The following is an unofficial and unedited transcript of a meeting of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. This document is being sent for information purposes only and may not be quoted, as it may contain transcription errors. The edited, translated transcript will be available on the Committee’s website (http://www2.parl.gc.ca/CommitteeBusiness/CommitteeHome.aspx?Cmte=AANO&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3) within the next two weeks.
The Chair: Now we’ll go to Ms. Crowder, five minutes.
Ms. Jean Crowder: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Due to the miracles of modern technology some of us have a copy of the memorandum of understanding which is signed by the province and which does commit to $5-plus million. It does outline the reorganization and administration of the First Nations University during the interim period, the administration, the financial accounting–
Mr. John Duncan: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: Point of order, go ahead, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. John Duncan: We have an issue on this side. We don’t have the document and we’ve got somebody quoting from it. If you’re going to quote from it, we want a copy.
The Chair: He is in fact correct. The member will know that when we have documents available for committee members, particularly if you’re going to refer to them, they must be circulated to committee members in both official languages. That is the rule that we would like to abide by.
I would ask, Ms. Crowder, that you may have been given a copy of this privately but you’ll have to keep that separate from your arguments or questions that you put this afternoon.
Ms. Jean Crowder: I guess the only comment I was trying to make was that members of this committee have indicated they wanted some assurance there was a signed document. I have a copy and can say I have a copy of the signed document then. I won’t refer to the contents of the document.
The Chair: Please, yes, unless we have it in both official languages.
In fairness, it should be available to all members of the committee if it’s going to be part of our discussions.
Ms. Jean Crowder: I understand it has been sent to the clerk and perhaps in the interim between the time we recess and we recommence, perhaps it can be made available to all committee members. I don’t know of the ability of having it translated in a short notice. I’m sure it won’t be–
The Chair: We’ll investigate that option.
Ms. Jean Crowder: I want to come back to the committee members just in terms of a letter that came out from Arok Wolvengrey and I wanted to touch on one comment in that letter. It says:
At this time of supposed reconciliation for the disastrous effects of the residential school system, language is the greatest issue remaining to be addressed by the governments of this land.
I think that speaks to the importance of the first nations university and I’m going to throw it open for comment at this point. Also, if you wanted to have any further comment on the agreement that’s been signed.
Chief Guy Lonechild: I’ll ask for some support very quickly that we believe the Speech from the Throne talked about strengthening student support and that strengthening student support also means that institutions that serve post-secondary students in this country such as the First Nations University are an integral part of that. That the Indian students support programming. That the post-secondary students support programming as a vital and important part of that as well.
In this way forward, I think, as a whole, we can say that the economic spin-offs from graduates as opposed to people who are on the welfare line speak loud and clear that we have a real concerted effort as Canadians to ensure that we move forward in strengthening opportunities as opposed to closing doors.
The Chair: Ms. Myo.
Ms. Dorothy Myo: Thank you.
The very reason why the First Nations University of Canada which, I guess, was firstly as the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College was opened or established in the first place was to look after languages so that we could preserve and protect them and pass on the indigenous knowledge as I said earlier. That was the vision of our elders as to why this university was so important to our young people and for future generations.
We are committed to having a first nations university that’s transparent and accountable to all first nations and the other, I guess, our neighbours, our non-first nations and first nations alike. So this is the kind of benchmarks we’re setting for ourselves as a working group to have that kind of accountability, not just financial accountability, management accountability, governance accountability, but also our historical, our language, our cultural accountabilities that I think are a really important part of this institution.
The Chair: Point of order, go ahead, Mr. Duncan.
Mr. John Duncan: Mr. Chair, we are sitting here and I’m sorry, but we are talking about a document that is brand new. We don’t know what the federal government approach is on this document. We don’t have it available in French.
I’m sorry, but to perpetuate this meeting doesn’t work for us. I don’t think it’s appropriate and I think it’s out of bounds. So my suggestion is that in order to properly deal with something that has occurred here, the appropriate measure for this committee is to adjourn and reconvene when we’ve all had a chance to digest exactly what has transpired here. To continue these proceedings is simply unworkable and inappropriate.
