Letter in Support of Lubicon to Joe Clark

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
FAX: 403-629-3939

Mailing address:
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
FAX: 403-437-0719

November 3, 1991

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a letter on the Lubicon situation to the Federal Minister responsible for Constitutional Affairs from the Provincial Superior of the Missionary Oblates.

October 04, 1991, letter to Joe Clark, Minister for Constitutional Affairs, from Jacques Johnson O.M.I., Provincial Superior, Missionary Oblates

Dear Honorable Minister Joe Clark,

I'm writing to you as Provincial Superior of the Missionary Oblates of Grandin Province (Alberta and NWT) to express grave concerns I have regarding the present situation of the Lubicon Indians in Northern Alberta and the possible repercussions this deteriorating situation may have on the future of our country. I feel morally obligated to write to you also because of the Oblate Missionaries' long standing commitment to the Aboriginal peoples. Having been a missionary in Northern Alberta myself for several years and having become well acquainted with the Lubicons and their plight I feel that I must support their just claims. I also feel that I must speak as a concerned citizen who doesn't want your efforts to keep this country together to fail.

To put it simply, with the Lubicon situation we are sitting on a powder keg. The Federal Government's policies of these last few years have forced the Lubicons into a corner. The negotiations are stalled because of a "take it or leave it approach" by Federal negotiators. The Lubicon leadership cannot responsibly "take it". It would be condemning their people to a life of welfare for the foreseeable future. Indeed, since the petroleum industry has begun exploiting their land for some ten years now, the Lubicons saw their way of life deteriorate so that presently an estimated 95% of that population cannot survive without Government handouts.

Meanwhile the Provincial Government is leasing out to Daishowa or its subsidiaries the Lubicons' unceded land. These forests, 4,000 square miles in size, have traditionally been the bread and butter of the Lubicons through hunting, fishing and trapping. It seems clear that this fall Daishowa or its subsidiaries will begin clear-cutting these forests. The Lubicons have no options but to defend by whatever means at their disposal what is rightfully theirs through aboriginal rights. They have indicated that they will resort to violent means if they have to and their resolve is firm. They feel that if the trees go they are finished as a people. The leadership of the Lubicons have their backs against the wall. They have no options left. Indeed all the options, Mr. Clark, are on the side of the Government.

Now is the moment for the Government to do the honorable thing and get back to the negotiating table. Fifty-two years of frustrating waiting is unacceptable and demeaning. Isn't it ironic that on the eve of entering into the most important negotiations this country has ever known one small band is still waiting for a negotiated and fair treatment from the Government. If the Lubicons are forced to defend their land with violent means because the Government has not acted responsibly how do you think the Aboriginal leaders of this country who are not well disposed toward your constitutional package are going to react to the desperate measures of this small but determined band? There will be such a hue and cry among the Aboriginal peoples right across the country that important constitutional negotiations may well be side-tracked because of a new crisis that nobody wants or needs.

You have done much in recent months to bring about hope in this nation. Are you willing to see all this good will jeopardized by the inertia, self-righteousness and complacency of people in the Department of Indian Affairs?

To set up a Royal Commission dealing with centuries of injustice suffered by the Aboriginal Peoples while continuing to oppress this courageous group of Cree Indians in Alberta does not bode well fro the success of the Commission. You might at least place the Lubicons on the fast track to resolve this long-standing issue of land claims. How can the Canadian Government with any degree of credibility on one hand ask the Royal Commission to make concrete recommendations for a land base for Aboriginal Peoples focussing on economics, spiritual attachment and environmental protection (of. terms of reference), and at the same time proceed with the destruction of Lubicon land and the Lubicon people?

Too much is at stake here: 1. the future of a desperate band of Indian people with their backs against the wall; 2. the promising proposals tabled by your government for a new Canada; and 3. the image of Canada abroad.

Mr. Clark, this is not a time for more confrontation or violence; it is a time rather for the healing of the land. You are able to make a difference in this issue. You have the vision and the clout to resolve this long-festering sore. Now is the time to act. I hope and pray that you will have the courage needed to resolve this crisis. If you do not, then there is no hope for the Lubicons nor much hope left for us.

Sincerely yours,

Jacques Johnson