News / Ottawa

Inuit side with Idle No More, say movement an opportunity to honour land claims

Ahead of a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Assembly of First Nations to discuss issues at the heart of Idle No More, Friday, Inuit groups urged the federal government to live up to its modern treaty obligations.

"A lot of advancements have been made with modern land claims," said Terry Audla , president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. "We do have a lot of say in how Inuit can capitalize on our land's resources. The tools are in place, it's a matter of how the federal government fulfills their obligation."

In 2006, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), which oversees economic and social well-being through the implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, launched a lawsuit against the Crown for what they say is a failure to live up to the obligations of the deal struck in 1993. In June, a judge with the Nunavut Court of Justice, ordered the federal government to pay $14.8 million in damages for failing to create a general monitoring plan required under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

Wednesday night, Inuit leaders from NTI met with Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence to show their support for her hunger strike, which has prompted a groundswell of support from frustrated aboriginal groups across the country. Those frustrations will be aired at the Friday meeting with the Prime Minister, as First Nations groups present Stephen Harper with a concrete list of demands.

"It was important to meet with Chief Spence to express our support and our commonalities in the failure of the government to live up to obligations under land claims," said Cathy Towtongie, president of NTI.

In their list of demands for the Prime Minister outlined Thursday, the AFN put resource revenue sharing front and centre, next to brokering modern treaties.

Audla said that resource revenue sharing is working under projects such as the Meliadine and Meadowbank gold mines operated by Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd., which is said to be one of the largest gold deposits in Canada. "Inuit recieve royalties," said Audla. "That's divvied up between communities in an open manner."

Still, resource revenue sharing hasn't dramatically improved conditions in Inuit communities, said Towtongie. "In Nunavut, the government of Canada has failed to implement our modern day agreements in many respects."

"We need trained civil bureaucrats to take on administration of the government," she said. "Right now it costs the government in $200 million range to fly employees into Nunavut, leaving the Inuit uneducated and untrained."

Correction: This article originally stated incorrectly that Inuit receive royalties from north-western Quebec's LaRonde gold mine.

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