Nunatsiavut skips Newfoundland & Labrador Indigenous roundtable over inclusion of NCC

A family photo of the Newfoundland and Labrador Premier-Indigenous Leaders’ Roundtable held on Tuesday. Nunatsiavut’s President withdrew from the discussions over the inclusion of the NunatuKavut Community Council. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

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. 

Fraught history

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 president Todd Russell signs a memorandum of understanding with federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett in September 2019. That memorandum has come under fire from Inuit and Innu groups in Labrador. (NCC)

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.

The inclusion of the NCC in the roundtable undermines the credibility and integrity of the roundtable process and the voices being represented, Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe said on Tuesday. (Government of Nunatsiavut)

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. 

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at) 

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Family hopeful after minister says Indigenous people have right to move freely, CBC News 

Norway: Sami-led project seeks to revitalize Indigenous education across Arctic Europe, Eye on the Arctic

United States: Indigenous leaders divided over ANWR court ruling, Eye on the Arctic

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