Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak says it's time to start negotiations with the federal government to grant the territory province-like powers.

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Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak says the federal government has been dragging its feet on devolution discussions. ((CBC))

The Northwest Territories and the federal government signed a 'devolution' agreement-in-principle Wednesday that will pave the way for the territory to have greater control of its Crown lands and resources, and the Yukon signed a deal on controlling its resources in 2003.

Aariak has said she wants the same for Nunavut.

"There are a lot of positive spinoffs if we were to have devolution in place," she said. "You know the world is looking at Nunavut now in terms of resource development and it will only increase. It is so … important now for us to at least start the process."

Nunavut needs infrastructure

Devolution and the increased money for natural resources it would bring will help fulfil Nunavut's need for new infrastructure such as ports and harbours, Aariak said.

The premier said the federal government has been dragging its feet on devolution discussions with Nunavut, having not yet appointed a federal negotiator even though the territory is ready to talk.

John Duncan, the minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, said Wednesday that he is committed to move Nunavut toward devolution, but that it's not at the stage of readiness the N.W.T. is.

Aariak said the territory is ready.

In Yellowknife, the ceremony was met with protests as only two of seven aboriginal groups agreed to sign the deal. Aariak said Nunavut has one Aboriginal organization, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., that it is working closely with the government and that is also ready to proceed.