I ask one more question?

The Chair: We are over the time, but we have made the decision, subject to what you say, to stay longer because we are learning a lot and want to continue.

Senator Dyck: I am going back to this question about funding of $8 on reserve and $1 off. I am not exactly sure how that number was derived.

Mr. Sayese, you mentioned that some of your clients have to go back to their band to pick up their cheques, so clearly they are getting funded from their reserve.

To your knowledge, does the band have to pay for off-reserve band members in need of health benefits or education benefits? In other words, even though the money may not come to them directly, they are still funded through their band. If you had a student who was in post-secondary, the funding would still come from the band, would it not?

Mr. Sayese: I am not knowledgeable on this part. I have seen it happen in our friendship centres. Some of our transients have gone back to their bands, picked up their welfare cheque, and have made it back to Prince Albert. That is what I was getting at.

Their off-reserve rights such as for health care, I believe that they are still receiving them while they are in Prince Albert. Education, I believe, is administered through the PAGC. They have structures in place to help some band members, while others do not know their rights, do not know that they can go to PAGC and request that their monies be available to them through that mechanism.

I am still a little bit unsure of the scope of the question.

Senator Dyck: I have a status card. I can use that status card no matter where I am. It used to make me PST exempt in Saskatchewan but not anymore. However, I can use it in Ontario. I can buy something at The Bay in Ontario and they will not charge me PST if I show that status card.

Mr. Mintram: Coming back to the education side, my wife is currently funded through her band in Nelson House in northern Manitoba. I do know that the funding varies depending on what they have available, how many students they choose to fund. Some bands have a policy that they will fund students who are on reserve prior to funding students who are off reserve, but the policy can change. Some of them are open to all of the members of the band. It depends on the governance of the individual nations. However, those funding dollars are available and can be relevant in the lives of students who are pursuing an education in urban centers.

Senator Dyck: We all know that the Aboriginal population in general is young and growing and that about half of the population is under the age of 25. When you look at the population that you are servicing in the friendship centres, you must have a very large youth contingent. I forget which one of you mentioned addictions, but you are seeing a growing trend in alcohol and drug addiction problems.

If you have a large youth population, how does that affect your programming? Are you able to access different pots of money? Do you see a need to increase programming for literacy or Head-Start or for addressing the addictions problems to prevent higher incarceration rates?

Ms. Bear: I can comment on the addiction problems. There is a high rate of addiction not only on reserve but off reserve. A lot of times people are leaving the reserve — and I can speak for my own reserve, for Muskoday — for work or to go to school, and a lot of people are leaving because they are in bad situations due to addictions, due to violence, due to all sorts of issues and problems within the home.

These people, the most hardened, those with a lot of problems, come to the friendship centres. That is their first stop. That is who we see a lot of, and a lot of children, a lot of young people who have a lot of problems.

Yes, we do need more funds for our programs for young people. Right now, almost every centre has the Cultural Connections for Aboriginal Youth Program. That is federal money, and we use that money for the youth.

That program has been frozen, unfrozen, restructured, and it caused a lot of uncertainty, especially in the summertime. That is when that program was needed the most, and a lot of friendship centres could not run that program because there was no money, because it was frozen, because it was being restructured. If that money from that particular program was ongoing to the friendship centres, and even core dollars, that would benefit so much.

Senator Dyck: You would recommend that it be available on a more continuous basis.

Ms. Bear: Absolutely. Every friendship centre does make use of that program, and I know so many other communities could make use of it if more funds were available, and I know we only administer half of it. The NAFC administers only half of it, and I know the federal government administers the other half. I do not know the criteria or what they do with that money, but I know the friendship centres are pillars when it comes to working with our youth, and very good at it.

Ms. Brown: I would just like to say something about the potential of our friendship centre. It does touch a lot of programs like addictions, gangs, the cultural connections, Aboriginal youth culture. It is very important to keep youth on track, to promote their identity and to guide them away from addictions and drugs.

Those are areas that we can touch. One thing that we do not really have funds for and which is a problem is housing. That is a big struggle that we face. People from reserves move to La Ronge for their education. We have NORTEP/ NORPAC which is a university institute. We have a lot of people and a lack of housing. That is an area that needs funding, and we have a lot of potential to gain partnerships and such within the community.

