Framework agreement possible for Valentine’s Day
Nunavik self-government proposal proceeds through federal bureaucracy
Quebec’s National Assembly could ratify the framework agreement for Nunavik self-government by as early as Feb. 14, Nunavik’s lead negotiator for self-government said this week.
Minnie Grey, head delegate for the Nunavik Party, which represents Makivik Corporation, the Nunavik Health Board, the Kativik School Board, the Kativik Regional Government and the Kativik Regional Development Council at the negotiating table, said it should be only a matter of weeks before the long-anticipated document goes before the provincial legislature.
“The three parties, federal, Quebec and us have finally agreed that we have a signable document. The only thing that is holding us back is for it to proceed through the federal government,” Grey said. “As soon as Quebec negotiators know the federal government has approved it, they will take it to the National Assembly.”
Federal, provincial and Nunavimmiut representatives have been drafting the agreement, which provides a timeline for the self-government process and outlines areas of negotiation, since August 2002.
In October, Makivik and the federal government were publicly anticipating the agreement’s completion by Christmas. However, as of Jan. 30, representatives had still not released the document.
Grey said the delay was caused by debate over some of the terms used in the agreement.
“I can’t even call the difficulties issues. You know, when you have three different parties talking about needs, well, you have disagreements,” Grey said. “Part of the problems were wording but we worked them through.”
Grey declined to elaborate on the disagreements, and federal and provincial negotiators did not return repeated calls for comment.
With a Quebec election call expected in April, negotiators have been under pressure to have the framework agreement signed before a potential change in the provincial government.
As a result, delegates agreed to help the negotiation process by dividing the framework agreement into stages, Grey said.
“You never know with the political climate what will happen. We have had previous self-government talks with Quebec and they were put on the shelf because of the political situation and so on,” Grey said. “To avoid that, the way we have set up the framework agreement, in the hope of starting up the real negotiations for self-government, is to decide we can do negotiations in two phases.”
Over the years, self-government negotiations in Nunavik have been derailed by referendums on sovereignty, elections, labour disputes and even natural disasters.
The framework agreement’s first phase is what negotiators hope to present to the provincial government on Valentine’s Day.
It covers the less contentious issues of self-government. The document outlines the amalgamation of the existing administrative structures such as the regional government, health board and development council into one united body, Grey said. It also discusses block funding for this new structure.
In addition, the framework agreement promises a second phase to negotiations after the first phase is completed, Grey said. The second phase addresses the more controversial issue of what additional, autonomous powers the new structure will enjoy.
Yet even as negotiations progress, an injunction by the Kativik School Board is making its way through Quebec courts, seeking to nullify any future agreement.
The KSB filed the legal action against Makivik Corporation in November 2002. The injunction sought an immediate end to the framework agreement talks, claiming the Nunavik Party did not have the mandate of Nunavimmiut to negotiate on their behalf.
Though a Quebec judge refused to grant a sudden stop to the self-government talks, he did permit the injunction to proceed through the courts.
His decision means the injunction still has the potential to retroactively negate the current framework agreement and any negotiations that stem from it.
But Grey said she refuses to worry about the case.
“I’m a negotiator for Nunavik. I’m not going to tell people I’m afraid of the injunction,” she said. “If the agreement is overturned by the courts we’ll do another process. But it’s a waste of time and money. And for what cause? It’s our life-long aspiration to govern ourselves.”
Grey promised that the final agreement would give Nunavimmiut much more than a rubber stamp over their destiny. She said she expects the second phase will result in a government-to-government relationship, instead of the administration-to-government affiliation Nunavik currently enjoys with Quebec.