Good morning. I'd like to call to order the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
We recognize during this important period of Canadian history that we're on the unceded territory of the Algonquin people, an example of many of the treaties and commitments that we as settlers made with indigenous people and never fulfilled. This process led many of us to look at investigating and understanding treaties, but more specifically land claims—specific land claims, comprehensive land claims—as well as self-government and modern treaties as things are evolving. We're at a time of history when Canada is finally willing to look at these things, understand the truth, and move towards a process of reconciliation.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are undertaking a study on specific claims and comprehensive land claims agreements. Today we're very pleased to host two panels. Our first panel is here, with representatives from Kitigan Zibi and the Naskapi Nation.
The way it works is that you will have 10 minutes each to present, but you don't need to use the whole time. If you come close to the 10 minutes, I'll try to give you signals for three minutes, one minute, wrap up, and cut to give you an idea of how the time is going, so just look up once in a while. After that we'll have rounds of questioning from the MPs on the committee.
We're anxious to hear what you have to tell us, especially on how we can fix the system.
Over to you, Chief Whiteduck.
: Kwey gakina.
Again, welcome to unceded Algonquin territory. As you're all aware, we launched a court action dealing with some of the territory, including the Parliament buildings, about a year ago.
Basically, we're not very happy with the whole structure of comprehensive claims or specific claims. Our community is one of 10 Algonquin communities, basically nine in Quebec and one in Ontario, who make up the Algonquin nation. The Algonquin nation never surrendered its territory in the Ottawa Valley. There's no clear evidence that there was an outright surrender. Our reserve was a pre-Confederation reserve, established by special legislation in 1851, and then it came into place in 1853.
We have approximately 50,000 acres of land presently and about 3,200 members, of whom 50% live on reserve and 50% live off reserve. Many Algonquin communities, though, have much smaller areas of land that they occupy presently.
The problem we have with the whole process of claims is the restrictions these policies impose. For example, in the specific claims, there are limitations. Basically the whole game is decided by federal employees, because the game plan is well established. Here's the policy, here are the rules. Is there really a negotiation? Often there isn't, because there is a format that everybody follows, and you have to follow in line.
One of the biggest areas of concern is the famous 80-20 rule, 80% simple, 20% compound, on lost revenue. Our community has many claims. In the early days of the formation of our community, the lumber barons, with Indian agents, were able to wheel and deal and take our land, and with much research we found that these lands were taken illegally. We have a number of claims in the negotiation process and a number of claims still in the process awaiting some answers.
We had a large claim dealing with about 20 or so parcels of land within the town of Maniwaki. These claims were negotiated. There was an offer on the table. We delayed...because it was a tribunal making the decisions. The Specific Claims Tribunal made a decision on the formula issue, the 80-20, coming out and saying, no, you should be considering compound. So we went back to the drawing board with the specific claim, saying, look, based on the tribunal decision and the recent court decision, you need to relook at this whole calculation formula that you have, which is really not favourable to us.
It is in the process right now. We are negotiating that and really looking at our band fund expenditures, but it's a long, slow process. Some of these claims have been in the system since the 1980s and 1990s. It's a very, very slow process. In my view, the process could be accelerated. We could have a better system in place. Get that formula issue straightened away, and allow a little bit more room for negotiation rather than have a system that applies to everyone when it comes to a specific claim.
When it comes to the area of comprehensive claims, we've never agreed with the comprehensive claim policy. We don't agree with extinguishment. We don't agree with the principle of certainty. We do agree that there has to be an arrangement where all parties are going to live on the territory and we all have our place. Many of our Algonquin communities are living in extreme poverty on land that's extremely wealthy, gold mines behind their homes, and they're living in poverty with 80% to 90% on social assistance. There is no reason for that. I feel that the Algonquin people should be able to have their rightful place, be able to enjoy employment, and be able to enjoy the same standard of living as other Canadians, something we do not presently.