Senator Hubley: I would like to touch on the mobility issue. I think it is felt that First Nations people living off reserve have a tendency to move more often, even within the community, but also between communities within the centre itself. Do you have to have special programming to address issues like that? Does that mean that you often have people coming in and out of programs because of that mobility?

Mr. Sayese: I work with PA Community Housing in Prince Albert, and I find that Aboriginal people have a tendency to move, such as our forefathers did, when the time was right. Some of them are migrating. They come down from the Far North, get housing through us, stay the winter, but once spring comes along, they go back up North. It has to do with our culture. That is where we make our living. That is where our livelihood is.

As it pertains to programming, yes, we do make changes within our programming when we see the need. When the need changes, we examine that need and we adapt to it. We then adapt the funding dollars to fit that need, if that makes sense.

Senator Hubley: Yes, it does.

Would your friendship centres serve more women than men or more male youth than female youth? Are there real differences in the demographics of the clientele that you serve?

Mr. Sayese: Our centre, I would say, is probably 60 per cent women, 40 per cent male. Across Canada, the friendship centre movement has 90 per cent women working for it. I believe women form 80 per cent of those boards.

My friendship centre, like I said, is a little bit closer because we are in the urban setting and both sexes have needs and they come to the centre to fulfill those needs. I am not sure about the demographics in the northern centres, but maybe Ms. Bear can answer that.

Ms. Bear: We did not prepare those stats. We probably could, but most of our stats are on youth. I presented earlier approximately 5,000 youth through the CCAY program, and that is only approximate. Even through this centre, reading their annual report, they had 48,000 people walking through their door in one year. Nobody really takes down whether it is a man or woman walking through the door, but individual programs like the one for healthy babies we know about. However, I was not prepared to provide those stats in our province, so I apologize for that.

Senator Dyck: I have been given the honour of thanking you all for your presentations this morning. They were very interesting, very thorough. You did an excellent job of answering all our questions. Thank you, and we look forward to meeting with you at some other time in the future.

The Chair: Senators, our next witnesses are appearing as individuals.

I will announce your name and you can come up to the table. You have three minutes. Senators will not be asking questions, but we want to hear from you.

I will start with Jessica Gordon.

Jessica Gordon, as an individual: My name is Jessica Gordon. I come from Treaty 4 territory. I am here as an individual.

Indigenous rights go beyond any colonial laws and have been supported by the United Nations. From a grassroots perspective, we need to have nation to nation consultations with free prior and informed consent on legislation that affects the basic necessities of rights.

We suffer from homelessness, lack of water, overcrowding both on and off reserve. We have our kids apprehended, incarceration, murdered and missing women, youth unable to access proper education, and unemployment. We suffer from loss of language and sense of belonging.

Our access to rights is limited by not being informed and consulted on legislation and policies. My people are living in conditions that do not meet their basic human rights.

We have been left out of nation to nation talks regarding legislation such as Bill C-45 and Bill C-428. These bills will further violate and compromise our basic human rights and inherent treaty rights. I oppose both bills.

Contrary to democracy, we have time and time again not been given free prior and informed consent on many of the issues that directly affect us. These kinds of bills and legislation, along with policies, are contrary to treaty terms and promises nation to nation.

I am here now voicing my concerns from a grassroots perspective over concerns that our basic human rights as well as our inherent treaty rights are not only being compromised but violated.

I would also like to state that our First Nations on and off reserve are one. No imaginary borders or legislation will ever say otherwise. I believe that any consultations that MP Rob Clarke or members in favour of any of these bills alluded to are a violation of our rights.

Our lands and First Nations people are in jeopardy. We are already being denied access to basic human rights through government-imposed policies. Our culture and language is tied to the land. We are at a critical time in which they may be making decisions under undue hardship, and I believe that any agreements or legislation passed will be a direct violation of these rights.

The systematic discrimination First Nations face is based on a ripple effect stemming from the government; for example, hearings such as this of which we were not given sufficient notice for our First Nations people to fully participate in or prepare for.

