About our Agreement-in-Principle

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Agreement-in-Principle FAQs

The Agreement-in-Principle (AiP) is a preliminary agreement between the Regional Gwich’in Collaborative, the GNWT, and Government of Canada that describes each chapter of our future Gwich'in Collaborative Government (GCG).

What is the agreement-in-principle?

The AiP is a roadmap to our final agreement. The Regional Gwich’in Collaborative is using the AiP to negotiate what will be included in our final agreement. The AiP is not enforceable by law but the final agreement will be. 

What’s in the agreement-in-principle?

The agreement-in-principle describes how we will govern ourselves. For example, the AiP describes the areas or jurisdictions where we will have control over law-making and designing and implementing programs and services. The AiP also describes how we will vote on a Gwich'in government, collect taxes, work with other governments, address collective interests, and the steps needed to leave the colonial Indian Act.  

How many chapters are in the agreement-in-principle?

There are twenty chapters in the AiP. Sign in to review an updated Draft of the AiP.  

Who are the parties involved in negotiating the agreement-in-principle?

There are three parties involved: 

  • The Regional Gwich’in Collaborative which represents: Ehdiitat, Tetlit, and Gwichya Gwich’in Councils
  • The Government of Canada 
  • The Government of the Northwest Territories 

Agreement-in-Principle chapter summaries

Descriptions of each chapter are below. Sign in to review an updated Draft of the AiP.

Preamble

The preamble to the Gwich’in Collaborative Self-Government AiP provides context for understanding the intentions and philosophy supporting the agreement. It provides a description of the state of pre-contact Gwich’in sovereignty, governance and traditional land use and occupancy. It explains how Gwich’in governed ourselves autonomously in accordance with our laws to protect our culture, lands, and traditions. The preamble acknowledges previous nation-to-nation agreements between Gwich’in and Canada – Treaty 11 signed in 1921 and the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement signed in 1992.

The preamble also acknowledges the inherent right to self-government. In the preamble, Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories recognize self-government as an inherent right and existing Aboriginal rights under section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982.  

Describes how the Ehdiitat, Gwichya, and Tetl’it Gwich’in Councils have come into this agreement and their intentions towards self-government, including establishing community and regional governments.

Chapter 1: Purpose of the self-government agreement

The purposes of the AiP and the self-government agreement are described in Chapter 1. These statements show that the parties involved in the agreement, GTC, Ehdiitat, Gwichya, and Tetl’it Gwich’in Councils, the Government of Canada, and the Government of Northwest Territories, all share a common understanding of what the agreement is. The chapter also explains the legal effect of the AiP and the self-government agreement as legal documents. In particular, the AiP is not a legally binding document and it will become the base for the future self-government agreement. And, the self-government agreement will be a treaty within the meaning of the Constitution Act, 1982.   

Chapter 2: Recognition of Gwich’in Government

Gwich’in will have two levels of government: Dinjii Zhuh (regional level) and Gwich’in Community Government (community level) and these government will be formally recognized by Canada and GNWT. These Gwich’in governments will have their own roles and responsibilities to carry out governance as described in the self-government agreement.  

Chapter 3 Transitioning to Gwich’in Governments

Once Gwich’in reach a self-government agreement, we will need to transition our current government to the new government structure. Chapter 16 describes how the transition from the current government to self-government will take place. This includes developing a timeline and defining the activities that need to happen before the transition such as:

  • Approving a Gwich’in Constitution
  • The legal status of the regional and community governments
  • Status of Band Council Resolutions once self-government is in effect
Chapter 4: Gwich’in Community Government

Chapter 4 explain which areas of government the community governments will have law-making authority over. This chapter also describes structures and process.

Section 4.2 Constitution:

This section describes what the Gwich’in Constitution will include and how it will be approved.

Section 4.3 Power and authority:

Under self-government, Gwich’in can decide how we want our government to look and this section outlines the structure of community governments, how leadership is elected, and their powers and responsibilities.

Section 4.4 Delegation:

Both the regional and community governments will work together. Section 4.4 describes how each level of government can delegate authority to each other.

Section 4.5 Registration of laws:

Section 4.5 explains how each level of government will register laws and keep records of any changes.

Section 4.6 Elections:

Section 4.6 describes how Gwich’in will host elections under self-government. For example:

  • How often elections will take place.
  • Who can vote in an election, for example, how old someone must be to vote.
  • Who can be elected to hold government office.
  • How the first set of elections will take place under self-government.

Section 4.7 Citizenship:

Because individuals can have different situations in their relationship to the Gwich’in (e.g., someone who is adopted by a Gwich’in citizen), section 4.7 clarifies who can and cannot be a Gwich’in citizen as described in the GCLCA.

Chapter 5: Dinjii Zhuh Government

Chapter 5 explain which areas of government the regional government will have law-making authority over.

