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ARCHIVED - Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and Canadian Polar Commission - Supplementary Tables

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Response to Parliamentary Committees and External Audits

Response to Parliamentary Committees

Response to the Auditor General (including to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

Chapter 6 — Land Management and Environmental Protection on Reserves (November 2009)
The report, tabled in the House of Commons in fall 2009, stated that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)and Environment Canada have identified a significant gap between First Nation reserves and Canadian communities elsewhere in the degree to which regulations protect the environment. While the federal government has the authority to regulate environmental threats on reserves, it has rarely used this authority to develop regulations to mitigate environmental threats that are regulated off reserves by provincial governments.

In addition, the report found that INAC has done little to monitor and enforce compliance with existing regulations. For example, while regulations under the Indian Act require a permit issued by INAC to operate a landfill site or burn waste on reserve lands, the department has issued few permits and is not equipped to conduct inspections, monitor compliance and enforce the regulations. Consequently, garbage is often not confined to licensed landfill sites and there is no monitoring of the impacts on drinking water sources and air quality. Off reserves, provincial and municipal regulations and enforcement help to prevent such situations.

Finally, the report mentioned that although INAC has developed legislative and program options to support First Nations who wish to assume partial or full control of land management on their reserves, most First Nation lands are still managed by the department under the Indian Act. First Nations’ access to alternative land management regimes established by INAC do not meet the demand. Consequently, INAC is unable to keep its commitment to transfer greater control of land management to First Nations who are ready to take on these responsibilities. Furthermore, for First Nations under either of the alternative land management regimes, the department provides insufficient training in comparison with the land management responsibilities being transferred.

The report mentions that officials at both INAC and Environment Canada cited a lack of funding as a key reason for not meeting some of their commitments.

As a result of the findings in the report, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) provided five recommendations to the department. INAC accepted all recommendations and has since completed an action plan that was approved at the department’s May14 Audit Committee meeting.

Chapter 4—Sustaining Development in the Northwest Territories (April 2010)

The report, tabled in the House of Commons in spring 2010, stated that the Government of Canada (represented by INAC), the Government of the NWT, and Aboriginal groups have finalized land claim agreements in the Inuvialuit, Gwich’in, Sahtu and Tlicho regions of the NWT. INAC has made progress toward finalizing the four comprehensive land claim settlements and 10 self-government agreements still being negotiated in the NWT. However, significant delays in the department’s provision of some agreed-on funding has hindered First Nations’ participation in the self-government negotiations process.

In addition, the report found that INAC has improved its support to co-management boards since 2005 and has supported the development of land use plans in these regions. However, key components of the environmental regulatory system are missing in regions where land claims have not been settled and where regional co-management boards have not yet been established. In many cases, there is no clear requirement for land use plans or a mechanism for community involvement in decision making. Consequently, decisions on development applications take longer than in regions with settled land claims.

The report also found that INAC and Environment Canada have not met their responsibilities to monitor the cumulative impact of development and of various pollutants on the fragile environment in the NWT, whether or not a settled land claim is in place. The conclusion is that co-management boards are missing environmental information that could be used in making decisions on development proposals.

Finally, the report found that INAC’s programs to support economic development in the NWT by funding community projects and activities lack a strategic focus and they do not have specific objectives against which progress can be measured and results tracked. The government recently transferred economic development programs in the NWT from INAC to the new Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Five of the eight recommendations resulting from these findings were directed toward the department. The department has agreed to the recommendations and is developing an action plan to present to the Audit Committee.

External Audits
(Note: These refer to other external audits conducted by the Public Service Commission of Canada or the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages)