Bill C-45 and Aboriginal Legislation
January 21, 2013. Our Government continues to take concrete steps to create the conditions necessary for First Nation communities to participate more fully in Canada’s economy.
First Nations’ land represents a tremendous asset that can create economic opportunities for First Nation people and communities.
The Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development announced amendments to be made to the land designation provisions of the Indian Act, as part of the Jobs and Growth Act 2012.
The proposed amendments to the land designation provisions of the Indian Act respond directly to First Nations who have expressed frustration with the overly complex and lengthy processes currently involved in designating reserve land.
The proposed amendments will also speed up the process to designate reserve lands and, as a result, provide greater flexibility for First Nations to act on time-sensitive economic development opportunities.
Amending the land designation provisions of the Indian Act is practical and incremental change that will increase economic development opportunities on reserve land while reducing red tape and unnecessary costs to Canada and First Nations.
Specifically, the proposed amendments would also:
- Reduce the voting threshold for a First Nation community to approve a land designation to a majority of votes cast (simple majority) rather than a majority of votes cast in a ballot involving a majority of eligible electors (majority-of-a-majority); and
- Authorize the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, rather than the Governor in Council, to approve the land designation upon receipt of a band council resolution.
These changes are expected to reduce the time it takes to administer the land designation process by several months and allow First Nations to respond more quickly to business opportunities.
Rationale for eliminating a second vote
Imposing a majority-of-a-majority voting threshold to approve a land designation on a first vote is often an impossibly high threshold for the First Nation to meet. Statistics sow that voter turnout in approximately 80% of communities is normally significantly below 50% for the first vote. If the first vote is unsuccessful, the Indian Act requires a second vote to be held.
The legislative amendments propose reducing the voting threshold of the first vote to a simple majority, thereby making the process for the First Nations to approve a designation more efficient. Removing the second vote will increase the speed of the land designation process and enable First Nations to better capitalize on economic development opportunities.
A simple majority vote is currently sufficient to elect the Chief of Council of a First Nation, to accept multi-million dollar out of court settlements, and to accept a specific claim between 3-7 million. In comparison a majority of a majority vote is unjustifiably high in light of the impediments it poses to economic development
Rationale for removing the Governor in Council requirement
Following the First Nations community’s vote, it normally takes several months to obtain authorization of the Governor in Council for a land designation, making the internal-to-government step the lengthiest process. The proposed amendment would replace Governor in Council authority with Ministerial authority, helping First Nations respond quicker to business opportunities.
Changes that proposed amendments would make to current land designation
Currently, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs works with the First Nations to identify conditions of the land use, lease terms and licensing requirements. The land designation is voted on by the members of the First Nations according to the Indian Referendum Regulations. The department provides all eligible electors, with supporting documentation necessary to make an informed decision. The designation is then submitted for Governor in Council approval, upon approval, the land designation is recorded in the Indian Lands Registry.
The amendments would not change the level of service provided to First Nations, it would only change two designation processes:
- Reducing the voting threshold to one vote and;
- Authorizing the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, rather than the Governor in Council, to approve the land designation upon receipt of a band council.
The proposed amendments to lower the voting threshold would only apply to land designation provisions, not to the land surrender provisions of the Indian Act. A majority-of-a-majority is considered appropriate for land surrender given the implications of surrendering ownership and jurisdiction over reserve land.
How proposed amendments affect land management
Since First Nations Land Management do not operate under the land-related provisions of the Indian Act, the proposed amendments to land designation do not apply to them.
The proposed amendments will also not affect individual ownership of reserve land, since a certificate of possession verifies the lawful possession of reserve land by a member of the band.
These amendments will affect First Nations who designate lands under the Indian Act. They will not affect self-governing First Nations or First Nations under the First Nations Land Management Act. As of September 2012 Canada completed 18 self-government agreements involving 32 communities.
*Over the past 5 years, around 80% of First Nation communities held a second vote. On average, the second vote is held four to six months after the first vote. We want to try to reduce this process to help First Nations quicken their economic development.
Other changes through Bill C-45
Our Government is delivering on commitment to reduce red tape, promote economic growth and create jobs. Provincial and municipal leaders have said for years that the Navigable Waters Protection Act-a law designed in 1882 to ensure that bridges would not block shipping, has become overly bureaucratic.