Chapter 6: Intergovernmental service agreement

This chapter describes how and when Gwich’in regional and community governments will work with federal and territorial governments for designing and implementing programs and services.  The purpose of this chapter is to ensure that Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and Gwich’in Governments have the tools they need to work collaboratively together to deliver programs and services. They will do this by making agreements to support capacity building, funding to develop and enter into agreements, transitioning to self-government, and on-going co-development and coordination of program design and implementation.

In this chapter, Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and Gwich’in Governments also acknowledge that working on a government-to-government basis is needed to implement the self-government agreement and requires political and administrative collaboration. They also acknowledge that capacity building will involve working collaboratively to negotiate intergovernmental agreements and recognizing historic capacity issues of the Gwich’in before and after reaching a self-government agreement.

Chapter 7: Core jurisdiction

Under self-government, Gwich’in Government will have the authority to design and implement programs and services under the jurisdictions negotiated in the self-government  agreement. Canada, the Government of the Northwest Territories and Gwich’in Governments have agreed to take a “modular approach” to negotiating how Gwich’in Governments will take responsibility over jurisdictions. This means that they will agree to terms for core jurisdictions that are needed for Gwich’in governments to operate and build capacity and a process to negotiate additional jurisdictions in the future. The core jurisdictions are:

7.2 Taxation

Gwich’in governments, regional and community, will collect taxes under self-government.  Section 7.2 describes how they will work with the federal and territorial governments to determine taxation policies such as:

  • What taxes will be collected by Gwich’in governments
  • What taxes will be collected by federal and territorial governments on behalf of Gwich’in governments
  • How assets will be transferred to Gwich’in governments
  • Tax exemptions
  • Agreements about tax collection and the transfer of assets

7.3 Financial relations

The AiP (and our future self-government agreement) will describe how Gwich’in government will negotiate a financial relationship and funding for self-government with the federal and territorial government. Section 7.3 outlines this relationship.

7.4 Economic development

Section 7.4 describes which level of government, regional or community, will have the authority to make decisions related to economic development like promoting employment and training and establishing programs and services for economic development.

7.5 Culture and language

Section 7.5  outlines how decisions will be made in relation to culture and language and about cultural programs and services. For example, decisions related to:

  • Official language
  • Place names
  • Preserving Gwich’in culture and traditions

7.6 Early childhood education

Section 7.6 will describe decision-making and jurisdiction for programing and delivery of early childhood education.

Chapter 8: Settlement Lands

There are many aspects to lands and water management and Chapter 8 outlines the continued responsibilities that fall under the regional government (GTC). For example:

  • Issuing licences and permits for land and water use
  • Requirements for Environmental Assessment
  • Dealing with conflicting laws and policies about Settlement Lands between governments
Chapter 9: Implementation

Implementing self-government will happen over a few years and will require a number of tasks. Chapter 9 describes what will be included in the self-government implementation plan. It also describes the roles and responsibilities of the implementation committee and working group.

Chapter 10: Future self-government negotiations

Self-government is a process and as Gwich’in build capacity, they may take on more aspects of governance than originally negotiated in the self-government agreement. Chapter 10 describes how future self-government negotiations will take place. It describes the process the parties must use as well as timelines and responsibilities for negotiating.

Chapter 11: Review and amendment

Overtime, as Gwich’in communities evolve, there might be circumstances where the Parties need to review and make changes to the self-government agreement. Chapter 11 describes the process to make those changes.

Chapter 12: Approval of this Agreement in Principle

All negotiating parties need to give their approval on the agreement-in-principle and Chapter 14 outlines who can officially make approvals:

  • The GTC President and Vice President after a motion is passed by the Board of Directors
  • Each DGO President after motions are passed by community councils
  • The Minister of Executive and Indigenous Affairs on behalf of the GNWT
  • The Minister for Crown and Indigenous Relations and Norther Affairs on behalf of the federal government
Chapter 13: Ratification

Gwich’in need to vote in favor of the self-government agreement and there needs to be clear process in place for this to happen. Chapter 13 describes the processes and requirements for ratifying the self-government agreement such as:

  • Creating a ratification committee
  • Preparing a voters list
  • Voter information campaigns
  • The number of yes votes needed to adopt the self-government agreement
  • Process for how the self-government agreement will become a law in Canada
Chapter 14: General provisions

These are the general provisions or terms that the negotiating parties to the self-government agreement have agreed to. For example, terms include what the Self-government Agreement is in relation to other legal documents, its purpose, and the status of Gwich’in rights under the agreement. This chapter also outlines the core principles and objectives of the self-government agreement.

Schedule A: Definitions

Schedule A describes how words and expressions are defined and interpreted in the AiP. To avoid confusion and to make sure readers and negotiators clearly understand the document, important words and expressions that might have different meanings are explained. For example, in the AiP “Gwich’in community” means Aklavik, Tetlit Zheh, Inuvik, or Tsiigehtchic