Good afternoon, everybody. We'll try to get started here.
Before I welcome our guests, I would just like to start by drawing the attention of the committee members to the agenda. There's one small change. We are welcoming two groups of witnesses today. The first, from now until 4:25, is the Naskapi Nation, and then from 4:25 until 5:15, we'll have the Makivik Corporation.
You'll note that from 5:15 until 5:30 we will have some committee business in camera. There are two issues. One is a notice of motion from Ms. Neville, and second, I want to deal with the requests I have received from several members for an additional meeting this week. We'll stop at 5:15. I'm hoping we can accomplish all of that in 15 minutes, but if some of my colleagues wish to take longer to express themselves, I want you to know that I have lots of time tonight, and I don't need to rush off to anything at 5:30.
An hon. member: Are there votes or something?
To my knowledge there are no votes today. I understand that there's lots of time. We're going to be here right until Friday until two o'clock. So I'm sure that we can hold the votes later in the week if we need to.
I would like to welcome to the table representatives of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach. Today I would like to welcome Chief Philip Einish; Robert Pratt, who is the legal counsel; and Paul Wilkinson, who is a special adviser.
I'd also like to note that we have in the room today several other representatives from the Naskapi Nation: Mr. Paul Mameanskum; Mr. Edward Shecanapish, also a counsellor; Isaac Pien, a counsellor; and John Mameanskum, director general. Welcome to all of you. I see you brought your weather with you here to Ottawa today.
What we'd like to do is give those at the table the opportunity to make a presentation. If you could hold it to about ten minutes, whether that's from one person or collectively, we would appreciate that. It allows us to get on with our questioning.
I will need to bring this portion to completion at 4:25. With that, who would like to make the presentation today?
[Witness speaks in native language]
My name is Philip Einish. I am the chief of the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach. On special occasions, such as at meetings with government people, when I present something, I always start off in my mother tongue because language is an important issue in my community. It's a priority.
I am grateful to the committee for agreeing to hear our presentation here this afternoon. We hope to seek a better future for my people. Our presence here reflects, in particular, the efforts of Mr. Yvon Lévesque. Many thanks, Mr. Lévesque. Other members who have already demonstrated an interest in our rights are Jean Crowder, Nancy Karetak-Lindell, Rod Bruinooge, Todd Russell, and Marc Lemay.
Dr. Paul Wilkinson, who has worked with us for over 30 years, will present our brief, and Robert Pratt, our legal adviser since 1970, will assist in answering the questions that will be put forward.
[Witness speaks in native language]
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ladies and gentlemen, I will be presenting the Naskapi's brief in English, but if you have any questions or comments in French, we will be happy to respond in the language of Molière, or of Gilles Vigneault, as the case may be.
Compressing 5,000 years of Naskapi history and 17 years of work on this particular file into ten minutes is a little bit of a challenge, but I shall do my best.
The first thing you need to understand is that traditionally the Inuit of Quebec, particularly the Inuit in the area of Ungava Bay, have been a coastal people. This is generally true of the Inuit from Siberia through to Alaska.
On page one of our brief, you will see a map prepared by Makivik Corporation that shows that in the area of Ungava Bay, the presence of the Inuit was limited to the coast. On page two, you will see that, for the very same reason, all of the contemporary Inuit communities are either on or very close to the coast. Page three will show you that the interior land south of Ungava Bay was traditionally occupied by Naskapi and this started approximately 5,000 years ago, shortly after the glacial ice receded in that area.
The next important fact that you need to know is that, unlike certain other aboriginal groups in Quebec, the Naskapi did want to sign the James Bay Agreement, and in 1975, under the guidance of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, the predecessor of Makivik Corporation, the Naskapi made a strenuous effort to become a signatory. They were not, however, allowed to. Time ran out, and the parties decided to stick to the deadline of November 1975 for the signing that had been agreed to in the agreement in principle of 1974.
The consequence of this was that the lands of the Naskapi and the rights relating to those lands were given predominantly to the Inuit, even though the Inuit had never used and occupied those lands, and I'm referring here principally to this area shown on the preceding page, north of the 55th parallel.
Among other things, the jurisdiction of the Kativik Regional Government extended south to the 55th parallel even though that had never been traditional Inuit lands, and that is shown on the map on the following page.
