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QUESTION PERIOD — Ministry of Indigenous Services—Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario

Alternative Dispute Resolution

November 24, 2022

Thank you, minister, for being here and thank you for the work you have done since being in government, and also in the community before being in the government.

You spoke earlier about the importance of prevention. As you will well know, successive governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees fighting Indigenous people and communities in court.

Minister, could you please share with us the kinds of processes that are considered, and, in fact, how social, human, environmental and fiscal costs are assessed in terms of deciding whether to fight international charter and human rights decisions in courts versus the manner in which resources might instead be used to provide preventative services and avoid the sorts of litigation and court decisions that you have already mentioned?

If you are not able to share that, would you commit to requesting, say, the Parliamentary Budget Officer or another arm’s-length body to do that kind of assessment?

Hon. Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario [ + ]

Thank you. I am afraid I wouldn’t be able to answer that question because I am often not in those conversations and wouldn’t have a direct line of sight in terms of how some of those decisions have been made.

I’ll start with this: Our government has been clear that we would prefer not to litigate and that negotiated solutions are the best way to pursue reconciliation, quite frankly. This is an agenda of my colleague Minister Miller in his role within Crown‑Indigenous Relations to settle, for example, land claims and treaty claims in a way that is built on the principles of negotiation rather than litigation. He has had some tremendous success over the last year, as did his predecessor. I am grateful for a Prime Minister who understands that this is the approach we should be taking.

Having said that, there are times when the legal advice to the Government of Canada is that there are questions that need to be answered from a legal perspective. In those cases, the government chooses a litigious path.

From my perspective in the work I am doing now — for example, with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, or CHRT — the door always has to be open to negotiated solutions, even if there are questions on particular rulings. That will be my direction as minister, and I will certainly work closely with my colleagues in that respect.

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