Several Innu communities in Nitassinan are getting ready to sign a landmark treaty with Quebec and Canada, but the treaty isn’t supported by all the Innu people.
In the controversial treaty, the Innu would get $340 million for community development and compensation for past hydro-projects, plus $6 million in yearly royalties from forestry in their territory (3 percent of the government’s $200-million total take).
In exchange, the Innu would give up their exemption from taxes and claims to their entire ancestral territory. They would get full title, mineral and logging rights to a territory 525 square kilometres in size – a tiny fraction of their entire land claim.
The territory would double the 260 square kilometres currently controlled by the Innu.
The agreement has been approved by the chiefs of three of Quebec’s nine Innu communities, Mashteuiatsh, Essipit and Betsiamites.
Some Innu don’t like it one bit. “We think this agreement is a joke. It tries to stamp out Aboriginal rights by forcing us to choose which ones to keep, and I can tell you no one is going to be willing to give those away for three cents on the dollar,” said Armand McKenzie, an Innu lawyer, in a Montreal Gazette story.
“The economic and political conditions in this agreement are insufficient and unacceptable. They will do nothing to improve social conditions for the Innu.”
McKenzie dismissed a Quebec official’s claim that the Innu are getting a better deal than the Nisga’a First Nation of B.C., who just signed a historic treaty: “This is a lot less than Nisga’a, no matter what the government thinks. The Nisga’a got 10 percent of what they were seeking in terms of territory; this deal would give us 1 percent.”