Currently, every project on a waterway in Canada requires federal approval; over 90% of applications didn’t interfere with navigation. This holds up simple projects like municipal infrastructure and small recreational docks.
- We are fixing this outdated law to reflect its historic intent of protecting navigation. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities also felt this would remove unnecessary delays that result in high cost for taxpayers.
- Nothing in the Act in any way compromises federal, provincial or territorial environmental laws.
- The Navigation Act is about navigation, and stringent federal legislation remains in force to protect the environment through:
- The Canadian Environmental Protection Act
- The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act
- The Fisheries Act
- The Migratory Birds Convention Act
- The Species at Risk Act
- Transportation experts will continue to make navigation decisions and environmental experts will continue to make environmental decisions.
Rick Norlock MP
Northumberland Quinte West
Government of Canada Progress Report in Advancing our Relationship with First Nations Peoples and Communities (2006-2012)
January 21, 2013. Every year the government conducts over 5,000 consultations with First Nations.
Since 2010 the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has personally visited 50 First Nations communities and had hundreds of productive meeting with chiefs, councillors and Aboriginal community members across Canada.
The Government of Canada provides over $10 billion each year for programs and services directed to Aboriginal people, delivered through 34 federal departments and agencies.
Since 2006 the Government has:
- Built over 30 new schools
- Renovated over 200 schools
- Built over 10,000 homes and renovated thousands more
- Invested in safe drinking water infrastructure.
- Increased funding for child and family services by 25%.
- Delivered on our promise to improve accountability and transparency for First Nations Government.
- Settled over 80 outstanding land claims.
- Invested in over 700 projects that are linking Aboriginals across Canada with job training, counselling services and mentorship programs.
What are we Doing and Continuing to Work On Education
Our Government recognizes quality education as being the foundation and cornerstone of success, we are committed to improving quality and effectiveness of the education provided for First Nations students.
- We invest around $1.7 billion/year in education for 117,500 students who live on reserve.
- Since 2006 our Government has invested over $10 billion in First Nations education, this includes more than $1.6 billion to build 33 new schools and renovate 230 schools.
- In 2008, the government began laying the foundation for structural reform in education, launching two new programs the First Nation Student Success Program and the Education Partnership Program-building blocks that are helping to put in place key school-based initiatives common for all high performing schools.
First Nation Student Success Program:
Supports educators’ on-reserve in their efforts to improve student results. Over 90% of students in band-operated schools across Canada are benefitting from this program.
The Education Partnerships Program: brings together partners from the Government of Canada, First Nation regional organizations and Provincial Ministries of Education to promote collaborative efforts towards improving the success of First Nations elementary and secondary students who attend First Nation and provincial schools.
The Government has also provided 5 years of enhanced funding for both the Aboriginal Head Start on Reserve Program and the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban Northern Communities Program-both provide opportunities to develop self-confidence, and foster a greater desire for learning.
In 2009-10, 76% of First Nation band operated schools participated in the First Nation Student Success Program (18 projects), In 2010-11, 16 more proposals received funding under the First Nation Student Success Program, bringing the number of band-operated schools participating in the program to 90%.
- In 2009-10, tripartite agreements (covering 46% of eligible First Nations communities) were supported by the Education Partnerships Program.
- In 2011-12, 7 tripartite education agreements (covering 58% of eligible First Nation communities) were in place and supported by the Education Partnerships Program.
- We recently announced 275 Million in additional funding to build and renovate more schools on reserve and to support early literacy programming, student support services and partnerships with the provincial school systems.
- We are also working with First Nations to have a First Nations Education Act by 2014 to ensure that students on reserve get the same quality of education as students off reserves.
- Each year, the government also provides around $300 million in funding to help First Nation and Inuit students cover tuition and relate expenses associated with attending college, university and preparatory programs.
- Since 2006 we have invested over 1 billion to build and renovate houses on reserve;
- This includes more than 10,000 homes built for First Nation families.
- In addition we fund the renovation of over 3,000 housing units annually on reserve.
- Through Canada’s Economic Action Plan, AANDC has also built or renovated over 4,400 social housing units, and brought water, sewage or hydro service to over 1,200 lots.
Safe Drinking Water
- Between 2006-07 and 2013-14 our Government will have invested almost $3 billion in safe water and wastewater system on reserve;
- In 2011-12 alone we have funded 402 water projects across the country, including important repairs and new construction; another 286 are planned for 2012-2013.
