Dominic LeBlanc, minister of Northern Affairs, introduced Bill C-88 in the House of Commons on Thursday. (Jean Laroche/CBC) The federal government wants to keep the Northwest Territories’ four regional land and water boards as they are.
Northern Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc introduced Bill C-88 in the House of Commons on Thursday. The legislation, if passed, will repeal controversial amendments that were planned for the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.
Those amendments were made in 2014 as part of devolution, in which the federal government transferred control of land and resources in the N.W.T. to the territorial government.
The changes included combining the Mackenzie Valley, Gwich’in, Sahtu and Wek’èezhìi land and water boards into a single "superboard."
The territory’s land and water boards are regulatory bodies that issue land-use permits and water licences. Indigenous organizations opposed superboard
After devolution, a number of Indigenous governments and organizations decried the planned amalgamation of the land and water boards.
The Tlicho government and Sahtu Secretariat filed separate lawsuits, alleging the move went against the spirit of their land claim agreements and treaty rights.
In 2015, the Northwest Territories Supreme Court suspended the creation of a superboard.
Ryan Fequet, executive director of the Wek’eezhii Land and Water Board, is pleased the government is moving to repeal the 2014 amendments.
"The current land and water boards’ composition reflects 50-50 … decision making between First Nations and the federal government, and I think the superboard’s proposed structure would have changed that, and that’s why various parties voiced their concerns," he said.
"It’s great that this legislation has been introduced into the House."
Fequet said other measures proposed in the new bill could improve the existing regulatory system.
One provision sets out a monetary penalty scheme that would give inspectors another option for enforcing permits and licences.
"The new amendments that are coming into play will provide some more opportunities to make the co-management system here in the North, that is already very, very effective and efficient, even more so," said Fequet.
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