Aboriginal Participation in Devolution Grows: Sahtu Re-engage in Negotiations

May 22 2012

YELLOWNIFE (May 22, 2012) – The Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated (SSI) has rejoined NWT devolution negotiations.

“The Sahtu Dene and Métis have been important participants throughout the devolution negotiations process since 2001, and we are pleased that SSI has joined us again to help shape the final agreement,” said Premier McLeod. “We welcome all NWT regional Aboriginal governments to participate at the negotiations table and ensure the voices and priorities of their people are reflected in this historic agreement. While devolution does not affect Aboriginal and treaty rights, Aboriginal governments should take the opportunity to work together and help ensure the best possible devolution agreement for everyone in the NWT.”

“The Government of Canada is pleased to see the Sahtu seize this opportunity to help shape the future of the territory and share in the benefits that will flow from devolution,” said the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. “The Government of Canada’s Northern Strategy envisions putting greater decision making in the hands of the people of the Northwest Territories. Working together through devolution, land claim and self-government negotiations and other initiatives, we will achieve remarkable progress towards this objective.”

“We are pleased that the Sahtu have rejoined the negotiations and we look forward to working with them as we move forward,” said Nellie Cournoyea, Chair and CEO of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC). “The participation of the Sahtu will bring additional depth and strength to the Aboriginal voice in these important negotiations, and will contribute to a more productive relationship with the GNWT and the development of a devolution agreement that will work for all regions of the NWT.”

“We welcome our northern cousins to the devolution family with open arms,” said Betty Villebrun President of the NWT Métis Nation (NWTMN). “Together, we can bring northern decision making on land and resources to the North, where it rightfully belongs. Our future is in our hands and will be determined by our ability to move forward together, working cooperatively towards a final agreement from which all NWT residents will benefit.”

“I am very pleased to see the Sahtu taking this step today,” said Norman Yakeleya, MLA Sahtu. “It is important for the Sahtu to be at the table to have their views represented.  It’s always better to negotiate your own fate than to have others do it for you.  The Sahtu are now owning up to 100 percent of our responsibility to determine our destiny.”

NWT lands and resources devolution will transfer administrative authority and control over public lands, resources and rights in respect of water in the Northwest Territories from the Government of Canada to the GNWT. After devolution, the GNWT will be responsible for the management of public lands and natural resources in the NWT, including the delivery of related public programs, and will have the right to keep a share of the resource development royalties collected on NWT public lands. The GNWT will share up to 25% of its royalties with NWT Aboriginal governments – a sharing unprecedented in Canada. The Government of Canada, GNWT, IRC, NWTMN and SSI are currently in the final stage of devolution negotiations.  Negotiations are expected to conclude in 2012.

For more information on NWT lands and resources devolution, visit www.gov.nt.ca.

 

For further information, please contact:

Megan Holsapple
Media Liaison
Office of the Premier and Executive Council
Government of the Northwest Territories
Tel: (867) 669-2302
Fax: (867) 873-0111

 

 

 

 

Backgrounder: NWT Lands and Resources Devolution     

The transfer or ‘devolution’ of federal powers to the provinces and territories has happened many times in the history of Canada and the Northwest Territories (NWT). Since 1967, the NWT has received provincial-type authority over health care, education, social services, highways, airport administration and forestry management in a number of separate transfers.

NWT lands and resources devolution will transfer administrative authority and control over public lands, resources and waters in the NWT from the Government of Canada to the GNWT. This will include authority to decide how Crown (public) lands and natural resources in the NWT are used and managed, including final approval for resource development projects. These powers currently rest with the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC).

After devolution, the GNWT will be responsible for the design and delivery of public programs related to land and resource management in the NWT, and will see its annual transfer payments from the Government of Canada increased to reflect the cost of providing services related to these new responsibilities. The GNWT will also have the right to collect and keep a share of the royalties from resource development on NWT Crown lands, which currently go directly to the federal government. This percentage is comparable to the arrangements provinces have under Equalization.

The GNWT has committed to sharing its royalties with NWT Aboriginal governments to help build their capacity: a revenue-sharing arrangement that is unprecedented in Canada. In addition to royalties, Aboriginal groups will benefit from a range of subjects being negotiated under the AiP, including a post-devolution bilateral agreement with the GNWT to coordinate and cooperate in the management of lands and natural resources.

The latest efforts to achieve a devolution agreement date back to the first meeting of the NWT Intergovernmental Forum in May 2000, when Aboriginal, territorial and federal government leaders identified lands and resources devolution as a priority.  All agreed that transferring control of natural resources would promote the self-sufficiency and prosperity of the NWT by providing important economic development capacity to NWT governments and reducing their reliance on federal funding.

The most recent milestones in the negotiations have been the Devolution Framework Agreement and the Devolution Agreement-in-Principle (AiP).  The Framework Agreement was signed in 2004 by the Government of Canada, GNWT and Aboriginal Summit, a caucus representing most of the NWT’s Aboriginal groups.

Following the dissolution of the Aboriginal Summit in 2007, its member Aboriginal groups participated independently in negotiations and some chose to withdraw from active negotiations. To date, the Devolution AiP has been signed by three Aboriginal governments: the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation and, most recently, the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated.

The signatories to the AiP are currently in the final stage of negotiations for the devolution of NWT public lands and natural resources. Other NWT Aboriginal governments may join the negotiations at any time. Final negotiations are expected to conclude in 2012. Implementation of the final agreement is expected to take approximately 18 months.

For more information on NWT lands and resources devolution, visit www.gov.nt.ca.

 

For further information, please contact:

Megan Holsapple
Media Liaison
Office of the Premier and Executive Council
Government of the Northwest Territories
Tel: (867) 669-2302
Fax: (867) 873-0111