What follows is a copy of a letter made available to Arctic Circle by Travis Gee of Carleton University. The letter was written on August 12, 1991 by M. Chretien [at that time an opposition leader in Canada's federal government and presently Prime Minister of Canada] to Mr. Gee concerning the question of responsibility for the settlement of northern Quebec land claims should Quebec decide to separate.
Ottawa, Ontario August 12, 1991
Dear Mr. Gee:
Thank you for your letter of June 24, 1991 and the enclosed copy of your letter to the Prime Minister regarding the question of responsibility for the settlement of the Indian land claims within the province of Quebec should that province separate.
Your point is certainly interesting and is one that I have also raised. In my brief to the Commission on the Political and Constitutional Future of Quebec - more commonly known as the Belanger-Campeau Commission - I asked whether "the territory of Ungava, transferred to Quebec in 1912 by the Parliament of Canada, be treated as a territory, or as one of the assets which would enter into the 'compensation for assets negotiations' or as a territory that should be ceded to the aboriginal peoples who largely populated it in 1912 (analagous to the land claims negotiations in the North West Territories)?"
As the only leader of a federal party to address the Commission, this was one of several questions I put to the members. I also pointed out that dealing with this and other issues would be extremely difficult. Furthermore, it would be irresponsible to suggest that reaching agreement would be easy or quick. I have enclosed a copy of my brief to the Commission for your information.
It is imperative that the federal government recognize its vital responsibility to aboriginal peoples - a responsibility which cannot be abdicated under any circumstance. The federal government must be firm on this matter, particularly during this period of increased sensitivity regarding the relationship between aboriginals and the Quebec provincial government. As I said in a speech to the Aboriginal Forum at the Liberal Party Convention in June 1990, "I want to lead a national government that negotiates self-government in good faith and upholds the historic federal trust relationship rather than asking the provinces to take on responsibilities."
Again, thank you for your letter regarding this important matter.