The Chair: Okay, on the point of order.
In deference to my earlier comment, I would just say that there’s no procedural reason why a document that is circulated privately can’t be commented on. It would be no different than someone providing a newspaper article or something one would want to quote from and I’ll get to your final question in a moment.
That said, it’s recognized that this particular document that’s been referred to brings a substantial element to our discussions this afternoon. I would think it only proper that whoever is the source of that document might consider providing all members with the pertinent document. However, it can’t be ordered as such.
To Mr. Duncan, are you moving then for adjournment, Mr. Duncan?
Mr. John Duncan: Yes, I am. I’m move to adjourn, because this is a seminal document, central to the discussion that’s going on here, and it’s inappropriate to the extreme.
The Chair: We have a motion to adjourn.
As you would know, Mr. Duncan, just to clarify, we do have a second part to this meeting this evening. Is it your intention that we adjourn this meeting completely? We have witnesses scheduled for this evening.
Mr. John Duncan: We have time between adjournment now and when we would reconvene, in any case, after the votes, so we have an opportunity to revisit.
The Chair: So the motion would be to suspend the meeting until after votes. That is the motion. The motion is not debatable, members.
Chief Guy Lonechild: Just to add that this has been sent to the clerk, for the record.
The Chair: I don’t know that’s been verified. As you know, the clerk is with us here this afternoon. We can’t verify that in fact it has been received, or that we can have it available in both official languages.
Nonetheless, the motion has been put on the floor. We’re past the point of order. I ruled on the point of order. We now have a motion to suspend. It’s not debatable.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Duncan, for your intervention.
We will continue on, but I will say again for whomever is the source of this document, this is extremely pertinent to our conversations here this afternoon, and I would urge you to consider sharing it with all members of the committee.
Monsieur Lemay, vous avez un point à soulever.
M. Marc Lemay: Je ferai un rappel au Règlement, monsieur le président. Je crois qu’on peut continuer à entendre nos invités. Je sais que M. Goodale avait des questions, alors on pourrait entendre ses questions et ensuite ajourner la séance pour aller voter dans 10 minutes.
Entre temps, on prend le document et on le sert. On n’a pas droit de s’en servir, puisqu’il n’est pas dans les deux langues officielles. C’est évident qu’on ne peut pas discuter d’un document qui n’a pas été traduit et qui n’a pas été déposé officiellement dans les deux langues officielles. Mais on pourrait du moins permettre à ceux qui avaient des questions de continuer à les poser pour qu’on puisse terminer.
The Chair: Thank you for your intervention. However, I do have a speakers’ list at the moment, and the meeting will continue.
Actually, Ms. Crowder, you had about a minute and 20 seconds left if you would like to finish your five minutes.
Ms. Jean Crowder: I know there were other people who wanted to comment.
Diane, I know that—
Mrs. Diane J. Adams: I would just like to sort of build on the idea of the languages and how important they are. Languages are just a small piece of the puzzle of all the important cultural preservation that the First Nations University has been doing for 34 years, and really tell you that students at this university are being told time and time again by the Government of Canada that they are being protected, but when first nations students and non-first nations students, who have chosen to study at the First Nations University, are being told that the university that has been working so very hard to preserve their culture, their languages, and all of those things that we’re lost through residential schools, is going to close and they will be forced to go and integrate into mainstream institution that has not been doing that important cultural preservation work, on the floor and to the students feels like a policy of assimilation.
I will say very strongly that is the reality of how students are interpreting this, and how they feel it is a real attack on their ability and their right to learn in an environment that honours their traditions and their culture, and is no different than French Canadians deciding to study at a French university, or Christian people deciding to study at a Christian university.
Le président: D’accord. Merci, madame Crowder.
That’s the end of our time.
Merci, Ms. Adams.
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