New Indian Affairs minister visits Inuvik
INUVIK (Oct 08/99) - Robert Nault was all smiles during his brief visit to Inuvik on Saturday -- and he had reason to be.
Recently appointed the new federal minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Nault was being given his first tour of the Western Arctic. And, together with representatives of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Gwich'in Tribal Council and the territorial government, he had just signed a "Political Accord" -- "to promote government-to-government-to-government relations in the Beaufort Delta Region."
Nault described the accord as a commitment enabling the federal, territorial and aboriginal government to work together on issues of common concern.
"Through our self-government negotiations and this Political Accord, the Beaufort Delta Region will be united in its efforts to establish a public government that respects and implements the Inuvialuit inherent right," said Nellie Cournoyea, chair and chief executive officer of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.
Premier Jim Antoine said the accord represents support for the territorial government and its increased involvement in the self-government process.
Nault said he's spent much of his first eight weeks as minister touring the country -- and wasn't fazed by a somewhat hostile reception and chants of "Robert Nault, it's his fault," in British Columbia, where First Nations groups are embroiled in resource negotiations. He described the North's own resource potential as exciting.
"I'm hearing here what I hear in my own region in Northern Ontario," he said. "People want control over their own resources."
Nault said he supported the territory's efforts to gain a greater share of its resource royalties but added that Ottawa's system of equalization, transfer payments among the provinces and territories must be considered.
On the subject of his department's intentions to transfer jobs to the North, Nault said he hasn't made a final decision.
"I'll make a decision in the next month," he said. "We have to look at collective agreements -- workers have their rights."
On the proposed Dempster Highway extension, Nault could only say he'd work with his territorial colleagues and the federal finance minister and look at a national highway strategy.
Still, the territorial representatives appeared happy with Nault's performance Saturday. Inuvik MLA Floyd Roland said he liked the pledge of unity among the Beaufort Delta groups and the minister's openness, particularly in light of the recent announcement by four companies of a combined $182.5-million investment in natural gas development in the Beaufort Delta.
"With Petro Canada and the other bids, there's going to be some work in the Delta in the next few years," he said, "and it's good to know we can go right to the doors of government and say we want licences or what else we need."