'I recognize the frustration that some of the people around this table must feel.'
INAC man gets chilly reception
Michael Nadler, regional director of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, received a cool reception from members of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. at their annual general meeting in Rankin Inlet.
No surprise, given that NTI is suing the federal government for $1 billion for not implementing the Nunavut land claim agreement.
David Irqiut, second director of NTI, said, sarcastically, he was impressed with Nadler‘s presentation, which gave, in bulleted form, a list of his office's work over the last year.
"Maybe add another bullet: implement the land claim," Irqiut said.
Irqiut brought up the Inuvialuit land claim agreement, signed 23 years ago, which Canada's auditor general reported in late October is not being fulfilled in several key areas, such as the awarding of contracts to Inuvialuit firms.
"I'd hate to see us wait that long to implement our land claim," Irqiut said. "I guess the question is this: any movement on this?"
"I think we're in dire straits, especially housing, education for our youth, and quality of life for Nunavummiut," Irqiut said.
Nadler said the federal government "remains committed" to implementing the land claim agreement. As evidence of this, he pointed to the big funding increase given to Nunavut's hunter and trapper organizations and other groups.
But resolving the underfunding of Nunavut's institutions of public governance is considered the easy part of the land claim implementation dispute.
And there's no evidence of movement on the big question of who will pay to train Inuit to work in government.
Nadler also said he had "much respect" for Thomas Berger, the retired judge who was appointed as conciliator to the land claim dispute, who recommended a big, expensive overhaul to Nunavut's education system.
But Nadler maintained that fixing Nunavut's education system is the territory's job, and that some of Berger's recommendations "fall outside land claim implementation."
"I recognize the frustration that some of the people around this table must feel," Nadler said. "I admire and respect very much how NTI has handled the lawsuit. We're able to keep our day-to-day relationship going."
Questions were also raised by NTI members over the awarding of the food mail contract, by Canada Post, wholly to First Air in 2005. The decision is still being contested by Canadian North.
Nadler received polite applause after telling delegates that the federal government is "looking at a whole variety of options of how to proceed."