Mr. Speaker, as parliamentarians, we are sometimes rewarded with moments of profound satisfaction, and today is one of them.
With the Nunavik Inuit Land Claims Agreement—the last Inuit land claim settlement in the country—we have now come full circle. The Inuit of Nunavik will once again become the owners of a group of islands totaling 5,100 square kilometres located north of the 53rd parallel.
In Inuktitut, Nunavik means “place to live". From now on, 10,000 Inuit living in 15 communities scattered along the Ungava Bay and the east coast of the Hudson Bay will own the land they have been using for over 4,000 years.
This agreement was overwhelmingly supported by the Inuit of Nunavik. Indeed, some 78% of the eligible beneficiaries and 90% of everyone who voted supported the agreement. Such strong support is an excellent indication of the commitment of the Inuit people of Nunavik and just how important the agreement is to them.
I would also like to point out the measures set out in the agreement to protect the traditions that have ensured the survival of the Inuit culture. With the new act, the Inuit of Nunavik will have the right to harvest wildlife on the lands covered by the agreement, in order to meet their economic, social and cultural needs.
Thanks to this bill, and to the agreement at its foundation, the Inuit of Nunavik will own the surface rights and subsoil rights in fee simple. The islands belong to them without question.
These claims were particularly complex because of the overlap in the Nunavut land claims, the offshore land claims of the Crees of Quebec and the land claims of the Inuit of Labrador. It was impossible to settle the claims of the Inuit of Nunavik without first putting some order into these issues. It was essential to achieve the desired agreements to clarify the ownership rights on the land and the resources.
Here is an example. The Inuit of Nunavik and the Crees of James Bay had created three adjacent zones along the coast of Hudson Bay and James Bay.
To the north, was the Inuit zone, where the Crees of Quebec are permitted to harvest wildlife resources. The common zone is shared by the two groups. Finally, the southernmost zone will be the exclusive property of the Crees of Quebec, but the Inuit will be allowed to harvest wildlife resources in that zone.
In case of any disputes, the regulations provide for a resolution mechanism based on arbitration.
In addition to clarifying the territory belonging to the parties, this final agreement provides greater certainty about the future of the region.
It is in the interest of all parties to establish certainty regarding the use and ownership of the land and the resources. The certainty consists in replacing ambiguous ancestral rights with rights that are very precisely defined in the agreement. Section 35(3) of the Constitution Act, 1982 expressly grants the same protection to ancestral rights as to rights flowing from a treaty.
The benefits of obtaining certainty are clearly illustrated in another important point of the agreement: the creation of a new Canadian national park.
The Torngat Mountains National Park is a magnificent park of about 9,700 square kilometres with some of the most marvellous landscapes in Canada. It extends from Saglek Fiord in the south up to the northernmost point of Labrador, and from the border with Quebec on the west, to the Labrador Sea on the east.
The park protects a spectacular, untouched arctic area that is home to numerous archaeological sites and wildlife resources of great interest to Canadian historians.
Under the agreement, the Government of Canada will pay about $94 million over 10 years to the Inuit of Nunavik, who will invest those funds for their future. This amount includes the transfer of $54.8 million to the trust fund of the Inuit of Nunavik. The money will be distributed to some 10,000 Inuit of Nunavik, individually and collectively, to meet their educational, social, cultural and socio-economic needs. The great success of the Makivik Corporation shows that the settlement of land claims leads to the creation of businesses, jobs and new national and international markets, which strengthens the ability of First Nations and Inuit communities to meet the needs of their members.
That translates into a better quality of life for Aboriginal people, which is precisely the objective that we had set out to achieve. To guarantee that the economic development generated by this agreement procures sustainable benefits to the Inuit of Nunavik, the regulations provide for creation of several institutions public government. The Makivik Corporation will have legal authority to nominate 50% of the members of those institutions. For the first time, the Inuit of Nunavik will exercise real decision-making powers and be able to act decisively in the review processes that govern development of the region.
For example, the Nunavik Marine Region Wildlife Board will be responsible for wildlife management and conservation. It will conduct research, monitor the allowable take, including the Nunavik Inuit share, and set quotas as needed.
For its part, the Nunavik Marine Region Planning Commission will establish policies, objectives and goals to be used in managing the Nunavik Marine Region together with the federal and territorial governments. The Commission will also create land use plans for the development and exploitation of resources in the marine region.
Among other things, the Nunavik Marine Region Planning Commission will be responsible for assessing impacts, and will pre-select proposals for assessment. It will assess the impacts of proposed projects and monitor their progress.
As with all other land claims agreements, people will wonder which act takes precedence. I want to be very clear: all general federal, territorial and local legislation applies to the Inuit of Nunavik on the Inuit of Nunavik lands. Should incompatibility or conflict arise between these acts and the agreement, the agreement takes precedence, but only in cases of incompatibility or conflict.
It is clear that this final agreement, which has been so carefully drafted, seeks to strike a balance between the past and the creation of a better future for the Inuit of Nunavik.
This agreement is beneficial to all parties. We should celebrate this final step, which is a major achievement, and highlight its benefits for all Canadians. I therefore wish to reaffirm my support for this important bill.