The Lubicon Archive

The following are mailouts of the Lubicon Nation and related materials. Over the years some of the following materials have been distributed electronically through the NATIVE-L mailing list and various other distribution systems. Thanks, also, to Rosemary Brown for adding a bunch more background to this document.


The Lubicon Lake Indian Nation is a small indigenous society of some 500 people who have lived in the area north of Lesser Slave Lake in what is now the north central part of the Canadian province of Alberta. Isolated and remote until the end of the 1970’s when the Alberta government completed construction of an all-weather road into Lubicon Territory for the purpose of opening up the area for resource exploitation, Lubicon society has since come under siege by powerful interests who would wipe the Lubicons from the face of the earth in order to have unrestricted access to valuable Lubicon natural resources.

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The Lubicon are by-passed by Treaty 8 negotiators. As a result they never sign treaty, never cede title to Lubicon Territory, don’t receive treaty benefits and a Lubicon reserve is not established.



A treaty party enters Lubicon Territory for the first time. The Lubicon are recognized as a distinct indigenous society with land rights. A reserve is agreed and set aside but World War II intervenes and plans to survey and establish a Lubicon reserve are postponed.



The province asks the federal government if the federal government is going to proceed with establishment of the agreed Lubicon reserve. Federal officials decide that they don’t want to establish the agreed Lubicon reserve in Lubicon Territory which they deem to be “administratively inconvenient” due to isolation. They try to talk the Lubicons into accepting a reserve outside of Lubicon Territory but closer to the beaten path. The Lubicons refuse to leave Lubicon Territory and federal officials undertake to erase the Lubicons as a recognized indigenous society using a number of nefarious techniques including enfranchisement by fraud and transferring the names of Lubicon members to the membership lists of Bands in the surrounding area without their knowledge or permission.


The provincial government begins building an all-weather road from Peace River into the traditional lands of the Lubicon to facilitate resource extraction. The Lubicons attempt to initiate negotiations with the federal government to negotiate a settlement of unceded Lubicon land rights but neither level of Canadian government is prepared to talk with the Lubicons deeming the Lubicons to be “merely squatters on provincial Crown land with no land rights”.



The Lubicon attempt to file a caveat under provincial land registration legislation putting the resource companies on notice that title to unceded Lubicon land is contested. The province refuses to accept and file the Lubicon caveat as provincial law at the time requires and the Lubicons go to court asking the court to order the provincial government to follow provincial law and file the Lubicon caveat.

The province asks the court for a postponement of the hearing of the Lubicon action pending the outcome of a similar case in the NWT. The case in the NWT goes against the Indians but the judgement reads that the court would have found for the Indians and ordered the government to file the caveat if the law in the NWT had been written the same as in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Alberta government goes back to court and asks for another postponement of the hearing of the case during which time they rewrite the operative legislation making the changes retroactive to before the time Lubicons initiated the legal action. The courts dismiss the Lubicon action as no longer having any basis in law.



The all-weather road is completed into unceded Lubicon Territory allowing commencement of massive resource exploitation activities by dozens of oil companies.

The Lubicons go back to court asking the court to affirm that they retain unceded aboriginal land rights and order financial compensation for damages. They file their action in the federal court because Indian land rights are a matter of exclusive federal jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution.

Both levels of Canadian government and the oil companies argue that the Lubicons are before the wrong court – that the action should be heard by the provincial court since the lands at issue are within provincial boundaries. The court finds that the Lubicons can sue the federal government and PetroCanada in the federal court but have to sue the Alberta government and other offending oil companies in provincial court.

The Lubicons therefore initiate two aboriginal rights actions, one against the federal government and PetroCanada in federal court; and another against the Alberta government and the other offending oil companies in provincial court. Lawyers for all sides agree that it will take years to adjudicate Lubicon land rights.


