Indian Affairs Minister Letter to the Editor & Chief Bernard Ominayak's Response


Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
403-629-3945
FAX: 403-629-3939

Mailing address:
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
403-436-5652
FAX: 403-437-0719



December 04, 1991



Enclosed for your information is a copy of a letter on the Lubicon situation written to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal by Federal Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon. Enclosed also is a copy of Lubicon Chief Ominayak's letter of response.


THE EDMONTON JOURNAL, Monday, December 2, 1991, Letters to the Editor



GOV'T WILLING TO TALK WITH BAND



Your editorial states that Canada has "dusted off a three-year old offer," thrown it on the table, and said "take it or leave it" and taht I am "stubbornly waiting for capitulation from Chief Bernard Ominayak (The Lubicons still waiting, THE JOURNAL, Nov. 11).



It makes good copy, but you know it is untrue. I met with your editorial board to explain the federal position. I recognize your newspaper's right to reject the government's approach, but you have a responsibility to present it accurately. As I told you at our meeting, we believe we have made a fair offer. The United Nations Human Rights Committee agrees that our offer is appropriate. We are ready to return to the table to work out a settlement with Chief Ominayak.



Your editorial says "true negotiations require both sides to move toward a compromise." I asked the chief to meet me in Alberta and urged him to sit down with Canada's negotiators. We have already offered a land settlement which would make the Lubicon reserve the sixth largest in Alberta, even though the band is 29th in population size. We have offered millions of dollars to build a community, and millions more for socio-economic development. We have offered resource rights on potentially some of the richest oil and timber land in the province.



Negotiation takes two parties sitting together to talk and compromise. Canada is ready to negotiate with any Indian group in northern Alberta who was overlooked when Treaty 8 was signed. You see this as being manipulative. I see this as honoring Canada's treaty obligations.



Tom Siddon, Minister of Indian Affairs, Ottawa, Ont.


December 4, 1991, letter from Chief Ominayak to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal



Dear Sir/Madam:



In his December 2nd letter to the Editor entitled "Gov't willing to talk with Band", Federal Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon once again puts on display the reason why the Mulroney Government has so little credibility. They deserve little credibility.



Mr. Siddon denies that the Federal Government has "dusted off a three-year-old offer, thrown it on the table and said take-it-or-leave-it". However that's exactly what the Federal Government has done, as Mr. Siddon makes crystal clear with his repeated public statements that the Federal Government's three year old "take-it-or-leave-it" offer stands and won't be changed.



Mr. Siddon claims that "the United Nations Human Rights Committee agrees that (the Federal Government's "take-it-or-leave-it") offer is fair". That's not what the UN Human Rights Committee Lubicon decision says, nor, according to reliable reports, is it what Committee members intended.



Mr. Siddon claims that the Federal Government has "already offered a land settlement which would make the Lubicon reserve the sixth largest in Alberta, even though the band is 29th in population size". That's not true nor is it even particularly relevant. What's true, according to the latest Federal Government figures, is that the Lubicons are the 23rd largest Band and would have the 11th largest reserve. What's relevant is that historically all Indian reserves in Alberta have been calculated on exactly the same basis; namely, 128 acres of land per person counted at the time of first (reserve) survey. (Bands who currently have less than 128 acres per person have either increased in size, been cheated out of their full reserve land entitlement or lost reserve land typically through outright theft by non-aboriginal people working in collusion with non-aboriginal governments.)



Mr. Siddon says that the Federal Government has "offered (the Lubicons) resource rights on potentially some of the richest oil and timber land in the Province". That's not only untrue but offensive. There is no particularly valuable timber on proposed Lubicon reserve lands nor any known oil deposits of any great significance. Moreover the land in question is not the Federal Government's to "offer". The land in question belongs to the Lubicon people who've never ceded it to anybody in any legally or historically recognized way. The entire purpose of Lubicon land negotiations is for the Canadian Government to obtain proper rights to unceded Lubicon lands.



Lastly Mr. Siddon does at least get one thing right. He says that "Canada is ready to negotiate with any Indian group in northern Alberta who was overlooked when Treaty 8 was signed". While Canadian Government "readiness" to negotiate is unfortunately pretty questionable, the Lubicon people didn't sign Treaty 8 and it's nice for Mr. Siddon to finally admit it publicly.



Sincerely,



Bernard Ominayak, Chief

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation