Why Aboriginal governments are encouraged
to participate in devolution negotiations
Devolution is a transfer of public lands and resources from Canada to the GNWT. The authority of Aboriginal governments over their own settlement lands is, or will be, set out in land claims and self-government agreements. Devolution does not affect Aboriginal and treaty rights based agreements. Notwithstanding the fact that devolution does not concern Aboriginal or treaty rights, there are good reasons why the participation of Aboriginal governments in devolution negotiation has been and continues to be encouraged.
Several NWT Aboriginal governments own and control substantial amounts of land - called settlement lands - through their land claims agreements. These governments already control how resources on their settlement lands are developed.
Other NWT Aboriginal governments are still involved in land claim and self-government negotiations. Devolution will not prevent the selection of lands for future land claims and the Government of Canada will be able to take back transferred lands for national interests, including for land claim settlements.
As major landowners, it will be in the interests of all NWT governments to work together to make sure that that we manage our resources in an efficient manner. The GNWT and participating Aboriginal governments have negotiated AiP provisions for working together, such as calling for the establishment of an intergovernmental forum. The forum would allow NWT governments to discuss proposals and review each other’s policies and legislation for managing public and settlement lands, increasing opportunities for cooperation and coordination of management regimes and practices.
The proposed forum would operate on a government-to-government basis, respecting the individual jurisdictions of the GNWT and of the NWT’s Aboriginal governments. This would represent a groundbreaking achievement in recognizing the rights and powers of Aboriginal governments that has not been seen anywhere else in Canada to date.
In addition to the need for northern governments to work collaboratively, devolution will provide an opportunity for investment of resource revenue from public lands in Aboriginal governments.
The AiP contains a GNWT commitment to share its share of resource revenues with NWT Aboriginal governments. The exact amount and how it would be shared among them still has to be negotiated between the GNWT and the Aboriginal governments.
In 2007, a resource revenue sharing AiP between the GNWT and four regional Aboriginal governments proposed sharing 25% of the GNWT’s resource revenues with Aboriginal governments.
As the government for all NWT residents, the GNWT will continue to have responsibility for delivering programs and services in all NWT communities until programs and services – and the funding to operate them – are drawn down by Aboriginal self-governments to serve their citizens.
The GNWT continues to support efforts to express the inherent right of Aboriginal people to manage their settlement lands and govern their own affairs through negotiated agreements. The GNWT has supported and participated in land claim and self-government negotiations since the beginning. We are proud to have been part of the negotiation of successful land claims in the Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and Sahtu regions and to have been part of the negotiation and implementation of the Tlîchô land claim and self-government agreement. We have been sure to include provisions in the proposed AiP protecting all settled and future claims and we continue to look forward to the successful conclusion of negotiations in other regions of the NWT.
This commitment to Aboriginal rights has extended to every area of devolution negotiations. There has been a place at the negotiation table for Aboriginal government representatives from the very start of negotiations in 2002. Provisions protecting Aboriginal and Treaty rights and addressing Aboriginal interests can be found throughout the agreement.
The AiP explicitly states that nothing in a final devolution agreement will delay, impair or impede ongoing or future land claims or self-government negotiations. The AiP also confirms that devolution will not affect already settled claims, as the Constitution of Canada protects these agreements.
The AiP also recognizes the authority of Aboriginal governments to manage resources on settlement lands and commits the GNWT to establishing a government-to-government relationship with NWT Aboriginal governments to coordinate management of resources following devolution.
Other provisions of the AiP recognize the rights and interests of the Inuvialuit when it comes to managing oil and gas in the Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea. The AiP provides funding to Aboriginal governments for their on-going participation in devolution activities.
- Devolution and Aboriginal Governments
- Minister's Statement: Devolution Agreement-in-Principle, Impact on Land Claims and Protection of Aboriginal Rights
- News Release: Devolution - Aboriginal Rights Agreements and Negotiations
- Minister's Statement: Aboriginal Participation in Devolution Negotiations
- News Release: Aboriginal Participation in Devolution Negotiations