European Letter criticizes Prime Minister Mulroney

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a letter to the editor of the Edmonton Journal regarding the continuing Lubicon tragedy. The letter is from a concerned citizen of Austria. Obviously Canadian Government propaganda is as transparent in Austria as in Canada.

Re-printed from THE EDMONTON JOURNAL, Saturday, September 7, 1991



As a member of an organization concerned about the human rights of aboriginal people, I have been monitoring the worsening plight of the Lubicon people since 1984. Recently I obtained a copy of a speech given by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on April 24 to the Asian Development Bank. Along with growing numbers of other Europeans, I am forcibly struck by the significant discrepancy between his verbal support for human rights in speeches to the international community and his government's oppression of aboriginal people.

In his remarks, he said:

"...The truth is that in a world where power is diffuse, economies are linked and problems are related, isolation delivers neither peace nor prosperity. The truth is, also, that the old distinction between "internal" and "external" matters is being eroded. The principle of a national sovereignty no longer automatically prevails over all other principles enshrined in the UN Charter and international law. A country's human rights practices are no longer a domestic issue; they have become an external matter of legitimate interest to all people. Democracy has become an external matter...

"...That means investing more faith in multilateral institutions and ensuring they have the resources they need -- legal, human and financial -- if they are to become the instruments of order we now say they are. That applies not least to the United Nations, the singular universal instrument of peace and security. If we want that body to work, not just talk, we must equip it to act, ask it to act, and expect it to act.

"...But (official development assistance given to Third World countries) itself cannot bring economic development. It requires sound domestic economic policies and the freedom of people to exercise their creativity and their capacity for enterprise."

Given the Mulroney government's well-documented treatment of the Lubicon people, these statements raise a number of basic questions:

*If "a country's human rights practices are no longer a domestic issue," then why did the Canadian government do everything to block the Lubicons from using the UN human rights committee to adjudicate Lubicon human rights complaints against Canada?

*Why did the Canadian government argue that the Lubicon complaint should not be heard by the UN committee because the human rights of the Lubicons are an "internal" Canadian matter?

*Why did the Canadian government deliberately distort, play down, dismiss and ultimately deny altogether, the UN human rights committee decision that Canada was in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its treatment of the Lubicons?

*Why did the Canadian government interfere in the democratic process of the Lubicon Lake nation by creating an artificial new Indian band (the Woodland Cree) and by manipulating the referendum on the proposed Woodland settlement agreement?

*Why does the Canadian government not allow the Lubicon people "the exercise their creativity and their capacity for enterprise?

As an Austrian forester, I am also very concerned about the related issue of the huge new Daishowa pulp mill in Peace River, to which the Alberta government has sold the trees from a huge 29,000-square-kilometre area which blankets the unceded traditional Lubicon territory.

From what I have seen with my own eyes it's clear that Canadian government has little concern for managing the forest as a renewable resource; what's being done with the forests in Canada is more like exploiting a non-renewable resource such as coal. How else can one understand construction of a $500-million government-subsidized 1,000 metric-tons-a-day Japanese-owned pulp mill without any kind of adequate environmental impact study?

What kind of economic policy is it to simply sell off natural resources for secondary processing elsewhere? That's not development of the Canadian economy, that's development of the Japanese economy.

Is it true that Daishowa is only paying $2 a cubic metre for softwood and only 28 cents a cubic metre for hardwood? Canadians should know that the stumpage fee in Austria for softwood (spruce/fir) is around $27 per cubic metre and that the stumpage fee for hardwood (beech) is about $22 dollars per cubic metre.

Lastly, there's a very real question about who owns the land traditionally used and occupied by the Lubicons. Normal practice legally, politically and historically, is that the resource rights can only be sold when title to the land is clear. In the Lubicon case, ownership of the land is, at the very least, contested.

It would only be fair to postpone logging and other resource exploitation activities in the traditional Lubicon area until a mutually satisfactory settlement of Lubicon land rights has been reached between the Lubicons and the Alberta and Canadian governments. These questions, inconsistencies, contradictions and facts pose a very real challenge to the international image which Mulroney seeks to create.

More and more people, not only at the UN, or associated with human rights organizations, or involved with the environmental movement, but average people in Europe, are becoming increasingly aware that it is not in the area of human rights where Mulroney is providing international leadership, but in the size of the discrepancy between his international human rights pronouncements and actions of his government.

Peter Schwarzbauer, Assistant Professor, Institute for Forestry, Industrial Economics and Economic Policies, Vienna, Austria