The Naskapi were excluded from the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, but they were given a commitment by the signatories to that agreement that a comparable agreement would be negotiated with them. But first the Naskapi had to go to the Inuit and say, “Please, Inuit, will you give us back our lands? Will you please give us back our rights?” That was a humiliating exercise, because the Naskapi are a first nation--and were recognized as such by the National Assembly in 1985--that is in every respect equal to the Inuit first nation.
The Inuit didn't want to hand back to the Naskapi most of what they had taken from them. The Inuit at that time were under great pressure. The James Bay agreement had been endorsed by the Inuit by only a tiny minority, and the three Inuit so-called dissident communities of Puvirnituk, Akulivik, and Ivujivik were threatening legal action at that time to have the James Bay agreement overturned. So politically it wasn't very easy for the Inuit to go back to their electors and say, “Look guys, we signed this agreement and we're now going to give away about a third of the land we got, the rights that go with it, and so on.”
The consequence was that the area over which the rights of the Naskapi were recognized under their agreement—the Northeastern Quebec Agreement of 1978—covered only a small portion of their traditional lands north of the 55th parallel.
On the following page we have indicated in red the area of traditional Naskapi lands that the Inuit refused to give back to the Naskapi. We use the word “expropriated” in our brief. So although the Naskapi got their own land claims agreement, they and their lands remained under the jurisdiction of the Kativik Regional Government. They were given one seat out of 14. You're politicians, so you know how much power or influence a group that holds one seat out of 14 exercises over decision-making.
One of the particularly painful things for the Naskapi was that they were not allowed by the Inuit to have any important representation on the committees of environmental and social protection created under section 23 of the James Bay agreement, even though those regimes were created primarily to protect the hunting, fishing, trapping, and other rights of the native people.
Paradoxically, since 1990 when the Naskapi first became involved in this file, they have supported the desire of the Inuit to obtain enhanced governmental powers, with one important nuance. That nuance is that the Naskapi wish the Inuit to get those powers over the traditional lands of the Inuit, but they don't want the Inuit to get any more powers over the Naskapi or their traditional lands. The Naskapi are increasingly being put in a relationship with the Inuit in which the Inuit are a colonial power exercising authority over Naskapi lands and Naskapi people.
The Naskapi have tried unsuccessfully since 1990 to obtain a seat at the Makivik–Canada-Quebec negotiating table, or if not a seat, at least some meaningful representation. The Naskapi believe that Canada has a particular special duty to protect its rights and interests in this matter. But Canada has consistently failed to do so.
As I mentioned earlier, the Naskapi have one seat out of 14 on the council of the Kativik Regional Government. They believe that in many ways the Kativik Regional Government has consistently discriminated against or neglected their interests. If you're interested, we can cite examples to support that belief.
The Naskapi, despite all the deficiencies of the Naskapi agreement—the Kativik Regional Government authority, no representation on key committees, and so on—signed the Northeastern Quebec Agreement in 1978 because it offered them great advantages. The first was the possibility of negotiating a new village, which they obtained, and which has transformed their quality of life. The second was the possibility of getting self-government legislation, which was achieved in 1984 through the adoption by Parliament of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act. Another was $9 million of compensation, and so on.
Their fear is that if a new Inuit-dominated government is granted greater powers, the government will exercise those powers. Since the government would be dominated by Inuit for centuries to come, the Naskapi fear that it will exercise its powers in a way that adversely affects the culture, the economy, and the society of the Naskapi.
The original position of the Naskapi was that they wanted the Kativik Regional Government to get out of their traditional lands entirely in exchange for new powers. That position was followed for many years. It became obvious that it was not very likely to succeed.
The compromise position adopted by the Naskapi is that they wish no new powers in certain areas, such as natural resources, wildlife management, taxation, land management, culture, toponyms, and language. They wish no new powers in those fields to be granted to the new regional government unless the Naskapi have consented in advance to that granting.
There is a ray of hope. Minister Pelletier, responsible for aboriginal affairs for the Government of Quebec, visited Kawawachikamach in August 2007. He reacted very positively and very sensitively when the Naskapi explained to them this compromise position relating to the granting of new powers.
