Bob McLeod:Intergovernmental Relations with Aboriginal Governments During the 17th Legislative Assembly

Déclarations et discours de ministres

Mr. Speaker, building a strong and sustainable future for the Northwest Territories by strengthening our relationships with Aboriginal governments has been one of the key priorities of the 17th Legislative Assembly. For the past four years, our government has worked to strengthen our partnerships with Aboriginal governments.

That work started even before Cabinet was selected, when all Members met with Aboriginal leadership in Dettah at the beginning of our term. Cabinet continued this engagement and made it a priority to reach out to our Aboriginal government partners to look for common ground and identify areas where we could make progress together.

In June 2012, I tabled ‘Respect, Recognition, Responsibility: The Government of the Northwest Territories’ Approach to Engaging with Aboriginal Governments’ in this House. It is the foundation upon which our government’s actions and commitments to strengthening and renewing our relationships with our Aboriginal government partners have been built.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that the Northwest Territories continues to lead the way nationally in establishing government-to-government relations with Aboriginal governments. During the life of this Assembly, our government has concluded separate intergovernmental cooperation agreements with the Tłîchô Government, the Gwich’in Tribal Council, the Northwest Territory Métis Nation, the Akaitcho Dene First Nations, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated and the Salt River First Nation.

Mr. Speaker, the 17th Assembly’s goal of a strong and sustainable future also depends on the successful conclusion of land, resources and self-government agreements. Our government has been focused on building a solid foundation by working effectively with our federal and Aboriginal partners to finalize Aboriginal rights agreements in all regions of the Northwest Territories.

With several sets of negotiations having reached significant milestones during the life of the 17th Legislative Assembly, we have seen firsthand how partners working together can achieve significant results.

The Délįnę Final Self-government Agreement Act was passed on March 12th of this year. In January 2014, the Acho Dene Koe Agreement-in-Principle on land and resources was signed and Final Agreement negotiations are well underway. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of signing, on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories, the Inuvialuit Self-government Agreement-in-Principle as well as the Northwest Territory Métis Nation Agreement-in-Principle on Land and Resources.

Mr. Speaker with the devolution of land, water and resource management responsibilities from Canada to the Northwest Territories in 2014, intergovernmental cooperation within the Northwest Territories has never been stronger.

Increased collaboration and engagement with Aboriginal Governments continues to be important to Government decision-making processes.  We have seen this reflected in the two ground breaking transboundary water agreements we have negotiated with the active participation of the Aboriginal Governments during this Assembly.  This approach was also used in developing legislation that directly affected Aboriginal Government interests, such as the collaborative approach to drafting the Wildlife Act. 

A key aspect of the Devolution Agreement was the establishment of an Intergovernmental Council, which enables the Government of the Northwest Territories and Aboriginal governments who have signed onto devolution to collaborate on matters related to lands and resource management. The Council allows Northwest Territories governments to share ideas and discuss common priorities and interests, and will greatly benefit the Government of the Northwest Territories as it considers potential changes to lands and resources management in the Northwest Territories. This approach is unique in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, since devolution the Government of the Northwest Territories and Canada has shared the resource revenues from public land in the Northwest Territories. This means tens of millions of dollars will stay in the Northwest Territories each year. To ensure that as many people as possible enjoy the benefits of devolution, our government has committed to sharing a portion of those revenues with participating Aboriginal governments. 

I am pleased to say that in July of this year, $6.3 million was paid out to all Aboriginal government parties that signed on as part of the Devolution Resource Revenue Sharing Agreement. Nowhere else in Canada have resource revenues from public lands been offered to Aboriginal governments on this level.  We are working to have all remaining Aboriginal governments sign on to Devolution.

Mr. Speaker, the 17th Legislative Assembly has continually made it a priority to build and maintain respectful government-to-government relationships with Aboriginal governments. I believe that partnership and mutual respect is the key to success for our territory. Strong, effective and efficient governments are essential for helping Northerners achieve their social, environmental and economic goals. The Government of the Northwest Territories has made significant and meaningful partnerships with Aboriginal governments during the 17th Assembly that have resulted in positive outcomes. The foundation for working together has been solidly established by this government and this spirit of cooperation will continue to benefit all Northerners for years to come.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.