Two million square kilometers of land and water will be ceded from the federal government of Canada to that of Nunavut (North), marking the largest land transfer in the country’s history. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed the agreement on Thursday, January 18, allowing the local government of Nunavut to take control of the land in this resource-rich Arctic region.

“Our lands and resources are now in the hands of our people,” said Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok.

Created in 1999, this territory, which is almost four times the size of France, has deposits of gold, precious stones, minerals, rare earths, as well as oil and gas. And today, global warming makes the Arctic territory more accessible to mining and maritime transport. It is one of the most remote and least populated regions in the world with around 40,000 inhabitants, the vast majority of whom are Inuit.

“This is a place rich in culture, traditional knowledge, essential minerals and other resources we need to build tomorrow’s economy together,” said Justin Trudeau, referring to “an important moment in the ‘history of Nunavut’ and ‘in the history of the country’.

“Greater Prosperity”

After decades of negotiations, this agreement must be implemented over the next three years.

“With this increased control, you will have more say and you will experience greater prosperity,” the head of the Canadian government declared to Inuit representatives during a ceremony in Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. In addition to transferring responsibility for lands and resources to Nunavut, this territory gains the right to collect royalties.

In the 1960s, Ottawa began to gradually transfer responsibilities for health, education and social services to its Arctic territories (which do not have the same status as the provinces). Nunavut is the last territory, after the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, to obtain total control of its lands.