The ongoing policies of racism and oppression are purposeful. They are used to justify an unequal relationship that facilitates government control of lands and resources. This is illegal. The treaties have not been honoured, and this means we have an illegitimate government. These policies and legislation breaks indigenous laws on how to live with the land which are older than colonial government. Thank you.

The Chair: We will now hear from Jaqueline Anaquod.

Jaqueline Anaquod, as an individual: My name is Jaqueline Anaquod. I am here as a student. I go to the First Nations University of Canada. I am also here on my own accord. I am a third year health studies student. I also work at the university. I am the medicine room assistant. We have a traditional medicine room that provides workshops to schools, groups, individuals. Our elders and our medicine men work there.

I want to talk about the province and federal transfer monies. The province is putting monies towards reducing the wait times. That seems to be their priority, I guess, for this year. When I thought about it and how it affects Aboriginal people, I concluded that it does not mean anything to us. We wait anyways due to racism, due to unjust services.

Our people do not want to access health services because they are treated differently. There is no culturally safe or sensitive care in any of our health care systems. I would not even call it a health care system. A system works together. I do not see our health care system working together at all.

For example, someone living with HIV who is also dealing with addiction and diabetes will have different doctors for each affliction. None of those doctors communicate with one another.

Access to holistic health care: A model like the All Nations Healing Hospital that we have in Fort Qu'Appelle is one of a kind. We have elders and medicine men that work there, so when you go out for services, when you get your prescription filled, you can either go to a pharmacy or you can go towards the holistic health part. I think we need to see more services like that one.

You can have a hospital on every corner, and that would not improve our health care as Aboriginal people. I think that we need to put more money towards preventative service. When I talk about preventative services, I talk about traditional, holistic preventative services, stuff like having more access to elders, more access to ceremonies.

A lot of our languages and our sacred teachings are taught in our lodges, but a lot of times we do not have access to lodges in the city because we do not have space.

That is another thing. In Regina, a big issue is that we do not have a space to go to, like we once did with the old friendship centre, to hold funerals, to have gatherings, to have round dances. We are scrambling around trying to find a place where we can gather. A lot of times transportation is a big issue. Again, to travel out to the reserve to bury one of our people is hard enough.

You asked the question about how we are maintaining our culture in an urban setting. For myself, I am a student at the First Nations University of Canada, and I guess it is tradition, innovation, and leadership. On a daily basis, I have access to elders, medicines, ceremonies — we have pipe ceremonies — but not everybody has that.

Like I said, I work in the medicine room, and there is such a high demand right now that I am overbooked. There are so many schools, groups, people that want to get in there and they want to learn this knowledge, and the thing is that the university does not have enough money to employ me for more than 30 hours a month, so I am turning people away left and right.

I have one last comment, I guess, for Senator Brazeau. You were recently in a celebrity boxing match, and I had wagered $20 on you. I thought about our people out here today in this urban setting and how much fighting they are doing, especially single parents. We are fighting to put food on our table. I fight to pay my rent every month. People are fighting for their children. Our men, our brothers are fighting for jobs and for equal opportunities. There is so much going on. I thought to myself, well, if we put one of our Aboriginal people in the ring with you who would I wager on? I would wager on the one that is fighting for his life.

That is all I have to say. Thank you.

The Chair: The next speaker is Kevin Daniels from the Aboriginal Affairs Coalition of Saskatchewan.

Kevin Daniels, as an individual: Thank you, honourable senators. It is a great honour to appear before you once again. I believe the last time I appeared before the senators was in the Red Chamber during the second apology of the residential schools a couple years ago, and I think we all know what happened there.

Once again, it is an honour to be here to express and give you a historical overview of the plight of off-reserve Indians in this country, especially here in the province of Saskatchewan.

I have been a non-status Indian back in the early days. The Indian Act is probably the biggest law that was imposed upon us. The Indian Act took away my parents' rights as Indian people. We were disenfranchised, and we were forced to live on a road allowance.

Back in the early 1960s, living on the road allowance was very, very difficult. We had nothing. To this very day, as I have observed Indians competing with all the different social organizations that exist, we still have nothing.

As we grew up, we were forced to leave the road allowance and move into the urban centers where we had to experience firsthand racism after racism. The Indian Act is racist, and being unable to live in the small towns or on the reservations, we had to face that racism.

