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New guidelines concerning aboriginal affairs


QUÉBEC CITY, April 2, 1998 - "To enable aboriginal communities to reduce their dependence on governments, increase their financial self-sufficiency and develop self-government, the Québec government is proposing to provide aboriginal nations and communities with their own economic levers and participate in resource development." The Minister of State for Natural Resources, Minister for the Regions and Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, Guy Chevrette, made this statement today while releasing the Québec government's new guidelines concerning aboriginal affairs.

The Québec government believes it is possible and desirable, within a partnership with band councils, to develop solutions to the problems associated with the tax exemption that applies to aboriginal people at various levels. These mechanisms could grant aboriginal communities significant levers to increase their financial self-sufficiency, while ensuring that the new tax system does not create commercial competition that could hamper relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

Québec is committed to a pragmatic, flexible and evolving approach which would be applied through local taxation agreements. These could take the form of full payment of the taxes in question by aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, on or off-reserve, with remittance of taxes paid to aboriginal communities in accordance with procedures to be worked out. Other possibilities could be explored on a voluntary basis.

Financial self-sufficiency and self-government

There are various models for participation in economic and natural resource development concerning, among others, forests, wildlife, mines and hydro-electricity. These initiatives will have to be consistent with Québec's approach to local and regional development. Such participation will require setting up or developing community or individually owned or mixed businesses. Recent examples in the forest, mining and energy sectors illustrate this approach. The Québec government believes that this type of partnership should be encouraged.

The Québec government also proposes that agreements for development and assumption of responsibility be reached with aboriginal communities. By taking charge of various sectors of socio-economic activity and carrying out specific government responsibilities within defined territories, aboriginal people will become more self-sufficient. These agreements will also allow the communities greater participation in socio-economic development.

Two types of agreements are proposed: framework agreements and specific or multi-sector agreements. Once an agreement is signed, it will be possible to exercise contractual jurisdictions, among other things. The agreements will be bipartite and will be negotiated between the Québec government and aboriginal people. The federal government will be invited to sign as part of its current jurisdiction and obligations.

The land issue

The issue of land and resources is a major question in relations between aboriginal people and governments. Many aboriginal claims affect control, sharing or access to resources. The ownership, management and development of land and resources are of direct concern to Québec. The challenge is to rethink issues relating to land within a dual perspective: develop a partnership approach with aboriginal people while respecting their identity, reconcile the aspirations of aboriginal people with those of the general population, while maintaining Québec's territorial integrity.

Land issues will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. In the case of comprehensive land claims, Québec's proposal to the Attikameks and Montagnais in 1994 remains the preferred approach, i.e. wholly-owned lands (domain), land for carrying on traditional activities (traditional activities zone) and a shared-management territory (shared-management resource zone included in traditional activities zones).

In the case of Indian reserves which are not large enough for basic community infrastructures such as housing, education or health, the Québec government is prepared to discuss expanding them. Lastly, Québec has opened the door to agreements for exceptional situations that are specific to a community and require immediate attention, such as Oujé-Bougoumou and Kanesatake.

"With these new guidelines concerning aboriginal affairs, there is a new dynamic based on trust, respect and greater self-sufficiency for communities," Mr. Chevrette pointed out. "Working with aboriginal nations, Québec will seek ways for them to participate in the development of the land, to benefit from economic spin-offs and to continue their traditional activities while being sensitive to the aspirations of each, the rights of third parties and the needs of society as a whole."

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Shirley Bishop
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Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones
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