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NWT signs deal to share resource royalties with aboriginals

YELLOWKNIFE - The Northwest Territories has signed a deal to share resource royalties with aboriginal governments, saying it's the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so.

"We're going to work very co-operatively and collaboratively with the aboriginal governments," N.W.T. Premier Bob McLeod said Thursday.

The deal involves the territorial government and five aboriginal groups. Negotiations are under way with another two groups to bring them on board.

A number of aboriginal governments exist in the N.W.T. and other land claims are under negotiation. Those governments have significant powers over their own land and water. Sharing the wealth produced from them was a big part of Ottawa's recent agreement to grant the territory province-like powers.

That deal guarantees the N.W.T.'s aboriginal governments will get up to 25 per cent of all the territory's royalty revenue. The territorial budget earlier this month predicted that amount will be about $15 million this year.

Thursday's resource deal also creates a council for co-operation between the territorial and aboriginal governments on resource and land management.

McLeod said aboriginal governments are the largest fee simple landowners in the N.W.T. and the council will allow the groups to co-ordinate their activities with those of the territorial government.

"We'll work together very much like the European Union model," said McLeod. "Each of the different governments will have authority and responsiblity over their own lands, so together we'll manage the whole territory."

Resource royalty sharing has been on the wish list for many aboriginal groups in Canada — especially in Alberta, where it has long been sought by First Nations in the oilsands region.

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