Inuit reps to press land claim implementation at Gatineau conference
“They have to keep their promise, and a lot of times they don’t”
The federal government must start honouring land claims agreements, James Eetoolook, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.‘s acting president said.
To press that point, he will attend a national conference, organized by the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, whose membership includes all modern treaty organizations in Canada, in Gatineau Feb. 26 to March 1.
“It’s important to send the message to start honouring what we agreed to,” Eetoolook said.
The fourth annual event, called “Keeping the Promise: The Path Ahead to Full Modern Treaty Implementation,” aims to “lay the foundations of a modern treaty implementation policy for public release and presentation to the federal government,” LCAC’s website said.
The conference will also establish and publish a federal report card for annual release to report on the federal government’s progress implementing comprehensive land claim agreements and modern treaties.
“They have to keep their promise, and a lot of times they don’t,” Eetoolook said.
The federal government is appealing a ruling issued last summer that found Ottawa failed to implement part of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
Justice Earl Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice ruled in June 2011 that the federal government was in breach of the NLCA by failing to develop a general monitoring plan as required by Article 12 of the agreement.
But filing a lawsuit and going to court was a last resort for NTI, Eetoolook said.
“It’s like talking to a brick wall… it’s kind of frustrating sometimes,” he said of implementation negotiations with the federal government.
He wants to see “betterment of Inuit life” and for aboriginal people in Canada not to be viewed as second-class citizens.
Eetoolook says the Idle No More demonstrations taking place around Canada are a good thing.
“It will keep the Canadian government accountable to its aboriginal people. It’s about time the Canadian government starts listening,” Eetoolook said.
The Gatineau conference will feature high profile speakers such as Thomas Berger and the Assembly of First Nations national chief, Shawn Atleo.
Berger, a celebrated lawyer, judge and aboriginal rights advocate, will deliver a keynote address called “the 40-Year Road – how modern treaties provide the context and foundation for Canada’s political, legal, economic and social landscapes.”
Terry Audla, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Cathy Towtongie, the NTI president and Inuit co-chair of the Land Claims Agreements Coalition, will also speak at the event.
“These people are very knowledgeable about land claims agreements in Canada,” Eetoolook said.
He hopes the federal minister of aboriginal affairs, John Duncan, who is invited to the conference, will attend.
However, despite their criticisms of treaty implementation, the conference will also celebrate the successes produced by the treaties as well, Eetoolook said.
“We are looking forward to it, and hopefully something will come out of it,” he said.
Conference delegates will take part in workshops covering areas such as: self-government negotiations, challenges, and the way ahead; dispute resolution and industry partnerships in the modern treaty context; and exploring the international context for land claims.
The LCAC’s mandate is to ensure that comprehensive land claims agreements and associated self-government agreements are respected, honoured and fully implemented to achieve their objectives.
Taken collectively, modern treaties affect nearly half of Canada’s land, waters and resources.
The LCAC, which currently has 15 members, was formed in 2003.