In his follow-up letter of October 3 he gave a commitment to the Naskapi that they would play an important role in the stages of negotiation following the signing of the agreement in principle. The chief and I attended the signing of the agreement in principle in Quebec City last Wednesday. We understand that on November 28, I think, the Quebec cabinet endorsed the position, the commitment, given to the Naskapi by Minister Pelletier, although for reasons of cabinet confidentiality we have not yet seen the specific document that was authorized.
Every Minister of Indian Affairs since 1990 has made promises to the Naskapi. I would say none of those promises has been kept. We feel that the position of the Naskapi would be greatly improved if, like the Quebec cabinet, the federal cabinet endorsed a strategy designed to offer reasonable protection to the rights and interests of the Naskapi. Our request to you as a committee is that you make a unanimous recommendation that the federal cabinet endorse such a strategy.
I've run over a little bit, but in 5,000 years there's a lot to talk about.
I think I can answer your question.
The reason Quebec and Canada and the Inuit have excluded the Naskapi is that all parties claim the treaty rights under the Northeastern Quebec Agreement and the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of the Naskapi are not being affected by the expansion of powers to be given to the Nunavut government. In other words, the hunting, fishing, and trapping rights, and the other treaty rights are not being affected, the argument being that there was a secession of all aboriginal rights in the territory by all parties and an expropriation by in northern Quebec, and that these are new powers.
The Naskapi argument is not that their treaty rights as such are being affected; it's that they wish not to be dominated in a jurisdictional manner by another ethnic group, which is the Inuit. With regard to their traditional territory, they would like the legislated powers to remain with Quebec. They feel they would be protected by Quebec, but once these powers over resources and other sensitive matters are given to the Inuit, they feel they'd be discriminated against. That's the reason.
In terms of consultation, as I say, the attitude of Quebec and Canada is that consultation is not required because the treaty rights as such are not being affected. We're talking here, broadly, about something else called interests. It's a matter of governance, and these are new powers.
Yes, that's correct, but what I didn't mention was that one of the reasons the Naskapi signed the Northeastern Quebec Agreement, despite its shortcomings, was that the powers of the Kativik Regional Government, as they exist now, are really very minor. They're so minor that they can't do any particular harm to Naskapi interests.
But the nightmare example we keep talking about is this. Imagine this new government got power over natural resources and, in particular, power over whether to issue a lease for a mine. Imagine there was a mine, a potential mine, near Kuujjuaq, and imagine there was a potential mine near Kawawachikamach, but for some reason both these mines couldn't go ahead—there wasn't enough electricity for two mines, so you couldn't transport the ore for two mines. If an Inuit-dominated government had to decide which of these mines went ahead, our fear is they would choose to authorize the mine near Kuujjuaq, because the benefits--the jobs, the contract--would flow to Inuit. They wouldn't authorize the mine close to Kawawachikamach because they wouldn't benefit from it.
This is why we're afraid of certain kinds of powers. But the Naskapi agreed in 1978 to accept the Kativik Regional Government as it was and they're not trying to back out of it. They don't always like it, but that's the deal, and they've got to stick by the deal.
I am Chief Phil Einish of the Naskapi Nation.
The elders, especially our elders who have benefited from the land since the time of their grandfathers and grandmothers and time immemorial, have expressed their views on this new proposed Nunavik. They say they have always shared their traditional Naskapi territory within just below the limits of what is now Kuujjuaq. They have always shared with their northern neighbours, the Inuit. The two cultures have always shared, and they want this relationship to keep going for the future ones. What they don't want is an Inuit-dominated government to take over our future ones. They would like to keep this tradition in a solid direction so the relationship between the two cultures does not fade away. In this way, the Naskapi themselves want their traditional interests the way they were.
We support their having greater powers in their traditional coastal areas, but not in our traditional lands. That's the vision of the elders for the future ones. Only in the last 45 years have we benefited from the government. In the past we didn't benefit from anything except the land itself, and we want this vision to be in a solid state that benefits our future ones.
I will ask my questions in quick succession and you can answer them all together.
Did the Inuit use or travel over Naskapi land at the time? Also, did the Naskapi use the coastal area? That's my first question.
