N.W.T. Premier says federal government refuses to uphold devolution agreement

N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod says the federal government has only met once to discuss land management of the Beaufort Delta region over the course of four years.

Agreement requires federal government to begin negotiations over land management in the Beaufort Delta region

N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod says the federal government has only met with the territorial government and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation once over the course of four years. (Justin Tang/CP)

N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod is accusing the federal government of failing to live up to its responsibilities on land management in the Beaufort Delta region.

The 2014 Devolution Agreement handed control of Crown lands and resources from the federal government to the territorial government.

A section of that agreement also committed the federal government to begin negotiating with the N.W.T. government and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation on how to co-manage the region.

Co-management would mean the territory and the Inuvialuit would have a say in how offshore development takes place and how royalties are divvied up. The agreement states co-management negotiations were to begin within 60 days of the agreement being signed.

The territorial government says that hasn't happened yet.

"More than four years later, the only substantive action the [Government of the Northwest Territories] has seen from Canada concerning management of offshore oil and gas has been its decision to forbid development, a decision that did not take the views and priorities of the GNWT [Government of the Northwest Territories] or the IRC [Inuvialuit Regional Corporation] into account," McLeod said in a statement released Tuesday.

One meeting in four years

A spokesperson with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada told CBC in an email the three groups had actually begun negotiations several years earlier.

"Officials representing the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories met representatives of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation in 2014," stated the spokesperson.

The territorial government says it only met with federal representatives once and that one meeting four years ago does not equate to meaningful consultation. According to McLeod, the territory has sent numerous letters to the federal government calling for more meetings. He says Ottawa's lack of a response is a "mystery."

"Rather than demonstrating a genuine interest in hearing, understanding and incorporating the views of the N.W.T.'s public government into its policies and decisions, it seems like Canada is simply seeking to check a box and move on with its plans,"  stated McLeod.

"Canada may be satisfied with this — the people of the N.W.T. expect more."

McLeod says he plans to raise his concerns when he sits down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the new year.