Canada Makes Its Largest Land Transfer in History, Returning Mineral-Rich Arctic Region to the People of Nunavut
The Canadian government made its largest land transfer in history on Thursday when it officially signed over the massive Arctic territory of Nunavut to its own government, who will now have control over the 808,200 square miles of sparsely populated mountains, tundra and vast mineral reserves.
The Nunavut Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier of Nunavut P.J. Akeeagok, President of Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated Aluki Kotierk and the Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal means the territory will have the right to royalties from any exploration and development that would have otherwise gone to the Canadian government, said a press release from Trudeau and Reuters.
“Namminiqsurniq, or devolution, is one more step towards the vision of a self-reliant Nunavut. With the signing of this agreement, we can now bring decision-making about our land and waters home. It means that we, the people most invested in our homeland, will be the ones managing our natural resources. While it has taken generations of our leaders to achieve this work, today’s signing of the devolution agreement is primarily for young Nunavummiut across our territory,” Akeeagok said in the press release.
The northernmost territory of Canada was created in 1999 and has a population of around 40,000 mostly Inuit Peoples.
“With the agreement, Nunavut and its residents will now be able to make decisions about how public lands, freshwater, and non-renewable resources are used in the territory, and reap the benefits of responsible and sustainable resource development,” the press release said.
The territory is the coldest Canadian region and is lacking in infrastructure, which pushes operating costs through the roof.
Talks for the transfer of Nunavut to its people began in 2014, Reuters reported. Before the agreement, Nunavut was the only northern territory of Canada that did not have a devolution agreement.
“Nunavut, in Inuktitut, means ‘our land.’ Its creation, through the Nunavut Agreement, was a critical step towards Inuit having meaningful control over the fate of our homeland,” Kotierk said in the press release.
A request to double iron mining production on the Mary River in northern Nunavut in 2022 was rejected by Ottowa due to its environmental impact.
“The signing of the Nunavut Devolution Agreement marks a new chapter for Nunavut, where decision-making will be in the hands of Nunavummiut, whose culture, economy, and aspirations are closely linked to the lands around them. This historic agreement reflects and supports their needs and priorities and ensures that economic and other benefits of resource development in the region are shared with Inuit and all Nunavummiut,” Vandal said in the press release.
The transfer of the territory will be made over the course of the next three years, with a scheduled completion date of April 1, 2027.
“Thank you to our precious Elders, leaders, and negotiators for all your hard work to get us to this devolution agreement. Thank you to the youth of our territory for inspiring us. Together, we will carry Nunavut forward to its full potential,” Akeeagok said on social media.