The signing of the Nunavut Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement is the conclusion of a longstanding commitment toward the vision of self-determination Nunavummiut.
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About the Nunavut Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement
On January 18, 2024, the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and the Government of Canada co-signed the Nunavut Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement. The Inuktitut and Innuinaqtun translations of the Agreement are available on the Government of Nunavut website:
The signing of the Devolution Agreement is the result of the collaborative work of the 3 parties since the creation of the territory to support the realization of the goal of self-determination of Nunavummiut.
Through devolution, Nunavut and its residents will benefit from:
- the ability to make decisions about lands administration, development and resource management
- receiving royalties on public lands
- opportunities to continue strengthening education, employment and other northern-led investments in land and resource development, creating more jobs and increasing prosperity across the territory for generations to come
The Nunavut Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement relates to the official transfer of responsibilities for Nunavut's public lands, natural resources, and rights in respect to water from the Government of Canada to the Government of Nunavut.
Generally, the Devolution Agreement indicates:
- responsibilities over lands, resource management and rights in respect to waters
- the resources (human resources, properties, assets, records, etc.) that will be transferred to ensure an effective and seamless devolution process
- when and how that transfer of responsibilities will take place
- the funding levels to be transferred along with the associated responsibilities
The Devolution Agreement also provides for the creation and approval of human resources development strategies and identifies:
- the financial resources required for completing and carrying out the devolved responsibilities
- the scope and conditions of the transfer
- additional supports for education and training of Nunavummiut, particularly Inuit, to take up employment opportunities with the Government of Nunavut post-transfer
How devolution works
Devolution, or the transfer of responsibilities and powers to the territory, is an essential step in the political and economic development of Nunavut.
Since the 1960s, the federal government has gradually transferred responsibility to territorial governments for matters such as:
- social services
Since the creation of the territory in 1999, there have been many discussions about the transfer and devolution of land and resource management to the Government of Nunavut.
These authorities and their related responsibilities, properties, and assets were held within and managed by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada on behalf of the federal Crown. By devolving these responsibilities to the territory, the parties aim to:
- enable Nunavummiut greater control over decisions on lands and resources
- strengthen regional governance and accountability
- encourage new revenue streams and economic development opportunities
Northern governance and the transfer of powers to the territories has long been a goal for the Government of Canada. Devolution in Nunavut marks the completion of devolution in Canada's North. Devolution was completed in Yukon in 2003 and in the Northwest Territories in 2014.
There are 5 phases to this devolution process:
- Protocol: a framework agreement or negotiation protocol is outlined and used as a guide for negotiations
- Agreement-in-principle (AIP): an AIP is developed and signed
- This non-binding agreement allows the parties to arrive at a joint understanding on the main issues regarding the transfer of land and resources management from the Government of Canada to the Government of Nunavut
- Final agreement: a final devolution agreement is negotiated and signed by all parties
- Implementation and legislation: legislation and transition mechanisms are drafted and an implementation schedule is determined by all parties
- Transfer of responsibilities: the legislation and transition mechanisms are implemented through a series of legislative changes which are approved through Parliament and mirrored in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly
Section 35 consultations
The Crown's duty to consult stems from section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, providing constitutional recognition and affirmation of Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada.
During the devolution process, the Government of Canada consulted with Indigenous groups with asserted or established treaty rights or interests in Nunavut.
Section 35 consultations will continue to be undertaken during the implementation phase of devolution until the transfer date.
Implementing the Devolution Agreement
Nunavut has been preparing to take over decision-making for land management for many years. Existing responsibilities will be transferred, along with the technical roles and the legislative authorities to enable them.
Over the next 3 years, the parties will sustain the strong and collaborative relationships established during the negotiation of the Devolution Agreement and work in this spirit of partnership to complete the transfer of responsibilities by April 1, 2027.
Transitional Human Resources Development Strategy
To ensure a timely and seamless transfer, the Government of Canada has committed $15 million to co-develop and co-implement a Transitional Human Resources Development Strategy. This strategy commits to provide Inuit, other Nunavummiut, northerners and Canadians with education supports and employment opportunities within the public service of Nunavut.
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