Implementing the Devolution Agreement


The Government of the Northwest Territories is now responsible for managing public land, water and resources in the NWT. Devolution of these responsibilities was the last major transfer of powers from the federal government to the territorial government. The GNWT mirrored 26 federal acts and regulations governing public land, water and resource management in the NWT. All were enacted as territorial legislation on April 1, 2014. This ensured a smooth transition of authorities and public service delivery on the transfer date. GNWT legislation, policies, and programs can be altered to meet Northern needs and reflect Northern priorities.

Legislative Process for Devolution

Under the Devolution Agreement, the GNWT committed to “substantially mirror” Canada’s statutes and regulations that were repealed or made inapplicable to all land, except federally retained land, transferring to the GNWT through devolution. The mirroring exercise means that the new GNWT laws address the same matters, in substantially the same way, as federal laws did before devolution. Mirroring limited changes to addressing issues such as outdated language and applying GNWT drafting standards, and ensured that there are no legislative gaps or overlaps between the GNWT and Canada. The parties to the Devolution Agreement entered into a Protocol for Review of Devolution Legislation. Under this protocol, all parties had the opportunity to review and comment on this legislation before it was introduced in the Legislative Assembly. Twenty-six federal acts and regulations were mirrored as territorial legislation. The GNWT also established three new Acts and made functional amendments to GNWT regulations.

Importance of this Process in the Short and Long Term

In the short term, this process transferred responsibility for managing public land, water and resources to the territorial government, without changing the substance of the existing federal legislation. In the long term, the Government of the Northwest Territories has the responsibility for this legislation and is able to make changes to the legislation if a need is identified, just as with any other GNWT legislation. Please visit the Legislative Assembly’s website to learn more about the legislative process.

Mirroring Legislation

“Mirroring” is the process of preserving the substance and intent of existing federal acts and regulations, changing only what is necessary to make them functional in the NWT. For example if the federal legislation referred to Finance Canada, the mirrored GNWT legislation refers instead to the GNWT’s Department of Finance. Mirroring was an important and practical first step to allow a timely and seamless transfer of legislative authorities and ensure there were no interruptions in the delivery of public services during the transition.

Delegated Authorities

Although the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA) remains federal legislation, devolution provided the GNWT with significant new delegated authorities under the Act – authorities previously exercised by the federal Minister.

The Devolution Agreement states that Canada shall delegate to a territorial Minister the following functions of the federal Minister under the MVRMA:

  • Approval of Type A water licenses

  • Approval of securities posted for land use permits

  • Designation of inspectors

  • Monitoring of cumulative impacts

  • Environmental audits

  • Certain functions relating to environmental assessment processes:

    1. Receipt and distribution of reports from the Mackenzie Valley Environmental
      Impact Review Board (MVEIRB)

    2. Participation in and distribution of decisions in consideration of those reports

In addition to the delegations outlined in the Devolution Agreement, the federal Minister has made the following additional delegations:

  • Collection of Administrative monetary penalties, including penalties for violations in relation to development certificates

  • Ministerial decisions on time-limit extensions (except extensions granted through Governor-in-Council for development on Commissioner’s or private lands)

  • Designation of inspectors and inspectors of development certificates

  • Approval of Type B water licenses with public hearings

  • Regional studies

Note: Regulations that outline how administrative monetary penalties and development certificates operate are still under development by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Delegations related to these initiatives will not be active until the Regulations have been implemented.

Devolution Legislation

For a complete list of Acts and Regulations click here.