Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 20, 2016 - 4:00 pm

Nunavut Inuit, government officials, gear up for devolution

“The negotiations, whatever the outcome is, need to be long-term and sustainable programs for Nunavut"

STEVE DUCHARME
Members of the negotiating team pose Oct. 3, 2014, with their political masters. Devolution talks which stalled and then broke off after the last election, are expected to begin again with the naming of a new federal negotiator Fred Caron. (FILE PHOTO)
Members of the negotiating team pose Oct. 3, 2014, with their political masters. Devolution talks which stalled and then broke off after the last election, are expected to begin again with the naming of a new federal negotiator Fred Caron. (FILE PHOTO)

Stakeholders for Nunavut devolution are hopeful the recent appointment of a new federal negotiator will resolve the stalled debate they say characterized negotiations under the former Conservative government.

“The problem was the previous government practically said to the negotiators ‘Take it or leave it’,” Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Cathy Towtongie told Nunatsiaq News.

Nunavut’s most recent devolution negotiations — transferring federal powers to the territorial government — began in late-2014 but ended less than a year later when Ottawa called the federal election.

Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna admitted to MLAs in Nunavut’s legislature March 1 that talks “were moving slower than expected.”

But that hasn’t affected the deadline set by negotiators to reach an agreement-in-principle for devolution by March 31, 2017, eight months from now.

The Government of Nunavut’s chief negotiator, Simon Awa, told Nunatsiaq News “there was no negotiation” by his federal counterpart, Brian Dominique.

Dominique, appointed to the position in 2014, insisted devolution in Nunavut would mirror agreements in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, Awa explained.

“That was their attitude. I’m hoping that the new negotiators will be different,” he said.

Carolyn Bennett, minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, announced July 9 that Fred Caron would step in as the new federal negotiator for Nunavut devolution.

Caron has handled several Aboriginal negotiations in the past, including a role in the $255 million out-of-court settlement reached between NTI and the federal government last year over implementation issues in the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

“He knows the file. He knows Nunavut. That’s a positive thing,” Awa said of his new federal counterpart.

Awa hopes to have all three negotiating parties meet by late-September to start working on a timeline for discussions.

But both NTI and the GN say the federal government will have to make at least some room for compromise this time around.

Towtongie says the first step is to acknowledge that Nunavut requires “creative” measures for devolution that distinguish the territory from agreements in the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

“The federal government in many cases wanted to clone the 2014 Northwest Territories agreement, but NTI couldn’t accept that,” she said.

“These negotiations from the Government of Canada have to be realistic to the issues and the reality and the jurisdiction of Nunavut, both on land and in marine areas.”

Towtongie calls for a stronger voice for Nunavut in both Canadian and international waters, adding that Inuit “are marine oriented people and Nunavut does not stop at the shoreline.”

“If it does take place in marine waters, we have to take place in the decision-making process,” she said, on possible offshore resource development and its impact on marine habitats.

The first phase of devolution talks will cover public lands and resources in the territory where 80 per cent of land in Nunavut — the portion not held by Inuit under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement — currently falls under federal control and management.

Under the 2008 Land and Resources Devolution Negotiation Protocol that NTI signed with the governments of Nunavut and Canada, offshore management matters are to discussed in later phase.

Towtongie added that NTI would protect the revenue from royalties paid into the Nunavut Trust by the federal government from revenue that Ottawa receives for resource development on Crown lands.

Right now, Article 25 of the NCLA states that Inuit shall receive 50 per cent of the first $2 million that the federal government receives in resource royalties, and five per cent of any additional resource royalties paid to Ottawa.

“After devolution the way these royalties will be calculated, the calculations could change so we are keeping a close eye on that,” she said.

“The funding formula will have to reflect the actual cost of operation in Nunavut.”

Awa says he will approach the new negotiations with an eye to the future.

“The negotiations, whatever the outcome is, need to be long-term and sustainable programs for Nunavut,” he said. “That is the bottom line.”

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