Binette goes public with Nunavik Commission beefs

By JANE GEORGE

MONTREAL — A former co-chair of the Nunavik Commission wants Nunavimmiut to know why he didn’t sign the commission’s final report.

Montreal lawyer André Binette, a Quebec nationalist, said he can’t support recommendations in the report that would weaken Quebec’s control over Nunavik and give the region an Inuit-only legislative body.

The much-anticipated report was released in March, but Binette and fellow commissioner Annie Popert refused to sign it, albeit for completely different reasons.

Popert went public with her criticisms, condemning the report for failing to safeguard Inuit autonomy in the event Quebec leaves Canada.

Binette’s reasons for refusing to sign the document were less well known.

In May, the Kativik School Board’s chief commissioner, Markusi Qinuajuak, sent a letter to Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corp., saying the KSB commissioners “Wish to hear, and feel that the public should hear also, from the two Nunavik Commission members who did not sign its report as to why they did not sign it.”

In his response to Qinuajuak, Binette recently wrote an open letter to various Nunavik organizations, laying out his concerns about the commission’s findings.

He said he’s worried Nunavimmiut want to maintain rights guaranteed by federal treaties.

“This means, in effect, the jurisdiction of the National Assembly of Quebec will necessarily be lesser in Nunavik than in the remaining two-thirds of the territory of Quebec,” Binette said.

He said it’s critical to maintain the balance of power between Nunavik, Quebec and the federal government.

“This issue is of great practical importance, since it leads to the question of political accountability. For instance, who would be primarily responsible if another deadly avalanche were to occur in Nunavik?

“Unfortunately, the report of the Nunavik Commission does not shed much light on this,” Binette said. “It will therefore be of little help to the negotiators in this regard. If this major hurdle is not overcome, the expectations raised by the report will be disappointed.”

Open House needed

Binette said he’s also dissatisfied with the composition of the proposed House of Elders.

In Binette’s opinion, the House of Elders should be a public body elected by all Nunavimmiut, and open to all residents, including non-Inuit.

If it’s not, Binette said, Nunavik will have one open legislative chamber and one chamber reserved for Inuit.

“For my part, I could not find in the political accord any authority given to the Nunavik Commission to recommend the creation of any new ethnic body, even an advisory one,” Binette wrote.

The Nunavik Political Accord was the November 1999 agreement between Nunavik, Quebec City and Ottawa setting the self-government process in motion.

“The refusal of the Nunavik Commission to clearly link the House of Elders to the principle of public government was disquieting. I told my fellow commissioners that I could not let my signature be used to advance such an ambiguous position,” Binette wrote.

Binette said he’s willing to further explain his concerns about the report if Nunavimmiut ask him to.

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