Over 400 oil wells are drilled within a 15 mile radius of the Lubicon community of Little Buffalo Lake. Moose killed for food drop from over 200 a year to 19. Income from trapping drops from an average of over $5,000 a year to under $400 a year. Dependence on welfare soars from under 10% to over 90%. It is very clear that the Lubicons cannot await the outcome of a 20 year long aboriginal land rights legal battle to protect their rights and interests.



The Lubicon apply to the courts for an emergency injunction asking the courts to freeze resource exploitation activity in unceded Lubicon Territory pending settlement of Lubicon land rights. The judge denies the injunction finding, despite uncontested evidence to the contrary, that the Lubicons had not demonstrated that they had anything left to lose if the injunction were not granted. Before this judge was a provincial court judge, he was the head lawyer for an energy corporation with controlling interests in one of the involved oil companies.

The Lubicons appeal the decision to the Alberta court of Appeal where the Chief Justice puts himself at the head of a three man panel to hear the appeal. Before he was the Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Appeal, this judge was the lawyer for the family of then Provincial Premier Peter Lougheed. He had given Premier Lougheed his first job as a lawyer in the Calgary law firm of McGillvary, Fenerty and Robertson. Roberson was Jack Robertson, head oil company lawyer on the case.

Another of the three Alberta Court of Appeal judges hearing the Lubicon appeal had been the head of the ruling Alberta Progressive Conservative political party before handing over the reins of the party to Premier Lougheed.

The Alberta Court of Appeal also denies the Lubicon application for an emergency injunction freezing resource exploitation activity pending settlement of Lubicon land rights finding that the Lubicons would be “able to restore the wilderness with money damages” if they could ever get a Canadian court to agree that they owned the land.

The Lubicons appeal the decision of the Alberta Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada where the presiding judge – another ex-oil company lawyer – declines to hear the appeal. After declining to hear the appeal, this judge retires from the Supreme Court and is appointed to the board of a major energy company with controlling interests in one of the involved oil companies.


A fact-finding mission by the World Council of Churches concludes that the “Alberta Government and dozens of multinational oil companies have taken actions (in Lubicon Territory) that could have genocidal consequences.”



Lubicon health problems related to resource exploitation activity soar including cancers of all kinds, a tuberculosis epidemic affecting a third of the Lubicon population, reproduction problems which resulted in 19 stillbirths out of 21 pregnancies in 21 months, skin rashes among Lubicon children so severe as to cause permanent scarring, near-epidemic asthma and other serious respiratory problems. These are the kinds of problems the Lubicons are to fix with money damages if they can ever get a Canadian court to agree that they own land that they’ve never ceded to anybody in any legally or historically recognized way.



The federal Minister of Indian Affairs appoints ex-federal Justice Minister and BC Supreme Court judge E. Davie Fulton to conduct a formal inquiry into the Lubicon situation. Mr. Fulton conducts an 18 month inquiry and then files a discussion paper with recommendations largely supportive of Lubicon settlement positions. The Alberta government refuses to discuss Mr. Fulton’s recommendations and the federal government effectively fires him.


Lubicon announce boycott of the 1988 Winter Olympics and specifically the main cultural event – an exhibition of North American Indian artifacts organized by the Calgary Glenbow Museum. The exhibit was originally titled “Forget Not My World” and it was sponsored by some of the same oil companies that were busy working to relegate the Lubicons and Lubicon society to no more than museum exhibits. One of the supporters of the exhibit was quoted in a recent book as saying that he “preferred to see Indians in display cases rather than in boardrooms making policy”.


The United Nations Human Rights Committee agrees to hear a Lubicon complaint against Canada under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concluding, after four years of reviewing the evidence, that the Lubicons could not achieve effective legal or political redress within Canada. The Committee also instructed Canada “to take interim measures of protection to avoid irreparable damage to…the members of the Lubicon Lake Band”.


The Supreme Court of Canada makes a decision that those who wish to adjudicate aboriginal land rights within provincial borders have to do so in the provincial courts -- despite the fact that only the federal government is constitutionally empowered to deal with Indian land rights in Canada. This decision renders the Lubicon aboriginal land rights action before the federal courts moot. The Lubicons move to add the federal government to the Lubicon provincial action.

