Globe & Mail Book Review - The Last Stand Of The Lubicon

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

December 2, 1991

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a newspaper article on the new Lubicon book by John Goddard.

THE TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL, Thursday, November 28, 1991


By Rudy Platiel

Native Affairs Reporter

Canada rewrote history and "lied outright" to the United Nations about its handling of the Lubicon Indian claim, a new book about the Alberta band's 50-year struggle for a reserve says.

John Goddard says in THE LAST STAND OF THE LUBICON CREE, which is to be launched officially today, that Canada's response in 1989 to a Lubicon complaint to the UN is contradicted by a chronology he obtained from the federal negotiators who prepared it.

Goddard, a writer who has followed the Lubicon case since 1984, says the UN human-rights committee -- misled by Canada's submission -- tabled an "ambiguous ruling" on the Lubicons' complaint about their treatment.

The UN committee said that "historical inequities" and more recent developments "threaten the way of life and culture of the Lubicon and constitute a violation of Article 27" of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "so long as they continue."

But the committee also said that Canada was proposing to rectify the situation with "a remedy the committee deems appropriate."

However, negotiations on the Lubicon claim fell apart when Ottawa presented "a take-it-or-leave-it" offer around the end of 1988. The Indian Affairs department subsequently created and formally recognized a new "Woodland Cree" band composed of some dissident Lubicons and Indians from other areas who had a claim to the territory.

Church groups condemned the creation of the new band as a tactic to undermine the Lubicon leadership. But Ottawa negotiated a settlement with the Woodland band.

The current government treatment of the Lubicon is "just history repeating itself," Goddard said in an interview.

His book, which is published by Douglas & McIntyre, traces 50 years of federal treatment of the Lubicon Indians from the 1940s when they were promised reserve land because they had been missed in the settlement of an 1899 treaty.

However, Malcolm McCrimmon, a Indian Affairs department official, arbitrarily struck hundreds of Lubicon Indians off the band list in an apparent attempt to save the government money for the war effort.

Many who lost their status were forced to leave the Indian community where they were born and raised. In some cases families were split between those recognized as Indians and those not and orphans were "wrenched from their adoptive families."

McCrimmon's actions provoked an outcry and two judicial inquiries in the 1940s, both of which condemned the cuts. But instead of being censured, McCrimmon was put in charge of implementing the recommendations of the last inquiry and he was eventually promoted.

The majority of those arbitrarily cut from the list never regained their status and the promised reserve land was never provided, Goddard's book says.

The Lubicon jumped to national prominence in 1988 with a campaign to boycott the Calgary Olympics over the failure to provide them with reserve land first promised in 1940.

They were all but ignored on their scrubby land until the discovery of oil and the move to exploit it turned their claim for reserve land into a high-stakes standoff.

Ottawa's response to the human-rights complaint made to the UN said that federal negotiators became aware in December, 1988, of a group of 350 people within the Lubicon community who wanted to settle the land issue. "To facilitate the taking of land collectively (or in common) for the purpose of the reserve, the federal government agreed to the creation of the Woodland Cree Band," the reply said.

But Goddard says in his book that, according to the federal chronology of events he obtained, it wasn't until after negotiations between the Lubicon leadership and Ottawa broke down in January, 1989, that federal officials began returning phone calls to an individual who was seeking a separate settlement.

Canada also told the UN that "further developments" included the provision in an old treaty which offered individual Indians to take "severalty" -- or land individually.

But Canada didn't tell the UN that its officials had emphatically ruled out granting such a settlement.

In the end, Goddard said, the majority of the Woodland Cree were not those who had been accepted members of the Lubicon group under Chief Bernard Ominayak. The Woodland Cree Band was recognized within eight months, while some other groups had been waiting decades for band recognition.

The new band subsequently accepted a negotiated settlement that had been rejected by the Lubicon leadership. Each member who voted in the ratification received $50 for expenses and $1,000 when the settlement was accepted. But most ended up with nothing because the payments were deducted from their welfare cheques.

Today, the majority of the original Lubicon group are without a settlement.

Among other points in the book:

*The Alberta government pursued "a master strategy" to drive hunters and trappers off the oil-rich land, including a 1966 incident in which Indians at Marten River were cajoled into moving to another community. When they tried to return, the government burned and bulldozed their former community.

*In 1975, when Alberta appeared about to lose a court case to the Indians over a caveat they filed to the land, the government passed retroactive legislation outlawing the caveats. Goddard said passing retroactive legislation to win a court case "is virtually unheard of in a democracy" but has drawn little news coverage.