The Innu Nation is taking the federal government to court. The indigenous government sent out a press release on Tuesday, Oct. 8 that it has applied to the Federal courts to quash the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the feds and the Nunatukavut Community Council (NCC).
“Innu Nation was shocked to hear the announcement by Canada on September 5, 2019 that Canada had entered into an expedited agreement with NCC following just one year of negotiations.,” the release read. “The MOU, if it proceeds, will harm the Innu‘s aboriginal rights — rights that are currently protected under Canada‘s constitution.”
What the Innu Nation is referring to is a step forward in NCC’s land claim process that was announced in September. NCC, who represent the Southern Inuit, said at the time the MOU helps them establish a framework to negotiate with the federal government.
This will have an impact on the Innu Nations own land claim process, the release says, and cause delays. NCC President Todd Russell rejected that claim.
“There is no potential for our MOU to delay or diminish the Innu Nation’s land claim,” Russell said in a statement. “There will be overlap between our land claim and the land claim of Innu Nation. This is not a unique occurrence in modern land claims processes, where multiple overlapping claims often exist. The overlapping claims speak to the historical and modern reality of our respective peoples’ land use and cultural expression.”
Innu Nation challenging NCC identity
The Innu Nation is also alleging that the federal government did not follow reasonable due diligence in issuing the MOU with NCC.
“For example, Canada ignored its own previous research and legal opinion, which had concluded that NCC ‘is a modern political organization that represents people of varying degrees of Aboriginal ancestry and not an aboriginal collectivity capable of holding aboriginal rights,’” the release says.
Russell said NCC rejects any attempt to deny their culture, and their connection to the land, water and ice.
“The inflammatory and misleading allegations made by Innu Nation in a recent Federal Court application are completely unfounded and deeply troubling,” Russell said. “These allegations are a form of racism and lateral violence against NunatuKavut Inuit and perpetuate colonial narratives.”
He said it was disappointing that the issue pursued litigation and it could be an opportunity for cooperation.
The federal government and NCC began negotiations in July of 2018 on Indigenous rights and self-determination.
“We hope there is a time when all Indigenous groups in Labrador can sit at a table in a respectful way and move forward together,” Russell said. “The recognition and respect of our rights is something that NCC has been working on for many years.”
“These allegations are a form of racism and lateral violence against NunatuKavut Inuit and perpetuate colonial narratives.” — Todd Russell
The release sent out by the Innu Nation specifically noted that part of the area claimed by NCC is the community of Sheshatshiu.
“NCC has claimed land rights throughout most of the Innu land claim area including the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation Reserve where 2,000 of Innu Nation‘s members reside,” the Innu Nation said. “Innu Nation has been negotiating its own land rights with Canada for four decades.”
According to the release, the Innu have been reaching out to the federal government since July of 2018 about the NCC claim and have not received satisfactory answers to their questions.