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Nineteenth Report: The subject matter of those elements contained in Divisions 25 and 26 of Part 4 of Bill C-69, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 16, 2024

by ahnationtalk on June 10, 202417 Views

June 10, 2024

Your committee, which was authorized to examine the subject matter of those elements contained in Divisions 25 and 26 of Part 4 of Bill C-69, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 16, 2024, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Thursday, May 9, 2024, examined the said subject-matter and now reports as follows:

Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program

Reducing the cost of Indigenous borrowing is a long-awaited policy priority. Your committee observes that the establishment of an Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program should be applauded. The program has the potential to ensure that Indigenous governments can generate own-source revenue by investing in natural resource projects and participate equally in the wider Canadian economy. Notwithstanding this potential, Shaun Fantauzzo, Vice President of Policy at the First Nations Major Projects Coalition, remarked that a truly sector agnostic approach would entail expanding program eligibility to all sectors, including telecommunications, commercial real estate, and public infrastructure.

Indigenous leaders have advocated for loan guarantee programs so that borrowers can benefit from the Government of Canada’s credit and secure lower interest rates on their loans. Barriers to affordable capital include section 89 of the Indian Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. I-5 which prohibits First Nations from leveraging their assets and pledging them as security to access capital at competitive rates. Unsecured loans often mean exceptionally high interest rates. As Chief Sharleen Gale, Chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition noted, many Indigenous Nations have missed out on opportunities to invest in major projects because interest rates offered on loans needed to make the investment were as high as credit card rates.

Your committee observes that the loan guarantee program is still under design and wishes to make the following observations. First, the committee stresses the need to ensure the Board of Directors is comprised of Indigenous peoples. The management and operation of the new organization must also be Indigenous-led, and the program should be administered in a manner that reflects the diverse needs of the Indigenous governments it is meant to serve. The Government of Canada should be innovative in how the Board of Directors is convened and selected and seek to ensure that it is informed by the federal government’s obligation to advancing reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous governments may need legal, technical and economic expertise to help build plans with industry and other governments. Indeed, in a recent survey on the proposed federal Indigenous loan guarantee program, 45 of 50 First Nations respondents emphasized that monies for capacity supports are required to use loan guarantees. The initial $3.5 million allocated for capacity support will need to be increased if the program is intended to match the Indigenous ownership opportunity in Canada, which could require up to $50 billion in Indigenous equity investment in the next 10 years, according to the First Nations Major Projects Coalition. As Chief Gale remarked, the capacity support provided for the Tu Deh-Kah geothermal project alone exceeded what is earmarked for the entire Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program in its first year of operation (i.e., $1.5 million).

Your committee observes that the loan guarantee program needs to be established quickly, in line with commitments made by Finance Canada in testimony before the committee, as it would be beneficial to see the first loan guarantees issued before the end of 2024.

The Government of Canada should also listen to Indigenous leaders and experts in this area to ensure the loan guarantee program is designed to meet their needs. Your committee agrees with witnesses that it will be particularly important to take feedback from these leaders and experts into account when designing the program, so that First Nations can take advantage of investment opportunities. It is thus important to ensure that Indigenous governments who wish to do so can become valued partners in resource development and, ideally, in all sectors of the Canadian economy.

Red Dress Alert

Your committee observes that ending gender and race-based violence against Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited and gender diverse people should be a critical focus for the Government of Canada. The vulnerabilities of trauma, mental health challenges, criminalization, lack of access to justice, systemic failures and socio-economic marginalization contribute to gender and race-based violence against Indigenous women and girls. It must end now.

A solution may be found in the establishment of a national Red Dress Alert system to notify the public in case an Indigenous woman, girl or gender-diverse person goes missing. The committee welcomes, as a first step, the announcement of the recent partnership between Canada and Manitoba along with the proposed $1.3 million in funding for consultations and an evaluation related to a regional Red Dress Alert system pilot as contained in clause 264, Division 26 of Bill C-69. However, your committee observes the work is occurring at an extremely slow pace that does not reflect the urgency of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The committee wishes to highlight the Unama’ki emergency alert system established in Nova Scotia. This system, a subscription-based emergency alert system, is now serving 4,000 subscribers across five Mi’kmaq communities in Cape Breton. The Unama’ki emergency alert is a proven alert system with participation from police and social services. The committee observes that the project is a success because it was Indigenous-led, had barrier-free registration and was easy and quick to implement.

Your committee agrees with Hilda Anderson-Pyrz, Chair of the National Family and Survivors Circle, that systemic change is required to mend broken relationships and a coordinated approach is necessary to establish a national Red Dress Alert system. Associated with the alert system, culturally appropriate, trauma-informed wrap around services are necessary for Survivors, families and victims. Such services also need to be available to everyone, including remote and isolated Indigenous communities and to urban Indigenous peoples. Family members and survivors of violence need to be at the centre of such initiatives; however, Indigenous leaders should also be involved. Indigenous witnesses also highlighted the importance of training for law enforcement and public education about the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people in the context of this initiative. Your committee observes there is a dire need for interjurisdictional collaboration to put an alert system in place as soon as possible.

Respectfully submitted,

BRIAN FRANCIS

Chair

NT6

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