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Realizing Indigenous Law in Co-Management

Arngna'naaq, Killulark; Bourassa, Heather; Couturier, Don; Kaluraq, Kaviq; Panchyshyn, Kelly





A policy paper written by 2018-2019 Jane Glassco Northern Fellows. Co-management boards (“the Boards”); the governance structures through which Indigenous and non-Indigenous governments jointly manage lands and resources in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon, are a bittersweet addition to the northern governance landscape. For some, the Boards enable Indigenous groups to effectively participate in lands and resource management. Over time, the Boards have evolved to serve regional needs well. Yet their ability to transform governance in a manner that reflects Indigenous sources of law and culture is limited. The statutes that give them life and perhaps the culture instilled in them is potentially to blame. Final decision-making authority often rests with the responsible minister, and local decisions can be circumvented. The minister also has the ability to direct the Boards through binding policy direction. This process usually follows the well-worn path of western bureaucracy. Our intention is not to deny the utility of the Boards in their current form, but rather to interrogate how the lessons of Indigenous legal traditions might adjust and improve how they operate. The Boards have been operating for several decades – now is the time to reflect on their use of Indigenous legal traditions, discuss pathways of potential change, and reaffirm the inclusion of Land Claim implementation objectives. Growing awareness of Indigenous law revitalization presents an opportunity to address apparent imbalances in legal perspectives and enhance co-management systems through Indigenous laws and traditions. We offer three recommendations aimed at entrenching Indigenous law in co-management decision-making to more equitably balance the world views between Indigenous peoples and Canadian governments.

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