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Inuvialuit sign new agreement
Discussions planned to continue with Government of the NWT

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Thursday, May 7, 2015

A dialogue between the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) and the GNWT on matters of mutual concern will continue in a formal fashion after a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed last week.

Premier Bob McLeod and some cabinet members met privately with IRC chairperson and CEO Nellie Cournoyea and other board members on April 27 to sign the intergovernmental agreement on programs and services co-operation and co-ordination.

The agreement is to begin to jointly negotiate on a range of topics including health and social services, culture and language, income support, housing, economic development and policing and justice.

The IRC is the latest to sign the MOU, which follows similar agreements struck with five other aboriginal groups including the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

"These talks have been going on for a couple of years," said Clayton Balsillie, director of aboriginal consultations and relations for the GNWT.

"Last year, they were ready to sign, but for some reason the timing just wasn't right."

"It's basically a process document which allows both participants to get together on a regular basis."

That's in accordance with GWNT policy to consult extensively with aboriginal governments, Balsillie said.

"This is to set the stage for each respective government to sit down and discuss priority issues," he said.

"It's a forum for discussing these various topics. It's part of our commitment to engaging aboriginal governments."

It's too soon to speculate on what specific policies and details might come out of the talks, Balsillie said. That's for the negotiations to establish.

Bob Simpson, the intergovernmental affairs director with the IRC, said talks between the IRC and the GNWT have been ongoing for several years on an informal basis.

He said the MOU is similar in scope and nature to agreements on resources struck earlier.

The agreement simply strikes a formalized partnership specifying a framework as to how those talks will continue, he said.

The meeting was organized on a somewhat last-minute basis, he said, and wasn't technically a closed session. The discussions continued well into the evening before the MOU was truck, Simpson added.

"This agreement will formalize the GNWT's government-to-government relationship with the IRC and identify areas of co-operation for improving programs and services in the Inuvialuit Settlement Area," McLeod stated in a news release.

"We are committed to working together as partners for the benefit of the Inuvialuit."

He was not available to comment directly on the issue.

"Inuvialuit have battled for appropriate and effective delivery of government programs as far back to the beginning of residential schools," said Nellie Cournoyea in the same release.

"The IRC is looking forward to implementing this agreement that clearly identifies Inuvialuit priority programs, projects and improvements to program areas."

The agreement is for a four-year term and commits IRC and GNWT elected leaders to meet at least once a year to consider items for discussion.

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