Labrador Inuit close in on final land claim agreement

By JANE GEORGE

The Labrador Inuit — the last Canadian Inuit group without a land claim agreement — are closer than ever before to seeing their long-standing agreement-in-principle approved.

The remaining hurdles blocking a land claim agreement have finally been overcome. On Jan. 5, Nunavik’s Makivik Corporation withdrew a legal challenge that asserted overlapping rights for northern Quebec Inuit in Labrador’s Torngat Mountains.

As well, the concerns of non-aboriginals who want hunting and fishing rights within the Labrador Inuit settlement area were also close to being settled.

“We’re down to around 15 miles of coastline,” said Toby Andersen, LIA’s chief negotiator.

This week the Newfoundland provincial cabinet was to receive an update on the land selection process, and move on approving the land claim’s AIP.

The AIP was reached in December 1998, and has already been before cabinet on two previous occasions for approval.

“This could be it. They say the third time’s a charm,” Andersen said

If and when the land claim is finally approved by the provincial and federal governments, it will grant the LIA’s 5,000 members a sizeable chunk of money, land and control over marine resources.

There’s $130 million in compensation funds, provincial royalties from resource development, and another $120 million to set up what Andersen calls “an Inuit central government.”

“When we get this, we will be in business,” Andersen said.

The land claim agreement would also gives Labradormiut boosted rights over their offshore marine resources. They’ll have co-management rights to 12 miles offshore and an Inuit fisheries management board for fish stock quotas within a 200-mile offshore limit.

They’ll also receive surface title to 6,100 square miles of land. Another 21,900 square miles will be set aside for the Inuit settlement area. About 3,000 square miles of this area lies in the Torngat Mountains and is slated to become a co-managed national park.

The LIA was established in the early 1970s to start the land claim process, and includes Inuit as well as persons of mixed ancestry, “Kablunainuit” or descendents of European settlers who arrived in the area in the 1700s. The LIA’s membership lives in seven communities, from Nain to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in central Labrador.

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