Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador
January 21, 2005
President Andersen, Elders, Premier Williams, Senator Rompkey, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and boys and girls.
I consider it a great honour to play a role in a significant event – the signing of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement, and I would like to say thank you for inviting me to Nain to celebrate such a joyous occasion.
This land claims agreement between the Labrador Inuit Association, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada is both historic and offers great promise for the future.
It is the first modern treaty between the Crown and an Aboriginal group in Atlantic Canada. Treaties express the partnership between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, a partnership that has helped build Canada and a partnership that has brought great richness to this country. This treaty continues the tradition and recognizes the Inuit of Labrador as partners in Canada. It is fitting there are young people here today - for it is the youth of today who will see this partnership grow and experience for themselves the promise that the future will bring.
I would like to extend congratulations to the negotiators from all sides for their efforts in reaching this momentous agreement. I am particularly grateful for the dedication exhibited by the Labrador Inuit; their commitment and determination led to an exceptional agreement. This agreement demonstrates that by working together, partners can fashion a balanced, strong, practical agreement rooted in communities. An agreement that can meet the needs of people and help them reach their full potential, not just for Aboriginal communities, but for Canada as a whole.
By helping to clarify issues related to ownership of land and natural resources, modern treaties support the stable environment sought by investors. Economic investments create greater opportunities for communities and individuals. A stable economy supports positive social development. The creation of the Nunatsiavut Government through this agreement ensures Inuit voters have an effective voice on important community matters, including how, when and where development happens.
My optimism today is fuelled by the wise approach to development and community betterment long followed by the Labrador Inuit. You have built successful agencies such as the Labrador Inuit Development Corporation and the Labrador Inuit Health Commission. These agencies support Labrador Inuit aspirations. Other work in vital fields such as education and resource development has demonstrated the commitment to improving the lives of Labrador Inuit - creating jobs and opportunities while safeguarding the precious legacy of Inuit culture and traditions.
With today's agreement, all three parties vow to cooperate so that the Labrador Inuit can realize their vision of self-sufficiency. My signature on the agreement reflects a sincere commitment on behalf of all Canadians: we will do our utmost, today and in the future, to help fulfill that vision.