Nunavut minister clears up “misconceptions” about land referendum vote
“CGS will do what it has always done, and that is support the communities”
The Government of Nunavut-led referendum on land sales last month was not an effort to hand off more responsibility to municipalities, says Nunavut’s Community and Government Services minister.
Joe Savikataaq rose in the opening day of the legislative’s assembly to correct what he called a misconception, perpetuated by discussions in media reports in the lead up to the May 9 referendum.
“My department will continue to support municipal lands administration to build more capacity,” Savikataaq said in a May 31 minister’s statement.
“CGS will do what it has always done, and that is support the communities.”
On May 9, Nunavummiut voted overwhelming against the option of giving their hamlet councils the ability to sell municipal lands.
Overall, 83 per cent of voters voted against the option of land sales, delivering a result similar to when the same question was put to Nunavut communities in 1995.
With the No vote, municipal lands in Nunavut will continue to be leased under the current system.
The GN took some heat for remaining neutral on the issue, instead touring the territory with a public awareness campaign to explain the implications of the vote.
“The Department of Community and Government Services believes that community decisions should be made at the community level,” Savikataaq said May 31.
Under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, all Nunavut municipalities now hold fee simple title to most lands within their boundaries.
Municipalities are allowed to lease — but not sell — those lands, and those land leases may not exceed 99 years in duration.
That means leaseholders own the structures they build on leased land under those 99-year leases with the municipal government.
But they may not own the land itself.
Municipalities are allowed to re-visit the issue again after a five-year period has passed, as per Nunavut’s plebiscite act.
“If any given community feels it is ready to do another vote, CGS will uphold the principle of Piliriqatigiinniq / Ikajuqtigiinniq, working together for a common cause,” Savikataaq said.