Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 482

  Commentary DEVOLUTION IN THE NORTHWEST TERRITORIES: PROGRESS OR POISON? Anthony Speca When the Northwest Territories achieved devolution of lands and resources from Ottawa in April, it was a historic moment in Canada’s political evolution. But a key test of devolution’s nation-building potential will be how well it supports real aboriginal-government partnership. On that score, there is cause for concern. On the first day of April, the citizens of Canada’s Northwest Territories (NWT) collectively took control over the land beneath their feet for the first time in their nearly 150-year history. Previously, federal ministers in Ottawa had the final say on land use and resource development there. Now territorial ministers in Yellowknife do. No less important, the NWT now shares with Ottawa the considerable royalties yielded by its natural wealth—oil, diamonds, rare earths, tungsten, base metals and more. With this ‘devolution’ of control, the NWT took a historic step in its political evolution within Canada. Although still a territory created and limited by federal statute, the NWT assumed powers typically reserved for provinces, which share in the Canadian Crown. As significant as it was locally, NWT devolution was also a nation-building event – and a sequel to Yukon devolution in 2003. Dr. Anthony Speca is a former senior policy official with the Government of Nunavut. He now consults on Arctic issues as Managing Principal of Polar Aspect. Follow him at