18 Apr 2022


As part of their respective land claims, the Inuit received ownership of certain blocks of land. The four land claim regions cover approximately 40% of Canada`s land mass. In December 1991, the final land claims agreement was essentially finalized until another crucial meeting was held between the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Inuit leadership and the GNWT on final issues. Again, the central theme of that meeting was Nunavut. At a nightly meeting on Parliament Hill in mid-December, negotiations were concluded on outstanding issues surrounding the Nunavut land claim, including the agreement on a new section 4 on political development. The Nunavut Land Claim AIP was signed in Igloolik on April 30, 1990. For the first time, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and Nunavut have gained a significant political profile in the federal system, with Minister Thomas Siddon and Inuit leaders forging a working relationship to advance the agenda. Relations with Canadian Aborigines have always been shaped by a colonial mindset of Eurocentric ownership. These relationships, and many of the resulting agreements, were based on a superiority mindset of the Canadian government, European governments or corporations. It is no longer acceptable and it never has been.

When it comes to modern relationships between business/government and Indigenous peoples, there may still be deep-seated tensions. One way to mitigate these factors is to sign appropriate and well-negotiated impact and performance agreements. Inuit peoples in Canada`s North have used these agreements and continue to use them to ensure that their voices are heard and that they also reap the benefits of northern development. Despite the importance of Nunavut and the NLCA, initiatives within the federal government have been assigned to separate and relatively small core teams within the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND). In the 1980s, both initiatives were conducted with a relatively low political profile, and the Nunavut land claim had a lower priority than the Yukon and NWT claims, where pressure on resource development was greater. An Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement (IIBA) is a formal contract that establishes a project between an Inuit community and a corporate or government project, explains the impact – both negative and positive – and clarifies how associated Inuit groups will benefit. These agreements can and often include anything related to the specific development project that will impact Inuit peoples. It is only after a long process of understanding, consultation and negotiation that these documents are signed. They are almost always legally binding and, although not legally confidential, are often negotiated confidentially by convention. It is important to note that a ZIIBA describes not only the benefits that Inuit peoples can derive from it, but also the possible negative effects, both on Inuit peoples and on the environment.

Often, the agreement sets out the measures that will be taken to mitigate the risks and negative impacts. During the 1980s, the federal government`s claims negotiating team tracked progress on the political development front, but maintained a complete separation between initiatives. In the spring of 1980, ITC and Canada agreed to resume negotiations on Nunavut land claims, provided that the Inuit proposal to create the territory of Nunavut be settled through a political development process in the Northwest Territories, separate from, but in parallel with, land claim negotiations. When land claim negotiations began in 1980, there was no framework agreement with the Inuit setting out the elements and scope of a potential settlement of the claims; there was no formal procedure for an interdepartmental mandate from the Confederation; and there was no consideration of how the creation of a Nunavut territory might affect the form and content of a land claims agreement. For Inuit, the land claim path and the political development path were designed to shift the levers of political control from Ottawa and Yellowknife to Nunavut. New section 4 required the Canadian government to recommend to Parliament acts establishing the territory of Nunavut. It provided that Canada, the GNWT and the RTF would negotiate a political agreement that would regulate the powers and financial arrangements of the Government of Nunavut and the timing of its creation. The agreement is expected to be concluded by April 1992, before the Inuit vote to ratify their country`s claim agreement. The Nunavut Political Agreement was initialled on April 27, 1992 by negotiators from all three parties, the partition limit was approved in a territorial referendum on May 4, 1992, and the Political Agreement was signed in Iqaluit on October 30, 1992.

After a two-month ratification trip by Inuit and federal negotiators to all Inuit communities, the Inuit ratification vote on the Land Claims Agreement took place from November 3 to 5, 1992. The Land Claims Agreement was supported by 85% of voters. During the ratification journey, it became clear that the success of the ratification vote depended heavily on the commitment to create Nunavut. The duty to consult is not lightly. Tr`ondëk Hwëch`in First Nation recently set a precedent by suing the Government of Yukon for failing to consult with them before mineral exploration is conducted on their traditional lands. This case is important because it is the first case of its kind. The country dealt with in the lawsuit was settled by a land claim. Under the new comprehensive claims policy, the federal Nunavut Land Claim Negotiating Team had to seek a Cabinet mandate for a comprehensive land claims settlement package before returning to the bargaining table.

During talks with TFN in mid-1987, consensus was reached on the remaining list of issues to be negotiated. The federal team then sought Cabinet approval of the sub-agreements already negotiated and a mandate to resolve the outstanding issues. The terms of reference were approved in November 1987. In light of the changes to the claims policy, federal negotiators were empowered to deal with offshore rights, royalty sharing, and the decision-making powers of agricultural and water management authorities. In particular, the mandate maintained a complete separation between the Land Claims Agreement and Nunavut. With the federal mandate, negotiations resumed with more intensity and concentration. In the fall of 1989, negotiations were limited to a limited list of issues to be resolved at a meeting between Inuit leaders, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the GNWT. The two main outstanding issues were the financial component of the Land Claims Agreement and Nunavut. Many Inuit in Canada live in 53 communities in Canada`s northern regions in Inuit Nunangat, which means “the place where Inuit live.” On the night of December 7, 1989, a meeting was held on Parliament Hill between Inuit leaders, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the GNWT to conclude the final questions on the Nunavut Land Claim AIP. In preparation for the meeting, the Minister had written to the territorial government requesting assistance in establishing a process and timeline for making a decision on Nunavut. At the meeting, the GNWT and THE TFN agreed to develop a process for the creation of Nunavut outside of the Land Claims Agreement within six months of the PIA, in accordance with the 1987 Iqaluit Agreement, including calling for a region-wide referendum across the border. The commitment was set out in section 4 of the DPI on land claims and confirms the fundamental support of all three parties for the creation of the territory of Nunavut as soon as possible.

With the entry into force of Article 4, agreement was reached on the remaining claims issues. The parties announced an 18-month target to reach a final agreement to obtain ratification by Parliament before the next federal election, scheduled for the fall of 1992. .

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