POLITICS

PM Harper confirms support for Nunavut devolution

08/23/2013 10:35 EDT | Updated 10/23/2013 05:12 EDT
Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak says the prime minister has promised to kickstart devolution negotiations, following this fall's territorial election.

Aariak met with Stephen Harper Thursday in Rankin Inlet.

The talks to devolve responsibility for natural resources to the territory began five years ago. The two sides appointed negotiators, but face-to-face negotiations have yet to begin.

Aariak said Harper's cabinet still needs to approve a mandate for negotiations to begin. She said she has pushed devolution every year when she talks to the prime minister but she said things have been moving too slowly.

The presidents of Nunavut Tunngavik, Makivik Coporation, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, and the Nunatsiavut government also met with Harper, along with representatives from several other groups.

The Inuit leaders called for the inclusion of Nunavik and Nunatsiavut in the making of Arctic policy. They also discussed a range of issues including mining, training, search and rescue, climate change and the housing shortage.

ITK President Terry Audla said there were no real commitments from the prime minister but he told reporters after the meeting that Inuit issues are on the national agenda.

"There's more awareness,” he said. “I mean, the national media is here asking questions about that. Ten years ago you weren't around, now here you are. Inuit are proud Canadians and I'm hoping that Canadians are proud of their Inuit as well."

Audla said he expects more meetings like this to ensure Canada is developing the Arctic in a responsible manner.

He wants another meeting with Harper at the Inuit Circumpolar Council Assembly next summer in Inuvik, N.W.T.