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Nunatsiavut government withdraws from Furey’s Indigenous roundtable

November 21, 2023

Qalipu chief hopes group will return but defends NunatKavut’s place in roundtable

A man with grey hair and glasses, wearing a grey button-up sweater and a collared shirt underneath.
Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe says the group won’t take part in the premier’s Indigenous roundtable until Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey reconsiders the NunatuKavut community council’s involvement. (Hamlin Lampe)

The president of the Nunatsiavut government has decided to decline an invitation to  Premier Andrew Furey’s Indigenous roundtable over his decision to include the NunatuKavut community council in discussions.

Nunatsiavut announced its decision ahead of a meeting of the roundtable in Conne River on Tuesday. In a press release issued Tuesday, President Johannes Lampe said Nunatsiavut won’t be involved in discussions until Furey re-evaluates the decision to include NCC in talks.

“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 wrote.

The NunatuKavut community council says it represents about 6,000 Inuit in central and southern Labrador, but Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national representative organization for the Inuit in Canada, disputes NunatuKavut’s claims of Inuit identity. Both Nunatsiavut and the Innu Nation also dispute the NCC’s claim.

Furey’s call to include the NCC in his roundtable has embroiled his office in weeks of controversy.

Nunatsiavut’s decision comes a month after Innu Nation withdrew from the roundtable for the same reason. The Innu Nation also left over what it called a conflict of interest in having Lisa Dempster serve as minister of Indigenous Affairs.

Dempster is a member of NunatuKavut, and the Innu Nation has called for her resignation.

Speaking after Monday’s session, Furey said his government will continue to work with both Nunatsiavut and the Innu Nation, saying part of the path to reconciliation is having a seat at the table available.

“This is just one forum to engage Indigenous communities. It’s in no way meant to replace individual, bilateral relationships,” Furey said.

“This is just meant to represent a way to have a healthy dialogue with us, but also between Indigenous groups. And all I can do as premier is try to facilitate conversations, and to establish forums for those conversations to happen.”

CBC News has asked both Nunatisavut and the Innu Nation for comment.

Qalipu chief defends NCC

Qalipu First Nation Chief Brendan Mitchell, who took part in the roundtable, said there were positive discussions about economic opportunities and how the Health Accord affects pacts Indigenous communities.

While talking to reporters, Mitchell was quick to defend Dempster and praised her for her ability to connect with Indigenous groups.

“I’ve been involved with the Indigenous movement for a long time, dating back into the 1970s.… We’ve never had an individual who has given us the support, the attention and the consideration that Minister Dempster has,” he said.

A group of people sit at a series of tables in discussion.
Members of the premier’s Indigenous roundtable sat for a meeting in Conne River on Tuesday. Qalipu First Nation Chief Brendan Mitchell hopes the Innu Nation and Nunatisavut will return to the table soon.(Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

“I’ll be very disappointed if someday someone continues to say she should be removed. And I’ll be mad at Premier Furey if he does that also. She’s doing such a great job.”

Asked if he shares the same concerns about the NCC’s identity claim as the Innu Nation and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Mitchell said the group’s Indigenous status is hard to dispute.

“They’ve been around for a long time. They’re a well-established organization. Six-thousand members, and how can anybody … deny that situation and the longevity they’ve had so far?” he said.

“I haven’t made much comment on this but I’m hoping … that soon they’ll get back to the table with us.”

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With files from Peter Cowan

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