Inuvialuit Final Agreement
In other parts of Canada, the Government of Canada had signed treaties with aboriginal people. But the Inuvialuit had never entered into such an agreement. A group consisting of elders and younger Inuvialuit realized that if a claim was not made, the Inuvialuit might not ever get a voice in deciding their future. They established an organization called the Committee for the Original People's Entitlement (COPE) to resolve the matter. In 1974, acting as a collective voice for the Inuvialuit, COPE entered into negotiations with the Government of Canada.
After ten years of negotiations, the Government of Canada and the Inuvialuit signed the "Inuvialuit Final Agreement" or "IFA" June 5, 1984. It was the first comprehensive land claim agreement signed north of the 60th parallel and only the second in Canada at that time. Approved by the Canadian Parliament as the Western Arctic Claims Settlement Act, it took precedent over other Acts inconsistent with it. The Act was also protected under the Canadian Constitution in that it cannot be changed by Parliament without the approval of the Inuvialuit.
In the IFA, the Inuvialuit agreed to give up their exclusive use of their ancestral lands in exchange for certain other guaranteed rights from the Government of Canada. The rights came in three forms: land, wildlife management and money.
The Inuvialuit would have legal control over their land (see map) with ownership of 91,000 square kilometres (35,000 square miles) of land including 13,000 square kilometres (5,000 square miles) with subsurface rights to oil, gas and minerals. Furthermore, the Inuvialuit established the right to hunt and harvest anywhere in the claim area, particularly as primary harvesters on certain lands known to be rich in wildlife. They also secured the responsibility for ensuring good wildlife management, becoming part of a wildlife management team with the government. The IFA was based on sustainable development.
Goals of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement
The basic goals of the IFA are to:
Inuvialuit corporations were created to receive and manage the benefits resulting from the IFA. Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) was established and tasked with the overall responsibility of administering the rights and benefits. Its subsidiaries include Inuvialuit Development Corporation, Inuvialuit Investment Corporation, Inuvialuit Petroleum Corporation and Inuvialuit Land Corporation. In addition, there is the Inuvialuit Land Administration, Community Development Division and Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre.
Inuvialuit Game Council and Co-Management Bodies
In anticipation of the signing of the IFA, the Inuvialuit Game Council was established in 1983 to represent the collective Inuvialuit interest in all matters relating to wildlife. It consists of a Chair and a 12-member board involving two representatives from each of the Hunters and Trappers Committees in the communities.
The IFA also enabled the establishment of a system of joint management, involving the Inuvialuit and the territorial and federal levels of government. This eco-management process is considered to be a world-class example of integrated resource management.