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Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs
March 22, 2011

The following statement was given today in the House of Assembly today by the Honourable Patty Pottle, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

Historic Agreement Advances Innu Land Claims Closer to Final Agreement

I rise in this Honourable House today to acknowledge a tremendous achievement.
Yesterday, it was my great honour to be on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to represent the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and our Premier at a historic announcement that marked a giant step forward in reaching a land claims agreement for the Innu. I witnessed the completion of a financial agreement between the Federal Government and the Innu Nation, signed by the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and Joseph Riche, Grand Chief of the Innu Nation.

This agreement advances the Innu land claim agreement into the final stages of completion, and it also serves as a major step forward for the Lower Churchill Generation Project. I understand the Innu Nation is now making preparations to bring the agreements arising from the Tshash Petapen or New Dawn Agreement reached between the Innu and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to its membership for a ratification vote.

I must confess I am not sure there are words to express how I felt standing in Ottawa yesterday, taking part in an announcement that means so much to the Innu people, to Labrador, and to our entire province. As an Aboriginal woman, I have some understanding of the great weight of responsibility that lies on the shoulders of the Innu leadership in securing a land claim. While they negotiate with the provincial and federal governments, these dedicated men and women have to weigh what is best for their communities, their loved ones – families, husbands, wives, children and grandchildren – while acknowledging the proud legacy of their ancestors who have walked Labrador for thousands of years. A land claims agreement must take all of this into account, and more.

As Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, I commend the Innu leadership and the Government of Canada on this achievement. Just a few months ago, I was part of a Provincial Government delegation which accompanied the Innu leadership to meet with Minister Duncan to discuss and advocate for progress on the Innu land claim.

Today, here we are, just a short time later, and history has been made. I ask my honourable colleagues to join with me and acknowledge this tremendous accomplishment for the Innu people.

2011 03 22                                                                             1:45 p.m.

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