We continue to face racism as we move into the urban centers. We saw the growth and development of many organizations such as the friendship centres. The friendship centres was probably one of the key groups that existed in the urban centers back in the early days, in the 1970s, but eventually grew to become corrupt. For a long period of time, we had no friendship centre, no services whatsoever.

I was very fortunate to be part of the Association of Metis and Non-Status Indians of Saskatchewan. We were led by one of Canada's Aboriginal leaders, Jim Sinclair, who was able to bring forward programs in housing, economic development, jobs. He brought a lot of jobs to our people, and we were able to live quite comfortably throughout the late 1970s and the early 1980s until governments began to change, demographics began to change, and the rights of non-status Indians, mostly 31 Indians, began to change.

We are still on the forefront of our struggle for freedom, and, most importantly, for the right to land and self- determination. We are still fighting for these rights after all of these years. We are landless in our own country. Without an economic land base, we are unable to build an economy for ourselves.

We are tired of putting our hands out, not only to governments but to our own leadership. I am a little saddened that the leadership is not here. Once I informed one of them that I was a former national leader of the Congress of Aboriginal People, he walked away from me, and that is the kind of treatment that we have to face after fighting all these years for Indian rights, treaty rights, Metis rights.

We stood on the front lines. We put up the blockades. We put up the fight to have our people entrenched in the Canadian Constitution, and this is how we are treated to this very day.

In Saskatchewan here, there is a protocol agreement that recognizes only two organizations, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and the Métis Nation, and I have the greatest respect for these two organizations, but unfortunately, they do not allow us participation in their process.

My band, Kawacatoose, from which my mother lost her status and later regained it, was able to get some services and is recognized as an elder on that reservation. The band will come to us during referendums, during voting time, whenever there is a major agreement such as treaty land entitlement. We are used as voters to get these agreements approved, and once these agreements are approved, we are no longer needed and we no longer benefit from our support of these claims such as treaty land entitlement. We have never seen one red penny as off-reserve Indians.

The Chair: Mr. Daniels, unfortunately we have run out of time.

Mr. Daniels: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Next is Mr. Kim Beaudin of the Aboriginal Affairs Coalition of Saskatchewan.

Kim Beaudin, as an individual: My name is Kim Beaudin. I am President of the Aboriginal Affairs Coalition of Saskatchewan. We are a provincial territory organization, a PTO, affiliated with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples in Ottawa.

It is rather unfortunate that I only have a three-minute span here, but I am going to touch on a couple of issues.

With respect to the human rights issues, I want to talk about Bill C-31 and a little bit about Bill C-3 and the impact that it had on Metis people. For example, I just received a status card as a result of Bill C-3, and I notice that it did impact a lot of Metis people across Canada.

The other issue is with respect to funding and the $8-to-$1 ratio. I want to ensure that the committee is aware that the PTOs of British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario presently receive zero funding from the federal government, from Aboriginal Affairs in Ottawa.

We are an advocacy organization. We are a political organization. There are a number of issues that we address with respect to the province here. For example, we as an organization talked about section 10 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We found that a lot of our people, whether they are First Nations, Metis or otherwise, do not understand the impact that human rights have on them individually. I find that they actually get railroaded in terms of the system itself. We saw that again when we were talking about other issues such as mental health, violence and gang issues.

A disturbing report came out about a month ago referring to the 90 per cent increase in the incarceration of Aboriginal women, and we only represent 4 per cent of the population. That is quite disturbing to me.

The other issue with respect to Metis and First Nations people is unemployment. Among First Nations in Saskatchewan, unemployment is 21.4 per cent and 10 per cent among Metis. These are disturbing numbers when we have an unemployment rate here in Saskatchewan that is sitting just under 5 per cent, and yet we have a government here that is running around to other countries trying to get people to come here to work. These are some of the things that are discussed.

What has happened in housing? Rent is out of the question. Do not even think about purchasing a house because that is a little much for people.

We had a recent election in the City of Saskatoon and we talked about Aboriginal issues, and not one Aboriginal issue was brought forward in the urban area, and I could probably say Regina is the same, or any other urban area. Those are big issues.

