8 October 2019 | ST. JOHN’S, NL
On October 1, 2019, reluctantly but having no other choice in order to protect our land rights, Innu Nation applied to the Federal Court asking the court to cancel the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) between Canada and NCC because it has serious potential to delay and otherwise affect Innu Nation’s longstanding claim in Labrador.
Innu Nation was shocked to hear the announcement by Canada on September 5, 2019 that Canada had entered into an expedited agreement with NCC following just one year of negotiations. The MOU if it proceeds, will harm the Innu’s aboriginal rights – rights that are currently protected under Canada’s constitution.
Among other things, the signed MOU commits Canada to negotiate with NCC about jurisdiction and rights over land, sea, and ice, and recognizes NCC as a group, which can hold constitutional rights to lands and waters. NCC has claimed land rights throughout most of the Innu land claim area including the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation Reserve where 2,000 of Innu Nation’s members reside. Innu Nation has been negotiating its own land rights with Canada for four decades. (NCC’s published land claims map attached.)
Innu Nation asserts that Canada and the Minister for Crown-Indigenous Relations did not follow the legal requirements it was required to follow before signing the MOU. Canada also failed to exercise reasonable due diligence before agreeing to enter into this MOU. For example, Canada ignored its own previous research and legal opinion, which had concluded that NCC “is a modern political organization that represents people of varying degrees of Aboriginal ancestry and not an aboriginal collectivity capable of holding aboriginal rights.”
Canada’s decision to enter into the MOU with NCC (which includes recognition of rights of NCC and discussion of NCC’s land claims) is thus wrong and Innu Nation determined it had no choice but to challenge this decision because of the impacts of this MOU on Innu Nation’s land rights.
Innu Nation has repeatedly attempted to openly dialogue with Canada on the NCC MOU yet from July 2018, when talks between Canada and NCC were first announced, to today’s date, Canada has failed to provide any satisfactory answers to Innu Nation’s questions.
Innu Nation will continue to take all actions necessary to protect Innu rights in our lands and waters.