(December 15, 2004 — Iqaluit, Nunavut) Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) is cautioning the federal government that Inuit support for the Northern Strategy that results from the process announced by the Prime Minister yesterday will depend on real progress being made on implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA).
The Framework for a Northern Strategy announced yesterday is a positive step, a good sign that the federal government is finally recognizing the role the Arctic plays in Canada, said NTI President Paul Kaludjak. But the development of a strategy is not a substitute for full implementation of a Land Claims Agreement guaranteed by the Constitution. And as of today, Canada is failing to meet its responsibilities under the Agreement we signed more than 10 years ago, he said.
Kaludjak applauded the Framework for its inclusion of issues important to Nunavut, particularly economic development, housing, raising the social conditions of northern Aboriginal peoples to national standards, devolution, and the protection of Aboriginal culture and language. He also noted that it includes among its objectives the settlement and implementation of land claims agreements.
He added that NTI intends to participate actively and constructively in the consultations that lie ahead as this Framework is expanded into a complete Northern Strategy. In doing so, NTI expects to work closely with the Government of Nunavut, and will ensure strong input from the Regional Inuit Associations and other Inuit organizations.
At the same time, said Kaludjak, Canada cannot expect Inuit in Nunavut to endorse the Strategy if Ottawa continues to avoid meeting its commitments under our Land Claim. You cannot have a true Northern strategy when Canada’s largest land claims agreement is not being fully implemented, he said.
Specifically, Kaludjak pointed out that NTI and the GN have been negotiating for nearly four years for the funding needed to continue implementing the Land Claim over the next 10 years. That negotiation has now reached an impasse as a result of Ottawa’s making a take-it-or-leave-it offer. Kaludjak added that the federal government’s offer would not provide for any measurable progress over the next 10 years on such crucial topics as representative Inuit employment levels in government, a system for environmental monitoring, adequate funding for Nunavut’s Institutions of Public Government, and funding for wildlife harvesting studies. Implementation needs to be given real commitment from Canada.
NTI is ready to work with Canada to ensure that the Northern Strategy is built on a solid foundation by getting implementation of our Land Claims Agreement back on track. The Prime Minister has made Indian Affairs and Northern Development Minister Andy Scott responsible for developing and securing consensus support for the Northern Strategy. So the ball is now squarely in the Minister’s court to show that Canada is ready to work with Inuit in good faith.
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