Sheshatshiu, NL – Innu Nation is denouncing the MOU signed between Canada and the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) as a political stunt intended to shore support for Labrador MP Yvonne Jones on the eve of a federal election. Canada will not share the MOU with the Innu Nation, and did not consult the Innu Nation prior to the announcement.
“We are infuriated by Canada’s double-dealing and by Yvonne Jones’ deceptions”, stated Grand Chief Gregory Rich. “By fast-tracking the NCC through the negotiation process, she is putting her own self- interests as a member of the NCC in front of her responsibilities as the Member of Parliament for all Labrador to ensure fair representation for everyone in Labrador. Canada did not consult the Innu on this decision, which directly undermines the land claim agreement that we have been working to finalize for many years, and Yvonne Jones never said a word to us about the fact that this was coming.”
The Innu Nation formally entered the land claim process in 1977 by filing a statement of claim. It took over a decade of additional work with anthropologists and ethnographers to verify Innu land use and occupancy studies to establish land claim boundaries before Canada indicated that it was were prepared to sit down to negotiate a framework agreement with Innu Nation and the Province to start negotiations. It took a further decade to reach a Framework Agreement in 1996, and another fifteen years to achieve an Agreement-in-Principle in 2011. Innu are now close to concluding a Final Agreement, but this MOU will make that objective much harder to achieve.
“Canada has acted dishonourably now on two occasions. First, they announced in 2018 that they were embarking on “exploratory talks” without giving us any details on what was being discussed. Now, Canada has signed a secret deal with NCC that gives them a seat at a “rights recognition” table without considering the impacts that such talks will have on the Innu”, said Deputy Grand Chief Etienne Rich. “What is obvious to us is that Canada is ignoring their responsibilities to the Innu, and we are seeking advice on our legal options.”
Innu Nation has long questioned the legitimacy of the NCC. Although it now claims to represent “Southern Inuit”, the organization was originally formed as the “Labrador Metis Association” for what the NCC now says were “politically expedient reasons.” In fact, the formation of the LMA was directly encouraged by the federal government in the 1980s at a time when Innu were actively protesting low-level flying at the Goose Bay air base in order to demonstrate to nervous allies that some aboriginal people supported the military activities. It was only in 2010 that the NCC “unveiled Nunatukavut”, they now present themselves as Inuit with claims to lands and rights throughout Innu territory.
“NCC’s maps and claims are offensive to the Innu. NCC is a self- declared group who have formed in order to extract benefits from Canada. Many of their members are people who have looked down on Innu their entire lives. Our people have suffered horrible abuses just for being Innu. While we have spent over 50 years seeking recognition of our rights, NCC is now being rushed to the front of the line while the Innu are being trampled.” concluded Grand Chief Rich.