Ottawa appoints yet another negotiator to talk Nunavut devolution
“The previous government adopted a take it or leave it approach to negotiations and appeared unwilling to consider creative approaches” — NTI
Updated at 2:36 p.m.
Following criticism this spring that Ottawa is moving too slowly on territorial devolution, the federal government has appointed a new chief federal negotiator to move the file forward.
Carolyn Bennett, the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, announced on July 9, Nunavut Day, that she has named Fred Caron to represent Ottawa in talks on devolving federal powers to the territory.
“I’m confident that Mr. Caron’s knowledge and expertise on issues impacting Indigenous Canadians will allow for renewed, good-faith negotiations to begin in the context of a renewed Inuit-to-Crown relationship,” Bennett was quoted as saying in a July 9 news release.
The release describes Caron as “an experienced negotiator on Indigenous issues,” and says he will, with help from the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., continue discussions on an agreement-in-principle towards devolution.
“The Government of Canada remains steadfast in our commitment to advance Nunavut devolution and put decision making on lands and resources in the hands of Nunavummiut.”
Caron is described on the INAC website as a one-time member of the Canadian Forces with a law degree.
According to an APTN story from 2013, Caron, was lead negotiator for recent specific land claim negotiations with the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, west of Montreal.
In a letter to the community, obtained by APTN National News, Kanesatake chief Otsi Simon accused Caron three years ago of being heavy handed in those negotiations and trying to control the process.
Devolution — namminiqsurniq in Inuktitut — means the transfer of authority from a central government to a lower level of government.
Negotiations around devolving lands and resources responsibilities to Nunavut began with the signing of a protocol in 2008 with formal negotiations on an agreement-in-principal beginning in 2014.
At the time, parties boasted that they hoped to reach an agreement-in-principle within a year.
But Premier Peter Taptuna said in March that talks under the former Conservative government were “on and off” and progressed slower than expected.
Taptuna was quoted in the July 9 federal news release saying he was pleased to get back to the negotiating table.
“Our territory’s self-reliance and future success depends on sound economic and resource development. Nunavut’s devolution is a critical step towards this realization,” Taptuna says in the release.
“We are excited to return to negotiations and to step forward together to develop an agreement in principle on devolution with the Government of Canada and NTI.”
For their part, NTI also welcomed the weekend’s news.
“Ownership and control of Nunavut’s natural resources is fundamental to the future of Nunavut. NTI has advocated and supported this for years. It is time to move ahead from talk to action,” said NTI President Cathy Towtongie, in the release.
Towtongie late released her own statement which was more pointed, saying some progess was made under the previous federal government, “on a number of devolution issues,” but then it stalled.
“The previous government adopted a take it or leave it approach to negotiations and appeared unwilling to consider creative approaches to issues like marine areas and revenue sharing,” Towtongie said in her July 12 statement.
“I look forward to negotiations that go beyond expectations that Nunavut’s devolution agreement has to mirror the precedent set in the Yukon or Northwest Territories. We need Nunavut solutions to Nunavut issues.”
Canada’s two other northern territorial governments have reached devolution agreements — Yukon in 2003 and the NWT in 2014.