The policy as it stands would never be accepted by my community. Extinguishment is a no-no. We say let's set up a process where we have our place. Yes, in our case, we overlap with Ontario, and we overlap with Quebec, because the heart of our valley is the Ottawa River watershed, which is north and south of here. We feel strongly that, with the level of governments in place, the federal and provincial governments, we can find our way. We don't agree either with the recent agreements made with Pikwakanagan in Ontario. We have an offer on the table. We were not consulted, and we don't agree. We think the offer that's on the table is ridiculous. It's equivalent to what was happening in the days when trinkets were thrown on the table: “Here are the trinkets. Take it or leave it.”
First nations shouldn't have to prove anything. The Government of Canada should prove that they're occupying a territory legally. We shouldn't have to prove anything. Why should we have to do more and more research to prove who we are and that it's our territory? We know it's our territory. You know it's our territory also. The government is well aware. All levels of government have studied this to death.
The Royal Proclamation of 1763 laid out a process for the taking of our land, that the land would be surrendered to the crown before it could be sold. We argued that...up until the 1800s, when the British regime at the time committed themselves to that process. They quickly forgot it as time went by. If it had not been for the native people in 1812, 9,000 warriors who helped defend this country and push back the Americans, we'd all be Americans today. That was quickly forgotten also after the War of 1812, when we became less important because our group had been diminished by disease and other problems.
We think there should be some clear recognition that the Algonquin people are there; it's their territory, and we need to figure out how we can coexist. It's not to push anybody around. It's not to get rid of third parties. Let's set up a proper process where the first nations—the Algonquin people—have their place in this country. They don't have it right now. They live in squalid conditions in many communities.
My community is more fortunate. We're closer to the city. Our education levels are increasing. But it's a long, slow process. We have not benefited from the economic development around here. We should be party to the development. There's a lot of federal land still available here. We say we should be parties in the development of that land, and benefits should flow to all the Algonquin nations. It shouldn't be contribution agreements that are subject to many regulations. It should be, “Here is your share of resource revenues. This is your share. You decide how you want to govern yourself, and you decide how you want to spend this money to better your communities.” That's the way it should take place.
Definitely the two policies are outdated. There are court rulings for the specific claims policy. That needs to be amended and modernized. The comprehensive claim, as far as I'm concerned, should be thrown in the garbage. It's useless. There has to be a recognition of our people, and we need to find our place. Yes, there will be a negotiation process, but we can find our place. We don't have to displace anyone. For the Algonquins to get their place is getting urgent. A lot of young people in some of our Algonquin communities are having a hard time. We have a large youth population. It's a time bomb. We need to deal with that and the sooner, the better.
Hello, everyone. I'm Chief Swappie. I'm here with Robert Prévost. He works with us on various files with the Naskapi Nation.
We weren't expecting 10 minutes today. We'll skim through the 14-page presentation we were going to give. I'll start with the introduction.
The Naskapi nations have in the past always depended on caribou. Prior to contact, they occupied and lived off a very vast territory spanning from the Lower North Shore area of the province of Quebec in the south, up to Ungava Bay in the north, and including a large portion of what is known today as new Quebec—Nunavik—and the Labrador Peninsula.
Following various unilateral decisions by the Hudson's Bay Company as well as Indian Affairs, which were made without consideration of the Naskapis' interests and concerns, the Naskapis were finally relocated in Kawawachikamach, according to anthropologist Alan Cooke.
Located 10 kilometres northeast of the town of Schefferville, near the Quebec-Labrador border, Kawawachikamach is the only Naskapi community in the province of Quebec, with a population in 2017 of approximately 904 community members out of a total of 1,300 registered members.
In 1978 the Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach entered into the Northeastern Quebec Agreement,known as NEQA, with the Province of Quebec and Canada. The NEQA is a modern treaty, protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. As such, its provisions are legally binding for Quebec and Canada, and the rights granted therein to the Naskapis attract constitutional protection. The NEQA was signed in the same historical and political context as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, the JBNQA, and effectively puts the Naskapis on par with the Crees and the Inuit under the JBNQA, as Quebec's and Canada's treaty partners. The JBNQA and the NEQA perform on a vast tract of land corresponding to the area previously known as Rupert's Land—the territory.
