An official with the federal Indian and Northern Affairs Department says it's moving on some aspects of its land claim deal with the Inuvialuit people of the western Arctic.
The department's handling of that deal came under fire Tuesday in a report by Auditor General Sheila Fraser, who pointed to numerous failures in how the department implemented the deal since it was signed in 1984.
Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl declined to comment on Fraser's findings. But Terry Sewell, the department's director general for land claims implementation, told CBC News it's making progress resolving land transfer problems that stemmed from the agreement.
"I guess it's a question of, 'Do you want to work together and move ahead or should we all give up?' And certainly none of us are in the 'give up' camp," Sewell told CBC News on Thursday.
"So let's get at 'er and use the momentum of an auditor general report to allow us to take the next steps and get on with it."
However, Sewell was unable to say when such implementation would be complete.
In her report, Fraser said Indian and Northern Affairs doesn't even have a plan to make sure its obligations under the agreement are met.
Inuvialuit businesses hurting: Cournoyea
The report also found that, since 1985,the department has not kept track of whether it let Inuvialuit know about government contracts coming up for bid in the region, or whether contracts were awarded to Inuvialuit-based businesses — both obligations under the agreement.
In fact, according to the report, it took six years after the Inuvialuit deal was signed before the department started informing other government departments about the new contracting obligations.
Inuvialuit Regional Corp. chairwoman Nellie Cournoyea said Inuvialuit businesses are suffering as a result.
"The opportunities for employment and business, they're very, very few and far between," Cournoyea said Wednesday. "So we need to know that those opportunities are there for the people."
Western Arctic New Democrat MP Dennis Bevington said it's up to Strahl, as minister of the department, to make sure his bureaucrats make that happen.
"There has to be a recommitment on the part of Canada to the spirit and intent of these agreements," he said.
Fraser's report recommends that federal departments keep track of how many contracts the Inuvialuit are awarded. Indian and Northern Affairs has promised to start doing that.