In July 2015, the negotiations reached a significant milestone when the three parties (IRC, Government of Canada and Government of Northwest Territories) signed a Self-Government Agreement-in-Principle (AIP). The parties have now begun negotiating the final agreement, financial agreements and implementation plan.
The AIP confirms that the future Inuvialuit Government will be able to make laws and will have other powers and responsibilities regarding Inuvialuit. The Inuvialuit Government will have power to make and enforce Inuvialuit laws, design policies and programs and deliver programs and services to the Inuvialuit. Inuvialuit laws will apply to those Inuvialuit who live in the western Arctic region and the six Inuvialuit communities. The Inuvialuit Government would have powers over matters such as language and culture, health, social services, social assistance, education, economic development and justice. For some of these matters, the new government will have full law-making authority, while for others it will deliver programs and services in partnership with the territorial or federal government, or receive a transfer of funding from other levels of government to deliver programs and services.
Inuvialuit self-government is an Indigenous self-government model. There will be no public government role included in the agreement. The agreement will set out a practical means to implement the inherent right to self-government and give the Inuvialuit the tools they need to set their own priorities and to make decisions regarding their future. By bringing decision-making closer to the community, the programs and services developed and delivered can be better suited to the needs of Inuvialuit. The Inuvialuit Government will have a constitution and be accountable to its own citizens.
Though IRC is negotiating the agreement on behalf of beneficiaries, the intention is for the final agreement to create an Inuvialuit Government that will be separate and distinct from IRC. The government will manage Inuvialuit programs and services, while IRC will continue to manage the assets and rights that flow from the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Despite this separation of powers, the model will ensure coherence and unity among the institutions that serve Inuvialuit.
Though the AIP is quite a comprehensive document, there are still substantive issues to be negotiated. Detailed drafting is required before a final agreement can be initialed and provided to beneficiaries for approval through a vote. For example, there are important details about the structure of government and its relationship to IRC that have yet to be confirmed. Related agreements such as a financing agreement, a tax treatment agreement and an implementation plan also remain to be negotiated.