The land regime of the territory falls under the auspices of both the NEQA and the JBNQA. Namely, the NEQA establishes the Naskapi area of primary interest. The NEQA also delineates a portion of the territory shared between the Naskapis and the Inuit, referred to as the “area of common interest”. Together the Naskapi area of primary interest and the area of common interest formed the Naskapi sector, which covers more than 100,000 square kilometres. The Naskapi sector represents approximately 10% of the area covered by Quebec's Plan Nord, and is straddled by the Labrador Trough, a mineral-rich belt where major mining development has taken place since the 1950s.
The NEQA and the JBNQA lay out some rights, structures, processes, and resources necessary, but not always sufficient, to the development of the nation. They allowed the creation of a strong local government in Kawawachikamach and ensured the provision of the services of policing, health care, social services, and education in the community. Since 1978 the community has grown significantly. Investments in infrastructure include a school, a CLSC, a police station, and numerous public facilities. Several business opportunities were also created by the nation, promoting economic development and Naskapi employment.
Since the signature of the NEQA, the Naskapi Nation has developed significantly, and the realities of the Naskapis, including their needs, have dramatically changed. Thirty-nine years after its establishment, a dialogue needs to be opened to revisit the NEQA in a manner so as to improve its enforceability and performance.
We have a non-exhaustive summary of the components of NEQA and the JBNQA that we believe should be improved.
I'll hand this over to Robert.
I have a big document I will send you that explains some stuff. Because of the short period here, I will go over it more in summary.
Many will tell you that where the NEQA is providing services, it is going well, but a lot of commitments in the NEQA are not well implemented or we don't have enough funding to implement them. We will give you a summary of where it is going wrong.
In terms of health and social services, it's a good thing that we just got a new CLSC building in Kawawachikamach that will open in the next month. This is really positive; the community has been seeking that for years, and it's happening. However, according to the NEQA, Quebec “shall” fund a full range of health and social services. But we've realized over the years that the funding is not enough to offer all those services. Compare Kawawachikamach with other Cree communities of the same size that are under the JBNQA. For example, a Cree community of the same size as Kawawachikamach could have funding of about $4,000 per capita. For the Naskapis we're talking about more like $2,500. There's a big drop when we compare the Cree with the Naskapis. We have much lower funding than they do for implementing the same kinds of commitments that are in the JBNQA and NEQA.
It's the same thing for non-insured health benefits. According to the NEQA, non-insured health benefits should be covered through the NEQA through Quebec. Again, the Cree get full reimbursement, 100% of those costs. The Naskapi need to take it from our own CLSC budget, so we are limited and we don't have enough funding to cover all those costs. We lack funding in health.
In terms of education, I can say education is going well. We have a good school, JSMS, the Jimmy Sandy Memorial School in Kawawachikamach, offering primary and secondary levels. We just opened an adult education program last year. Even though it was in the NEQA—we were supposed to have funding for that—we have had 12 years of negotiations with Quebec and Canada. We have that education service offer now.
We have about 100 Naskapis studying outside the community in post-secondary and vocational training right now, which is really positive. However, one of the challenges is that when Naskapis go outside the community, sometimes the programs are not adapted to them; sometimes there is culture shock. The nation and the school want to have a vocational training centre in the community to offer that kind of service in the community, as with the Cree and the Inuit. Even though it already exists in the Cree and the Inuit territories, it still doesn't exist still in the Naskapi. We're still in negotiations with Quebec and Canada to implement that service.
Regarding hunting, fishing, and trapping, the hunter support program is a program that the Cree, the Inuit, and the Naskapi have, although they're a little bit different. It provides funding to the Naskapi to keep their traditional activity of hunting and fishing on the ground. The issue on that in the NEQA is that when it was signed, they said they would give $60,000 per year and that it would be increased by inflation, but they never thought about the increase in population. The population has tripled since 1978, so we have three times more people for the same pot. We don't have enough funding to keep that program going.
When the Inuit and the Cree signed the JBNQA, it took into consideration the increase in population and the increase in participation. So over the years, the difference in funding between the Naskapi and the Cree and the Inuit has become very high. Right now, 40 years later, we are in big trouble.
We also have an issue around environmental consultation of the nation. Under the JBNQA they created different instances that oversee environmental assessment on the territory. One of them is the Kativik Environmental Quality Commission. On that commission we have some people nominated by Quebec and some nominated by KRG, the Kativik Regional Government, where the Naskapi have one of 17 seats. The Naskapi have been requesting to have a part in the Kativik Environmental Quality Commission for quite a while; we don't have a seat there, so the Naskapi are not implicated in those assessments.
