Hon. Thomas Siddon (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development) moved
that Bill C-133, an act respecting an agreement between the Inuit of the Nunavut settlement area and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada, be read the second time and referred to a legislative committee in the Human Resources envelope.
He said: Madam Speaker, I want to speak this morning to my hon. colleagues about Bill C-133, which would give effect to the Nunavut land claims agreement.
One of the happiest moments of my life as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development occurred when I joined with the Prime Minister last Tuesday in Iqaluit to sign the Nunavut land claims agreement.
As a result of this agreement there is a new spirit of optimism and a new energy among the Inuit of the eastern Arctic region. I noted the applause of the hon. member for Nunatsiaq. We very much appreciate his support and enthusiastic participation at the event last week.
I was struck by the tears of happiness and joy by the elders who gathered at Inukshuk School in Iqaluit with the children and the people of the eastern Arctic to celebrate this historic signing.
As we listened to Susan Aglukark sing O Canada in Inuktitut we sensed the confidence, joy and pride, especially of the children, as they anticipated a new future relationship with all the people of Canada.
I am personally committed to ensuring implementation of the land claims agreement by guiding this bill through Parliament. I know I am supported in this process by the Prime Minister who has given his unflagging support to this project. He has shown exceptional vision and commitment in addressing aboriginal and northern issues, including the recognition of Nunavut. I am also supported by my cabinet colleagues, who have approved the Nunavut land claims agreement which we debate today.
I am supported by the Inuit of the eastern Arctic. Without their determination, without their commitment to settling this land claim, we would not have reached the critical stage we are at today.
Bill C-133 gives effect to the Nunavut land claims agreement to settle the land claim of the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut which represents Inuit in the eastern Arctic. This agreement, which has been pursued over a period of 17 years going back to 1976, was endorsed last November by 69 per cent of Inuit living in the settlement region, and of those who actually voted 85 per cent approved the land claims settlement. This is an overwhelming show of support and it sends an important message to this House of the commitment that the Inuit wish to make to be partners in Canada.
The TFN land claim is the largest in Canadian history. It encompasses approximately one-fifth of the entire Canadian land mass, an area of some two million square kilometres in the central and eastern Arctic as well as adjacent offshore areas. That is known as the settlement area but is not to be confused with the actual lands to be owned by the Inuit, which are approximately 20 per cent of that amount.
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This area, as well as the adjacent offshore areas, is the traditional homeland and hunting grounds of some
17,500 Inuit. It is in this area of the eastern Arctic that their ancestors have lived for many thousands of years and in a remarkable way have persisted and survived on the Arctic tundra. Today they wish to continue to live with the freedom to guide and choose their own destiny within Canada.
The Nunavut land claims agreement ensures that the Nunavut region will always be home to the Inuit. It provides lasting protection for Inuit land-based interests as well as the rights and benefits that will enable them to pursue socio-economic development.
The agreement provides Inuit with ownership of more than 350,000 square kilometres of land in the settlement region out of the total area of two million square miles. On more than 10 per cent of the area they will own, the Inuit will also own the mineral rights. In the rest of Nunavut, Inuit will share in the management of wildlife and the environment and in the economic benefits of future development.
The land provisions of this agreement are extremely important not only for Inuit but for all Canadians. By replacing the legal uncertainty of aboriginal claim to title with clearly defined rights to lands and resources, by establishing certainty of ownership and the delineation of those boundaries and by clarifying the rights of natives and non-natives in the settlement region, the Nunavut land claims agreement will open up this huge area of Canada for future orderly development.
That will mean jobs for Canadians, including Inuit and other aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples living and working in northern Canada and throughout Canada. It will mean additional wealth and prosperity for northerners and other Canadians as we replace uncertainty with a stable and predictable economic and legal framework.
The Nunavut land claims agreement will bring enormous benefits to the north in the form of new investment, an improved standard of living and a brighter outlook for the youth of the region.
The agreement also includes significant financial benefits for Inuit of the settlement region. Over the next 14 years capital payments totalling $580 million in 1989 dollars will be made to the Nunavut trust, which will manage the money for the benefit of Inuit.
I should indicate that in comparison, the government through the programs of financial assistance to Inuit is presently spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support the eastern Arctic. We want to replace welfare with self-reliance. That is the purpose of this settlement payment and the land base and the accompanying public government which we will speak of when we debate Bill C-132 later today.
The Nunavut land claims agreement foresees the day when resource developments will generate significant revenues in the settlement region.
