The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, in plain language
“I think the word usually used is ‘vague'”
Eleven years after signing the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has published Tukisittiarniqsaujumaviit?, or A Plain Language Guide to the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, and it was worth the wait.
“We’ve always been told by our beneficiaries that we don’t give enough information out as the land claims group,” says NTI president Paul Kaludjak. “This hopefully will provide more information on the claim itself and the intent.”
NTI’s board members and staff spent “a few years” reading the text of the official agreement line by line to come up with an accurate description of each section.
“Many times the agreement is so difficult to interpret, even legally at times, that we needed to find out exactly what the articles meant for us and what they mean in layman’s terms,” Kaludjak says.
By lawyers’ standards, the Nunavut land claims agreement is fairly concise, but normal people won’t find it easy reading.
The 229-page document is laden with sentences like this: “Subsequent to the conveyence of the fee simple estate of the built-up area of the municipality under Section 14.3.1, and upon….” Did I lose you?
A Plain Language Guide eradicates such bafflegab.
Instead, it boils down the 42 legal articles that make up the land claim agreement into brief, one-page descriptions outlining the purpose of each article, and why it’s important.
Even the article titles make more sense.
The “Northern Energy and Minerals Accords” article becomes “Inuit Voice in Energy and Mineral Agreements.”
“Capital Transfer” becomes “Payment to Inuit from Canada.”
The introduction encourages readers to refer to the original agreement in the event of any confusion. It also explains why some of the articles refer to things that will be done, rather than things that have been done already.
Notes in the margins throughout the book offer handy definitions for technical words used in the agreement, and provide updates on some of the results of the land claim agreement.
For example, the article called “Protecting the Agreement in Law” (or what the official document calls “Ratification”) includes a note saying, “The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act came into effect on July 9, 1993. That is why Nunavummiut celebrate Nunavut Day on July 9 each year.”
NTI printed 10,000 copies of the book, in English, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.
Copies will be distributed to Inuit organizations, school, wildlife organizations and hamlets across Nunavut, and are expected to be used in classrooms, workshops and within the government.
“Our number one target is always our beneficiaries,” Kaludjak says.
“We want to give them the fair understanding of the claim because it’s so complex and so…, I think the word usually used is ‘vague.'”
Kaludjak hopes the document will also find an audience outside of Nunavut.
“The intent is to slowly give it out to whomever needs it, who has an interest in Nunavut. Any organization working with us will understand and interpret it better when they’re working with us.”
In addition to providing an easy-to-use guide to the land claim agreement, the book will also look nice on your coffee table.
The book is full of colour prints of works by artists Germaine Arnaktauyok, Kananginak Pootoogook, Susie Malgokak, Elsie Anaginak Klengenberg, Sarah Joe Qinuajua and Kenojuak Ashevak, as well as short biographies on each artist.
The quality evident on each glossy page is no accident, Kaludjak says.
“That shows our commitment to the beneficiaries of this agreement.”