Maybe you can jump to the conclusion, Noah.
Thank you for being here. A year ago, an agreement in principle was signed by the governments of Canada and Ontario, as you know, along with the Algonquins of Ontario for this land that we're on right now—the House of Commons, Lebreton Flats, the Supreme Court.
Two months later, your group, Chief Whiteduck, came forward with a title claim. There are lots of complexities when we talk about overlapping situations like we have here today. You've been very strong in your statement about starting all over, but maybe you could just talk about the complexities, when you're dealing with several groups here, on a land claim that includes the House of Commons, the Supreme Court, and Lebreton Flats—which would be yours, you claim.
I really believe the government was remiss in dealing with one community. Some years ago, our community tried to launch a process under the comprehensive land claims process, because it was the only game in town since before the Tsilhqot'in decision where title was recognized. We tried to get the communities together, and we had six or seven communities. What we got back from Indian Affairs was, no, we're not moving with you unless all the communities are on board. But then they turned around and negotiated with one community initially, with Pikwakanagan. They negotiated with them, and other communities sprang out of nowhere, self-declared Algonquins that the government recognized somehow; they don't even fit in within the Indian Act as status Indians.
The government should have said to the nation then what they told us: you guys get your act together and we're willing to negotiate with the nation as a whole. Right now that's not the case. The government chose to deal with one community only, while with us they kept refusing it.
We don't understand the game here. We still have issues with a community just north of us, where the Government of Canada went into a trilateral discussion over resource management and all the other communities were left out. The divide and conquer principle is taking place here.
It's an Algonquin territory, it belongs to the nation, and the benefit should flow to the whole nation. The government should have taken this position: We're willing to sit down with you, the nation. If we do meet with one community and agree to enter into an administrative agreement, that's okay. It's without prejudice to the rights of other people.
Right now, we don't agree that Ontario could negotiate our rights away. They could negotiate their own; our rights will remain on the territory in question. But really, the Government of Canada was remiss in allowing that when they refused us in Quebec.
We'll move now to you, Chief Swappie. Thanks to you and Mr. Prévost for being here.
With “40 years of hindsight” in funding, are you proposing, then, that all agreements should be treated the same? We've heard your story: you feel the Naskapi are not getting treated the same as Cree or Inuit programs are. Where are we coming from on this?
You obviously signed earlier, and you didn't get the cost of living brought into your agreements. I can see that, and now you're paying for it. Are we looking at “one agreement fits all”, or...?
We have done some tours. I'm probably the sharpest one here today, because the rest got in late from Yellowknife; I didn't accompany them. What we've heard as we've gone on is “we want specific claims for us”, but now on the funding situation I'm hearing, “Well, they got this and they got that, and we were left out and we want what they got.”
Can you clarify that a little? You've spent a lot of time talking about about what you don't have and what they have, and you want what they have. I'm wondering, then, is it one cookie cutter for all? I didn't hear that when I went on the trip about a month ago. People want their own funding agreements.
You've fallen behind and now you want to catch up, and you've looked at other jurisdictions to catch up.
to all three of our presenters. It's very appreciated. The knowledge and the experience you're bringing to this table is significant.
Chief Swappie, you can be assured that the members here will be reading your written submission, so some of the detail that you might not have had time to present orally will most certainly be considered.
I'd like to direct the majority of my questions to Chief Whiteduck, on whose territory my riding sits. I've had the privilege of interacting with Chief Whiteduck on many occasions, as recently as this past Saturday.
I do appreciate that this is the first time we've had an opportunity to interact in a parliamentary setting. I know that it will be recorded for posterity's sake, so I want to be judicious in what I ask you.
Chief Whiteduck, you have been a leader in your community since the 1970s, which distinguishes you in this crowd. Indeed, among all parliamentary leaders, there are very few who have your experience in leading a nation. Can you tell me a bit about how you have seen the federal government's policy towards comprehensive claims evolve over that time, specifically as regards the Algonquin experience? Where has it come from? We've heard where you see it is now. We understand your position with regard to extinguishment and so on.