Inuit interests are well protected in that each year they will receive 50 per cent of the first $2 million in royalties paid to the government on any resource development for which royalties accrue within the Nunavut area. They will receive 5 per cent of all royalties in excess of $2 million on the public lands which are outside of land owned by the Inuit.
This agreement is about much more than land ownership and capital transfers. It is about acknowledging the special needs of the Inuit. It is about protecting their traditional lifestyles and pursuits.
One of those needs is employment training. To ensure that the Inuit can play a full and meaningful role in the institutions of government and in the private sector economic initiatives, a $13 million training trust fund is to be established under this agreement.
It is a great misfortune that much of the work done in the administration of projects in the eastern Arctic is done by southerners, non-Inuit. We want to make a visible change to provide much greater opportunity for Inuit to be involved in the architecture and production of their own destiny.
As well, Inuit employment by government will be increased. Firms owned by Inuit will be assisted in competing for government contracts.
As hon. members know, a common feature of land claim settlements is to guarantee the aboriginal claimant group a central role in wildlife management. The Nunavut land claims agreement is no exception. Inuit will have equal representation on a board that will be established to oversee wildlife harvesting in the settlement region.
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Inuit will be guaranteed specific wildlife harvesting rights, including the right to harvest their basic needs as they have for thousands of years. Inuit will also have economic opportunities related to guiding, sports lodges and the commercial marketing of wildlife resources.
The Inuit of the eastern Arctic are perhaps more dependent on traditional pursuits than any other group of aboriginal people in Canada. Therefore, the agreement recognizes this dependence and safeguards Inuit interests.
Inuit will be entitled to compensation where developers cause provable damage to property or equipment used in harvesting wildlife. They will also be compensated when development projects cause loss of harvesting income or loss of wildlife harvested for personal use.
In addition to their role in wildlife management, the agreement ensures equal Inuit participation on boards responsible for land use planning, environmental and socio-economic reviews of development projects and water management.
Finally, I am pleased to inform hon. members that the Nunavut land claims agreement will help the government achieve one of its key green plan objectives. That is to complete Canada's system of national parks. Following consultations with Inuit and other local residents, at least three national parks, one in each of the three regions of Nunavut, will be established in the settlement region within four years of proclamation of this agreement.
I want to emphasize that the Nunavut land claims agreement and Bill C-133 which will implement it do not affect or diminish any rights of other aboriginal peoples guaranteed under section 35 of the Constitution Act. In fact, the final agreement explicitly protects the traditional livelihood and hunting activities of all other aboriginal groups on lands within the Nunavut settlement area. This was a key objective of the government.
As a sign of their commitment to accommodate the interests of other aboriginal groups, the Nunavut Inuit have negotiated overlap agreements with the Inuvialuit in the western Arctic and the Inuit of northern Quebec.
Negotiations are also proceeding with the Sahtu Dene-Metis in the western Arctic.
We are pleased that similar agreements have now been negotiated with the Dene of northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, who also claim traditional use of certain lands north of the 60th parallel.
I remind hon. members that the Federal Court has ruled that the Nunavut land claims agreement protects any interests that the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Dene bands may have in the Nunavut settlement area. In fact this agreement may even give them legal rights they do not currently enjoy under treaty. Thus the Manitoba and Saskatchewan bands have agreed that they will not oppose ratification of this agreement. I compliment the hon. members who helped to facilitate that agreement.
Article 4 is a key element of the Nunavut land claims agreement. It requires the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories and the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut to negotiate a political accord to divide the Northwest Territories into two parts and to establish a new territorial government, a public government, in the eastern Arctic.
In this way Bill C-133 will lay the foundation for a new partnership between Inuit and Canada in the creation of Nunavut. It will enable a proud and self-reliant group of aboriginal Canadians to achieve long sought economic and political goals in the north.
It builds on the traditions and culture of the elders whose ancestors survived in that Arctic barren land for so many thousands of years. Yet this agreement passes on a lasting legacy to the children of the Inuit of generations to come.
It will guarantee Inuit a land base and give them the means and the rights to continue traditional pursuits that are at the very heart of their culture and to do it in harmony with all other Canadians.
Therefore, I urge all of my hon colleagues to give this bill their firm and decisive support. In that sense, Madam Speaker, I think you will find consent to move through all stages of Bill C-133 today, including Committee of the Whole, so that we might complete consideration of this bill.
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This debate is being witnessed by Inuit members of the executive of the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut and others. They dearly hope that the members of Parliament will show the commitment they seek from us today.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NUNAVUT LAND CLAIMS AGREEMENT ACT