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Nunavut Inuit Group Settles Ottawa Lawsuit for $255.5 Million

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the land claims organization of the Inuit, has settled a decade-old lawsuit with Ottawa over land claims for $255.5 million.
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Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) and the Canadian government have settled a nine-year-old, $1 billion lawsuit brought over alleged failures to implement key components of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) reached in 1993.

The $255.5 million agreement, reached on March 5, was signed on May 4 as a way of ending the lawsuit, moving forward and compensating Inuit in Nunavut for the breaches, according to the Nunatsiaq News. The lawsuit was first filed in 2006.

Employment training for Inuit will take up $175 million of the funds, with NTI investing the other $80.5 million, the Nunatsiaq News said. The settlement was reached just before a March trial would have started.

“This is an historic moment for Inuit,” said NTI President Cathy Towtongie in a statement at the signing. “NTI and Inuit now have prospects for a restored and more productive partnership. NTI hopes that this settlement agreement will open a new chapter in our relationship with the Government of Canada and the GN, and that Inuit will be able to further take advantage of the promises contained in the NLCA.”

Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt admitted the government had “dropped the ball” in 2003 in failing to renew a 10-year implementation contract for the agreement, the Nunatsiaq News said.

The lawsuit had centered around the section of the NLCA pertaining to Article 23, which mandates affirmative action programs and other measures to enable Inuit to work in government, the Nunatsiaq News explained. This was to be in effect until the proportion of Inuit working in government was the same—85 percent—as that in the general Nunavut population. Though money had been spent to that end from 1993 to 1999, NTI claimed that once Nunavut Territory was officially created on April 1, 1999, the money stopped flowing.

Among other changes, the settlement creates a new type of dispute resolution process, NTI said in a statement, as well as new contracting measures that will enable the hiring of more Inuit in government roles. In addition, Ottawa will spend $50 million above and beyond the $255.5 million settlement amount to pay for training programs for Inuit over the next eight years, the Nunatsiaq News said. That includes conducting a labor force analysis.

“Our government remains focused on jobs, growth and economic prosperity for all Canadians,” said Valcourt in the NTI statement. “Today’s signing ceremony is a clear demonstration of our government’s commitment to moving forward and working with our partners to implement the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement so that ultimately, we can unlock new economic opportunities and create jobs for Nunavummiut.”

“We are pleased the settlement has been finalized, and are committed to working with NTI in advancing initiatives that further support training of Inuit within the GN Public Service, as outlined in Article 23 of the NLCA,” said Nunavut Premier Peter Taptuna, who signed the agreement along with Towtongie and Valcourt.