Canada and Nunavut sign deal in milestone step to devolution

“Decision-making power rests here in our territory, by us and for us”

From left: Aluki Kotierk, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.; Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations; and Joe Savikataaq, the premier of Nunavut, sign the Nunavut devolution agreement in principle on Thursday, Aug. 15. (Photo by Kahlan Miron)

By Emma Tranter

In a significant step toward Nunavut assuming control over its Crown lands and natural resources, representatives from the federal government, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the territory signed an agreement in principle for a devolution agreement this morning in Iqaluit.

The agreement was signed by Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Aluki Kotierk and Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.

“We know in Nunavut’s evolution, that this is a day of celebration, for Nunavummiut and a milestone for Canada…. It has been a long day coming and a long time coming,” Bennett said.

The agreement begins a five-year process that would end in a final devolution agreement, which would transfer responsibilities for Nunavut’s land, water and resources from the Government of Canada to the Government of Nunavut.

“You are patient and persistent people … this unlocks the vision of self-determination, the vision of being able to look after your people and your lands and waters in a way that you know best,” Bennett said.

Simon Awa, Nunavut’s chief negotiator of devolution, said the agreement marks the next step to devolution.

“It marks the next step in the journey that started before the creation of our territory. This is a culmination of much work that began with formal negotiations between the Government of Canada, the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. in November 2014,” Awa said.

“Devolution has been agreed for the Inuit of Nunavut, ensuring that decision-making power rests here in our territory, by us and for us.”

“Today is a good day. I have to admit I wasn’t sure this day would come so quickly. It’s proof of how hard our devolution team has worked,” Savikataaq said.

“By devolving federal responsibilities, Nunavummiut will have the ability and the means to manage their decisions on how our public lands, freshwater and non-renewable resources are used and developed within Nunavut,” he added.

Kotierk said she was particularly pleased with Chapter 9 of the agreement, which will develop a post-devolution human resources and development strategy consistent with Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement.

Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement was meant to ensure employees at all three levels of government in Nunavut were reflective of the population of Inuit in Nunavut.

“I hope that’s another push to the government to ensure that they actually live up to and implement Article 23, which Inuit have been expecting since Nunavut was created,” she said.

The newly signed agreement, which contains 14 chapters, is not legally enforceable, a news release said.

The five-year timeline will allow for negotiation for a final agreement, training for positions within the GN, negotiation of an implementation schedule, and the drafting of legislation that will create the legal framework for the GN to take over the responsibility for Nunavut’s land, water and natural resources.

Yukon has managed its own land and natural resources since 2003, and devolution in the Northwest Territories took effect in 2014.

The full text of the agreement can be found here.

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(12) Comments:

  1. Posted by Devolution = regulatory efficiencies? on

    Does this mean that Nunavut can amalgamate/eliminate NPC, NIRB, Water Board together now and save us taxpayers some much needed mula?

    The other question is, are we even ready for devolution?

    • Posted by Observer on

      I’m fascinated to find out how you think that would save money, given that they all have different responsibilities. It would be like saying let’s put Health, Justice, and Education into one department. After all, they all provide services to communities, right?

    • Posted by Concerned Kabloona on

      First, the IPGs, like NIRB and the Water Board are established by the land claim, supplemented by federal legislation; you’d have to amend the claim to amalgamate them, which is not going to happen. Second, not at all clear that amalgamating them would save any money. Third, the IPGs are entirely funded by the federal government, not the GN.

  2. Posted by WOW! on

    Wow! This is something! I have never thought we would get this far so soon, these governments are moving forward, this Liberal government has done so much in such a short time for Nunavut, its too bad the Senate has a Conservative majority and killed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it was approved by the MPs.

    Time to make changes with the Senate.

    • Posted by CSD on

      The Conservatives do not have a majority in the Senate of Canada. Please don’t just make stuff up.

      • Posted by Wow on

        Yes they do! As a party they have the most seats in the Senate, Conservatives have 29 seats while liberals have 9, so who are the ones in the Senate blocking the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

        That’s right the Conservative Senators that’s who. Our own Nunavut Senator who is a Conservative was one of them, how does he represent Nunavut and go against this bill to protect Indigenous rights?

        We need a Senator from Nunavut.

        • Posted by A little more accurate on

          59 are members of the Independent Senators Group, 29 are members of the senate caucus of the Conservative Party of Canada, 9 are members of the Senate Liberal Caucus (unaffiliated with the Liberal Party of Canada), and 7 are non-affiliated

          • Posted by Jennifer on

            So did the conservative senators really put a stop to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

  3. Posted by Colin on

    Beware of what you wish for!

    The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says this: “Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

    It echoes almost word for word a speech by former Native Affairs minister Hendrik Verwoerd, architect of apartheid in South Africa: “The policy of separate development is the basis of the happiness, security and stability which are maintained by means of a homeland, a language and a government peculiar to each people.”

    Historically, the federal government has used devolution as a device for not having to meet its financial responsibilities to Indigenous peoples. The latest example is PM Trudeau’s undertaking to pay for just 80 housing units annually for Nunavut where the immediate need is for 3,000 units.

    • Posted by Harry on

      If you go through the The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples you will see that this is good for the indigenous people of Canada, all the indigenous people got together and wrote this, to support each other and it is supported by most countries; Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation.
      Canada changed its stance once the government changed after the elections but unfortunately the Conservative Senators used tactics to delay and now kill this Declaration.
      Very unfortunate as the MP’s voted in support of it but it died with the Senate thanks to the Conservative Senators.

  4. Posted by Terry on

    “pay for just 80 housing units annually for Nunavut” you have to be careful about using this figure, the 80 housing units is based on a house costing 500,000, when the same house is actually cost somewhere around 150,000-200,000, the housing corp tending and contracts need improvement, There are construction companies getting rich building these social housing, a lot of money is given to the GN from the federal government but it is up to the GN to get these houses built and the GN needs to do a better job in design and cost of these houses to build more housing and not over spend which they currently are doing. There are other options to building houses but the GN is sticking to what they have always done which is very expensive.

  5. Posted by esquimo on

    I think we all know the feds have their hands in the pocket of NWB and NIRB. They practically get anything they ask. NPC on the other hand are nickel an dimed, audited and attacked by industry, NTI, GN, Feds for putting comity concerns 1st. Where’s the autonomy in that? Where is the concern for costs in that? To what point or level are the “rights of the indigenous” put in the forefront by either government? Do you not yet understand it is the bureaucrats that decide policy for the indigenous regions. Devolution will not change anything for the IPGs.

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