After 15 years of negotiations, the federal government and the Inuit of the Northwest Territories—once known as Eskimos—announced that they have tentatively agreed to the largest land-claims settlement in Canadian history. Under the terms of the controversial arrangement, which must be ratified in a plebiscite by a majority of the eligible voters among the area's 18,000 Inuit and then approved by Parliament, the eastern two-thirds of the Northwest Territories would become a new territory known as Nunavut. To be administered by an elected territorial government, Nunavut will cover 770,000 square miles—one-fifth of Canada's landmass. The Inuit will receive title to 136,000 square miles—or more than a fifth—of Nunavut, and mineral rights to about 10 per cent of their titled land. They will also receive $580 million to be paid over 14 years—which, with interest payments included, will total more than $1 billion—as compensation for renouncing all other land claims. But the agreement quickly came under fire from other aboriginal groups. Ovide Mercredi, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, opposed it because it does not give the Inuit self-government. William Erasmus, head of the 12,000 Dene Indians in the western part of the Northwest Territories, said that the proposed western boundary of Nunavut would infringe on at least 220 square miles of land that the Dene claim. And natives in northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, who claim that their traditional hunting grounds extend into Nunavut, said that they may challenge the agreement in court.
A COMMISSION IN CHAOS
Ottawa’s troubled Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies came under further attack last week when the government fired four of its nine members. The four, among them Maureen McTeer, wife of Constitutional Affairs Minister Joe Clark, had launched a court challenge to what they claim is the inordinate power wielded by commission chairman Patricia Baird, a University of British Columbia medical genetics professor. In a terse statement, the government said that the firings would “ensure the continued viability of the commission.” But some critics charged that ideological differences were behind the action. Said Varda Burstyn, co-chairman of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women’s health and reproduction committee: “The commissioners who have gone are more critical, in general, of the technologies than those who are left.”
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