Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe withdrew from the Premier-Indigenous Leaders’ Roundtable in Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday over the inclusion of the NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC).
“We had hoped to engage in productive and meaningful dialogue with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador regarding the issues affecting Labrador Inuit, but we will not do so while the Province continues to acknowledge and support a group pretending to be something they are not,” Lampe in a statement on the the Nunatsiavut Government website.
Canada has three recognized Indigenous groups: Inuit, First Nations and Métis.
The controversy over the NCC goes back over a decade. The organization represents 6,000 people who claim Inuit ancestry in southern Labrador, but was formerly known as the Labrador Métis Nation.
In 2019, the then-minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, signed a memorandum of understanding with the NCC, despite warnings to her department.
NCC members are not recognized as Inuit by any of Canada’s Inuit groups or land claim organizations, including Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national Inuit organization.
In an open letter this month, ITK President Natan Obed said the NCC’s shifting identity claims were a red flag.
“Before 2010, NCC called itself the Labrador Métis Nation, and its members, including president Todd Russell, identified as Métis,” Obed said. “During the period when this group called themselves Métis, the Métis National Council did not recognize the Labrador Métis Nation and did not include them in their governance.”
In a statement responding to the letter on Nov. 6, the NCC said it was “disgusted” by ITK’s position and that NunatuKavut Inuit had the right to determine their identity
Calling on Premier to change course
The Innu, a First Nations group not related to the Inuit, also objects to NCC’s claims, saying they overlap with Innu lands and rights.
The Innu have also launched a court challenge to have the NCC’s MOU with the federal government cancelled.
Lampe has also been outspoken on NCCs claims which he says also conflict with the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement which led to the creation of Nunatsiavut.
In his statement Tuesday, Lampe said he will no longer participate in discussions involving NCC.
“If the Premier is truly committed to reconciliation and to establishing an environment of collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, then he will take our concerns seriously and re-evaluate his decision to include a group that is falsely claiming Indigeneity and making illegitimate land claims,” Lampe said.
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