Where has it come from, in your estimation, and where would you like to see it specifically go?
But your own courts, your own judges whom you appointed to the Specific Claims Tribunal, have recently said, look, your formula doesn't work; we don't agree; it should be compound. You had a judicial review and you withdrew from the process, and you've accepted that particular case. Clearly, 100% compound may be problematic, but that would be the rightful thing to do.
I understand that there might be a huge cost, no doubt, for some claims. In our case, the claim we're talking about—the 20 or so claims involved in that global approach—would probably mean $400 million if we used full compound interest. We're saying at least develop a formula that's more fair. We were suggesting....
Now they're reviewing our band funds to say, okay, if you had that money, what would you have spent? We're proving to them, from 1873 when these claims took place, that we've spent on average about 30%. That means there was 70% retained. The formula, then, should be 70-30. It really means that the offer on the table would triple at least. That may be problematic, but that's where it stands.
We are doing a study right now with an auditing firm, jointly arranged between us and Indian Affairs, to look at our band funds. The review is completed, and it looks like 70-30. A 70% compound is a hell of a lot more than 20%, that's for sure. But what is fair? Well, it's part of negotiation, I guess. It could be something less, or it could be something close to it, but I don't think it should be any less than 50-50 at minimum. We're still saying that right now if the process is 70-30, well, we're going with 70-30.
That's a nice welcome to the committee.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Vance Badawey: Thank you, Madam Chair.
I will take the time to ask one question, and I'll give you time to actually answer it.
I recognize that within your communities you do establish strategic plans and visions that are, in fact, solidified and put in place by the entire community, not just one or two individuals. With that, it includes identifying objectives, attaching action plans to those objectives, and with that, of course, trying to execute those plans with respect to the resources you have available to you.
With respect to moving forward in an economic, social, and environmental resurgence, how do you find your future within this dialogue maturing, and what can this actually add to ultimately becoming more of an enabler so that you folks can satisfy the recommendations contained within your strategic plans?
I'd like to call the meeting back to order. Thank you, everyone, for quickly reorganizing.
We are dealing with a very complex issue—compensation for historic wrongs, for addressing things that were shorted, that we look to in a process of reconciliation—so we want to hear from you. We will be able to create a report, as members of Parliament, that will go to the House. The minister and the department will be responding, so it will be on the public record. This will help to raise these issues and move these files forward. At least it's the goal of this committee to be part of that solution.
We welcome both groups to our committee. As you know, the process is 10 minutes to present. I'll give you a heads-up. You'll notice that I'll give you the number of minutes left as we get very close. I'll give you a signal to wrap up. After that, we'll go through a period of questions and answers from the MPs.
We will begin with the president of ITK.
Mr. President, welcome. It's nice to see you again.
Thank you so much, members of the committee and my colleagues from the Government of Nunavut. We welcome the opportunity to make remarks here today.
I want to start by saying that land claims affect each and every Inuit across Inuit Nunangat, across our country. We grew up with these ideas of our organizations negotiating with the federal government and with provinces and territories about our rights and about our future. We grew up in a really unsettled time, and so my generation thinks of land claims in a very specific and personal way that immediately brings to mind the fact that our organizations weren't funded at all and we were basically borrowing money to negotiate land claims for, in many cases, 20 years, 25 years, or 30 years.
If we move forward to today, we have Inuit Nunangat settled land claims across our four regions. Nunatsiavut is a self-government in Newfoundland and Labrador. It's the third order of government. Then there is Nunavik in northern Quebec; Nunavut, of course, and the territories created out of the land claim agreement; and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation in the Northwest Territories. Together they make up the sum total of Inuit Nunangat, our Inuit homeland. It's about 33% of Canada's land mass and over 50% of its coastline. It is a massive space co-managed by Inuit with governments, and it is a homogeneous policy space.
In thinking about not only the effect of land claims on Canada and on Canada's map, we also want to start thinking about land claims as changing the policy map, the way in which you think about how funding flows from the federal government to Canadians and, in this sense, to Inuit within Canada. We've been working very hard in the last couple of years to reimagine not only the way in which funding for essential services like housing or health care flows from the government to our Inuit jurisdictions but also the way in which Canadians think about the relationship between Inuit and the crown.
