After decades of a David versus Goliath struggle with the federal government, three small Innu nations are on the verge of securing a land claim settlement unlike any other in Canadian history.
The treaty would see the First Nations and Quebec governments co-manage a territory 16 times larger than the island of Montreal — setting aside certain areas for conservation and opening others up to mining partnerships with the Innu.
It would also guarantee royalties of at least three per cent for the group on all development within their vast traditional territory — centred in Quebec’s Saguenay and Côte Nord regions. The Innu would retain exclusive hunting, fishing and logging rights on most of the 8,000-square-kilometre land mass.
And unlike previous federal land claim settlements, the Innu nations of Essipit, Mashteuiatsh and Nutashkuan wouldn’t have to surrender title over their traditional territory. They wouldn’t be subject to the Indian Act and would have a level of self-government seen in just a handful of reserves across Canada.
The proposed treaty gives communities control over their children’s schooling, deputizes aboriginal park rangers to enforce Innu hunting laws and creates measures to safeguard the preservation of their language and culture.
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