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Nunavut: Historic Ruling From The Nunavut Court Of Justice Upholding Inuit Rights

Nunavut: Historic Ruling From The Nunavut Court Of Justice Upholding Inuit Rights

History was made yesterday when Justice Earl Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice issued his ruling in favour of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. on the failure of the Government of Canada to create a Nunavut General Monitoring Plan as required by the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.

This is the fourth legal motion NTI has won in relation to the lawsuit filed in 2006 against the Government of Canada, on behalf of the Crown. Justice Johnson granted NTI’s motion for summary judgment on one part of NTI’s lawsuit and ordered the Government to pay $14.8 million in damages.

NTI is very happy with the decision. The amount of damages, $14.8 million, clearly illustrates to all Canadians and the federal government that ignoring duties and obligations under the NLCA is a very poor choice,” said Acting President James Eetoolook.

The decision involves only one part of the lawsuit. Other parts of the lawsuit, including government’s breaches on Inuit employment (Article 23) and government contracting (Article 24), are continuing to move forward.

“The court’s decision shows that it is bad law for the federal government to fail to implement the NLCA and other land claims agreements properly, and that such failure works against building a genuine and constructive partnership with Inuit and all other land claims parties,” said Eetoolook.

NTI filed the lawsuit after trying unsuccessfully for many years to negotiate a new implementation contract with the Government of Canada. The federal government walked away from the negotiating table, refused many offers by NTI to go to arbitration, and refused to accept the recommendations of Thomas Berger, a mutually-selected conciliator. NTI’s Board felt they had no other choice but to take legal action against the government for failing to live up to their obligations under the NLCA.

“This decision is a vindication of all the Inuit who have had the determination to stand up for Inuit rights for the last four decades,” said Eetoolook. “NTI will continue to confidently forge ahead with the lawsuit.”

BACKGROUNDER – Historic Ruling from the Nunavut Court of Justice Upholding Inuit Rights

  • The Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. Board of Directors provided a mandate to the NTI Chief Negotiator in Feb., 2001, to negotiate amendments to the implementation contract and renewal of funding levels for the period 2003 to 2013 to ensure continued and adequate implementation of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement.
  • Negotiations with the Government of Canada and the Government of Nunavut began in May, 2001.
  • Negotiations broke down in Jan., 2003, because the former Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development refused to engage in a re-evaluation of the original funding assumptions, and refused to acknowledge responsibility for Article 23.
  • In Feb., 2003, the federal negotiator was removed.
  • In May, 2003, a DIAND Deputy Minister wrote to NTI making offer of long-term planning for Article 23 and short term initiatives. This was relied on by NTI and negotiations resumed.
  • The first implementation contract planning period and funding arrangements expired July 9, 2003.
  • The Auditor General released a report in Feb., 2004, which criticized DIAND’s management of the implementation of the NLCA.
  • In Aug., 2004, three negotiators and staff met to review progress on the negotiations. There was disagreement on every topic. The federal negotiator left the meeting.
  • In Aug., 2004, attempts to restart talks failed because DIAND refused to provide a substantial offer of funding as mark of serious intent ($10 million over five years for the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program).
  • In Nov., 2004, a letter from DIAND said their mandate was exhausted and they did not intend to appoint a new negotiator. This amounted to DIAND unilaterally leaving the table, and they reneged on the offer in letter of May 2003.
  • At this point, negotiations were officially at an impasse.
  • NTI filed a Petition with Commissioner of Environment over DIAND’s failure to implement the Nunavut General Monitoring Plan. DIAND was required to report back to the Auditor General on this aspect by Feb., 2005.
  • In May, 2005, Thomas Berger was mutually appointed conciliator by all three parties to put the parties back on track to conclude negotiations to fund and plan for the second planning period of the implementation contract.
  • In Aug., 2005, Berger released his Interim Report making recommendations on funding for the Institutions of Public Government, and to improve the implementation process by putting in place a dispute resolution process that is not subject to a Government of Canada veto.
  • Berger’s Final Report to the Parties focused on Article 23.
  • The Government of Canada refused to accept and implement Berger’s set of key recommendations.
  • The Government of Canada continued to veto all attempts by NTI to refer disputes to the Nunavut Arbitration Board in spite of harsh criticism from both the Auditor General of Canada and Berger.
  • The Government of Canada keeps Inuit dependent and in a state of financial and emotional despair despite promises made when the NLCA was signed in 1993. The Government of Canada is not holding up its end of the bargain. Canada got everything it wanted immediately upon signing the NLCA. Inuit are still waiting for full implementation of the agreement.
  • On Dec. 6, 2006, NTI filed a lawsuit against the Government of Canada for failure to live up to their obligations under the NLCA. NTI is seeking $1 billion in damages.
  • PriceWaterhouseCoopers produced a report that estimated the total salaries and benefits lost to Inuit amounts to $123 million annually because the government has not implemented the land claim and continues to import a Southern workforce. This means that since NTI signed the land claim, Inuit could have earned more than an additional $1 billion in salaries alone.
  • Because the NLCA is between two parties, Inuit in Nunavut and the Crown in right of Canada, the federal government is the sole defendant named in the lawsuit.
  • Since 2006, four legal motions related to the lawsuit have gone before the Nunavut Court of Justice.
  • NTI has won all four of those motions, including the June 27, 2012 ruling concerning the Nunavut General Monitoring Plan.
  • History was made and precedent set when Justice Earl Johnson of the Nunavut Court of Justice issued his ruling in favour of NTI on the failure of the Government of Canada to create a Nunavut General Monitoring Plan as required by the NLCA.
  • Justice Johnson ruled in favour of NTI and awarded $14.8 million in damages.
  • The amount of damages is substantial and clearly illustrates to all Canadians and the federal government that violating the NLCA is a very expensive proposition, and a very poor choice.
  • The decision involves only one breach of the NLCA and one part of the lawsuit. There are many more breaches, including Inuit employment (Article 23) and government contracting (Article 24), that will go before the courts when the lawsuit goes to trial in 2013.
  • The court’s decision shows that it is bad law for the federal government to fail to implement the NLCA properly, and that such failure works against building a genuine and constructive partnership with Inuit and all other land claims parties.
  • Justice Johnson’s decision is a vindication of all the Inuit who have had the determination to stand up for Inuit rights for the last four decades.

Source: Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.