IQALUIT, Nunavut — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Nunavut today to participate in a signing ceremony about transferring responsibilities for public lands and resources to the territory from the federal government.
In 2019, Trudeau’s then-Crown-Indigenous relations minister, Carolyn Bennett, signed an agreement-in-principle with Nunavut’s then-premier intended to serve as a guide for negotiating a final agreement.
Nunavut was created as its own territory in 1999 and in 2008, it entered the process of gaining control over its lands and resources by signing a negotiation protocol with former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.
Harper appointed negotiators and the process culminated in the 2019 deal between Nunavut, Canada and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., which represents Inuit treaty rights.
It was expected that it would take another five years to complete a final agreement governing the transfer of responsibilities for land, water and the resources they contain.
Trudeau met with Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok in early 2023, when an official readout from their meeting said they discussed the progress on reaching a final deal to give Nunavut “full decision-making power over their lands and resources.”
On X, the platform previously known as Twitter, Akeeagok invited people to watch what he called “the signing of the historic Nunavut Devolution Agreement.”
Following the signing ceremony, Trudeau will take questions from reporters alongside the premier and then attend a community celebration.
During their meeting in May 2023, which took place in Ottawa, Akeeagok and Trudeau also discussed the need to address the territory’s housing crisis and its stated goal of building 3,000 homes by 2030.
Local leaders and policy experts have for decades underscored the territory’s housing shortage, which has forced its Inuit residents to live in poor-quality and overcrowded homes.
Akeeagok is asking Ottawa to provide the territory with $250 million to help it build new homes. Iqaluit Mayor Solomon Awa says before it can expand the footprint about where it builds more, it first needs to figure out how to supply the city with more water.
He says the current reservoir is too small to support increased population growth and that it is exploring options on how to fix the problem using federal funds.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2024.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press