We still have tremendous challenges in implementing our land claim agreements. We still struggle with going from the provisions within our agreements into the reality that was imagined within them. Just like any piece of legislation that is passed, our land claim agreements have constitutional status in that they have a force of law, if you will, but there is also the 95% or 98% of the work that has to happen once the Canadian government has signed onto new legislation or a new land claim agreement to breathe life into it.
We have had challenges trying to work with the federal government and with the provinces and territories to just imagine what, let's say, co-management means with regard to decision-making in relation to wildlife or lands or waters; what procurement policies mean in the face of land claim agreements; the way in which economic development opportunities happen; the way in which education happens in the face of jurisdictional control; and the spirit and intent of the agreements, especially in relation to how to build Inuit workforces to take advantage of not only natural resource extraction but also opportunities within government.
We're still a long way away from creating the implementation scenario that we all imagined when we went on this nation-building exercise of settling comprehensive land claim agreements with Inuit. We still live in some of the worst socio-economic conditions in this country. We still have a life expectancy that is 10 years less than that for all other Canadians. There is a $60,000 median income gap between Inuit and non-Inuit who live in Inuit Nunangat, and we have very low levels of secondary and post-secondary attainment.
I'm not here to talk about the deficits of our population, but we have to recognize that there are those so as to galvanize our approach to create social equity in this country. Outside of the land claim implementation structures, there are these pieces of social equity that were never able to be negotiated within land claim agreements but that need to sit alongside of them in order for land claim agreements to be fully implemented. It's the idea of infrastructure and the fact that we still don't have broadband in Inuit Nunangat; we have insufficient ports, runways; we have insufficient subsidies for airline travel or other ways in which goods and services flow between southern Canada and Inuit Nunangat. Those are still essential pieces of the puzzle to ensure that land claim agreements and the honour of the crown are implemented within this country.
Our agreements are more than just a number of obligations. The idea that we have one provision, that you have to uphold the letter of the law to one provision or another, and that you spread them out across the federal government or across departments within provinces or territories, isn't really the way in which we as Inuit have imagined land claim agreements. This new relationship and this path towards shared success, the certainty that Canada gains from settling comprehensive land claim agreements with Inuit, especially in relation to sovereignty and economic development, is something that is very powerful. It attracts opportunity and investment in Inuit Nunangat. It creates the certainty that Canada has around sovereignty in the Arctic and the discussions that will happen in the next generation around the Northwest Passage and about shipping.
All of these can be seen through the lens of the relationship that Inuit have with the federal government, so more should be done to implement our agreements. More should be done to recognize the existing obligations and the relationship we already have with one another. The fact that there have been court cases or major concerns with the honour of the crown and the intent to implement our agreements not only frustrates us as Inuit but also, I think, at the Canadian level isn't what Canadians expect.
In this time of reconciliation, on this path forward that we want to share together, we all have to imagine that we have obligations that pre-exist this new space, which is only a few years old. We imagine that we want to honour the relationships we already have and the modern treaties that have the force of law. In this space we also are working with the government of today, and the Inuit-crown partnership declaration that was signed in Iqaluit by the Prime Minister and me in February has a number of joint party areas attached to it. The first is the implementation of land claim agreements. It is a priority, not only for Inuit but also for the crown, to implement modern treaties and land claim agreements and to create a renewed sense of partnership with the indigenous peoples—in this case, with Inuit. We do hope that in the coming budgets we will see a path towards that new relationship and the implementation of our land claim agreements.
For example, a robust portion of the upcoming Arctic policy should speak to land claim implementation or infrastructure development in this renewed relationship. It should address housing and overcoming our 40% overcrowding rate, because housing could not only help stabilize our economy but also improve the health of our people. It should show that Canada is a place of equity where, no matter where you live, there are basic levels of foundational services that you are entitled to as a Canadian. Throughout all of this, we remain proud Canadians. We remain patriotic, but also understanding that we have rights as indigenous peoples, whether through the United Nations, the Constitution, or our land claim agreements.
