August 30, 2007 / 6:48 PM / 12 years ago

Quebec's Inuit plan new self-governing region

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Quebec’s Inuit people are hoping to carve a new self-governing northern region called Nunavik out of the Canadian province.

Minnie Grey, Inuit chief negotiator for the Nunavik regional government, is shown in this handout photo. Quebec's Inuit people are hoping to carve a new self-governing northern region called Nunavik out of the Canadian province. REUTERS/Kitty Gordon/Handout

A regional government for Nunavik, which means “place to live” in the language of the area’s Inuit people, is expected to be approved-in-principle in September by the Inuit and the provincial and federal governments.

Minnie Grey, the Inuit chief negotiator for the Nunavik regional government, is confident that the project to create a new political entity the size of Spain with a population of 10,000 people will get the go-ahead.

“My understanding is that the (federal) government is very much in support and they will move ahead to approve it,” she said in an interview.

“We are looking ahead to September to see the agreement-in-principle processed through the federal government so that our leaders may sign it.”

The agreement will enable Nunavik to work towards amalgamating public institutions in the region and to create an elected assembly. A final agreement will have to be approved before a new government can be formed.

Nunavik, a 505,000 square-kilometer (194,982 square-mile) area is the traditional homeland of the Nunavik Inuit. The Naskapi, a small native group, and a Cree community also live there.

Social issues, a need for better resources and a desire to unite administrative branches in the community were among the reasons for the move, according to Grey.

“We want to have a hand in determining our daily lives as opposed to being governed from a distance,” she said.

Grey isn’t sure when amalgamation will take place but said it could occur by about 2011. Nunavik’s regional government will be unique in Canada because it will continue to be under the jurisdiction of the province of Quebec, which held two unsuccessful referendums on separating from Canada late in the last century.

“There is no form of government such as what we are working on,” Grey said. “Nothing exists like this — Quebec is making history (by) making this historic agreement with us.”

But not everyone in the region is pleased.

The Naskapi are concerned their interests might be sidelined by a new Inuit-dominated government

“We are arranging high-level meetings with the government of Quebec in the coming weeks that will hopefully address our needs and our concerns,” John Mameamskum, the director general of the Naskapi nation, said in an interview.

“We support the Inuit initiative of self government,” he said, adding that the Naskapi want to be consulted on anything that might affect them in the territory.

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