Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Around the Arctic October 03, 2014 - 12:18 pm

Ottawa accelerates Nunavut devolution talks

All sides name their negotiators; Valcourt hopes for AIP in one year

JIM BELL
Members of the negotiating team that will work on Nunavut devolution talks pose Oct. 3 with their political masters. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Members of the negotiating team that will work on Nunavut devolution talks pose Oct. 3 with their political masters. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
AAND minister Bernard Valcourt said he hopes for a Nunavut devolution agreement-in-principle within one year. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
AAND minister Bernard Valcourt said he hopes for a Nunavut devolution agreement-in-principle within one year. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq acted as emcee for the Oct. 3 press conference announcing the revival of Nunavut devolution talks: “As a proud northerner, I’m always very grateful to have an opportunity to be part of an important milestone in the history of Nunavut,” Aglukkaq said. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq acted as emcee for the Oct. 3 press conference announcing the revival of Nunavut devolution talks: “As a proud northerner, I’m always very grateful to have an opportunity to be part of an important milestone in the history of Nunavut,” Aglukkaq said. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
NTI president Cathy Towtongie said devolution of Crown lands and resources from Ottawa would give Nunavut more control over its
NTI president Cathy Towtongie said devolution of Crown lands and resources from Ottawa would give Nunavut more control over its "long-term economic, constitutional and social future." (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

(Updated 3:45 p.m., Oct. 3)

The governments of Canada and Nunavut, along with Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., breathed new life into the long-dormant Nunavut devolution process Oct. 3, with all sides naming negotiators who will forge ahead with talks aimed at an agreement-in-principle.

Bernard Valcourt, the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, said he believes negotiators can achieve such an AIP in one year.

“I think it’s fair to say that we wish this to be concluded as fast as possible. The timeline will be a result of the success of those negotiations, but I think we can honestly say that we expect, all of us, that within a year we can get an agreement-in-principle,” Valcourt told reporters in Iqaluit.

He referred to the upcoming talks as “tripartite,” which means NTI will sit at the table as a full partner with Ottawa and Nunavut.

The current talks will cover public lands and resources in Nunavut, where 80 per cent of the land base — the portion not owned by Inuit under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement — still falls under federal government management and control.

The devolution of responsibility over offshore matters, such as oil and gas, will be dealt with in the future, in a later round of talks, Valcourt said.

“Now is the time to be optimistic and practical. the task ahead of us is complex. It will take patience. It will take determination,” Valcourt said.

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna described Oct. 3 as a “historical turning point for our territory.”

“Devolution will allow us to continue to establish our presence and our place in the Canadian federation,” he said Oct. 3 in the foyer of the Nunavut legislature.

“It is an important day for Nunavummiut. It moves us closer to self-reliance and more control over our own resources… What happens in negotiations for devolution affects all Nunavummiut,” Taptuna said

Cathy Towtongie, NTI president, which has gained a seat at the negotiation table, said NTI fully supports the process announced Oct. 3.

“Devolution is an important part of our long-term economic, constitutional and social future,” Towtongie said.

And she praised Valcourt for moving ahead on the devolution file.

‘He is a man who has impressed me as a man who wants to get things done,” she said.

Valcourt named Brian Dominique as Ottawa’s chief negotiator for the Nunavut devolution talks.

Taptuna said Simon Awa will serve as Nunavut’s chief negotiator, supported by deputy negotiators Alex Buchan and Bob Carson.

Towtongie reconfirmed Udloriak Hanson, who was named last year, as NTI’s negotiator.

Valcourt, Taptuna and Towtongie also held a breakfast meeting Oct. 3, the first such meeting the two Nunavut leaders have held with him.

The process aimed at devolving control over public lands and resources from Ottawa to Nunavut started in 2006, when Jim Prentice, then the AAND minister, named Paul Mayer as his special representative on Nunavut devolution.

But about six months later, Mayer produced a report that found Nunavut suffers from severe capacity issues and may run into more problems if it takes on new province-like powers over public lands and resources.

Mayer did, however, recommend a slow, phased approach to Nunavut devolution.

In September 2008, the GN, NTI and the federal government signed a protocol to guide negotiations once they start — but serious talks never did get started.

In 2012, Eva Aariak, then the Nunavut premier, named David Akeeagok as Nunavut’s chief devolution negotiator after she had pushed the devolution issue for about two years.

At the same time, Ottawa appointed Dale Drown of Yukon as their chief negotiator, but again, serious talks did not start until this week.

Yukon and the Northwest Territories have already completed devolution agreements with the federal government that give them province-like management responsibilities over lands that used to be controlled by the federal government.

It’s widely believed that such an agreement would give Nunavut a substantial degree of control over resource development within public lands inside the territory.

 

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