NTI demands answers on sustainable development
Petition seeks “report card” on monitoring of federal progress
Nunavut’s land claim organization is wielding a new legal weapon in its fight to force the federal government to set up a system to help protect the territory’s environment.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. submitted a special petition aimed at the minister of Indian affairs, demanding answers about Ottawa’s failure to implement certain aspects of the Nunavut land claims agreement, related to sustainable development.
In particular, NTI wants a report card on how much – or how little – the federal government has done to make a general monitoring system, which is guaranteed under Article 12 of the NLCA.
Under federal law, the government has to answer the petition’s demands within four months.
Joe Kunuk, NTI’s chief negotiator, hopes the petition will shame the government into starting the general monitoring system that he says Ottawa has refused to create since signing the land claims agreement over 10 years ago.
“Nunavummiut aren’t sure what’s happening to our environment,” Kunuk said. “That has an impact on our livelihood and our health.
“Without the monitoring plan in place, there’s no way of measuring whether we’re moving ahead or not.”
A general monitoring program would create an overall picture of what is happening to the environment in Nunavut, Kunuk said.
This would include statistics on how global warming is affecting the land and the region’s animals.
From NTI’s point of view, the system should also keep an eye on how well government programs are taking care of the health, social and economic well-being of Nunavummiut.
Under the land claim, the federal government should pay for a monitoring program, Kunuk said. However, he declined to say how much the system would cost.
Both sides view the general monitoring plan as the main obstacle in funding negotiations between NTI, the government of Nunavut and the federal government.
The negotiations have broken down since the spring. They are meant to create a new 10-year contract on federal funding for implementing land claim obligations, such as increasing Inuit employment and boosting economic development in the territory.
Instead, talks have stalled to the point that the federal government doesn’t have a negotiator, and has no plans on hiring a new one.
The original 1993 contract remains in place, although it fails to meet the GN’s or NTI’s demands.
NTI representatives accuse the federal government of negotiating in bad faith.
John Lamb, CEO of NTI, said the negotiations broke down because the federal government insists on nearly freezing funding levels, with only what he calls an “incremental” add-on.
Economists hired by NTI have shown that the add-on falls far short of the growing list of immediate needs for Inuit training, housing, and social services.
“The approach that the federal government is taking is out of step with the last two throne speeches,” Lamb said, referring to the federal government’s frequent references to aboriginal people and the North.
“As far as we’re concerned… [the government] is basically declining to implement properly Canada’s largest land claim.”
But Lamb expects the petition will prompt the federal government to change their approach. Under the Auditor General Act, Andy Scott, minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, will have to release a potentially bruising report by Feb. 13. The petition demands the report provide recommendations about how his department should better monitor the obligations of the land claim.
The INAC representative in charge of handling land claim implementations said he was “looking forward” to discussing the issue of the implementing a general monitoring system.
Terry Sewell, director general of INAC’s implementation branch, said he was especially interested in putting a system in place because of the auditor general’s recent criticism that INAC had to do more in measuring how well it’s meeting land claim obligations, such as Inuit employment.
“We’re probably not as far along as folks would like us to be,” Sewell said in an interview from Ottawa. “[But] we’re committed to putting this in place.”
According to the NTI petition, INAC has spent about $155,000 on monitoring Nunavut land claim obligations since 1993.