I have another question. The letter from Minister Pelletier specifically notes the following:
|Moreover, the agreement in principle stipulates that the parties will invite the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach to discuss issues such as the participation of the Naskapi in the Nunavik Assembly, the creation of a bilateral committee to examine certain issues concerning that portion of the land involving the Naskapi [...]
Are you all right with our referring to the portion of the land pertaining to the Naskapi, rather than to Naskapi land, as well as to the Naskapi's position on the scope and aim of the negotiations?
Thank you for coming before the committee today.
I want to briefly go back to the report that originally raised this matter before the committee. This is the 2006 report of the Cree-Naskapi Commission, and there are two things I want to touch on.
One is the fact that the Naskapi talked to the commissioners, and the commissioners went ahead and held a meeting in which the Department of Indian Affairs refused to participate. They invoked section 167 of the act, saying they wouldn't come to the commission on that matter.
Subsequently, recommendation 25 that came forward from the commissioners said:
|| The Government of Canada must adequately discharge its responsibility and undertake timely and appropriate measures in consultation with the Naskapi Nation to ensure the protection of Naskapi rights and interests in the present negotiations respecting the establishment of a Nunavik government.
I'm going to paraphrase the government response rather than going through the whole thing. They basically said there would be a four-party process that would include Inuit, Naskapi, Quebec, and Canada, to consider the issues. Subsequently, they said they expected it would yield positive results. The commission reported later that it hadn't produced any desired results.
This committee heard those concerns, so what if anything has the federal government done to address Naskapi concerns since this report of 2006 was raised?
Quite clearly, we will not survive, the way it has been, because of the economic aspects and degrading of first nation communities. I fear that my people will not be the same as they are today and in past years, because without the land itself....
The majority of our population is youth, and a lot of them still practise our traditional activities, and so forth. I'm envisioning the land. It's the land base for the survival of my people. We still use the traditional lands a lot, especially the young people who are coming up and representing the majority of our population.
If another injustice is done, this will lead us to disparity, despair, and so forth. Our nation has been struggling, and we always want to move forward and better our future. That's how we ask that we be looked upon.
I appreciate the commentary received so far from all of the witnesses. Perhaps I'll just start by mentioning that of course, when we talk about the long tenure of time where your requests have been put forward, we must remember that the former government had much of the time in the government offices--of course, that being the Liberal Party. But I think that is well known and it doesn't need to be stated again, although occasionally I like to state it on the record. It is a little disappointing, there's no doubt about that.
Perhaps I could work my way through your document here. You obviously made a number of points.
One of your first points is that the Naskapi tried to sign the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, but they were not allowed to. Just for my own information, could you give me a small synopsis of why the Naskapi weren't allowed to sign that agreement?
I think you have to remember that the Naskapi were moved from the Fort Chimo area to the Schefferville area under the influence of the federal government in 1956. At that time, virtually no Naskapi spoke English or French, and no Naskapi had any level of education whatsoever.
So when the negotiation of the James Bay agreement started in the early 1970s, the older Naskapi, the mature Naskapi, spoke neither English nor French. They were living in Schefferville. As I recall it, at the time, radio service in Schefferville came from Corner Brook, so they knew what was happening, with no disrespect, in local hockey in Corner Brook, but they had no idea of what was going on in Quebec politics.
So the first year of negotiations with the Crees and the Inuit went ahead, and the Naskapi knew nothing about it. The agreement in principle for the James Bay agreement was executed in November 1975, and the Naskapi didn't know.
In any case, the agreement in principle only provided for the extinguishing of the rights of the signatories, the Crees and the Inuit. The Naskapi became aware of negotiations in early 1975, when they were visited by the Crees and the Inuit. The Crees and the Inuit each told them what was going on and asked if they would like them to represent the Naskapi.
The Naskapi decided to be represented by the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, even though they're Indians, even though they're closely related to the Crees. The Naskapi had for many years lived near and traded into Fort Chimo, so they had much closer links with the Inuit than with the Crees, so they decided to let the Inuit negotiate for them. And they paid them a significant amount of money for this.
As the deadline for signing the James Bay agreement approached, the Naskapi were advised that the Northern Quebec Inuit Association had done virtually nothing in exchange for the money that had been paid to get the Naskapi mentioned in the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
So at that time they actually began by hiring Robin. I came on board a little while later and they formed their own negotiating team. The agreement in principle of 1974 said that the final agreement had to be signed in November 1975, and there wasn't time to get the Naskapi into it, and the other parties were unwilling to delay the signing.
