The number and variety of aboriginal “self-government” initiatives in Canada’s North is creating a more complex political landscape. The recent creation of Nunatsiavut, as well as shared governance initiatives with the Innu Nation and the Labrador Métis Nation are examples of this trend in Labrador.
This new self-assertion on the part of aboriginal communities is creating uncertainty among the non-Aboriginal community and raising new questions about how long-standing neighbours will now interact with each other, and how natural resources – the economic engines of Canada’s North – will now be exploited.
In order to clarify the issues, Memorial University and the Central Labrador Economic Development Board are hosting a public policy forum in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Tuesday, May 13. Titled Self-Government or Self-Administration?: Aboriginal Governance in Labrador, the session will feature two prominent speakers, Dr. David Natcher of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and Dr. Larry Felt of Memorial University in St. John’s.
They will be joined by two prominent Labradorians who will provide the local context: Ernie Mclean is a former provincial cabinet minister and the current chair of the Central Labrador Economic Development Board and Peter Penashue of the Innu Nation.
According to Drs. Natcher and Felt, “the most common form of self-government is ‘self-administration,’ where Aboriginal governments assume responsibility for delivering existing programs crafted by national and/or provincial governments,” they said. “Does this meet the needs of Aboriginal peoples, or is self-administration only a way station on the road to broader Aboriginal governance?”
If so, what are the requirements for effective self-government, government-to-government relations, and governance? How can we achieve governance rooted in aboriginal culture and history, while at the same time embedding it within the wider networks and structures that govern all Labradorians and Canadians? ”Dr. Felt Said.
These and other related issues will be discussed by the speakers. The audience will have the opportunity to add to the discussion during the ensuing question-and-answer period.
This forum is being organized jointly by the Labrador Institute, the Harris Centre and the Central Labrador Economic Development Board. It will be held at the Hamilton Hotel in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, and the event will conclude with a reception.
This session will be held in conjunction with a workshop the following day at the Hamilton Hotel, where local leaders and stakeholders will have the opportunity to meet with representatives from Memorial University. This workshop is open to the general public and registration is free. Breakfast, lunch and nutrition breaks are provided by the Harris Centre.
The public policy forum and the workshop are sponsored by the Harris Centre and the Central Labrador Economic Development Board. It will begin at 8:30 a.m., and conclude at 4 p.m.