Nunavik self-government talks set to start

Federal and regional representatives await announcement of Quebec negotiating team


Nunavik and the federal government are poised to start talking about the shape Nunavik’s new government should take — they’re just waiting for Quebec to decide who will negotiate on the province’s behalf.

Minnie Grey, Nunavik’s chief negotiator, has already left her job as executive director of Nunavik’s regional board of health and social services and is moving to Montreal, where she and her family plan to live for the two-year negotiation period.

Donat Savoie, of the federal department of Indian and Northern Affairs, has known since December that he will head up the federal government’s negotiating team.

Savoie has a 30-year connection with Nunavik, where he lived during the late 1960s.

Two former members of the Nunavik Commission, Jules Dufour and Marc-Adélard Tremblay, are to join the federal team as advisors.

Savoie is eager for Quebec to announce the names of its negotiators so the three parties can fine-tune an agreement that will serve as a framework for self-government negotiations.

“You can’t negotiate everything,” Savoie said. “You have to be practical.”

This framework agreement will give the negotiators their mandate. It will also set out the principles, structure, subject matter, source of funding and timetable for self-government negotiations.

Of the many items up for negotiation, the draft agreement says the negotiators will look at the creation of a Nunavik assembly, the consolidation of organizations created by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, and block-funding for the new government.

According to the agreement, negotiators from Nunavik, Quebec City and Ottawa will also agree to find ways of accommodating other aboriginal groups, such as Cree and Naskapi, who live on the territory.

As he waits for Quebec to budge, Savoie said he’s contacted the 15 federal departments that have programs in Nunavik to inform them of the changes that lie ahead — so he will have one less task when negotiations eventually begin in earnest.

“We don’t know when they’re going to start up,” said Pita Aatami, president of Makivik Corporation, which represents the interests of the so-called “Nunavik party” at the table.

But Aatami said he hopes to have some word soon, since the recent ratification of the so-called “Inuksuk” agreement between Quebec and Nunavik has removed another hurdle.

Nunavik has already named its two other Inuit negotiators: Harry Tulugak and Maggie Emudluk.

Tulugak, a former mayor of Puvirnituq, was also the co-chair of the Nunavik Commission that tabled its recommendations on self-government in April 2001.

Emudluk, a municipal councillor in Kangiqsualujjuaq, was previously the community’s mayor. Emudluk is currently the vice-chairperson of the Kativik Regional Government.

It appears negotiations are set to move forward, despite a legal action filed late last year by the Kativik School Board asking the courts to stop self-government negotiations based on the Nunavik Commission’s report.

At the end of April, a working group struck between the KSB and Makivik was to try to resolve the differences arising from the “Amiqqaalauta-Let us share” report on self-government.

The working group was to work on a “Solidarity Accord,” that would “bring the members of the Nunavik Party together to present a united front when negotiating self-government.”

But the working group never met and no new date has been set for a meeting.

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