If you remember, the purpose of the James Bay agreement is to give certainty to the Government of Quebec and Hydro-Québec that they have the right to develop the territory. The governments didn't want to delay getting that certainty any longer than they could, so the Naskapi were left out.
Kativik Regional Government has demonstrated over the last 20-odd years a pattern of discriminating against Naskapi interests. I'll give you two examples.
One is that they got a significant sum of money to establish parks in the part of Quebec north of the 55th parallel. There are some wonderful potential park sites in Naskapi lands. The Naskapi asked that at least one of these sites be approved as a park. The Kativik Regional Government said no. Why did they say no? It was because parks bring with them economic benefits. The Inuit made sure that the parks that were created bring benefits to the Inuit communities. There is one, Pingualuit, which was inaugurated about a week or 10 days ago. It is up near Kangiqsujuaq and brings benefits to the Inuit communities. The other, which is in an earlier state of development, is north of Kangiqsualujjuaq on the east coast of Hudson Bay.
The second example is that the Inuit were offered their version of la paix des braves. It is called the Sanarrutik agreement, which was signed in 2002 and to which the Kativik Regional Government is a signatory. That agreement grants to the Inuit economic development rights in Naskapi lands. Again, the Kativik Regional Government became a party to that, even though it was prejudicial to the interests of the Naskapi. As we said before, the Naskapi are one voice in 14 on the council of the KRG. A political party that has only 7% of the vote in any form of parliament doesn't have a whole lot of influence and doesn't have a whole lot of power.
Thank you, Mr. Wilkinson.
With that, I need to bring this portion of our meeting to a conclusion.
I want to thank the witnesses who have appeared before us, and in particular I want to thank again the councillors and the director general, who have travelled to Ottawa today to be here with us.
I'm going to suspend briefly. I would ask Makivik Corporation to come forward; we'll try to do this shift in about two minutes.
If we could reconvene, we'll go through a similar process now. Basically we'll have about a 10-minute presentation, followed by probably one round of questions.
Could I ask those at the back of the room to take your conversation outside? I would appreciate that.
I would like to welcome, from the Makivik Corporation, two witnesses today, Harry Tulugak and Michael McGoldrick.
As I said, if you'd like to take about 10 minutes to make a presentation, either one of you or both of you, we will then go into a round of questions.
[Witness speaks in his native language
Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today on behalf of the Makivik Corporation.
Right off the bat I'd like to make a correction. Coming from the dissident community of Puvirnituk myself, I can say there was an incorrect statement by our esteemed friend Mr. Wilkinson, where he said the dissident communities of Puvirnituk, Akulivik, and Ivujivik, when in fact it was Puvirnituk, Ivujivik, and half the population of Salluit.
Just at the outset, I'd like to make that correction, and also to correct the misstatement about Inuit government. In fact, it is a non-ethnic government. It's a public form of government that the people of Nunavik are aspiring to.
Makivik is also the successor of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, which was mentioned. It was the body that negotiated the Inuit section of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement on land claims. The regional institutions established under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement have jurisdiction over almost all of the Quebec mainland north of the 55th parallel, or roughly the top third of the province. It is a territory we call Nunavik, which I have seen to be officially recognized in the federal toponymy of the geographical maps of the electorate.
The only areas of this territory that are excluded from the jurisdiction of our institutions are the relatively small parcels of land that come under the authority of Cree or Naskapi governance structures. Needless to say, Inuit constitute the overwhelming majority of the population of Nunavik. It is also worth noting that with one exception there are only Inuit communities north of the 55th parallel. There are significant non-Inuit populations in some of the larger centres, but they reside in what are essentially Inuit communities. The only exception is the Cree community of Whapmagoostui, which coexists and is located next to the Inuit community of Kuujjuarapik in the southwest corner of Nunavik.
In this context it should be clarified that the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach lies south of the 55th parallel. This relatively new community, which was built for the Naskapi in the 1980s in an area south of Schefferville, is not part of Nunavik. The Naskapi have an uninhabited incorporated municipality north of the 55th parallel, but it has no permanent residents. In stating this we also acknowledge that the Naskapi have traditional lands that extend north of the 55th parallel. They have clearly defined legal rights north of the 55th parallel, and in the not-too-distant past the Naskapi Nation did reside north of the 55th parallel.
