‘I’m not re­solv­ing land claims’: com­mis­sioner

In­quiry gets taste of dis­pute be­tween Innu Na­tion and Nu­natukavut

The Labradorian - - Front Page - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK

Nu­natukavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil (NCC) pres­i­dent Todd Rus­sell was still in the wit­ness chair at the Muskrat Falls In­quiry on Sept. 18, when the lawyer for the Innu Na­tion re­it­er­ated the Innu Na­tion does not rec­og­nize Rus­sell or NCC mem­bers as In­dige­nous peo­ple within Canada.

“The Innu Na­tion’s po­si­tion is the Nu­natukavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil is not an In­dige­nous peo­ple,” said lawyer Sen­wung Luk to Com­mis­sioner Richard Leblanc.

Luk said he is re­serv­ing the right to cross-ex­am­ine Rus­sell when Rus­sell is re­called later to tes­tify in the in­quiry.

Rus­sell, rep­re­sent­ing Inuit of South­ern Labrador, and other In­dige­nous wit­nesses will speaki again in Oc­to­ber around In­dige­nous con­sul­ta­tions and the hy­dro pro­ject on the Churchill River.

The time in this first ap­pear­ance was meant to be about his­tor­i­cal use of the river and use of the area around what is now the hy­dro dam site at Muskrat Falls.

Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing Luk’s com­ments, NCC lawyer Ja­son Cooke stood to ad­dress the com­mis­sioner.

“I did want to note for the record any sug­ges­tion my clients are not In­dige­nous peo­ple is not only of­fen­sive, it has al­ready been dealt with by the New­found­land and Labrador Court of Ap­peal,” he said, adding there is also recog­ni­tion by mu­nic­i­pal, pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

For his part, Leblanc said more than once he will not be deal­ing with land dis­putes.

“As I made very clear ear­lier to all par­ties … I’m not re­solv­ing land claims of any na­ture,” he said, ear­lier in the af­ter­noon, as Rus­sell was talk­ing about area where the NCC would have his­tor­i­cal ties.

Fol­low­ing the ses­sion, Rus­sell told re­porters that the com­ments from the Innu Na­tion were do­ing a dis­ser­vice to the In­dige­nous peo­ples of Canada.

“It’s of­fen­sive. It’s per­son­ally of­fen­sive to me. It’s of­fen­sive to all of the peo­ple that I rep­re­sent. It is not fac­tual. It is a lie,” he said.

The Innu Na­tion had pre­vi­ously is­sued a state­ment call­ing the NCC il­le­git­i­mate, fol­low­ing an an­nounce­ment in July that the fed­eral govern­ment has en­tered into ex­ploratory talks with the NCC. Fed­eral min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Crown-in­dige­nous re­la­tion­ships, Carolyn Ben­nett, took part in the an­nounce­ment.

Rus­sell said there is ac­knowl­edge­ment by the Govern­ment of Canada for the peo­ple of Nu­natukavut and “a rights recog­ni­tion and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion process” is on­go­ing, with an ac­knowl­edge­ment for the NCC from the Govern­ment of New­found­land and Labrador they will join ne­go­ti­a­tions in due course.

ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK/SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Nu­natukavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Todd Rus­sell is seen here prior to of­fer­ing his ini­tial tes­ti­mony at the Muskrat Falls In­quiry on Sept. 18. Rus­sell is one of the wit­nesses who will be re­called in Oc­to­ber for an­other ap­pear­ance, when the in­quiry will look more specif­i­cally at le­gal clas­si­fi­ca­tions, In­dige­nous land claims and con­sul­ta­tion tied to the hy­dro­elec­tric pro­ject.

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