Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
July 2, 1991
Enclosed for your information is a copy of a newspaper article on election of Ovide Mercredi as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
In his remarks Chief Mercredi specifically cited Lubicon Lake as a case where all institutional redress has been exhausted and civil disobedience is consequently justified.
re-printed without permission from THE WINDSPEAKER, June 21, 1991
MILITANTS WON'T SET AGENDA, VOWS ASSEMBLY'S NEW CHIEF
By Amy Santoro
Windspeaker Staff Writer
Canada's newly-elected top Indian chief says he won't allow militant factions to take control of the national agenda.
Ovide Mercredi, a Manitoba Cree elected grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations June 12, said he "won't be involved in a campaign for civil disobedience so troublemakers can control it -- I don't trust troublemakers."
Mercredi stressed he doesn't advocate violence as a means for Natives to fight for their rights but rather he supports civil disobedience that's "morally justified".
Civil disobedience can't involve the threat or use of violence or the destruction of property and it must be controlled by the chief and council, Mercredi told WINDSPEAKER.
If disruptive behavior meets Mercredi's "program of civil disobedience", then "I'll be there with them".
Mercredi, who gained national recognition last year during the Oka crisis and the death of the Meech Lake accord, cited the situation of the Lubicon Lake Indian band in Northern Alberta as a struggle he considers morally justified.
The Lubicons have struggled for over 50 years for a land-claim settlement.
"When all democratic means to get attention or justice have been exhausted and government won't listen, then people have two choices. They can keep fighting for their rights or give up and let government ignore them. It's my view there's too much pain in our lives already to give up. It's better to stand up and fight for our rights but the way we do it is important. Civil disobedience just to get television attention to my mind is going to be destructive."
The six-way race to succeed Georges Erasmus was tough. After candidates Bill Wilson and Neil Sterritt threw their support behind Mercredi he came out in front of Phil Fontaine to capture victory.
Mercredi said his leadership will focus on solutions because "I don't have to raise anybody's awareness of the problems. Georges (Erasmus) has done that for me. Now I have to take that next step to find solutions to our needs."
A "fundamental priority" for Mercredi is "to find a way of creating a better balance in our relationship with Canadian governments. That means implementation of treaty rights, constitutional reform, recognition of the right to self-government and the protection of our distinct society," said Mercredi.
In order for the AFN to build more credibility, said Mercredi, it must deal with people's issues "not for them but with them so communities better organize around issues important to them."
Mercredi, an advocate of the abolition of the Indian Act and the department of Indian Affairs, said he has a "simple message" for Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon: "Do not interfere in Indian unity. Mind your own business and do the best job you can do for us."
The AFN represents Canada's 500,000 status Indians.