NunatuKavut, Ottawa set to make 'historic announcement' on land claim

The president of NunatuKavut Community Council, with 6,000 members in southern Labrador, says a “very historic announcement” about the group’s future is coming Thursday.

First statement of claim submitted in 1991

In an automated phone message NunatuKavut president Todd Russell told members to expect a big announcement. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The president of NunatuKavut Community Council, which represents Inuit and people of Inuit ancestry in southern Labrador, says a "very historic announcement" about the group's future is coming Thursday.

Todd Russell sent an automated phone message to NunatuKavut members Wednesday morning, saying he would be joined by federal Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett at a press conference the next day.

In the message, Russell says the announcement is "on NunatuKavut's land claims submission and the recognition of our Indigenous rights and self-determination."

He also invites NunatuKavut members to a series of celebrations in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Cartwright and Charlottetown.

"It is a tremendous time, it's exciting and please make every effort to attend," Russell's message said.

Minister Bennett's office described tomorrow's announcement as "the beginning of a process" of negotiation. 

Land claim in the works

The NunatuKavut Community Council, formerly known at the Labrador Métis Nation, has been working on a land claim agreement for decades.

It filed its first statement of claim in 1991.

The federal and provincial Liberals have repeatedly shown support for negotiating a claim with NunatuKavut, but the process is slow and involves several rounds of intense negotiations, even after a claim is accepted.

Russell met with Liberal Leader Dwight Ball in 2015 shortly before the Liberals won a provincial election. Ball pledged to work with NunatuKavut to help ratify a land claim. (CBC)

NunatuKavut's 2017 annual report describes the claim being in a "pre-acceptance period."

By comparison, Nunatsiavut government, formerly the Labrador Inuit Association, first submitted a statement of claim in 1977. Its land claim agreement came into effect in 2005 — nine years after it was "fast tracked" by Ottawa and the province.

Thursday's announcement is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.

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