Another Review of John Goddard's Lubicon Book

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 20, 1991

Enclosed for your information is a copy of another review on John Goddard's Lubicon book.

THE EDMONTON SUN, Monday, November 18, 1991


by Vicky MacLean

In the midst of writing his shocking book THE LAST STAND OF THE LUBICON CREE, John Goddard decided to take a break from his dispiriting labors and visit the Malaysian island of Sarawak.

But some subjects are inescapable. In Sarawak, Goddard found a situation that eerily parallels Alberta's. He encountered a fast-dwindling tribe of aboriginal people being pushed off their land to make way of Japanese timber interest.

Colonialism may no longer star the British Empire and the United Fruit Company, but it's still going strong. Today, the big players are Asian timber barons and huge organizations like the World Bank. The victims haven't changed at all.

It wasn't the colonialism that shocked Goddard, whose journalistic travels have exposed him to some glaring examples of it. What bothered him was the realization that Canadian governments play the colonial game with distasteful zest.

His telling of the Lubicon story has a few heroes, several villains and a herd of dark horses.

It comes as no surprise that Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak is one of the heroes. Anyone who has witnessed his care for his people or his measured and thoughtful responses understands that he is a strong and purposeful leader.

Another, although lesser, hero of the story is Premier Don Getty. The premier's hands-on negotiating of the Grimshaw Agreement is one of the few bright spots of the story. Historians will probably see it as Getty's finest hour.

Apparently, the premier was goaded to action in his disgust over the handling of the Lubicon boycott of the Winter Olympics at Calgary.

The boycott was giving Alberta an international black eye and Getty knew speedy first aid was required to salvage the province's reputation. His anger carried him from a cabinet meeting to the nearest phone, from which he called Ominayak.

Although their dealings had roller coaster ups and downs, it was generally a fortuitous link. Had it been up to them alone, the Lubicon story might have reached a happier resolution.

But Getty and the chief were up against the record of the Lougheed administration and the Machiavellian machinations of Ottawa's Indian Affairs department. In the end, the opposition was too formidable and Getty eventually seemed to lose interest. Ominayak couldn't afford that luxury. He's still fighting.

If the Lubicon story is a cowboys-and-Indians story done as film noir, then former Premier Peter Lougheed surely wore the blackest of hats. Judging by the directions he gave his administration, Lougheed saw the Lubicons and other tribes as pesky impediments to progress. For a man who claims to love sports, his game lacked all sense of fair play.

Goddard's revelations about the Lougheed gang's handling of a caveat filed by seven Lesser Slave communities exemplify its policy. When the natives filed the claim to declare an interest in traditional hunting grounds, the government ordered the Register of Claims not to accept it. Not surprisingly, the parties ended up in court.

When it appeared the natives would win, the government passed retroactive laws forbidding such caveats. It was a perversion of democracy.

Other villains include federal hatchetman Bill McKnight, who was obviously given Indian Affairs for the same reason he was awarded the defence portfolio. McKnight was a cutter of losses. Unfortunately, in Indian Affairs, those losses were human, not technological.

Goddard's book has already touched nerves. On Oct. 25, a memo came down from Gary Wouters, the feds' regional director of Indian Affairs for Alberta. Its message was clear. Don't give John Goddard any information.

And the long plague of injustice to the Lubicons has infected municipal politics too. Mayor Jan Reimer recently risked her political neck defending them against the Daishowa lumber interests. I admire her courage, but I'm not yet sure if she was fighting in the appropriate arena.

All governments are under pressure to compete for global business. However, surely in forums like the "Commonwealth and the Francophone," a moral bottom line could be agreed upon. That line should be drawn at driving aboriginals off their land and substituting welfare lines for traplines.