Innu Nation said Nunatukavut announcement creates ‘real mess’
Disputing Nunatukavut being considered Aboriginal
The Innu Nation has some strong words for the federal government in reaction to the announcement that the federal government and Nunatukavut Community Council (NCC) would be moving ahead with Indigenous rights negotiations.
Peter Penashue, a former Member of Parliament for Labrador and member of the Innu Nation Land Claim negotiation team, said the announcement creates a “real mess for land claim negotiations in Labrador for the next 30 years.”
The Innu Nation has been negotiating its land claim with the federal government since 1977 and is now in the final stages. Penashue said this move to recognize Indigenous rights of Nunatukavut jeopardizes all of that.
“It’s a new group and suddenly we find ourselves needing to fight over land with this new group, NCC or the Métis. And now, after negotiations with Canada and Newfoundland for over 30 years, we’re going to have a dispute over land,” he said. “Because they’re going to be seeking the same rights in those land we have chosen and we have selected.”
He said they expect NunatuKavut to claim the Muskrat Falls and Lower Churchill areas, which is going to complicate the Innu Nations claim on the same lands. The Innu Nation feels the federal government should have concluded the land claim with them before speaking to another group, Penashue said.
He said they dispute Nunatukavut claim on those lands and said he disputes whether they should be considered Aboriginal.
“They (have) obviously been here for some time and a lot of them have been born here. But are they Aboriginal? I don’t think so,” he said.
The NCC was previously known as the Labrador Métis Association and changed its name in 2010. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2016 that certain groups of what are commonly known as Métis have the same rights as other Indigenous groups. Penashue said in his opinion this sets a precedent in Canada.
“There has never been a group that sprung out of nowhere that’s suddenly an aboriginal group,” he said.
He said there has been long standing Aboriginal groups in the territories and other places in the north, but they’ve always known each other as being Aboriginal groups.
“Now here we are in a very unusual circumstance, settlers becoming Métis becoming Inuit and now are going to fight us over land,” Penashue said. “That’s a very unusual case.”
He said this should be a concern for all First Nations who have treaties with the federal government. He said Métis groups have never been able to prove they have land title and land rights before, but now the Métis across the country are entitled to having land claims.
He said this should be a concern for all First Nations across the country.
“That’s a huge fundamental change in Canadian policy,” he said. “This is huge.
“I don’t know if you have an appreciation of what Canada has done today, this is historic. They have now recognized a group, in this case the Métis, to be recognised first of all as being Indigenous and recognizing them as having land rights. And that’s going to have a huge impact across the country.”
Land claim negotiating team member David Nuke, Innu Nation Deputy Grand Chief Etienne Rich, Innu Nation Grand Chief Gregory Rich and Land claim negotiating team member Peter Penashue spoke to the media on Thursday, July 12 about the announcement of...