The minister responsible for Labrador and aboriginal affairs defended the provincial government’s track record on aboriginal issues Thursday, saying it’s natural for the federal government to take the lead on native issues.
Last week, NunatuKavut president Todd Russell slammed a provincial government statement on its accomplishments in achieving social and economic milestones for aboriginals in 2013, saying most of the achievements cited were spearheaded by the federal government.
On Thursday, Minister Nick McGrath said it’s standard for the federal government to take the lead.
“If you were to take any of the documents that federal and provincial governments are involved in, most of them would be spearheaded by the federal government, but that is normal, and it’s called being prudent,” he said.
“Why would you go through the same process twice? Anything that falls under federal jurisdiction but needs provincial jurisdiction approval also, then we will work as a tripartite between the federal and provincial governments and bring in the aboriginal groups also, so that we’re not duplicating all the time.”
McGrath said it’s not fair for Russell to characterize the provincial government as taking a hands-off approach.
“The one important thing we have to remember here is the NunatuKavut Community Council still has not received from the federal government an assertive land-claims agreement, and until they receive that assertive land-claims agreement, then they have no jurisdictional rights within the land claim,” said McGrath. “So it’s very difficult for the provincial government to enter into any negotiations or agreements with the NunatuKavut Community Council, to sit down at a table and start negotiating, until they have that agreement, federally.”
Signing the self-government agreement-in-principle with the Miawpukek First Nation was a major achievement for the provincial government, said McGrath.
“We have a very good working relationship with the Miawpukek and the Qalipu nations,” he said. “(Miawpukek) Chief Mi’sel Joe certainly was delighted to reach that milestone, and that was an agreement, again, with the federal and provincial governments. Now they can move forward and start that self-governance plan.
“We worked very closely with Chief Joe, and we’re looking forward to strengthening that relationship and continuing to help them find that self-governance and working on that plan.”