Labrador Inuit initial AIP with Ottawa, Newfoundland

They call their land “Nunatsiavut.” Last week, Labrador Inuit came a little closer to a deal on land claims and self-government that will bring that land under their control again.


Nunatsiaq News

HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY — Labrador Inuit are one step closer to getting a deal on land claims and self government.

Negotiators for the Labrador Inuit Association, along with the federal and Newfoundland governments initialled an agreement-in-principle in St. John’s on May 10.

“It’s a significant time in the life of Labrador,” said LIA President William Barbour.

“With an agreement in principle on land claims and self-government, the destiny of the Labrador Inuit is in their own hands,” said Premier Brian Tobin, addressing the Newfoundland House of Assembly later that day.

“Settling land claims will bring economic and social stability, new capital, more jobs and increased tax revenues to the province,” Tobin added.

The Labrador Inuit filed their original statement of claim 22 years ago, but negotiations picked up speed when a fast-track process began almost three years ago.

The 330-page agreement-in-principle details land quantum, self-government, harvesting rights and funding arrangements.

Many of the details were relased by Tobin in November of 1997, and then by the LIA when negotiations concluded last Christmas. The LIA will own 15,800 square kilometers of land along Labrador’s north coast.

The area will be administered by a central government that will have responsibility for health, education and community services. The Inuit will co-manage a larger land mass with the provincial government, an area of about 72,520 square kilometers .

They’ll also co-manage a substantial area of ocean.

The total amount of land equals about 30 per cent of Labrador. The 4,800 members of the LIA haven’t officially decided on a name for the claim area, but informally they call it area Nunatsiavut, meaning our beautiful land.

As well as a central government, the Inuit will establish community governments in each of the five north coast villages that will function as municipal governments do now.

The 1,500 members who live outside the claim area, in Upper Lake Melville, will have the choice of setting up a community corporation. Both the community governments and the central government will have the right to tax.

The central government will be funded by Ottawa. The federal government will pay the LIA $140 million in compensation and an additional $115 million to implement the final agreement.

The money will be kept in trust and administered on behalf of all beneficiaries.

A three per cent royalty from Voisey’s Bay will be paid to the central government, along with a portion of provincial revenues from future subsurface development on the land the Inuit own. The highlights of the AIP will be explained to LIA members in a series of open houses and community meetings that are already underway.

Barbour acknowledges it will be a challenge to explain the long and complex document.

Jim McKenzie, lead negotiator for the federal government, said he would attend some of the sessions to answer questions as well.

The membership will vote on the agreement in principle in July. If they ratify the agreement, members will then select which land they want to own and which they will co-manage.

Both the AIP and the boundaries will go to the provincial and federal governments for ratification.

After that, negotiations can begin for a final agreement. The final agreement will include national park reserve of almost 8,000 square kilometers in the Torngat Mountains.

While Tobin says a final agreement should be ready in a year, McKenzie says the process is likely to take two.

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