Inuit to sign self-governance agreement

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While our 2007 SOI-IPY Arctic Expedition visits Northern Québec and the Baffin Island region of the Canadian Arctic, Inuit in Northern Québec have signed a historic agreement! A giant swath of land covering one-third of Québec is on track to become a self-governing region for the province’s 10,000 Inuit.

The following article was written by Bill Curry and appeared in Monday’s Globe and Mail:

OTTAWA — …To be called the Regional Government of Nunavik, it will have its own elected assembly representing Quebec’s 14 remote Inuit communities and a public service responsible for services normally delivered by provinces, such as education and health.

The Globe and Mail has obtained a copy of the agreement-in-principle between the Inuit, Quebec and Ottawa, which was initialled by the three sides last week, meaning it should be ready for a formal signing ceremony within weeks. A final agreement would then follow and the Inuit hope the new government will be in place by 2009.

The Nunavik government would be unlike any other resolved aboriginal land claim in Canada, both because of the region’s massive size and because the system of government so closely resembles the British-inspired parliamentary systems found in Ottawa and provincial capitals.

Jean-François Arteau, the head legal adviser for the Quebec Inuit, said he would expect all future maps of Canada to include the Nunavik region, which uses the 55th parallel as a southern border and makes up one-third of Quebec.

“This is going to be a special territory that I think we should see on any map of Canada,” he said. “It’s something new. A regional government. That doesn’t exist anywhere.”

Though Nunavik will have close ties with its northern neighbour, the Inuit territory of Nunavut, it will remain part of Quebec and receive provincial funding to run traditionally provincial services, such as education. Ottawa will also contribute money and further revenue will come from taxes and royalties on natural-resources projects, which already generate millions each year for the Quebec Inuit.

In a sense, Nunavik will be like a territory of the province of Quebec. Because the existing territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut are not full provinces, the federal government continues to play a significant role in areas such as funding, regulations and the creation of parks. The Nunavik arrangement could be complicated by the fact that both Ottawa and Quebec City will retain all legal powers in the territory.

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