The formal agreement marks the final step of the so-called devolution process that transfers responsibilities and powers from the federal to the local government.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the Nunavut Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement on Thursday, giving the vast Arctic territory self-determination over land, resources, and infrastructural development. The signing marks the conclusion of the long process called devolution, meaning the transfer of responsibilities and powers to the territory. Areas such as healthcare and education have already been successfully transferred to the local government; however, the transfer of land and resource management has been a topic of debate since Nunavut officially became a Canadian territory 25 years ago.
In a speech just before the signing, Trudeau called it a “historic” day, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The agreement provides the local government in Iqaluit with the final decision-making authority for developing minerals, oil, and gas on Nunavut’s public land. This includes any onshore lands that currently belong to the government of Canada and includes beds and bodies of freshwater, minerals, oil, gas, and buildings and structures, the CBC reports. The agreement states that negotiations over offshore resources will begin post-signing.
Nunavut has vast natural resources (PDF), including oil, gas, gold, and diamonds, but also rare earth elements needed for wind turbines and electric vehicles. The main challenge to successfully developing these deposits is the remote nature of the enormous territory home to only roughly 40,000 people.