Letter to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney by the National Chief Georges Erasmus


Retyped for your information is a copy of a letter recently sent to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney by the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Georges Erasmus replying to a communication by former Indian Affairs Minister Pierre Cadieux.



The Assembly of First Nations is the representative of Treaty Indians in Canada.


OFFICE OF THE NATIONAL CHIEF



National Indian Brotherhood

ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS





Ottawa Office: 47 Clarence Street, Suite 300

Ottawa, Ontario

K1N 9K1

TEL: (613) 236-0673

FAX: (613) 238-5780





March 20, 1990





The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney

Prime Minister of Canada

House of Commons

Centre Block, Room 309-S

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0A6



Dear Mr. Prime Minister:



On November 7, 1989, I wrote to you expressing my concerns in relation to the actions taken by your government regarding the formation of the Woodland Cree Indian Band. As I pointed out to you at that time, those actions represent an unconscionable attempt to undermine the integrity of the Lubicon Lake Nation. The sole purpose of this can only be seen to be that of subverting the Lubicons' claim and rights to the possession and benefits of their traditional homelands and resources.



In my letter to you, I requested that you take the initiative in this deplorable and shameful situation and institute a review to determine whether or not your former Minister of Indian Affairs has, in fact, properly discharged the fiduciary, moral and legal obligations which your government is responsible for in relation to this matter.



I have reviewed the letter from The Honourable Pierre Cadieux that was intended as a response to my earlier correspondence to you in this regard. That response was so one-sided and filled with blatant inaccuracies that it can only be considered to be intended as a means for misleading. I have no choice but to once again request that a public inquiry be initiated at this time.



Mr. Prime Minister, I am quite serious when I say that the response from your former Minister of Indian Affairs is no more than an attempt to misrepresent his role in these developments. All of the circumstances which I have related to you about these events are entirely supported by fact and documentary evidence that has been obtained from various sources, including the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.



For instance, your Minister states that he received an initial petition signed by persons from Cadotte Lake/Little Buffalo expressing their dissatisfaction with the Lubicon Lake Band.



Next, he asserts that he received a second petition from about "150 Native people, a number of whom were Lubicon Lake Band members", advising him of their desire to pursue their rights under Treaty #8 independent of the Lubicon Lake Band. These petitions appear to have been the catalyst upon which the INAC Minister began his campaign to raid the membership lists of a number of First Nations, including the Lubicon, in order to create the Woodland Cree Band.



With regard to the first petition, it appears that this correspondence came from non-Indian persons who are not in any way connected with the Lubicon Lake Nation. The question that must be asked is this, "Since when does the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs take action such as this upon a display of dissatisfaction from non-Indians in relation to an Indian Band?" I am sure that you will have to agree with me that this action is totally unprecedented and uncalled for, especially in relation to a First Nation that is deeply involved in on-going negotiations over land rights.



The second petition is fraudulent. This fact is borne out by the written admission from the individual who sent it, stating that he had signed 87 of the signatures himself. When contacted, many of the persons who had supposedly "signed" this document said that they had never seen it, nor had they given any consent for it to be signed on their behalf. Yet, your Minister saw fit to proceed with his vindictive assault against the elected leadership and composition of the Lubicon Nation based on this second petition, notwithstanding the fact that he knew right from the start that it was a misrepresentation.



Your Minister says that the motivation for his actions stemmed from the Canadian government's policy of attempting to resolve all outstanding claims pursuant to treaties. If this is the case, then what about all the previous claims made by other First Nations for the recognition and implementation of their rights pursuant to treaties?



There is no escaping the fact that many other First Nations have either been consistently ignored or forced to fight long and costly legal battles to have their treaty rights vindicated. Yet your Minister has considered it appropriate to go to such great lengths in this particular instance. Are we supposed to believe that the Minister has been moved by exclusively altruistic sentiments in this one circumstance? Why then not in relation to the other First Nations who have an even greater need?



The conspicuously selective manner in which the Minister chose to pursue that "policy" objective strongly supports the proposition that he did so only as a misguided and malicious attempt to prejudice the Lubicon Nations' rightful claims against the Canadian government for their traditional homelands and resources.



There are presently many other First Nations communities across Canada which have been trying to be recognized as Indian bands and alotted reserve lands by the federal government for a long time now. Some of these First Nations are: The Fort Fitzgerald Dene and the Grand Cache people of Alberta; The Beaverhouse Indian Community; The Hornepayne Indian Community; and The Moosonee First Nation. These latter three First Nations are all situated within the Province of Ontario.



Why haven't any of these long-established First Nations ever been accorded the same type of consideration that the Minister has so readily provided in this instance? The only reason that one could assume is that this was done in order to try to weaken the claim of the Lubicon Lake Nation.



If there is another supportable reason for this differential approach, then it would be in yours and Canada's interest to make it known as soon as possible. Otherwise, the impression that will subsist in the minds of Canadians and persons of the greater world community will be that of a deliberate and immoral act of overt oppression on the part of your government against the Lubicon Lake Nation.



Mr. Prime Minister, the former Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has stated that he did not tamper with the membership lists of the Lubicon Lake Nation. This is a lie. The AFN is in possession of documentation acquired pursuant to the Access to Information Act which clearly shows that such tampering did in fact occur. Moreover, the former Minister contravened his own guidelines and stated policies in so doing without first consulting and receiving the consent of the several First Nations thereby affected. These guidelines and policy statements are also in our possession at this time.



After reviewing the above facts, I am sure that you will only be able to reach the same conclusion that I have regarding this situation: that something very WRONG and immoral has been done by your ex-Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs against the Lubicon Lake Nation.



My contentions are further supported by the many other established First Nations which have made public their condemnation of the former Minister's actions and also their steadfast refusal to recognize the Woodland Cree Band as a legitimate First Nation. As you may be aware, the Woodland Cree are in no way a community as such, but rather, their membership roles are made up of persons from numerous Indian Bands and other communities and these persons are currently residing throughout the whole northwest quarter of the Province of Alberta! This is obviously NOT a community in any sense of the word.



I must once again reiterate that you are the sole person ultimately responsible for the actions of the Canadian government. Whatever the eventual outcome of this matter may be, you have a central role and duty to discharge in these events, and the manner in which you exercise your authority to meet those burdens will certainly be measured against Canada's stated commitment to human rights and justice.



Therefore, I believe that it is most important that an immediate public inquiry into these matters be initiated by your office in order that these issues may be reviewed in a manner consistent with the principles of morality and natural justice. I look forward to an early reply from your office in relation to this extremely urgent matter.



Sincerely yours,



THE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS



Georges Erasmus

National Chief



c.c. Chief Bernard Ominayak, Lubicon Lake Nation

Maxwell Yalden, Canadian Human Rights Commission

The Honourable Thomas Siddon, Minister, INAC

The Honourable Donald Getty, Premier of Alberta

All AFN Chiefs

Robert E. Skelly, MP

Ethel Blondin, MP

Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs

United Nations Human Rights Committee