Background of the regulatory system in the NWT
Currently, there are four settled comprehensive claims, or “modern treaties” in the NWT: the Inuvialuit Final Agreement [link to (1984), the Sahtu Dene and Métis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1993), the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement (1992) and the Tlicho Land Claims and Self-government Agreement (2005).
By guaranteeing consultation and participation in the regulatory system, modern treaties give Aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories (NWT) a significant say in land, water and environmental management. Through the signing of these agreements, new legislation and changes to existing legislation, created boards and other management bodies for the regulation of land, water and environmental management.
The intent of modern treaties is to clarify how renewable and non-renewable resources will be managed by different land owners, how and by whom resource development will be managed and regulated, and how parties will work together when making decisions related to the resources of the NWT.
In areas of the NWT where modern treaties have not yet been reached, there are original, or “historic” treaties in place – Treaties 8 and 11 – in the southern part of the NWT. These historic treaties and the rights outlined in them are constitutionally recognized and protected, just as are the rights in the modern treaties.
Modern treaties also include chapters on Economic Measures which ensure, among other things, that governments proposing economic development programs within a region must consult with the governing body(ies) of that region.
Through the implementation of treaties, the people of the North have developed an evolving relationship with the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories, as well as the mining and oil and gas industries.
One component of this relationship will be the devolution of existing federal responsibilities for land management to the Government of the Northwest Territories and Aboriginal governments. Negotiations regarding devolution are on-going.