Nunavik government deal takes shape

KRG, plus health and school boards would merge first


First, the cards will be shuffled, then a new hand will be dealt out: that’s the way plans for Nunavik’s new regional government are playing out.

The Nunatsiaq News has obtained a draft copy of an agreement-in-principle dated May 25, “for discussion only,” which spells out the first stages of Nunavik’s move towards a new form of government that will put Nunavik’s different government bodies under a single authority.

Nunavik organizations are now reviewing this 30-page document, which sets out how the Kativik Regional Government, Nunavik Regional Health and Social Services Board and Kativik School Board would be merged into a new regional government called the Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga.

When the remaining kinks – such as the school board’s lack of enthusiasm for this model – are worked out, Makivik Corp.’s executive will ratify the final agreement-in-principle on behalf of Nunavik residents. Then, the provincial and federal cabinets must ratify it.

After the agreement-in-principle is signed off, all Nunavimmiut will finally have a chance to look at the deal in Inuttitut, English or French versions.

While Makivik Corp. would ratify the agreement-in-principle on behalf of Nunavik residents, the final agreement would be ratified in a Nunavik-wide referendum organized by Quebec’s director general of elections.

An election for a new Nunavik assembly or “Uqarvimarik” would take place after a transition period, and the KRG, health and school boards would “amalgamate and harmonize” their services and administration.

The Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga will comprise the Uqarvimarik, an executive council, an administrative body with several departments, and an executive secretariat.

The Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga would be non-ethnic, that is, a public government similar to Nunavut’s, but will fall under the authority of Quebec’s national assembly.

A future regional government would maintain close links with Quebec. Quebec plans to appoint a new minister with special responsibility for the Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga.

French would be a working language in Nunavik’s new government. The Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga will “promote the use and development of Inuttitut,” but it would also “maintain the use of French so that French is used in communications with the rest of Quebec and so that Nunavik residents who express the desire may obtain services in French.”

The document is silent on the issue of English language rights.

At the heart of Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga is the assembly or Uqarvimarik, which would meet at least four times a year in public and replace all existing councils and boards. It would have at least 21 members. Five would be elected at-large and form an executive council. The council’s president would have to run specifically for that position.

A transition directorate will oversee the first three years of the new regional government body.

The agreement doesn’t say how the northern villages, two hospital boards, housing bureau, police and regional economic development council would exactly fit in, but Avataq, Nunavik’s culture institute, broadcaster Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. and the Saputiit Youth Association will be “Special Advisory Councils.”

There will also be standing committees on health, social services, social housing and elders.

As for finances, the agreement says the government departments that will be created out of the school board and the regional health board will keep the transfers that they’ve been getting until now, for use “primarily” to finance their operations and administration.

More detailed negotiations on what form of government Nunavik will take would not happen until after the first election. The second phase of negotiations could begin in 2006, or later.

The agreement says any amendment to the James Bay and North Quebec Agreement to establish the Nunavimmiut Aquvinga “shall not prejudice the rights of Inuit under the JBNQA.” Any amendments and further agreements to the JBNQA will also be looked at “as a treaty.”

Makivik will need to give its consent for any changes to the future Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga, which may also strike agreements with Makivik to deliver services.

Since March, a three-member Tripartite Implementation/Transition Working Group, appointed by Nunavik, Quebec and the federal government, has been working on plans for the Nunavimmiut Aquvvinga and its short-term funding.

Its implementation plan will, among other things, include a training strategy and timetable.

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