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Nunavut premier anticipates devolution agreement-in-principle by March

After a year-long break, negotiators for the federal and territorial government and Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc., are back at the table and hope to have an agreement-in-principle for devolution by the end of March.

Peter Taptuna says negotiations resuming after federal election causes nearly year-long delay

'At the end of the day, this is something that Nunavummiut have been talking about for a long, long time,' said Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, after announcing in the territorial legislature that devolution negotiations have resumed. (Vincent Robinet/CBC)

After a year-long break, negotiators for the Government of Canada, Government of Nunavut and land claims organization Nunavut Tunngavik, Inc., are back at the table and hope to have an agreement-in-principle for devolution by the end of March. 

Nunavut is the last territory to begin devolution, the process of transferring powers belonging to the federal government to the territorial government. The first powers in line for devolution will be the control of Crown lands and resources. 

"We do want to take ahold of our land, our resources and at the end of the day we want to become an independent territory where we generate our own revenue and don't have to always depend on the federal government for our funds for our territory," Premier Peter Taptuna told CBC. 

"We fully understand the implications, impacts and benefits."

In 2015, Taptuna said negotiations were going well and an agreement might be reached before the end of the year, but talks stalled when the federal election was called. 

Nunavut hopes to stave off future delays

This summer, the federal government appointed Fred Caron as its new chief negotiator. Since then, Taptuna says the new government has provided Caron with its mandate for the negotiations. 

Nunavut's chief negotiator is Simon Awa, while the chief negotiator for Nunavut Tunngavik is Udloriak Hanson.  
Long-term public servant Simon Awa is Nunavut's chief negotiator for devolution. (Simon Awa/Facebook)

Taptuna says his government "did wait a long time" for that federal mandate, and he hopes there won't be any more delays.

"At the end of the day, this is something that Nunavummiut have been talking about for a long, long time," said Taptuna. 

"We're really hoping that the federal government can stay at the negotiating table until we put our plans forward." 

For now, Taptuna says the negotiators are still setting their priorities and figuring out scheduling, but he hopes the agreement-in-principle will be completed soon, "hopefully by the end of March."

Devolution process

According to the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the devolution process has five phases

  • In 2008, the three parties signed a devolution negotiation protocol agreement, which outlined how the process would work
  • Before March, Nunavut hopes to pass the next hurdle, an agreement-in-principle outlining the main issues
  • After that, a final devolution transfer agreement will be negotiated and signed by all parties
  • Then, the groups will put together legislation and mechanisms to implement the agreement
  • Finally, those will be implemented through a "series of legislative changes to be approved through Parliament and mirrored in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly"

"We are excited to return to negotiations," Taptuna told the Nunavut Legislative Assembly Monday. 

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

N.W.T.'s devolution agreement took effect in 2014. Yukon's took effect in 2003.

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