We want to create this shared country and shared space with you and with the federal government, provinces, and territories, but we want to do it as part of an evolving Inuit democracy. There is a space in Confederation for Inuit, and land claim agreements are part of the framework of that relationship. I do hope that we can find a way to make Canada recognize this relationship in the space that we already have.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, President Obed, for your remarks.
To begin my presentation, I would like to acknowledge that we are on unceded Algonquin lands.
I'd like to thank you for inviting the Government of Nunavut to speak to the standing committee today. As you mentioned, my name is Bill MacKay. I'm the deputy minister of justice for the Government of Nunavut. Susan Woodley is also with me. She's an aboriginal affairs adviser with the Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs.
Both Ms. Woodley and I have been closely involved for several years in the negotiation and implantation of land claims in Nunavut. As this committee is aware, and as President Obed also mentioned, modern comprehensive land claim agreements are a well-established part of governance in Canada's north. The first modern land claim, as the committee knows, was concluded in northern Quebec, and then six years later the Inuvialuit agreement was concluded in the Northwest Territories. Since then there have been 11 land claim agreements concluded in the Yukon, five in the Northwest Territories, and three in Nunavut. There have also been several self-government agreements concluded in Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Nunavut is governed by a territorial government that, although closely modelled on the public territorial governments in the Yukon and Northwest Territories, is linked closely to a modern land claim agreement and, indeed, arose out of the Nunavut land claim agreement. As President Obed mentioned, this NLCA established the Nunavut settlement area, which is a massive area. It covers most of the territory of Nunavut. Like other comprehensive claims, it gives Inuit fee simple title to large portions of crown land. It also establishes a regulatory regime over development in the Nunavut settlement area and guarantees Inuit harvesting rights in the NSA.
The NLCA also requires governments, both federal and territorial, to ensure Inuit participation in social and cultural policies and to assist Inuit in obtaining government employment and in bidding for government contracts. The specific obligations falling to the Government of Nunavut under the NLCA, as well as the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement and the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claim Agreement, are outlined more specifically in a written brief that we've submitted to the committee.
Land claim agreements in the north are implemented by both the federal and territorial governments. The implementation is governed by implementation agreements that are not constitutionally protected. They detail outlines of implementation activities over specific time periods, and they're tripartite agreements, being the territorial government, the federal government, and the indigenous party.
The key point that we would like to raise here is that, at least initially, land claims in the north did not include the territorial government as a separate party to the agreements. The rationale for this was that the federal government was constitutionally responsible for treaty-making with indigenous people. Nevertheless, today most land claims in the north are three-party agreements. Some are also self-government agreements and therefore require full territorial participation. Others, such as land claim agreements in the Yukon, are three-party agreements simply because the territorial government is recognized as an equal partner in the land claim process, and the legitimacy of the agreement is dependent upon full recognition of the territorial government as a party to the agreement.
We would submit today, Madam Chair, that this is consistent with the evolving role of territorial governments as equal governing partners with the federal government in the territorial north.
In sum, territorial governments are democratically elected, legitimate governments. Although established through federal legislation, they are separate actors from the federal government. They participate fully in the federation on an equal basis to provincial governments. Northern residents elect these governments to represent their interests and pass legislation in areas of legislative competence that are more or less co-extensive with the jurisdiction conferred on provincial legislatures under the Constitution Act. Because of this reality, the territorial governments are responsible for implementing large portions of land claim agreements in the north. It is this reality that makes it proper and just that the territorial governments be equal partners and parties to land claim agreements.
This issue is the central focus of the written brief that we submitted, and we gave specific commentary on the territorial role in future land claim agreements in Nunavut involving groups with asserted rights within Nunavut's boundaries. Some of these groups have appeared before this committee. We would be happy to discuss further the matters raised by these groups as well as any matters outlined in our written brief.
I would also note as an aside that there is a territorial election period on now, and a new government may not have the same views as I'm espousing here, but I would say the position that territorial governments have equal standing to other governments in the federation is one that is long-standing and shared by all three territorial governments.
Madam Chair, I'd like to thank you again for the opportunity to address this committee. We would welcome any questions from the committee.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here today.
President Obed, it's always a pleasure to have you here and to hear your testimony. The position of your people is always exceptionally well communicated, and I deeply respect that.
