03/09/2015 12:52 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT

Tentative deal reached in billion-dollar Nunavut lawsuit

IQALUIT, Nunavut - A tentative settlement has been reached in a billion-dollar lawsuit that alleges the federal government has never lived up to terms of the Nunavut land claim.

Cathy Towtongie, president of the Nunavut land-claims group that filed the lawsuit against Ottawa, made the announcement in a news release.

Arguments in the lawsuit by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. were scheduled to begin Monday afternoon. The trial has now been adjourned.

Contents of the settlement were not immediately available.

"Details of the settlement will be disclosed once the agreement has been considered and approved by NTI, the Government of Canada and the Government of Nunavut," the land-claims group said in the release.

No further comment was available.

Nunavut Tunngavik had been seeking $1 billion in damages, in addition to punitive damages.

The lawsuit dates from 2006. It alleges Ottawa has failed to fund a wide variety of activities guaranteed in the 1993 land claim, including wildlife management and development planning.

It also alleges the federal government underfunded education in the territory. It says that has prevented the territory from achieving its goal of 85 per cent Inuit employment in the public service, a level roughly equal to the percentage of Inuit in the population.

That argument was backed up by a 2006 conciliator's report written by retired justice Thomas Berger. Berger's report said the education system was producing graduates that were competent neither in English nor Inuktitut. He recommended a bilingual approach which he said would take an extra $20 million a year.

Ottawa lost an earlier aspect of the lawsuit last year. The Federal Court of Appeal agreed with a lower-court ruling that said the federal government had failed to fund an agency to monitor and report on the new territory's economic and social progress.

A $15-million award was set aside until the entire lawsuit was settled.

Another lawsuit between a Nunavut agency and Ottawa remains outstanding. The Nunavut Planning Commission has sued the federal government over its decision not to fund public hearings on a land-use plan for the territory.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton. Follow on Twitter at @row1960

The federal government says it has fulfilled its responsibilities and that the Nunavut government is responsible for education.

Ottawa lost an earlier judgment on one aspect of the lawsuit.