July 9, 2018, Nunavut Day, was a day of celebration marked with a huge street festival, our festivities in Iqaluit had the trimmings – live music, country food, Inuit games, children’s’ activities and giveaways. Beside all the usual fun, his year’s Nunavut Day had a special undertone because it marked the launch of an annual campaign celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Nunavut (Land Claims) Agreement, which created this territory.
May 25, 2018 marked 25 years since the signing of the Nunavut Agreement. The Agreement is the foundation on which Nunavut has grown and will continue to build and guide our future. It was signed to bring real benefits to all Nunavut Inuit.
QIA is a Designated Inuit Organization under the Nunavut Agreement. This means we have certain roles under the Agreement that we must fulfill, and we use the Agreement to guide our mandates and day-to-day activities. Under the Agreement, QIA is responsible for managing Inuit Owned Lands in the Qikiqtani Region on behalf of the 14,000 Inuit we represent.
We look to the Agreement to guide our decisions and programs which promote Inuktitut, Inuit traditions, environmental values, self-sufficiency, and the economic, social and cultural well-being of Inuit. We at QIA feel privileged for the opportunity to serve Qikiqtani Inuit through the implementation of the Nunavut Agreement.
Negotiating the Nunavut Agreement was an intense process that spanned 20 years. Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (now NTI) was instrumental during this time in engaging the Inuit of the region to better understand what Inuit wanted for their future and to ensure this was incorporated into the Agreement.
We are thankful to the Inuit negotiators who never once relented on their primary goal of self-government and a separate territory. The Agreement became law after it was signed by Paul Quassa, the then president of NTI, and Brian Mulroney, the then Prime Minister of Canada, on May 25, 1993.
The Nunavut Agreement guides the mandates of Nunavut’s Inuit Organizations and the Boards that were created under the Agreement for the joint management of lands, water and wildlife resources. The Agreement protects Inuit rights for the use of lands, water and resources and provides financial compensation and a means of participating in economic development. Much has been achieved since the signing of the Agreement 25 years ago, all of the Inuit Organizations and Boards have worked tirelessly to fulfill their obligations under the Agreement and will continue to do so.
Quick Facts about the Nunavut Agreement:
- The Agreement dedicates 350,000 km2 of the land in Nunavut as Inuit Owned Land (that’s almost the size of Newfoundland and Labrador). 44% of this land is in the Qikiqtani region making QIA one of the world’s largest private land owners!
- The Nunavut Agreement is the largest Indigenous land claims settlement in Canadian History and involves the largest number of beneficiaries.
- Under the Agreement, five (soon to be six) Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreements have been signed in the Qikiqtani Region.
- The Agreement requires a share of royalties for Nunavut Inuit from resource development such as oil, gas and minerals and provides the right to negotiate with industry for economic and social benefits with non-renewable resource development.
- In 2015, NTI negotiated an additional $255.5 million settlement with the Government of Canada for failure to implement various promises made in the 1993 Agreement. The majority of this funding is dedicated to providing training for Inuit employment.
The Nunavut Agreement is lengthy (300 pages!) and can be difficult to understand in any language as it captures complex legal ideas. It required many, many new words to be developed in Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun. On the 10th anniversary of the Agreement, NTI published a Plain Language Guide to the Nunavut Agreement that is much shorter and simplifies the ideas of the Agreement. This easy to understand guide is available on the NTI and QIA websites.
On July 9th, Nunavut’s birthday, NTI launched a one-year campaign to celebrate the Agreement’s 25th anniversary. NTI will lead the celebrations and host different events across the Territory. Keep an eye out for these celebrations in your community!