PM expected to announce power-transfer deal with N.W.T.
Agreement decades in the making is expected to cover resource royalties
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in Yellowknife on Monday, where it is expected he will announce that a final devolution agreement has been reached between the federal government and the Northwest Territories.
The devolution agreement, which has been in the making for decades, would transfer more province-like powers such as control of public lands and resources in the Northwest Territories from the federal government to the territorial government.
Some of those resource revenues will go to aboriginal groups that have signed on. Despite initial opposition, five out of seven of the Northwest Territories' aboriginal groups have agreed to join the devolution agreement-in-principle.
Harper will be joined by Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who also serves as the minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, and is the chair of the Arctic Council.
The premier of the Northwest Territories, Bob McLeod, will also be at the announcement along with representatives of the aboriginal groups who have agreed to sign on to the N.W.T.'s devolution agreement-in-principle.
The Tlicho government just signed the agreement-in-principle on Friday. Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus said his people can only benefit from the resource royalties they would get under a final agreement.
"This is one-of-a kind," said Erasmus. "It's something that we are proud of and we have participated in it the past. And we helped put that in there — the resource royalties. Because it has never been done in the past anywhere in this country, it's history-making.
Erasmus said he waited until the Tlicho government was confident devolution would not affect their land claim.
He said he will go to his communities to consult once the final deal is ready.
The final agreement, however, won't be signed right away. The territorial government plans to do community information sessions across the territory before sealing the deal. The five aboriginal groups which have signed on to the agreement-in-principle will have an opportunity to review the final deal, respond and decide whether to support it.
McLeod said he's still hopeful the two remaining aboriginal groups in the territory who have not signed the agreement-in-principle — the Dehcho First Nations and the Akaitcho Territory government — will sign on.
"I was always optimistic, and I think it'll be great, tremendous, if we could get all seven aboriginal governments to sign on. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility because we're having very active discussions," said McLeod.
A final deal is expected to be signed in April 2014.
CBC North will have live coverage of the ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 12:20 p.m. MT.