Innu Nation comes to Ottawa to fight against recognition of NunatuKavut Community Council in Labrador

The Grand Chief of the Innu Nation in Labrador says a memorandum of understanding between Ottawa and the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) is a major threat to his nation’s existence.

“A group who call themselves NCC, they want to take our rights, they want to take our lands,” Simon Pokue said during an Ottawa press conference this week.

The Liberals signed the MOU recognizing NCC in 2019 under then Crown-Indigenous Relations minister Carolyn Bennett. The Innu Nation launched a court challenge almost immediately after.

The case is currently in federal court.

Innu Nation lawyer Senwung Luk says the federal government has never recognized NCC as legitimate section 35 Indigenous rights holders so it made no sense for the Liberals to sign the MOU.

“They’ve (federal government) never found that the NCC are an Aboriginal people in Canada,” he said. “So, it doesn’t make sense for the Innu Nation is why Canada would be talking to NCC as if they do have Section 35 rights.”

Peter Penashue is a former Conservative MP for Labrador who served in Stephen Harper’s cabinet.

He said NCC represents what has become a growing problem across Canada of groups falsely claiming Indigeneity.

“There is money involved in being an Indigenous group,” Penashue said. “There is from government and where there are resources. So now you have people coming from everywhere declaring themselves to be an Indigenous group because there are benefits. It’s happening in Labrador but it’s happening right across the country. Someone has to put a stop to this.”

Nevertheless, NCC President Todd Russell firmly maintains his organization legitimately holds section 35 rights.

“No other Indigenous group has the right to determine our identity,” he said. “Particularly the identity of us as Inuit and in fact this is an understanding that is within not only the Indigenous community generally within Canada but this is understood internationally.”

In an emailed statement to APTN News, the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations said the MOU is an act of good will and it does not create, recognize or deny any legal or constitutional right to either party.

Federal court dates that had been set for Ottawa this week have been postponed.

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