|Inuit Land Claims - A Chronology
Nunavik - The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement - 1975
Responding to encroaching hydroelectric projects on traditional Inuit land, the Inuit of Nunavik, or northern Quebec, formed the Northern Quebec Inuit Association (NQIA). The NQIA, in partnership with the James Bay Cree, responded to these pressures by taking the provincial government and Hydro-Quebec to court to force a stop to development on Inuit land. In 1973, in a dramatic series of events, a judgment came down from the courts in favour of the Inuit and Cree forcing the government and the corporation to halt activity in the area and to negotiate with them. Several days later however, the injunction was overturned, allowing development to continue and placing immense pressure on both Inuit and Cree to negotiate as the bulldozers were kept idling. Thus began the process that culminated in the settlement of the first Inuit comprehensive land claims agreement in 1975.
The JBNQA is the final agreement between the Inuit of Nunavik, the provincial and federal governments, the Grand Council of the Cree and several corporate entities. In all, the agreement's 31 sections define Inuit special rights to land ownership and use, harvesting rights, environmental protection, the creation of a number of regional public institutions including a regional government and school and hospital boards, and provided for the creation of Makivik Corporation. Inuit also received $90 million in compensation to be paid in installments over 20 years, with the final installment paid in 1996. In return, Inuit were required to surrender their aboriginal claims in Quebec.
Inuvialuit - The Final Agreement - 1984
Again under pressure from impending economic development initiatives, the Inuvialuit began a process to settle their land claims during the 1970s. In 1984, the Inuvialuit settled the first comprehensive land claim settlement in the Northwest Territories with the Government of Canada. The Final Agreement stipulates that the Inuvialuit continue to have surface ownership rights to 90,650 square kilometers of land as well as certain subsurface rights to another 12,950 square kilometers of land. The agreement also details a number of other rights afforded to the Inuvialuit including special harvesting rights, environmental protection, Inuvialuit participation in a number of co-management regimes, support for economic development initiatives, and the establishment of a social development fund. Financial compensation in the amount of $45 million was to be paid to the Inuvialuit in annual installments to be completed in 1997.
Nunavut - Nunavut Land Claims Agreement - 1993
By far the largest land claim agreement in Canadian history was the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement signed in 1993. The claim was originally presented to the federal government in 1976 by the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada. Little progress was made during the initial stages of negotiations and in 1982, the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) assumed the negotiating role on behalf of the Inuit of Nunavut. In 1990, TFN, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada, ratified and signed an agreement-in-principle (AIP) in 1990. An AIP contains the basic elements of a final agreement but is not legally binding on any of the signatory parties. After Inuit ratified the AIP, a Final Agreement was achieved and on May 25, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was signed in Iqaluit.
The agreement contains 41 articles and has been considered to be one of the most innovative agreements reached to date between governments and aboriginal peoples. In providing title to the Inuit of Nunavut to some 352,240 square kilometers of land in the eastern half of the former Northwest Territories, the agreement provides clear rules of ownership, rights and obligations towards the land, water and resources of Nunavut. Inuit also received $1.14 billion payable over a 14-year period ending in 2007. A $13 million Training Trust Fund was established to ensure Inuit had access to sufficient training dollars to enable them to meet their responsibilities under the claim. As well, Inuit became full participants in a number of co-management bodies that are responsible for the careful management of the territories resources.
Nunavut Territory - 1999
The Final Agreement also included an undertaking by Canada to recommend legislation to Parliament to establish a Nunavut territory. A plebiscite to confirm the boundary between the NWT and the new territory was held in May 1992. A political accord was developed outlining the types of powers, financing and scheduling involved in establishing the new territory. The accord was signed in 1992 thus ensuring the creation of Nunavut. On April 1, 1999, Nunavut became Canada's newest, (and at one-fifth the size of the country) largest territory.
The creation of Nunavut provides Inuit with a form of self-government, as they comprise approximately 85% of the territory's population. While the territory has a public government that represents all Inuit and non-Inuit alike, the large majority of Inuit provides a means to pursue their aspirations to self-determination via a public government structure.
The Government of Nunavut incorporates Inuit values and beliefs into a modern system of government. For example, the working language is Inuktitut although English and French are also used. Each department has an Inuit Employment Plan to increase the number of Inuit within the public service to levels that reflect their proportion of the population. As well, a number of departments are involved in preserving and promoting, Inuit culture and values from the school curriculum to the emphasis placed upon sustainable economic development.
Labrador - Labrador Agreement In Principle - 1999
Labrador Inuit filed their comprehensive land claim in 1977. It was not until 1990 that Canada, Newfoundland and the Labrador Inuit Association signed a Framework Agreement setting out the details of the claims negotiation process. It took another nine years of start-and-stop negotiations for an agreement in principle (AIP) to be signed. The Labrador AIP was ratified by the LIA membership in June 25, 2001. There is some optimism that a Final Agreement will be signed by the end of 2002.
Among the highlights of the AIP are that Inuit would own and govern 15,800 square kilometers, or about six per cent of Labrador. LIA would co-manage a larger settlement area of 72,520 square kilometers with the provincial government. Labrador Inuit will also receive 3% of the mining tax earned by the massive Voisey's Bay nickel-mining project. In exchange for extinguishing their aboriginal title to the land, Inuit will receive $140 million as well as an additional $115 million to implement the final agreement.