Indigenous Law Bulletin
by Peter Jull
This agreement was initialled on 10 May by Inuit leaders, the Governments of Canada and the Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador. It completes the Inuit treaty-making process across the northern third of Canada. The treaty is especially heartening to many Canadians given that the socio-economic condition of Labrador Inuit is by far the worst in Inuit Canada. Labrador Inuit live in Canada's poorest province, and their remoteness from news media has meant they have never received sufficient government or public attention. The newly-negotiated regional provisions (funded directly by the national government) and local self-government provisions are especially promising.
The marine components of the Labrador settlement will also be important as a precedent for Australia and other countries, joining as they do many other creative approaches to marine native title initiated by Inuit in Nunavik (Northern Quebec), the Inuvialuit region (far north-western Canada), Nunavut (cf (1999) 4 (20) ILB 4) and northern Alaska in the US. It is now widely recognised in North America that Inuit have done their countries and the environment a service by introducing responsible coastal and marine practices and structures to a previous situation of casual policy-making or outright neglect.
It is to be hoped that before long, Torres Strait Islanders and Aborigines will also succeed in pushing reluctant Australian governments into a similar recognition of indigenous marine rights, and the establishment of proper coastal zone management regimes.