NLIS 6
August 29, 2003
(Executive Council)
(Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs)

 

Labrador Inuit land claims agreement initialled in St. Johnís

Chief negotiators for the Labrador Inuit Association (LIA), the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada gathered today to initial the Labrador Inuit Land Claim Agreement (the Agreement). This land claims and self-government agreement is the first of its kind in Atlantic Canada. Before coming into effect, the Agreement must be ratified by Labrador Inuit, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Canada.

"The initialling of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement is a positive step forward for economic and social development in our provinceís Aboriginal communities," said Premier Roger Grimes. "It is a great testament to the willingness of the LIA, the Province and the federal government to partner to ensure that we do the right thing for the future of all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am very pleased with the work this administration has done over the past number of years to make todayís celebrations possible and pleased to keep another commitment made to the people of this province."

"The initialling of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement today by negotiators for the Inuit of Labrador, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada represents the culmination of a long and difficult process and the dedication and commitment of our negotiators in achieving agreement and compromise on hard-fought issues," said Labrador Inuit Association President William Andersen III. "Todayís achievement assures us that understanding between distinct cultures is possible and that mutual respect and cooperation are attainable. This moment also marks the start of our efforts to ratify the Agreement and make it law. The challenge now is to turn the work of our negotiators into a monumental achievement for the Inuit of Labrador, the people of this province and Canadian society as a whole. I believe we can, and will, achieve this, and I look forward to the ratification of the Agreement by Labrador Inuit, the House of Assembly and Parliament."

"I wish to congratulate all three negotiating teams for their hard work and dedication in getting us to this point. Todayís initialling represents a significant step towards a Final Agreement," said Gerry Byrne, Minister of State for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency on behalf of Robert D. Nault, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. "A Final Agreement will create a positive and stable climate for economic and social development within the settlement area and in surrounding communities, providing the Inuit with the capacity to build a better future for themselves and benefiting the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

"It is with great joy and pride that I share in todayís celebration," said Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Wally Andersen. "This is a great day for the Labrador Inuit and the people of this province. After many years of negotiations, a Final Agreement is in sight which will bring new opportunities to the Labrador Inuit, and a new relationship with governments. I thank all the people who have worked so hard to bring us to this significant milestone in the history of the Labrador Inuit and the people of this great province and country."

The Labrador Inuit Association represents approximately 5,300 Inuit who live primarily in five coastal communities (Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Postville and Rigolet) and the Upper Lake Melville area in Labrador. They claim Aboriginal rights and title to territory in northern Labrador and northeastern Quebec. The Inuit have never entered into a Treaty with the British Crown, Canada or Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Agreement sets out details of land ownership, resource sharing, and self-government. The Agreement provides for the establishment of the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area (LISA) totalling about 72,500 square kilometres (28,000 square miles) in northern Labrador, including 15,800 square kilometres (6,100 square miles) of Inuit-owned lands, known as Labrador Inuit Lands. The Agreement also provides for the establishment of the Torngat Mountains National Park Reserve, consisting of about 9,600 square kilometres (3,700 square miles) of land within LISA.

Under the Agreement, the Government of Canada will transfer $140 million to the Labrador Inuit, as well as $156 million for implementation of the Agreement.

The self-government provisions of the Agreement provide for the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government, five Inuit community governments and any Inuit community corporations that may be established to provide for the representation of Inuit living outside the Settlement Area. All levels of government will be democratically responsible and financially accountable to the electorate. The Nunatsiavut Government will be able to make laws applicable to Inuit in Labrador Inuit Lands and Inuit communities with respect to culture and language, education, health and social services. The Nunatsiavut Government may also make laws for the administration of Inuit law and to establish necessary enforcement structures, including an Inuit law enforcement agency and an Inuit court.

Additional agreements will be negotiated among the Labrador Inuit, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada to provide key programs and services such as health care, education, and other social programs and services to be delivered by the Nunatsiavut Government to all residents in each of the five Inuit communities.

The initialling of the Final Agreement by the Chief Negotiators for each party signifies the beginning of the ratification by the Labrador Inuit. A Ratification Committee will be established and will be responsible for developing the official Inuit voters list and conducting the ratification vote.

Copies of the Agreement, and related documents will be available on the Internet at: http://www.gov.nl.ca/laa/liaclaims/default.htm and the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada website: www.inac.gc.ca

For further information, please contact:

Labrador Inuit Association:

Winston White
(709) 897-7182

June Perry
Communications Consultant
(709) 753-0794 (office)
(709) 682-2682 (cell)

Government of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Catherina Kennedy
Office of the Premier
(709) 729-3960

Bert Pomeroy
Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs
(709) 896-8668

Government of Canada:

Diane Laursen
Media Relations
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
(819) 994-2044

2003 08 29                                         2:50 p.m.


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