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Northwest Territories: Government

The N.W.T. government has the same general responsibilities as provincial governments: taxation, municipal bodies, education, wildlife, health and hospital services, forest management, housing, social services and economic development.

As a Territory the NWT does not have full provincial status, although it achieved a style of government similar to that of the provinces in 1979. The Canadian government retains administrative control over water, land and forestry and the development of all non-renewable resources (i.e. minerals, oil and gas).

The issue of settling Aboriginal land claims in the N.W.T. emerged in the 1970s. In 1984 a final agreement was reached with the Inuvialuit of the western Arctic; it provided some 2500 people with 91 000 km2 of land, financial compensation, social development funding, hunting rights and a greater role in wildlife management, conservation and environmental protection. In 1992, the Gwich'in settled a comprehensive land claim that provided 22,422 km2 of land in the Yukon; subsurface rights; a share in the resource royalties derived from the Mackenzie River Valley; tax-free capital transfers; hunting rights; a greater role in the management of wildlife, land and the environment; and the right of first refusal on a variety of activities related to wildlife. The settling of northern land claims sets the stage for increased economic activity in which all can share and have a voice. However, development, which is welcome and necessary for economic prosperity, will need to be managed so as not to threaten the fragile Arctic ecosystem and the traditional lifestyles of the northern peoples.

The year 1993 saw the conclusion of the Nunavut land claims agreement, the largest land claim ever settled in Canada. The agreement divided the NWT east and west and gave the Inuit of the eastern Arctic control of more than 350 000 km2 of land. In April 1999 the former Northwest Territories was divided, creating the new territory of Nunavut.

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