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QUESTION PERIOD — Ministry of Indigenous Services

Income Instability

April 30, 2019

Thank you, minister, for being here again. Bill C-92 was developed following legally binding decisions by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordering the federal government to cease its discriminatory practices against Indigenous children and to provide a guarantee of funding that complies with substantive equality and a needs-based approach.

As you mentioned earlier, while it seeks to affirm the rights of First Nations to assume jurisdiction, Bill C-92 provides no guaranteed funding and only a non-binding call for funding in the preamble. Statistics show 30.4 per cent of Indigenous children live in poverty — twice as many as non-Indigenous children. Economist Dr. Evelyn Forget notes that income instability can have negative effects on a person’s mental and physical health and on educational attainment and life opportunities and that Indigenous peoples stand to gain from a guaranteed livable income.

Minister, will you agree to amend the text of this bill to provide a guarantee of funding that complies with the repeated orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the CHRT? Will you commit to exploring the option of a guaranteed livable income to help address the underlying factors of the increasing numbers of apprehensions of Indigenous children?

Hon. Seamus O’Regan, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services [ - ]

I thank the honourable senator. First of all, of course, we abide by all of the CHRT orders as they’re given. We paid actuals, which is a very important point to make.

In regard to Bill C-92, I would say we have over the course of the past three and a half years more than doubled the amount of money we give to child and family services, upwards of $1.2 billion as it is right now. In the interim time I’ve challenged provinces to begin negotiations with Indigenous groups who are interested in exercising their present authorities and responsibilities for child and family services in keeping with those principles as I outlined them before, which is that the child comes first and foremost, that culture, tradition and language are essential to the well-being of that child, and that their dignity is upheld both for the child and family when dealing with the system.

We have shown, as good partners, that not only will we provide stable and predictable funding, but in almost all cases increased funding. Having said that, we are certainly open to further suggestions.

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