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News from the North: A digest of First Nations news from Canada

Ottawa allocates millions for water improvements

MONTREAL - The Government of Canada announced on Oct. 6 it will spend $5.5 million on water quality projects for the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne First Nation.

Akwesasne will receive $3.78 million to complete a water line from an existing treatment facility and $1.74 million to design and begin construction of an additional water treatment plant.

"Improvements of this nature help address one of the many needs in Aboriginal country and strengthens the foundation for a healthy, safe and flourishing environment for our citizens," said Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne Angie Barnes.

The quality of drinking water on many reserves became a priority for Canada in May 2003 when Indian Affairs Minister Robert D. Nault announced the federal government's First Nations Water Management Strategy including the addition of $600 million for reserve water quality improvement projects like the Akwesasne project.

Information on First Nations water quality provided by the Ministry of Indian Affairs shows that Canada has plans to spend a total of $1.2 billion on reserve water quality over the next five years.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne First Nation is located near Montreal, Quebec with additional territory on Cornwall Island in the St. Lawrence River.

Resource revenue sharing to become part of First Nations treaties

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The governments of British Columbia and Canada signed a cost-sharing agreement on Oct. 3 that will pave the way for resource revenue sharing agreements to be included in treaty settlements in the province.

Karen Williams, a spokeswoman for the British Columbia Treaty Negotiations Office, said the agreement offers guarantees to the province that Ottawa will pay 50 percent of the "significant" costs of including the resource agreements in the treaties.

"This (including the resource sharing agreements in treaties) is something new that has not existed before," Williams said in an interview with Indian Country Today. "This is a new tool for treaty making."

British Columbia and Canada are currently negotiating treaties with First Nations to create certainty with respect to Aboriginal rights and title, according to a statement from the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

"Benefits of this certainty include increased access to Crown lands and resources, an improved investment climate, increased employment and economic growth," said the statement.

Inuktitut business web site launched

IQALUIT, Nunavut - A new Web site in the Inuktitut language was launched on Oct. 1 that will allow Inuit businessmen in Nunavut access to information on government programs and services, starting new businesses, regulations and funding sources in the territory.

The Canada-Nunavut Business Service Center Inuktitut site is a joint effort by the territorial government and the federal government to remove the language barrier to economic development in Canada's newest territory.

"With Inuktitut as the first language of 85 percent of our population, this Web site allows residents to access more information and make better informed business decisions," said Nunavut Minister of Sustainable Development. "This will contribute greatly to the success of Nunavut's economy."

The cost of developing and launching the site was made possible by an $80,000 grant from the Knowledge Fund administered by the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Services on the new site will also be available in the two official languages of Canada, English and French.

"This joint initiative is an excellent example of how our two governments have been working together to identify and address barriers to economic and community development in Nunavut," said INAC Minister Robert D. Nault.

The Web site can be viewed at www.cbsc.org/nunavut.

Maa-nulth

First Nations take next step toward treaty

ANCALA, British Columbia - An official Agreement-In-Principal was signed on Oct. 3 between the Maa-nulth First Nations as part of British Columbia's treaty negotiation process with First Nations.

The A-I-P is only the fourth in the six-step treaty negotiating process with a review and a membership ratification vote to follow. Terms in the agreement included adding up to almost 52,000 acres to the existing reserves of the Maa-nulth member bands.

Other major components of the A-I-P are resource rights, culture and self-government provisions.

The government of Canada is reported to be contributing $62.5 million, less outstanding negotiation loans, to pay for land transfers.

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