Our presentation today will focus on the facts leading up to the signing of the agreement in principle for the creation of the Nunavik government. This will involve some complex issues that trace their origins to decisions taken 35 years ago when the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was being negotiated.
I am going to have to interrupt for a moment.
I know that we're on page three of a 13-page presentation and we're more than five minutes in. I appreciate that you're reading slowly for the translators, but if there's a way....
I'm sorry, there were English copies only of the presentation provided to the chair and the staff at the front, so I do have a copy of this.
I'd like you to proceed, and I appreciate that you can't read quickly or the translators can't get it all, but if somehow you could abbreviate this, it would be appreciated.
As an aboriginal people within the meaning of subsection 91(24), Inuit were offered the opportunity to have their lands and institutions come under federal jurisdiction. However, it soon became obvious to the Inuit negotiators that this arrangement would be based on the Indian Act and that Inuit institutions would only have authority over relatively small pockets of land. This seemed like an absurdity, given that Inuit were the overwhelming majority in the vast territory. As an alternative, Quebec was offering a non-ethnic model that would make use of public institutions that would have jurisdiction over almost all the territory north of the 55th.
To the surprise of the federal and provincial governments, we opted for the public model. While it has the advantage of providing Inuit with institutions that have powers over large territory, there have been debates over some of the risks associated with this model, because public institutions are open to the participation of all permanent residents. Inuit could end up losing control over the various institutions they negotiated if they became a minority within their territory.
In the course of the negotiations, Inuit focused on the creation of public institutions such as the Kativik School Board, the Kativik Regional Government, and the Kativik Health and Social Services Council. Inuit negotiators had intended to regroup all these institutions under one government headed by an elected assembly. Within a few years of the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, there were calls for renewed efforts to bring the territory's regional institutions under one roof.
There were a number of aborted attempts in the eighties to bring these institutions closer together, but they lacked the political momentum necessary to take root. In order to kick-start the negotiations, Makivik and the governments of Quebec and Canada agreed to establish the Nunavik Commission, which I co-chaired. After extensive consultations with Nunavik and neighbouring aboriginal communities, this commission released its report with a series of far-reaching recommendations for the creation of a Nunavik government with extensive powers.
Conceptually, what we are setting out to do in the agreement in principle is quite simple. The boards and councils of the Kativik Regional Government, the school board, and the Nunavik regional health board will be replaced with one elected assembly. In addition, certain administrative functions that are common to all three organizations, such as purchasing and accounting services, will be centralized under a Nunavik government.
With the adoption of the Cree-Naskapi (of Quebec) Act, Canada fulfilled a commitment flowing from the Northeastern Quebec Agreement to give effect to self-government legislation for the Naskapi.
Self-government of Naskapi lands and institutions comes under federal jurisdiction. This is essentially the self-government arrangement that was offered to and rejected by the Inuit when they were negotiating the James Bay And Northern Quebec Agreement in the early 1970s.
I recall having had discussions about these many issues with the Naskapi representatives in the presence of federal and provincial officials in the early 1990s as a member of the Nunavik Commission. I also remember that the Naskapi made an extensive presentation at one of our hearings. The Naskapi did indicate they would consider the invitations, which were given, only after the parties of the negotiations appointed emissaries to travel to Kawawachikamach.
Together, Makivik, Canada, and Quebec appointed what we called an eminent persons group to listen to the views of the Naskapi. Later, in order to facilitate discussions and draft up what is essentially section 6.5 of our agreement in principle, it was forwarded to the Naskapi. This was followed by a meeting in Kawawachikamach between negotiators and the Naskapi leadership on May 5, 2005. It was agreed that a four-party committee would be set up to follow up on issues being raised by the Naskapi.
The first meeting of the committee took place in Montreal in July 2005, at which the Naskapi said they would not be ready to engage in a formal discussion on substance before the federal government officially responded to a list of questions they were putting forward.
Since then, there have been a series of exchange of letters on a variety of matters between the different negotiating parties and the Naskapi, in an effort to move the discussions forward.
