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QUÉBEC, July 6, 2000 - The Chiefs of the three First Nations part of the Mamuitun Tribal Council, René Simon of Betsiamites, Denis Ross of Essipit and Clifford Moar of Mashteuiatsh, as well as Québec Minister of Transport, Minister for Native Affairs and Minister responsible for Wildlife and Parks, Guy Chevrette, and the federal Minister of International Trade, Pierre Pettigrew on behalf of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Robert Nault, announced today that a significant step has been taken towards the settlement of the comprehensive land claim.  The Mamuitun Tribal Council represents close to 60% of the Innu population of Québec.

The parties agreed upon a common approach on themes that were until today of major differences. This approach specifies the principal elements that will form the basis of negotiation of an agreement-in-principle concerning the rights of the Innu in Québec.  This document deals, among others, with the rights of the Innu, the settlement land, self-government, financial transfers and economic development measures.

The Common Approach does not bind the parties legally.  It sets out the following guidelines for the discussions to come:

Rights and settlement land

In the Nitassinan of Mamuitun (ancestral Innu territory), about 535 km2 of the land will be held in title by the Innu, i.e. twice the current surface area of the reserves.  The Innu governments will exercise legislative jurisdiction on this territory and its citizens. This jurisdiction, which remains to be determined, will be supervised by the Innu Constitutions in conformity with the provisions of the agreement to come.  Specific agreements to provide access to these lands for public utilities will be agreed upon.

On the remainder of Nitassinan, the Innu rights to hunt, fish, trap and harvest for traditional and ritual purposes as well as their modern treaty rights will be acknowledged. The Innu will also have a right to share royalties relating to natural resources and a right to participate fully in the planning and management of the territory and natural resources as well as the environment. Protected heritage sites and parks administered by the Innu will be part of these lands.
 Furthermore, the parties agreed on creating a sub-group of independent lawyers who will contribute in finding a mutually acceptable solution to issues related to Aboriginal title and rights, to the Mamuitun First Nations self-government and the legislative power of the Mamuitun First Nations on the territory and could give effect to the attached letter as an integral part of the Common Approach.

Financial aspects

Innu governments will aim at achieving financial autonomy, taking  into consideration the recapturing of socioeconomic objectives that will be agreed upon between the parties.  Also, an Innu fiscal system will be implemented with the result that the Innu will gradually contribute to the functioning of their government and the funding of their programs and services.

As was the case in all settlements of comprehensive land claims in Canada, financial transfers will be part of the agreement.  The government of Canada will transfer an amount of $250 million.  Québec will pay $90 million in compensation for developments in the past, including those relating to hydroelectric developments.

These amounts will allow the Innu to participate in the regional development of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and Haute-Côte-Nord.

Towards an agreement in principle

The Chiefs of Betsiamites, Essipit and Mashteuiatsh declared: "The recognition of the Aboriginal title and ancestral rights, including the general context of the inherent right to self government, must be the basis for an agreement between the Innu, the government of Québec and the government of Canada".

Minister Guy Chevrette is satisfied with the results obtained to date and is confident that the  Common Approach will facilitate the conclusion of an agreement.  "I think that this is important for the Innu as well as all other Quebecers to clarify the situation and understand each others rights, stated Mr. Chevrette.  Now that we are working on an assumption of reaching a settlement, Québec expects to closely involve the regional communities in this exercise.  Finally, I hope the other Innu communities will join this process in the near future".

"The Common Apprach is the result of many months of intensive negociations said the
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Robert Nault. Negociators for all the parties should be commended for their hard work and for the positive results they have achieved.  This Common Approach establishes clear guidelines and a strong foundation for negotiations of an Agreement-In-Principle and  demonstrates that significant progress is being made toward the resolution of the Innu comprehensive land claim.  The settlement of this claim will expand the economic opportunities of the Innu of Mamuitun and encourages the participation of stable and self-sufficient Aboriginal governments in the economic growth of Québec and Canada".

The three parties therefore wish that this common approach will facilitate the continuation of negotiations and their outcome within a reasonable time.

This news release as well as the Common Approach are available on the websites of the Mamuitun Tribal Council, the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones du Québec and Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

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Édith Rochette
Press attaché
Office of Minister Guy Chevrette
(418) 643-6980
Denis Gill
Negociator Associate
Mamuitun Tribal Council
(418) 275-7796
Hélène Philippe
Manager, Communications Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada
(418) 648-7675
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Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones
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