The federal government argues against being added to the provincial action taking the position that the provincial courts have no jurisdiction over the federal government. The provincial courts agree with the result that there was then not a single court in Canada prepared to hear a Lubicon aboriginal rights action against the Government of Canada despite the fact that only the Government of Canada is constitutionally empowered to deal with Indian land rights in Canada.

Lubicon withdraw from all actions before the Canadian courts and establish passport control at all points of entry into Lubicon Territory. After a week the provincial government obtains an ex parte injunction from the provincial courts to remove Lubicon passport control. An ex parte injunction is one where the other party is not informed of the application and therefore has no possibility of making representations.

Lubicon passport control is dismantled by the RCMP and those involved are arrested. Alberta Premier Getty asks for a meeting with Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak to discuss the situation. Chief Ominayak agrees on the condition that those arrested at Lubicon passport control are released.

Premier Getty agrees to transfer up to 95 square miles of land back to federal jurisdiction for purposes of establishing a Lubicon reserve if requested to do so by the federal government. Land settlement negotiations begin the federal government in December of 1988.


In January of 1989 the Federal government tables a surprise “take-it-or-leave-it” offer that makes no provision for the Lubicons to once again become economically self-sufficient. It is rejected by the Lubicons and federal officials immediately commence an international public relations campaign entitled “Greed not Need” designed to discredit the Lubicons. They also undertake an effort to try and overthrow duly elected Lubicon leadership using a man with Lubicon ties who’d contacted them about a provision of Treaty 8 that provides reserve land apart from everybody else called land in severalty.

The man’s mother is a Lubicon, his father a non-Indian. He was born in a small isolated community east of Lubicon Territory. He mother left his father and moved in with a Lubicon man for a few years before leaving Lubicon Territory permanently with her son.

Federal officials tell the man they can’t deal with him as an individual since aboriginal land rights are held in common but if he would work with them to organize the overthrow of duly elected Lubicon Chief and Council, and help them replace duly elected Chief and Council with more tractable Lubicon leadership, that they’d work with him to get land in severalty. Together they then commence to contact Indians from across northern Alberta, who’d earlier been removed from the membership lists of half-a-dozen northern Alberta aboriginal societies, and offer to reinstate them if they work with federal officials to overthrow duly elected Lubicon leadership. Those who agree are first put back on the membership list of the society from which they’d been removed and then transferred, without Lubicon knowledge or agreement, to the Lubicon membership list.

When the effort to overthrow duly elected Lubicon leadership fails, federal officials hobble this group of disparate individuals into a new pretend Indian Band called the Woodland Cree Band. They select a lawyer to represent this new pretend Band, pay the lawyer, and then negotiate a settlement agreement with this government selected and paid lawyer. They then claim that the Lubicons no longer retain unceded aboriginal land rights because people who supposedly have “equal rights “to Lubicon Territory have ceded those rights.


The United Nations Human Rights Committee finds Canada in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights over its treatment of the Lubicon people. The federal Indian Affairs Minister responds by claiming falsely that the Committee found the Lubicon compliant “totally without substance” and by claiming that any obligation the Government of Canada had to the Lubicons was “more than met” by the government’s 1989 “take-it-or-leave-it” settlement offer.



The Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review Public Hearings and related documents


There are two more rounds of Lubicon land negotiations. In each case government negotiators table repackaged versions of the 1989 “take-it-or- leave-it” offer dressed up for public relations purposes using such techniques as characterizing a 1992 offer as an “enriched” version of the 1989 offer without making provision for the impact of inflation. When the impact of inflation is taken into account, the numbers are actually even less adequate. More to the point, all of these offers are based simply on provision of normal Canadian government programs and services for Indians irrespective of land rights – programs and services neither designed nor intended to achieve economic self-sufficiency.








The last round of Lubicon settlement negotiations breaks down when federal negotiators take the position that they have no mandate to negotiate long-standing and pre-agreed settlement items including recognition of self-government and financial compensation.