I'm a bit thrown off, sir.
I will now summarize those provisions of the agreement in principle that directly relate to the Naskapi.
First, the territory over which the Nunavik Regional Government would have jurisdiction north of the 55th is defined as not including category 1B-N lands of the Naskapi.
Second, section 3.1.13 of the agreement in principle makes it clear that nothing in agreements to establish a Nunavik government “shall affect, modify or prejudice, and shall not be interpreted as affecting, modifying or prejudicing the rights, privileges and benefits of the Naskapi under the JBNQA and the NEQA or under any other agreement or undertaking to which the government of Québec or Canada is a party”.
Third, under the agreement in principle, the Naskapi would retain their representation in Nunavik, with a seat at the Nunavik Assembly.
Finally, in section 6.1, the bilateral committee would be established as part of a Nunavik government to address specific issues relating to the Naskapi. The bilateral committee would be composed of three members appointed by the Nunavik Regional Government, three members appointed by the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, and a chairperson appointed by Quebec who would be acceptable to both the Nunavik Regional Government and the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach. The agreement in principle foresees a joint working group of the Naskapi to finalize section 6.5 and to fully identify the mandate of the bilateral committee.
I also want to emphasize that provisions of section 6.5 go beyond the status quo in terms of the current obligations of the Kativik Regional Government in dealing with Naskapi issues in Nunavik.
In closing, I'd like to stress the following points.
First, it is important to remember that Nunavik Inuit have opted for public government or, for lack of a better word, a non-ethnic government. This means that all of our municipalities and regional institutions are open to the participation of all residents, Inuit and non-Inuit alike. Unlike many other aboriginal peoples, our governance model is not based on aboriginal institutions, which are controlled exclusively by Inuit, but it also means jurisdiction of our institutions is not limited to Inuit-controlled lands.
Second, in examining our AIP, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that it attempts to create a Nunavik government through amalgamation of what already exists. Except for what is required to merge the boards and the councils, and certain administrative functions of the existing organizations, our initiative does not attempt to make any changes to the powers or jurisdictions of what already exists in Nunavik.
Third, we have always acknowledged that the Naskapi have rights north of the 55th parallel, and that there is a need to enter into a dialogue with them about the creation of a Nunavik government. Although it has taken some time to arrive at the necessary quorum to facilitate such discussions, we believe that an exchange of letters that is currently under way will allow for a four-party meeting early in the near year, involving the Naskapi, Makivik, Quebec, and Canada.
Fourth, above all else, it is important to recognize that negotiations for the creation of a Nunavik government are taking place because Inuit have opted for public government as a means for exercising their self-government rights within Quebec and Canada. Although we opted for a public model, Inuit have confidence that the Nunavik government will provide us with a unified body that allows us to come together to govern our affairs, set our priorities, and determine our future. In this sense, it is a continuation of the work Inuit began 35 years ago with the negotiation of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.
Thank you for your kind understanding.
I appreciate that you were trying to plow through this.
For the committee, it's not typically the case, but we will try to get this translated and circulated to committee members, because at the end of the presentation the points were made, but you had to skip over some of the context at the front end. So committee members may welcome that.
We will have one round of questions, seven minutes each. I ask for the cooperation of my colleagues not to ask long or complicated questions after I give the one-minute warning.
The Naskapi community actually is just outside of Nunavik. It's just south of the 55th parallel. Their traditional lands are clearly north, in Nunavik, but the community itself isn't part of Nunavik.
The question about the territorial claims, I think, is one that's critical to hear, because it's been addressed by the land claim agreements. When you talk about the use of lands and the application of laws, the Naskapi have particular hunting, fishing, and trapping rights. There are lines on maps indicating what their rights are and how their rights have to be respected.
What we're talking about here aren't land claims; we're talking about governance. When the NQIA, the Inuit negotiator, sat down to negotiate the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and it came to governance, they opted for public government, which came under Quebec jurisdiction. The Naskapi said no. They had an option and they went for having their lands strictly under the control of the Naskapi, not public government, and for their institutions to come under federal jurisdiction.
