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The Nunavik Regional Government will result from the amalgamation of the three main public organizations of Nunavik, namely the Kativik Regional Government (KRG), the Kativik School Board (KSB) and the Nunavik Regional Health and Social Services Board (NRBHSS), three organizations set up following the signing, in 1975, of the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement (JBNQA). Rather than being an abrupt change, the creation of this new institution will continue an evolution that began more than thirty years ago in the development of public affairs in Nunavik.
A multi-step process
The first step in a broader process, the agreement-in-principle sets forth the leading principles that will serve as a framework for the regional government and provides a general description of the institution. Afterwards, a final agreement will establish in detail the terms and conditions of the creation and operation of the future institution. Once the final agreement will have been ratified, other steps will need to be taken such as the amendment of the JBNQA, the appropriate legislative preparation and the establishment of a period permitting a harmonious transition towards the creation of a new institution. Following the creation of the regional government, a second negotiation phase will begin and will deal with the new powers that can be conferred on this government.
Main objective and overriding principles
The main objective of the agreement-in-principle is the creation of the Nunavik Regional Government, thereby aiming to simplify and optimize the use of public funds, as well as to improve the administrative operation and the delivery of public services.
The overriding principles notably state that the regional government will be a non-ethnic institution open to the participation of all residents of Nunavik, evolving within the context of Québec's jurisdiction and operating according to rules of transparency and accountability mechanisms generally found in the public domain. Moreover, the creation of the new government will not affect the rights of the Inuit, Crees or Naskapis set out in the major northern agreements.
The new unified institution will inherit all the powers, rights, duties, responsibilities, obligations, resources and assets of the KRG, the KSB and the NRBHSS and will evolve within the framework of the laws of general application. Moreover, public institutions such as the northern municipalities, the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau and the Tulattavik and Inuulitsivik Health Centres will remain separate entities. Finally, the Avataq Cultural Institute, Taqramiut Nipingat, the Saputiit Youth Association and the Local Education Committees will be able to act, if they so wish, as advisory boards in their respective field of expertise with the Nunavik Regional Government.
Nunavik Assembly and Executive Council
The Nunavik Assembly will include at least 21 members: one representative elected locally in each of the 14 communities of the territory (with an additional representative for communities having over 2,000 inhabitants); 5 members elected at the regional level by the entire population of Nunavik and who will form the Executive Council, with one of these five members being specifically elected as leader of the Nunavik Regional Government; a representative of the Naskapi Nation who currently holds a seat on the council of the KRG. Moreover, the parties intend to hold discussions with the Naskapis during the negotiation of the final agreement on their role and their place in the new institution. General elections of the Assembly will be held every three years and the Chief Electoral Officer of Québec, subject to a mandate conferred by the Québec National Assembly, will help organize the first election.
The Executive Council will implement the decisions of the Assembly and will supervise the day-to-day activities of the various departments of the regional government. It is the leader of the government who will assign the specific responsibilities to each member of the Council and this breakdown of responsibilities will be subject to the approval of the Assembly. The representatives of the Executive Council will be full-fledged members of the Nunavik Assembly and will report to the Assembly on the management and the state of the affairs of the regional government.
Moreover, the Nunavik Assembly will have the power to set up committees in order to examine specific questions, notably in such fields as education, health and social services, social housing and elders.
The administrative structures of the KRG, the KSB and the NRBHSS will respectively form the new departments of local and regional affairs, education, and health and social services. The common administrative functions will be grouped together in a single central administration and finance department which will see to the management of all human, financial and material resources. A General Secretariat will support the Executive Committee and will coordinate the various departments, and a Treasury Secretariat will provide its support to the Executive Council for the management of human resources.
Powers, responsibilities and relations with governments, the First Nations and the Inuit of neighbouring regions in Canada
The powers of the regional government will be those of the KRG, the KSB and the NRBHSS. The exercise of these powers and the administrative operation of the regional government shall see to maintaining the general quality of public services, to using any economies resulting from the amalgamation to improve other services, and to preserving the expertise and skills developed by the amalgamated organizations. The new institution shall also respect the union certifications and collective agreements in effect at the time of the amalgamation of the three organizations. In addition, Québec will retain the responsibility for negotiating collective agreements at the provincial level applicable to employees of the regional government.
The Nunavik Regional Government will be created by a Québec law which will be under the responsibility of a minister specifically in charge of general relations with the new institution. Moreover, this institution will also maintain institutional relations with the other departments of Québec similar to those currently maintained by the KRG, the KSB and the NRBHSS. Similarly, the relations that exist between Makivik and the three amalgamated organizations will be maintained by the Nunavik Regional Government. Finally, the agreement-in-principle sets certain guidelines concerning the new regional institution's relations with the First Nations and the Inuit of the neighbouring regions in Canada.
Basically, the funding and resources currently provided to the KRG, the KSB and the NRBHSS will go to the Nunavik Regional Government. Moreover, the financial transfers from Canada and from Québec to education and housing in Nunavik will continue in accordance with current practices.
With the exception of the resources that will be used to support certain centralized functions, the lion's share of the funding currently earmarked for the KRG will be used to fund local and regional affairs, that of the KSB will fund education, and that of the NRBHSS will be channeled to health and social services.
The land and natural resources management regimes
The land and natural resources management regimes of the JBNQA will not be modified neither by the agreement-in-principle nor by a final agreement.
Implementation and transition
The agreement-in-principle establishes parameters and a general approach to ensure that the amalgamation of the three organizations and the creation of the Nunavik Regional Government unfold in a harmonious manner. The implementation and the transition leading to the creation of the regional government will be carried out by a transition committee established by a law of Québec. This transition committee will work in conjunction with the managers and employees of the KRG, the KSB and the NRBHSS in the implementation of its mandate. The transition process also provides for the preparation of an implementation plan which will include a detailed description of the activities required to create the new institution, such as training, the estimate of start-up costs, the transition budgets and the harmonization of the working conditions of staff.
Ratification of the final agreement
As for the ratification by Nunavik, the process stipulates that the final agreement must first be approved by the residents of Nunavik by way of a referendum before being submitted to the governments of Québec and of Canada for their respective approval.