In October of 2005 the Lubicons make another submission to the UH Human Rights Committee pointing out that 15 years had passed, that resource exploitation activity in unceded Lubicon Territory has continued unhindered to wreak irreparable damage to Lubicon lands and Lubicon people, and that no “interim measures of protection to avoid irreparable damage to… the members of the Lubicon Lake Band” had ever been taken. After revisiting the situation, and after considering Canada’s response to the Lubicon submission, the Committee finds:

“The UN Human Rights Committee is concerned that land claim negotiations between the Government of Canada and the Lubicon Lake Band are currently at an impasse. It is also concerned that the land of the Band continues to be compromised by logging and large-scale oil and gas extraction, and regrets that the State party (Canada) has not provided information on this specific issue.
“The State party should make every effort to resume negotiations with the Lubicon Lake Band, with a view to finding a solution which respects the rights of the Band under the Covenant (on Civil and Political Rights), as already found by the Committee. It should consult with the Band before granting licences for economic exploitation of the disputed land, and ensure that in no case such exploitation jeopardizes the rights recognized under the Covenant.”


In May of 2006 the Lubicons make a submission to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Lubicons point out that the ESCR Committee called upon Canada in 1998 “to take concrete and urgent steps to restore and respect an Aboriginal land and resource base adequate to achieve a sustainable Aboriginal economy and culture”. After reviewing the situation, and after considering Canada’s response, the Committee finds:

“The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights strongly recommends that the State party (Canada) resume negotiations with the Lubicon Lake Band, with a view to finding a solution to the claims of the Band that ensures the enjoyment of their rights under the (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee also strongly recommends the State party (Canada) conduct effective consultation with the Band prior to the grant of licences for socio-economic purposes in the disputed land, and to ensure that such activities do not jeopardize the rights recognized under the (International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)”.

In September of 2006 Canada appeals earlier decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee arguing that Canada made an offer to the Lubicons that Canada considered fair and reasonable, that Canada “cannot compel the Lubicon Lake Cree to accept the Government of Canada’s settlement offer”, and that consequently there is consequently nothing further Canada can do. After reviewing the situation, and considering the Lubicon response, the Committee rejected Canada’s appeal as follows:

“While noting the complexity of the issues raised by both parties, the Committee observes that they are still not in agreement on an appropriate remedy and urges the State party (Canada) to resume, without further delay, negotiations with a view to finding a solution to (Lubicon) claims in conformity with the Covenant.”


Special UN Rapporteur on Housing Miloon Kothari conducts a mission to Canada to examine, among other things, Aboriginal housing conditions. During his mission Mr. Kothari conducts an on-site visit to the Lubicon community of Little Buffalo Lake. His preliminary observations to the Canadian government include the following statements:

“…during his visit to the Lubicon Lake Nation , the Special Rapporteur could witness how families still live without access to potable water and sanitation in appalling living conditions. He also noted the destructive impact of oil extraction activities that continue to lead to loss of lands and the asphyxiation of livelihoods and traditional practices.
“In line with UN treaty body recommendations, the Special Rapporteur calls for a moratorium on all oil and extractive activities in the Lubicon Region until a settlement is reached with the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation. The Federal Government should resume negotiation with the Lubicon Lake Nation consistent with the Human Rights instruments including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”


TransCanada Pipeline applies to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to build a huge new gas pipeline through Lubicon Territory claiming “no objections were raised in extensive consultations with landowners, native communities and other interested stakeholders”.

The Lubicon Nation applies for intervenor status at the AUC hearings pointing out that the Lubicon people repeatedly made clear to TransCanada that the Lubicon people would oppose construction of this new jumbo pipeline unless and until representatives of TransCanada agree to respect unceded Lubicon land rights and answer questions Lubicon questions regarding pipeline construction and operation prior to making application to a provincial regulatory agency.

TransCanada Pipelines refuses to recognize Lubicon land rights saying that it has “no obligation to address or resolve this issue”.