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Innu leaders quit meetings with N.L. premier, citing issues with unrecognized group

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Innu leaders say they will no longer be attending Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey’s annual meetings with the province’s Indigenous groups.

The leaders of the Innu Nation as well as the two Innu First Nations in central and northern Labrador said today in a release that they do not believe their concerns about an unrecognized Inuit group will be addressed by Furey’s government.

The release said the leaders had alerted Furey that they would be pulling out of his Indigenous roundtable discussions.

The Innu Nation does recognize the NunatuKavut council as an Indigenous group, nor do the Inuit Nunatsiavut government in Labrador and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents Inuit in Canada.

The nation says Lisa Dempster, a self-identified member of the NunatuKavut council, is in a conflict of interest in her role as the province’s minister responsible for Indigenous affairs and reconciliation.

The NunatuKavut council says its represents about 6,000 Inuit in south and central Labrador.

Tensions flared between the groups last month when Furey delivered the province’s first apology for its role in residential schools to survivors from the unrecognized NunatuKavut territory.

“The premier seems intent on ignoring Innu Nation and Nunatsiavut’s legitimate concerns,” the Innu Nation wrote in a press release on the day of Furey’s apology. “But the province can no longer flinch from the truth of settler history in Labrador. By not reckoning with the truth, the province is ‘reconciling’ with the wrong people.”

The Innu Nation has also launched a Federal Court case asking that a 2019 agreement be quashed between the Canadian government and the NunatuKavut council, which sets guidelines for self-determination talks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2023.

The Canadian Press