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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 14:30 GMT
Canada signs Inuit autonomy plan
Inuit resident of Nunavik
The overwhelming majority of Nunavik residents are Inuit
Canadian officials have signed an agreement-in-principle which should lead to semi-autonomous status for a mainly-Inuit region of Quebec.

The deal would create a regional assembly and government with responsibility for education, health and transport.

The agreement was struck last year and should come into force by 2009.

It was signed by the governments of Canada and Quebec and by Inuit representatives.

Nunavik, which has 11,000 residents, would still legally be part of Quebec and would remain subordinate to the provincial legislature in Quebec City.

The pact "is at the heart of our desire to promote, as never before, the socio-economic development of the Inuit communities," said Quebec Premier Jean Charest.

"It aims to build an efficient government institution truly adapted to the needs of Nunavik."

The region is situated in the north of Quebec, between the 55th and 62nd N parallels and spans a territory of 660,000 sq km (255,000 sq miles) - larger than France.

Pita Aatami, president of the non-profit organization Makivik, expressed the hope for a "better Nunavik" and that the violence, suicides and drug abuse that have blighted the 14 Inuit villages in the region would be alleviated.

The agreement provides for a directly-elected 21-member assembly, with a five-member executive.

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