No sudden stop to Nunavik self government talks

Court withholds safeguard order from school board, but sets preliminary hearings for injunction trial



Makivik Corporation and the Quebec government are continuing their self-government talks after the Kativik School Board failed to win an immediate freeze to their negotiations from Quebec’s Superior Court last Wednesday.

But though the Quebec court did not grant the school board a safeguard order that would have brought an abrupt end to the framework agreement negotiations, it did schedule preliminary hearings for a future injunction case.

The decision means the school board’s injunction motion will make its way through the courts even as Makivik and government negotiators put the finishing touches on a framework agreement for Nunavik self-government.

And if the court does eventually grant the school board an injunction, it could retroactively nullify the agreement even after it is completed.

“The court hereby refuses to issue a safeguard order,” court documents read. “[But] In the event that a framework agreement for Nunavik self-government is signed … prior to the issuance of any injunction herein, the court reserves the right to ask that such be declared invalid, on the basis of the alleged illegality of the March 2001 Report of the Nunavik Commission and of the current negotiations.”

The school board is arguing that the current self-government negotiations are illegal because they are based on the “Let Us Share” report. The school board considers the document illegitimate because the eight commissioners who negotiated the agreement did not all sign its final version and it is not the consensus report it was legally designed to be.

The school board also claims Makivik has no legal authority to negotiate on behalf of the Nunavik Party.

The Nunavik Party consists of Makivik, the school board, the Kativik Regional Government, the Nunavik Regional Health and Social Services Board and the Kativik Regional Development Council.

The Quebec court’s two-part verdict left both Makivik and the school board claiming victory.

“Mr. Justice Perry Meyer refused to grant the KSB’s application for a safeguard order- which would have applied until a hearing on the interlocutory injunction — without even hearing arguments by the lawyer representing Makivik Corporation and the other institutions being sued,” Makivik’s press released stated.

The release also highlighted Justice Meyer’s remarks that consensus does not necessarily mean unanimity.

“‘Sometimes you just can’t reach consensus on everything except at the expense of delay and you don’t want delay where self-government is at stake,’” it quoted Justice Meyer as saying.

But while the Makivik press release mentions what the KSB did not achieve last week, it does not mention that the injunction hearing, which will likely be scheduled in the late spring, could retroactively nullify any framework agreement the negotiators create.

According to Debbie Astroff, public relations officer with the school board, this is what is significant about last week’s decision.

What matters, she said, is not the judge’s refusal to freeze negotiations but his protection of the school board’s right to argue any framework agreement is illegal — even after it is signed.

“We’re very pleased [with the decision] because we believe the judge has safe-guarded our right to appeal any framework agreement that comes out,” Astroff said. “Now we have a safety net in place permitting us to appeal.”

Both sides will now likely begin preparing for the injunction hearing next spring, Astroff said, although she remains hopeful some out-of-court agreement may still be reached between Makivik and the school board.

In the meantime, a preliminary hearing schedule for the case has been set. It will begin Dec. 2.

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