Federal gov't appoints lead negotiator for talks about Nunavut's devolution

On Nunavut Day, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs announced that Fred Caron will be taking on the role of Chief Federal Negotiator for devolution talks in Nunavut.

Fred Caron, the new federal negotiator, will sit on committee with premier and NTI president

Nunavummiut may be celebrating on this Nunavut Day 2016; the federal government has appointed its chief negotiator for devolution talks in the territory, which means discussions can begin again after they were stalled in October. (CBC)

The federal government has appointed its chief negotiator for talks about devolution in Nunavut.

Fred Caron, who has had a lot of experience negotiating Indigenous issues, takes on the role today, the very fitting Nunavut Day, which celebrates the birth and autonomy of the territory.

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, appointed him to the position.

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, has appointed Fred Caron as the federal government's chief negotiator for devolution talks in Nunavut. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)
"The Government of Canada remains steadfast in our commitment to advance Nunavut Devolution and put decision making on lands and resources in the hands of Nunavummiut," Bennett said in a media release.

"I'm confident that Mr. Caron's knowledge and expertise on issues impacting Indigenous Canadians will allow for renewed, good­faith negotiations to begin in the context of a renewed Inuit­-to-­Crown relationship."

Caron was the chief federal land-claims negotiator for the Kanesatake Mohawks in Quebec as well as the negotiator brought in to tighten the enrolment guidelines on the Qalipu First Nation in Newfoundland.

'Fundamental to the future'

Last year, Nunavut premier, Peter Taptuna, said discussions about devolution in Nunavut were going well and that a deal could be met come the end of the year. But those discussions were stalled due to the federal election in October.

Now, the premier says he's ready to get back to the table.

"We are excited to return to negotiations and to step forward together," Taptuna said in a press release. 

"Our territory's self­-reliance and future success depends on sound economic and resource development. Nunavut's devolution is a critical step towards this realization." 

Cathy Towtongie, the president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), a lead negotiator for devolution, says the territory has needed to take those critical steps for a while now. 

"Ownership and control of Nunavut's natural resources is fundamental to the future of Nunavut. NTI has advocated and supported this for years. It is time to move ahead from talk to action," she said in a media release.

Paul Okalik, MLA for Iqaluit-Sinaa, says he's happy that devolution talks are starting again but is sceptical about the territorial government's ability to reach a good agreement. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

But Paul Okalik, MLA for Iqaluit-Sinaa and a former member of cabinet, says that although he's encouraged by the resumption of devolution talks, he's worried about the current government's ability to deliver a beneficial agreement for Nunavut. 

"I'm a little leery of our current government," he said.

"Nunavut has many challenges, I'm hopeful that we can come up with a good agreement at the end."

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.