- Our investments have reduced the number of high risk water systems on reserve by over 8%.
- To sustain the progress we’re making we committed an additional 331 million in Economic Action Plan 2012 to build and renovate water and wastewater systems on reserve.
- We invest $10 million/year to support the training and certification of FN water system operators and managers.
- We introduced the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act to develop federal regulations to ensure that people living on reserve have the same access to safe, clean and reliable drinking water as all Canadians.
- On July 14, 2011 Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada released results of the National Assessment of Water and Wastewater systems in First Nation Communities. This study is the most rigorous, comprehensive, and independent evaluation of water and wastewater systems ever undertaken by a federal government. The results of the assessment will support on-going work to ensure that First Nation communities have access to safe, clean drinking water.
- The Budget of 2011 provided $22 million over two years to help First Nations upgrade or replace their fuel tank infrastructure in an effort to ensure that the fuel tanks power essential community services while being safe and meeting environmental safety standards.
- In a continued effort to protect public health, all First Nations community sites now have access to a trained Community-Based Water Monitor or an Environmental Health Officer to sample and test the quality of drinking water. This has resulted in water advisories being resolved quicker than ever before.
Child, Family and Safety Services
- Our government currently spends almost $600 million annually on child and family services, representing an increase of over 25% since 2006.
- This includes funding for a new prevention model that has been adopted by six provinces, reaching 68% of First Nation families living on reserve.
- We have also committed $11.9 million for the Family Violence Prevention Program, bringing the total budget for the program to $30.4 million for an additional year.
- This supports a network of more than 40 women’s shelters, the National Aboriginal Circle Against Family Violence and proposal-based prevention projects.
- We have also invested $10 million in actions to address the grave problem of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, including new tools for law enforcement and improvements to the justice system so that it can better respond to cases. A large portion of these funds are also being provided directly to Aboriginal communities and organizations to better support victims, services, awareness programs and community safety.
Improving Accountability and Transparency of First Nations Governments
The Government of Canada is committed to empowering Aboriginal people and communities, to building a new relationship based on reconciliation and healing for past injustices and to strengthen Aboriginal governance and self-government. Canada has recognized that the right to self-government is an Aboriginal right within the meaning of section 35 of the Constitutional Act, 1982.
- Currently there are 18 self-government agreements that include 32 Aboriginal communities and one educational sectoral involving 11 First Nations.
- 16 of these self-government agreements are integrated within a land claims agreement involving a total of 30 communities.
- There are also 91 self-government negotiation tables, in which 67 are involved in comprehensive land claims and 24 are in stand-alone negotiations.
- We’ve introduced new standardized financial reporting requirements for First Nations that will create greater reporting consistency across Canada, reduce red tape and lead to greater accountability.
- We’ve introduced the First Nations Financial Transparency Act which will hold First Nation leaders to the same standard of accountability as other levels of government in Canada; and
- We’ve introduced the First Nations Election Act to support more stable First Nation election systems and governments.
- The Government of Canada also remains committed to the implementation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and working with the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission to ensure it fulfills its important mandate.
- Truth and Reconciliation Commission is holding a series of National Events to bring together former students and their families, government, leaders of national and regional organizations, church groups and members of the general public to provide students and their families the opportunity to give their testimonies to the Commission. These events help raise awareness about the history and experiences of the Residential Schools system.
- June 2010, the Government of Canada announced its intention to repeal provisions of the Indian Act that provides authority to establish Indian Residential Schools and remove children from their homes and communities.
- Budget 2010 committed an additional $199 million over two years to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to ensure that necessary mental health and emotional support services are continually provided to former students and their families, and that payments to former students are made effectively. These funds included 65.9 million over two years for Health Canada’s Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program.
Investing in Economic Development Measures
- In June 2009, the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development, where the Federal government focussed on programs of legislation and partnership to increase participation of First Nations, Inuit and Metis people in the Canadian economy. The Framework supported an annual investment of $50 million to enable First Nations access to and control of reserve lands to improve access to capital of Aboriginal entrepreneurs and businesses.
