The Nunavik Commission report in a nutshell
A new public government for Nunavik.
IQALUIT — The Nunavik Commission’s 97-page blueprint for a new government in Nunavik contains 19 chapters and numerous recommendations.
The Makivik Corporation is now distributing copies of the report to communities around Nunavik.
Here’s a short summary of its contents.
“Cabinet” elected Nunavik-wide
• A five-person executive branch — a kind of a cabinet — would be elected on a Nunavik-wide basis by all Nunavik electors. This would include a government leader, and at least four other executive branch members.
• The Nunavik assembly would have at least 15 locally-elected members, one from each of the 14 villages, and one from the Naskapi, if they wish to be represented in the assembly.
• Any community with a population greater than 2,000 people would elect a second representative.
• Length of terms for elected officials: The report says “three or four years,” but the commissioners don’t say which term-length they prefer, and provide no discussion on the issue.
• The Nunavik Commission disagreed on whether the five executive members would sit with the assembly, and they disagreed on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of their government.
Instead, they proposed a choice between two models, and say the issue should be referred to the three parties to the Nunavik Accord.
MODEL 1: The government leader, along with the other four executive members would be elected from lists of candidates contesting each executive job. Each would keep the specific executive responsibility to which he or she was elected for the duration of his or her term.
Under this model, each executive member would sit with the Nunavik assembly, and would “fully participate in its legislative function.”
Although this implies that the five executive members would have full voting rights on all matters that come before the Nunavik assembly, the report doesn’t say so explicitly.
And the report is silent on the question of how, under this model, the five executive members could be disciplined, removed, or otherwise kept accountable by the assembly.
MODEL 2: Under this model, only the government leader would run for that specific position. The report does not state how the other four executive members would be elected, but it seems to assume that under this model they would be elected at large on a Nunavik-wide basis.
After the election, the government leader would assign responsibilities to each executive member, and would have the power to re-assign responsibilities for the duration of their terms.
Under this model, elected executive members would not sit with the assembly, but would have the right to speak to the assembly, and could be compelled to appear before it.
But the report doesn’t say if or how executive members would propose or introduce legislation. And, like the other model, the report is silent on the question of how the five executive members could be disciplined, removed, or otherwise kept accountable by the assembly.
• The commission recommends the creation of a council of elders to give advice to the government on Inuit language and culture. They say this body should include a representative from Inuit who live in the Cree community of Chisasibi.
• The Nunavik assembly could “recall” wayward members and have them replaced in by-elections through a vote by two-thirds of the assembly’s members.
Language and culture
• Inuttitut, French and English would be the official languages of Nunavik.
• Only the French or English versions of a measure adopted by the Nunavik assembly can be applied by the courts – but the commission recommends that no law can be applied unless an official Inuttitut version exists.
• The council of elders would serve as “the guardian of Inuit language and culture.”
No Nunavut-style decentralization
• The Nunavik commissioners reject the type of decentralization that Nunavut chose — the distribution of jobs and government offices among smaller communities.
• They say this approach “has many pitfalls,” such as lack of housing, and the reluctance of civil servants to move to smaller places. They also say Nunavut-style decentralization is too complicated and inefficient, and does not provide more power to communities.
• Instead, the Nunavik commission recommends devolving political and administrative responsibilities to communities, but not government offices.
• Nunavik commissioners recommend that a capital be chosen in a referendum.
Powers and jurisdiction
• The Nunavik government would take over the functions of the Kativik Regional Government, the Kativik School Board, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services and the Avataq Cultural Institute. Those boards would be dissolved, and their employees would be transferred to the new government.
• Other organizations, such as Taqramiut Nipingat (Nunavik’s Inuktitut language broadcaster, and the two hospital corporations, would retain their corporate identity.
• The Nunavik assembly would have restricted lawmaking powers.
• The Nunavik government would administer in the areas of health, education, justice, social housing and economic development
Quebec, Canada, other peoples
• Commissioners assume that Nunavik will continue to be a part of Canada and Quebec after the new government is created — but they say nothing about what would happen if Quebec were to secede from Canada.
• The commissioners offer no legal opinion about whether or not a Nunavik government’s powers will be protected by the constitution, but they’re optimistic all the same: “While this commission cannot make definite legal pronouncements in this report, it is likely these powers will receive constitutional protection.”
• Commissioners say the rights that the Cree, Naskapi and Innu are asserting within Nunavik are “deeply held and should not be ignored.” To deal with this, they recommend the creation of a “Forum of Aboriginal Peoples of Northern Quebec.”
• Commissioners recommend that Nunavimmiut should be able to elected their own members to the House of Commons and to the Quebec National Assembly.
Nunavik’s justice system
• Nunavik commissioners recommend the creation of a new judicial district in Nunavik, with at least one full-time judge and a resident Crown prosecutor.
• They also recommend the eventual creation of a unified court, similar to Nunavut’s, in which the functions of the lower court and the superior court are combined.
• The report is silent on the question of judicial independence. But commissioners say the Nunavik government should “be involved” in the hiring of judges and Crown attorneys, and that none should be hired until after “prior approval” by the Nunavik government.
• The governments of Canada and Quebec would give the Nunavik government at least some of the tax revenues that they collect in Nunavik.
• The Nunavik government would have its own taxation powers, and would have the ability to raise or lower federal or provincial tax rates within certain prescribed limits.
• The Nunavik government would receive economic rents and royalties from developers such as Hydro-Quebec.
• All or most of the separate federal and provincial transfer payments that Nunavik now gets would be combined into a single block funding agreement.
• The Nunavik government would be responsible for its surpluses or deficits.
• Commissioners estimate that provincial and federal governments would have to supply 86 per cent of the Nunavik government’s budget, or $208 million a year out of an estimated budget (in 1998 dollars) of $243 million a year. Current mining royalties would account for less than $1 million a year.