We've heard so much testimony across the country, but this is actually much more unique testimony in that you're one of the early groups to actually form self-government in Canada. I know that with regard to the Cree situation in northern Quebec, when I talked to MP Saganash about this, he said that it was 20 years of further negotiations after the original land claim was established.
You've now had a generation of this land claim. Has your experience been similar? Is it a constantly evolving agreement, or is that some of the difficulty with it, that it's not evolving as it really needs to be, as a living document rather than a static one?
In very, very general terms, the challenge is that when provisions in the land claim agreement are put to a test and they perhaps are put into action, it seems as though there are more restrictive interpretations on the federal government side and more expansive interpretations on the indigenous proponents' side. I would imagine that is simply the way in which we have thought about land claim implementation, which still is adversarial in many ways and one of a business negotiation rather than a shared path towards a better future.
I've always thought about land claims unlocking the potential of Inuit in a way that all parties of the agreements could buy into. However, in many cases with implementation and the discussions around how to implement a particular provision of a particular land claim agreement, you instead get into a lowest common denominator approach, where legal precedence and the inability to think past the next budget often limits the way in which the provision is implemented. I can think of a few examples that I've worked on personally or that I've worked on in relation to the organizations that I've worked for. Time and time again, I think that we're missing the mark on intent and on what we're trying to achieve together.
I know that's a really large, ambiguous, well-intentioned statement in relation to the hard, cold facts of the way in which you make decisions, but that, I think, is where we're falling down more often than not. From day one on negotiations, we're just not in the same realm about what we're trying to achieve.
My thanks to all our guests here today.
I listened to what you had to say here today, and we listened to panels yesterday in Yellowknife. I think in many ways the south needs to learn from the north. You still have your challenges, but I think many, many things have been done very well. I certainly look at the province of British Columbia and say that we have a lot longer way to go to get to where we need to be. I do want to acknowledge the work you've done over many years in getting to that place.
I also want to say that my perception was that once we worked through those difficult issues of specific comprehensive claims.... The degree to which there are challenges with the implementation is something that I know we as a committee have heard loud and clear. We've had some good recommendations on that particular issue.
There are a few areas I want to go here. First of all, there have been some pretty significant commitments by the current government in terms of what they're going to do and where they're going to go. I worry sometimes, because we have a moratorium that was announced on oil and gas. Down in Washington, I think, all of a sudden a lot of your land is being offered out as parks. We have a carbon tax that perhaps will impact the north more than any other place in this country.
My perception is this: given the kind of agreements that are in place, was it not your expectation that there should have been significant dialogue on all three of those items before they were arbitrarily...? I don't know if you had a few minutes' notice or an hour's notice, but I don't think you had what I would say is consultation.
I'll start with your thoughts, perhaps.
The next issue I want to key in on is the transboundary issue. There was something that I think Premier McLeod said yesterday. I know that a lot of the traditional territories were pre the creation of territories, provinces, and these lines that we put on a map. That creates challenges within the resolution of some of these agreements. It sounds like to some degree it has worked well with the Inuit, but as Premier McLeod said, there is this willingness to talk about, let's say, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and impacting the territories, but there's not a vice-versa relationship in terms of someone who perhaps lives in the territories, and thinking about their traditional areas.
Can you make some comments? I think this is an important issue to hear about. We did hear yesterday from the Gwich'in, I believe, in terms of some good resolution between the NWT and the Yukon. Can we talk about that a little bit?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to our guests.
Natan, I want to start to with you, because you said something important that I'd like you to elaborate on. You talked about land claims “changing the policy map” in this country. That's an important statement. I'd like you to expand on that. I agree when you say that more should done to implement these land claims agreements in the north, especially given the geopolitical importance that our regions will take in the future—even as we speak, I think. The necessity to recognize our peoples in the north as political actors, or the space that you're talking about, I think is important. The Supreme Court agrees with us on those issues. In the Quebec secession reference, the Supreme Court talks about the indigenous peoples, and presumably the Inuit are included, as political actors in this country, on the same level as provinces and territories, so I think it's important that we understand that now.
Can you please elaborate on what is the influence these land claims have on the policy map, as you call it, in this country?