Lands and Environment

Federal government appoints chief negotiator for Nunavut devolution

The Hon. John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, has announced the appointment of Mr. Dale Drown as Chief Federal Negotiator for Nunavut Devolution. Mr. Drown will work with the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and other stakeholders to develop options for proceeding with the devolution of authority for land and resource management to the Government of Nunavut.
 
In the Department’s press release, Minister Duncan stated:

Together with the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated and key stakeholders, we are working to build a future in which the people of Nunavut are more self-sufficient and prosperous, making their own decisions, managing their own affairs and making strong contributions to the country as a whole.

Mr. Drown’s mandate will involve identifying the steps required “to advance negotiations and to examine how land and resource management capacity can be improved in Nunavut.”
 
The Government of Nunavut defines devolution as “the transfer of federal jurisdiction over Crown lands and resources to the Government of Nunavut.” Federal jurisdiction involves “legislative authority over and administration and control of, federal Crown lands, rights over waters, and control of non-renewable resources.”
 
Currently, 80% of the land in Nunavut is owned and controlled by the federal government. Nearly 18% of the land is collectively owned by Inuit under the terms of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. The rest of the land is either commissioner’s land (less than 1%; managed by the Government of Nunavut) or municipal land (less than 1%; managed by municipal corporations).
 
In 2007, a former federal ministerial representative for Nunavut devolution, Paul Mayer, recommended a phased approach to Nunavut devolution. Not long afterwards, the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and the Government of Canada signed a protocol that would serve as a guide for the parties once negotiations had begun. According to the federal government, the protocol moved Nunavut “one step closer to assuming province-like resource management responsibilities.”
 
Until Down’s appointment, however, the federal government had been without a federal negotiator, making progress toward an agreement-in-principle impossible.
 
After the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada signed the devolution agreement-in-principle in January, 2011, Premier Aariak commented it was time for Nunavut to begin its formal devolution negotiations. Meanwhile, the Government of Nunavut launched a media campaign outlining the reasons why devolution would make a difference to Nunavummiut.
 
More recently, analysis has focused on what Nunavut might achieve in a future devolution deal, given the precedent set by the Yukon and NWT devolution deals in Canada, and the terms under which Greenland obtained control of its lands and resources from Denmark.
 
Mr. Drown worked as Chief of Staff to Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie from 2007 – 2011. The Whitehorse Star reports Drown’s political career goes back to Parliament Hill in the 1980s when he worked for Jake Epp, a former Conservative minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. Drown currently holds the position of Executive Director of the Métis Nation British Columbia.

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