There are two different concepts. One is a broader public concept where the territorial reach of their jurisdiction is not limited to lands reserved for the aboriginal people in question. All of the Inuit communities are public. The minute there is a influx of people for mining, or whatever, they could lose control of their institutions. On the other hand, since they are public institutions, the territorial reach of their jurisdiction goes beyond what would be considered category 1A lands. And these are implemented by Quebec. It's the only area where the Inuit are aboriginal people under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution, but these laws are put in place by the Quebec National Assembly because they're laws of general application; they apply to all of the people of the territory. So the school board, the health board, the Kativik municipal government, or supramunicipal government, were all put in place as broad public institutions. And the only exercise under way today is simply to amalgamate the existing organizations.
It's somewhat radical, because you don't have in any province or a territory an institution that somewhat mirrors what the province does. But this doesn't add to anything; it is simply taking what already exists. And the territory, the Kativik Regional Government, the Kativik school board, the health board, etc., have jurisdiction over the area north of the 55th parallel—
I only have the English version of what the Quebec minister, Minister Pelletier, wrote, but I understand from the English version that he's committed to consulting the Naskapi when new powers come to the negotiating table.
We've set up a side table, and the negotiators have invited them to participate at the negotiation, at the table, on numerous occasions. They've been consulted. To date, I think there have been four different meetings between the negotiators and Naskapi representatives. So there have been a lot of discussions, but there's been no real engagement on the substance yet, because the Naskapi, I believe, are not satisfied with, I guess, the mandate or the scope of the discussions. This is still under discussion right now. There's been an exchange of letters that we're hoping will allow for further discussions, even now, and there's already been a series of meetings between the negotiators and the Naskapi representatives on what we've been negotiating.
I want to thank you for coming before the committee today. The discussions that we've had today demonstrate how difficult it is when you have people from different backgrounds, with European concepts of government primarily, superimposed over peoples who traditionally, for many years, have shared territories, supported each other, looked after each other, and families intermarried. Now we have a system that's coming in and defining rights and property that to a certain extent doesn't fit into the traditional view of how people lived. I think it's very unfortunate that we're in this position, because clearly the Naskapi people don't feel their voices are being heard.
Coming back to the report of 2006, it appears from the report that this has been an ongoing problem. It's not something that just arose since 2006, that the Naskapi did not feel their voices were heard in a meaningful way at the table. So I think it puts everybody in a very difficult position, because I'm sure the Inuit want to get on with economic development and governing in their territory, just as the Naskapi do in theirs.
I wonder if you can see some light in terms of finding a way whereby really families aren't pitted against each other. I wonder if you have any comments on that.
I would comment to the effect that we don't view this as a problem in any way, shape, or form--the Naskapi concerns and our aspirations. From the Nunavik area, for over 30 years we've aspired to establish a public form of government, but in the process, in the existing structures of the treaty of JBNQA and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement, we will always remain open to discuss and find solutions to issues related to the Naskapi concerns. There is no question about that.
Our political leader, Mr. Pita Aatami, president of the Makivik Corporation, always has his hand out to invite and to try to find ways to have dialogue between the federal and provincial governments, along with the Makivik Corporation, the Nunavik component, to make sure we always....
We want to find a solution with them, except that we've extended this invitation so many times and it has been not well received at times. But we want to keep a good dialogue going. We want to find solutions with them on issues related directly to their concerns, as I'm sure they've said to us they would like to see our aspirations blossom also.
So we're trying to find ways to accommodate each other as we go along. In our agreement in principle, we have section 6.5, which addresses a bilateral committee, and also in the future the door is always open. We'll just keep repeating that the door is always open.
It was stated at the outset when the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was in the process of being negotiated.
At the time, our negotiators and leaders were under duress, but still the presence of mind of our leadership at the time, taking leadership and taking guidance from the cooperative movement that brought this notion of governance, chose the public form of government way back then, in the late sixties, knowing and having heard of and seen--when they were beginning to travel--the situation of the first nations and their reserves. This imprinted on the minds of our leadership at the time that they should be taxpaying citizens, and that this opens up more responsibility for the people who choose to live together.
It was, I think, a very basic and simple but very deep conviction that this was the only road to take at the time when this was being expressed. The notion of democracy was already in the minds of people who were self-governing before, when they had no one to answer to but themselves, before the qallunaaq came, the Europeans, and they chose this public form of government.
I think it's quite simple.