Nunavut and Ottawa share land claim responsibility, court told
A $1-billion lawsuit by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. against the federal government for not living up to its land-claim obligations should make the same claims against the Nunavut government, since both governments share responsibilities under the land claim, federal lawyers told a court in Iqaluit.
Lawyers for the federal government, the Inuit land-claims organization and the Nunavut government presented arguments Friday on Ottawa's motion to add the territorial government as a defendant in NTI's lawsuit.
Justice Earle Johnson said he will attempt to deliver a timely decision on the matter.
NTI filed the lawsuit in 2006, alleging that Ottawa failed to meet its responsibilities as laid out in the 1993 Nunavut land claim. The organization cited 16 breaches, including failing to help offer Inuit training for government employment.
In September, lawyers for the federal government filed a motion to include the Nunavut government as a defendant in the case.
NTI and the Nunavut government are both fighting the motion.
NTI says it has no intention to sue the territory, and the two parties have expressed agreement on some of the allegations made in the lawsuit.
Federal lawyer Michele Annich told the court Friday that Nunavut and Canada both share responsibilities under the land claim, so NTI's lawsuit suggests that the Nunavut government also failed to meet its land-claim responsibilities.
The outcome of NTI's lawsuit against Ottawa could affect Nunavut's obligations, so it's only fair that the territorial government be part of the case and have its own say, she added.
Adding the Nunavut to the current lawsuit could avoid a lawsuit in the future, after the territorial government realizes the impact of any new obligations.
But Nunavut Tunngavik lawyer Dougald Brown told the court that part of Annich's argument suggests that Ottawa funds the Nunavut government and now wants Nunavut to account for that money.
The federal government could achieve the same outcome by adding the Nunavut government as a third party to the lawsuit, as opposed to a defendant, Brown said.
Brown also argued that compelling someone to sue a party they never intended to sue is very unusual.
Nunavut government lawyer Lorraine Land told the court that adding the government to the lawsuit at this point would be expensive and time-consuming to the Nunavut Court of Justice, where the case has been filed.