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NWT Premier calls out Government of Canada over offshore oil and gas activity in the Arctic

Northwest Territories Premier Bob McLeod is asking for a more clear negotiation process for offshore oil and gas activity in the Arctic.

Today is the first anniversary of the Government of Canada’s decision to impose the indefinite moratorium.

Premier McLeod issued the following statement:

On June 25, 2013 the Government of Canada entered into an agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) and five regional Indigenous governments to transfer administration and control of public lands and resources in the Northwest Territories to the people who live here. As part of that agreement, the Government of Canada committed to enter into negotiations with our government and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) over the shared management of oil and gas resources in the Beaufort Sea within 60 days of the signing of the Devolution Agreement.

More than four years later, the only substantive action the GNWT has seen from Canada concerning management of offshore oil and gas has been its decision to forbid development, a decision that did not take the views and priorities of the GNWT or the IRC into account. That the federal government would not consult either of our governments when it has already acknowledged our legitimate rights to be involved in management of these resources in the Devolution Agreement continues to be a mystery that it has not yet explained.

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There have been no meaningful negotiations between Canada, the GNWT and the IRC to date. One meeting was held between officials in July 2013 to discuss commitments flowing from the Devolution Agreement, but it would be inaccurate to characterize these as “negotiations”. The GNWT has also provided federal officials – at its request – a written statement of its interests in the offshore in 2014, but has received no response to date.

Our government does not understand Canada’s reluctance to enter into meaningful negotiations on the offshore as it has promised to do pursuant to section 3.20 of the Devolution Agreement, in spite of repeated requests from the GNWT and the IRC.

We are prepared to negotiate and have raised this issue in many letters to Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Bennett and Minister of Natural Resources Carr, as well as in face-to-face meetings and telephone conversations, to no avail.

If Canada was serious about fulfilling its promises to the people of the NWT and the Inuvialuit, we would expect it to commit to a clear negotiations process, including establishing a negotiations framework and concrete schedule for negotiations agreed to by all three parties. No such steps have been taken so far.

This lack of action to fulfill a negotiated commitment is characteristic of Canada’s continuing disregard for the Government of the Northwest Territories. As the duly elected representatives of all NWT citizens, we expect to be consulted on a government-to-government basis by Canada on matters that involve our legally-established jurisdiction and which affect our residents.

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Passing discussions with our officials or inviting them to take part as one of many attendees in meetings with other parties, many of which do not hold any legislative authorities, is not meaningful consultation in our view and does not meet our understanding of respectful government-to-government relations.

The Premier would end the statement saying the people of the NWT expect more out of the Federal Government.

Rather than demonstrating a genuine interest in hearing, understanding and incorporating the views of the NWT’s public government into its policies and decisions, it seems like Canada is simply seeking to check a box and move on with its plans. Canada may be satisfied with this; the people of the NWT expect more.

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