Northern governance and the transferring or devolving of responsibilities/powers to the territories is a long-standing policy objective of the Government of Canada. Devolution in Nunavut is an essential step in the political and economic development of the territory.
Since the 1960s, the federal government has gradually transferred responsibility for health, education, social services, housing, airports and other matters to territorial governments. Discussions to transfer or devolve responsibilities/powers for land and resource management to the Government of Nunavut (GN) have taken place at various times since the creation of the territory.
These responsibilities are currently held within Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. By devolving these responsibilities to the territory, the parties aim to give Nunavummiut greater control for decisions on their lands and resources, thereby strengthening regional governance and accountability while opening the door to new revenue streams and economic development opportunities.
Significant progress has been made in northern devolution with Yukon successfully managing its own land and natural resource since 2003, and NWT devolution took effect in 2014.
Signing of the Nunavut Devolution Agreement-in-Principle
The Parties to the Nunavut devolution process are the Government of Canada, the GN, and Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) which is the legal representative of the Inuit of Nunavut for the purposes of native treaty rights and treaty negotiation.
On August 15, 2019 the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Premier Joe Savikataaq (GN), and President Aluki Kotierk (NTI), signed the Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) which will now serve as a guide for the negotiation of a Final Devolution Agreement in Nunavut.
The Lands and Resource Devolution Negotiation Protocol (PDF), which was signed in 2008 by the Government of Canada, GN and NTI, was the first major step towards Nunavut devolution. The Protocol has served as a framework to guide the Parties during devolution negotiations toward an AIP. AIP negotiations formally began in October 2014.
Chief Negotiators for the Government of Canada, GN, and NTI initialled a draft AIP in May 2019 and recommended it to their principals for signature. Section 35 Crown consultations with Indigenous groups holding asserted or established Aboriginal or treaty rights in Nunavut began shortly after the AIP was initialled.
What's next for the AIP?
The AIP is a non-binding agreement amongst the Parties on the main issues under negotiation and is a significant milestone indicating that the Parties have come to agreement on a broad range of subject matters. While not legally enforceable, the AIP contains the major elements of the Final Devolution Agreement.
Nunavut's AIP specifically pertains to the official transfer of responsibilities for Nunavut's public (crown) land, water and resources from the Government of Canada to the GN. It is necessary to ensure that the time is undertaken for each necessary step between now and the final transfer date. A timeline of approximately five years is anticipated from the signing of the AIP to when all responsibilities are formally transferred to the GN.
This timeframe allows for negotiation of a Final Devolution Agreement, Inuit and Nunavummiut training for positions within the GN, negotiation of an implementation schedule, and the drafting of legislation that will create the legal framework required for the GN to take over these responsibilities.
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