Kevin Daniels mentioned our bilateral agreement with the provincial government. One of the concerns that I have is that any funding, and it has all been chopped up, cut up and the pie is getting pretty slim, that is allocated goes to the province and into the general coffers. It does not reach the grassroots of our people in this province.

I have pretty well wrapped everything up in my three minutes, so thank you.

The Chair: There is one question that we would like the friendship centres to answer. We only need two, three minutes. In Winnipeg, this committee asked a panel of friendship centres how they anticipated responding to the changing Aboriginal demographics. The population is growing very quickly and is very young. Will the role of friendship centres, in your view, need to change to reflect the changes in the Aboriginal population and, if so, how?

Ms. Bear: That is a good question. Would you be able to repeat the question again? Sorry, I just want to gather my thoughts.

The Chair: If you need to reflect on it, you can send us something in writing. This committee asked a panel of friendship centres in Winnipeg how they anticipated responding to the changing Aboriginal demographics. The population is growing very quickly and is very young. Will the role of friendship centres, in your view, need to change to reflect the changes in the Aboriginal population and, if so, how?

Ms. Bear: This is a topic of discussion we have had with our other PTAs across the country. I believe for us as a PTA, as a provincial territorial association, we will be working with the other provincial territorial associations.

Because we have such a unique structure and we are all united across Canada, we want to discuss change, how we can accommodate our people. I mentioned earlier that the friendship centres in Saskatchewan are at their limit right now. We have engaged in certain discussions, such as, for example, in Quebec, the social economy.

A lot of the PTAs are bringing in their own money and becoming self-reliant, and that is one thing that we are going to be looking at.

We do want support from the other organizations within the province. Working together is another way of doing this. I really believe working together is the key. I believe our grand chief had mentioned that. In that way we can tap the expertise that Ontario has, the expertise that you will see in B.C. That is where we want to be in Saskatchewan here.

In the near future we will be doing a 20-year strategic plan with the Ontario executive director who has been there 35 years and has had success within the province with all of their programs. They do research. They manage to bring in over $5 million of their own revenue, so that is where we want to go to be able to accommodate what is happening in the province here. There are a lot of people coming in, and we cannot do everything. We can do little things, but not really well. We are doing the best that we possibly can with what we have, and I think we are doing a wonderful job at this time.

Mr. Mintram: As a friendship centre for Saskatoon, we are at a point where our facility is maxed out in terms of our services. We are not able to accommodate any additional staff. Some evenings we are running seven programs within a very confined space. It is something we need to be looking at, expanding the amount of space that have, increasing the capital assets to be able to provide greater programming and greater opportunities to meet the demands in the community.

Mr. Sayese: Our centres in Saskatchewan will have to step up, identifying the population, identifying their needs, working together in partnership with the FSIN, our local tribal councils and our Metis locals. We have to come together for the friendship centres to continue to play a key role in providing quality services and programs to the Aboriginal population coming off reserve.

With the seven jails in Prince Albert, we are in a unique situation. When inmates get transferred to Prince Albert their families come with them. When they get out of jail they tend to stay in Prince Albert, so we are finding a population boom that is not recorded within the census. However, through community partners we are identifying what the needs are, such as the high gang rate, such as the homelessness amongst teens in the city of Prince Albert, the alcoholism, the drug use. We are actively pursuing other organizations to partner up in order to battle these social issues. Friendship centres will have to play a key and pivotal part.

The Chair: Mr. Rose?

Mr. Rose: I have nothing to say.

The Chair: Thank you for accommodating us.

Senator Brazeau: On behalf of the entire committee, we would like to thank the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre of Saskatoon for having us. It has been a pleasure. We have had some wonderful discussions. We could have gone on all day or for a couple of days, but we have to work with what we have, unfortunately.

Having said that, nothing precludes any individual or organization from forwarding their thoughts or recommendations on how we can move forward and in turn make recommendations to the government in our final report. That is the beauty of this committee. It is open. Everybody can have their voice heard if they choose to do so.

This is just the beginning of a dialogue. It is not the be all and end all, but it is very exciting to me as a First Nations person and to my colleagues around this table because this has not been done very often in the history of this country. It is a beginning, and hopefully it will not be the end.

Again, meegwetch to all of you for having us.

(The committee adjourned.)