Media Centre

Aboriginal Land Claims conference concludes with national recommendations

NR 03-28 CON ENG Abo Conference Ends.doc

(November 14, 2003 — Ottawa) Aboriginal leaders met today to urge the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister to develop a new land claims implementation policy in discussion with Aboriginal governments, organizations and land claims groups. This was one of the key recommendations made at an Ottawa conference on Aboriginal land claims that ended today.

All Canadians should be encouraged by what we have done here. With this conference, Aboriginal governments and organizations have initiated a process to ensure that land claims agreements and self government agreements are fully implemented by Canada, said Cathy Towtongie, Chair of the Aboriginal leaders meeting and President of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Redefining Relationships: Learning from a Decade of Land Claims Implementation, was a two-day conference of more than 350 people including Aboriginal leaders, policy makers and politicians.

Working groups looked at all areas of land claims implementation including resource management, self-government, capacity building, economic development and legal issues.

This conference was an opportunity for those of us who are working in land claims implementation to talk with each other, to network and to find common issues, goals and strategies. Our land claims agreements and our self government agreements are our future. Full and proper implementation is our responsibility and we want to make sure we will see continued benefits for many years to come, said Richard Nerysoo, conference co-chair.

Key recommendations made by the Aboriginal leaders focus on the establishment of a new land claims implementation policy. This policy is to include the following:

Recognition that the Crown in right of Canada, not the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is party to our land claims agreements and self-government agreements.

There must be a federal commitment to achieve the broad objectives of the land claims agreements and self-government agreements within the context of the new relationships, as opposed to mere technical compliance with narrowly defined obligations. This must include, but not be limited to, ensuring adequate funding to achieve these objectives and obligations.

Implementation must be handled by appropriate senior level federal officials representing the entire Canadian government.

There must be an independent implementation audit and review body, separate from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. This could be the Auditor General’s department, or a similar office reporting directly to Parliament. Annual reports will be prepared by this office, in consultation with groups with land claims agreements.

Our Aboriginal governments and organizations are committed to working together on common implementation issues. We are committed to working together to help develop and monitor this new policy, said Towtongie.

As a follow up to this conference, leaders hope to organize a working committee of all the land claim organizations to continue networking and to develop a better working relationship with all levels of government. This committee will address issues of land claim policy, negotiation process, negotiator mandates and implementation.