- We’re streamlining the Land Designation Process, allowing First Nations to quickly respond to business opportunities on reserve;
- We’ve expanded the First Nations Land Management Regime, allowing more First Nations to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and establish their own regimes for governing land, resources and environment; and
- We invest more than $400 million annually in Aboriginal skills development and training.
- In 2010 our Government approved 39 additions to reserve, totalling in 140,000 acres of land,
- In 2009 we amended the Indian Oil and Gas Act to eliminate the gap between on-reserve and off-reserve oil and gas activities, creating more transparent and efficient regime on reserve and encouraging greater industry investment and economic development.
- In 2010, amendments were made to the First Nations Commercial Industrial Development Act, allowing First Nations to ask that on-reserve commercial real estate project benefits form a property rights regime, including a land title system and title assurance fund.
- In October 2010 our Government invested more than $1 million towards pilot projects that provide Aboriginal women entrepreneurs with financial literacy training along with access to business development tools and capital to help them establish and run a business.
- In April 2010 the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy was launched, supporting over 80 Aboriginal programs and resulting in 14,000-16,000 jobs per year.
Improving Economic Opportunities for Urban Aboriginals
- Since 2007 we have invested over $49 million, through the Urban Aboriginal Strategy, in 760 community projects that link Aboriginals across Canada to job training, that provide counseling services for Aboriginal women, that provide mentorship programs, in addition to other initiatives to help Aboriginals become more independent.
- The strategy is operational in 13 designated cities-Vancouver, Prince George, Lethbridge, Calgary, Edmonton, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina, Thompson, Winnipeg, Toronto, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.
- We’re investing $27 million over two years to renew the Urban Aboriginal Strategy.
- And we’ve committed an additional $36.8 million to support urban Aboriginal youth with job training, skills, and entrepreneurship initiatives through the Aboriginal Friendship Centre Program and other programs.
Promoting Northern Development
- We continue to make significant investments in Northern research, science and infrastructure, such as the Canadian High Arctic Research Centre (CHARs).
- We introduced the Northern Jobs and Growth Act, fulfilling our commitment to improve the Northern regulatory regime, which will contribute to the sustainable development of the North’s natural resources, leading to jobs and economic growth;
- We’re investing in a food subsidy program that will help Northerners access nutritious, healthy food.
- The Nutrition North Canada program has helped to reduce the average cost of a food basket for a family of four by 8%.
- The program also supports over 300 community-based nutrition education programs.
Fulfilling our obligations under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement.
- On September 19, 2007, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) was agreed to by multiple parties and implemented;
- In June 2008, the Prime Minister made a historic apology on Residential Schools;
- Our government has provided the TRC with $60 million in funding for operations during its five year mandate, which ends on July 1, 2014 as agreed to by all parties to the Agreement.
Regarding legal proceeding around disclosure of documents to the TRC:
- Our Government remains committed to bringing closure to the legacy of residential schools and we will continue to honour the Indian Residential Schools Settlement;
- As of November 30, 2012, AANDC has in fact disclosed almost one-million documents to the TRC. In addition, we are working with 23 other government departments and with the TRC to ensure all relevant Indian Residential School related documents are made available to the TRC;
- At issue are documents that would betray solicitor-client privilege. This is clearly outside of the TRC’s mandate under the court-ordered Indian Residential Schools Settlement;
- For instance, the TRC is asking for the testimony of residential school survivors about their experience. In many cases, this is information that was shared by residential school survivors, in confidence, for the purpose of their CEP/IAP applications and was never intended to be shared publicly or with a third party.
- Canada will continue to fulfill its obligations under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement, and aims to disclose all of its remaining documents relevant to the TRC’s mandate by June 30, 2013.
In October 2011, the Government of Canada, British Columbia First Nations and the Government of British Columbia signed the Tripartite Framework Agreement on First Nation Health Governance. This legal agreement set out the commitment in establishing a First Nations Health Authority for federal funding and responsibilities for First Nations health program to be transferred to new Authority. The First Nations Health Authority will work with regional health authorities in the province to ensure a greater role for First Nations in their health services.
- Our Economic Action Plan provided $135 million over two years for the construction and renovation for health facilities infrastructure on reserve, including health centres and nursing stations.
- Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the Government of Canada will invest $730 million in a range of Aboriginal Health Programs, including Maternal Child Health Program, the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative and the Health Services Integration Fund.
Rick Norlock MP
Northumberland Quinte West