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Estimates - First Nations (30 April 2007)

From Intergovernmental Affairs and Infrastructure Committee Hansard - 30 April 2007

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First Nations and Métis Relations

Mr. Hart: — Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just on another topic, what is the status of highways and municipal grid roads that pass through First Nations communities? Who actually owns the right-of-way, and what are the responsibilities of the owners? I know I’ve received a number of inquiries and some complaints from First Nations leaders dealing with those issues, and I wonder if you could clarify that whole issue for me, please.

Hon. Mr. Sonntag: — This is essentially a question for the Department of Highways. But having held that portfolio several times and having been fairly intimately involved, I’ll do my best to answer the question.

It will vary from community to community. In some places, the main road through the First Nation is entirely owned by that First Nation and no rights-of-way have been yielded. In some communities, it is a provincial road that goes right through where rights-of-way have been provided to the province. And in some communities, it in fact is my understanding that the RM has actually even received some rights-of-way to go right through the different First Nations. So I think those are the three different scenarios.

Mr. Hart: — So what you’re describing, Minister, is sort of a patchwork of arrangements throughout the province. Is there any movement or things happening to sort of standardize this? Or is there any requests on behalf of First Nations? Or is this issue just sort of a patchwork arrangement which will continue in the future, and it doesn’t appear to be a large issue with many First Nations communities? Is there anything happening to sort of standardize these arrangements at all?

Hon. Mr. Sonntag: — I think the standard is that the individual First Nation has the right to make that decision for their own community. And I don’t think it’s a big impediment once we’ve decided to provide better access to the communities. Obviously there’s more complexity when you’re dealing with different levels of government. But I don’t believe it can be more complicated — I don’t say this in the wrong way — it can’t be more complicated than it currently is. And we’re sorting those different projects through right now, I think, without too much difficulty.

Mr. Hart: — I guess another issue that was been raised with me very recently is jurisdiction on First Nations communities and particularly provincial jurisdiction with regards to Child and Family Services and the right of provincial bureaucrats to perform their duties with regards to that whole area.

What is the legal status of provincial employees making inspections of facilities and dealing with those types of issues on First Nations communities? As I said, this is an issue that has been raised with me in the recent past, and I really didn’t have an answer. All I could say is I’m not a constitutional expert. And I wonder if you could clarify that whole area.

Hon. Mr. Sonntag: — And you think I am apparently.

Mr. Gladue: — I’ll try and maybe elaborate a little more there, member, around child welfare since I’ve had fairly extensive experience in Meadow Lake. But I think most of the, you know, most of the work that’s been done mostly in child welfare and the agencies that have been developed across this province try and work closely with the province in doing certain things in First Nations communities. And most of the ICFS [Indian Child and Family Services] agencies have developed certain systems internally to try and manoeuvre that in there. And basically when their services for the province are required, a call is put forward to try and do that, and hopefully we have a protocol arrangement with that.

In terms of provincial licensing and inspections, obviously the legislation dictates that piece because, in a lot of areas, there are gaps around, you know, how you acquire a licence, how you do inspections, and those type of things. And right at this point in time, a lot of the inspections on reserve, depending what it is, certain arrangements are put in place to monitor and inspect their facilities. There’s a certain standard that’s followed under the federal. When it comes to water, for example, that is mandatory that you have to have certain amount of water testing that’s required. And those water testing are sent into provincial labs that are monitored jointly through a series of arrangements with particular First Nations. So there’s just one example.

In child welfare, it’s basically the agency that looks after, that’s set in that particular area. And if there is any need for provincial interaction, there is an arrangement or a protocol that is followed by the agencies, along with the province.

Mr. Hart: — Just for clarification, you said there is a protocol between the province and all First Nations, or is it on a First-Nation-by-First-Nation basis or agency-by-agency basis?

Mr. Gladue: — Agency by agency.

Mr. Hart: — Agency by agency. Good. Thank you.

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