Globe & Mail Summary on Lubicon Situation

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 27, 1991

Attached for your information is a summary of where things stand with the Lubicons at the end of 1991.

TORONTO GLOBE & MAIL, Friday, December 27, 1991



By Rudy Platiel

Native Affairs Reporter

As 1991 draws to a close, the Lubicon Indians of Alberta are still waiting as they have for more than a decade, for a resolution of their long- standing claim for reserve land and a treaty settlement.

Despite federal government pressure to accept a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer of $45-million made almost three years ago, the majority of the 500 Lubicon Cree under Chief Bernard Ominayak have refused to give in.

The Crees are asking for $70-million to build a community, including a seniors' home, a school training centre and assembly hall, on the Peace River land in northwestern Alberta that the province has agreed to provide as part of the settlement. They say they are willing to leave to later negotiations a $100-million claim for compensation for oil taken from the land.

This month, federal Indian Affairs Minister Thomas Siddon, saying he saw a narrowing of positions, asked Chief Ominayak to meet with him and Alberta Native Affairs Minister Dick Fowler in February. The chief agreed.

But the history of government dealings with the Lubicon is not promising.

The Lubicon Crees were missed in an 1899 treaty and ignored until 1940, when Ottawa recognized them as a band and Alberta agreed to provide about 65 square kilometres of land for a reserve.

The land was never provided, and a federal Indian Affairs official apparently in a bid to save money for the war effort, arbitrarily removed almost half of the Crees from the official band list, eliminating their rights as Indians.

Oil exploration began in the 1950s, and a decade later producers moved in. The Indians were moved out of a settlement at Marten River, which was bulldozed and burned to prevent their return. It became the first producing oil field on traditional Lubicon land.

In 1977, the Alberta government of Peter Lougheed passed retroactive legislation to win a court case against the Lubicon, who were attempting to fight the development.

Despite warnings of "genocidal consequences" from the World Council of Churches and other church groups, Alberta continued a strategy during the 1980s of pushing the Crees off the land, and an Alberta judge ruled against their claim that their way of life had been destroyed, saying the development affected only a few individuals.

Former federal justice minister E. Davie Fulton was appointed by Ottawa to investigate the situation. His report suggested that a generous approach be taken in settling "a grave injustice," but it was ignored and suppressed by Ottawa.

In 1987 about one-third of the community was infected with tuberculosis, one of the worst outbreaks in Canada since the Depression.

The Lubicon mounted a native boycott of the 1988 Calgary Olympics and took their case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which agreed that oil development was destroying their way of life. It asked Canada to "take interim measures to avoid irreparable damage" to the Indians.

When Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Co. Ltd. of Japan was granted timber rights on the Lubicon territory in 1988, the band declared its sovereignty and set up roadblocks. They were dismantled by police, but the natives' action led to a provincial offer of land for a settlement.

Ottawa's non-negotiable offer led to a breakdown in negotiations in January, 1989.

The government subsequently recognized a group of Lubicon dissenters and other Indians from outside the band, granting them band status in only eight months.

Ottawa then negotiated a settlement with the new Woodland Cree Band, and has threatened to deduct the amount of that deal from any future settlements with the Lubicon.

A year ago, 13 Lubicon Crees were arrested and charged with mischief and arson over the destruction of equipment belonging to logging companies, which had begun clear-cutting in the area. A preliminary hearing against the first accused began this month.

Earlier this year, Lubicon supporters in Canada and Europe mounted demonstrations calling for a boycott of Daishowa and companies that use its paper products.

Fred Lennarson, an advisor to the Lubicon crees, said the Indians regard the recent statements by Mr. Siddon and Mr. Fowler as part of a new "media blitz" by the two governments to undermine the Indians' fight and the Daishowa boycott.

Chief Ominayak replied to Mr. Siddon's request by saying that if the government and Lubicon positions are as close as he says, "I am sure that a resolution of our differences on compensation can be achieved through some form of independent, third-party arbitration."

However, the chief said the Lubicon claim for money to build a community is not "something which we are prepared to write off in order that the Canadian Government can keep us forever in a state of social, economic and political dependence."

In his letter, Chief Ominayak disputed Mr. Siddon's recent statement to the media that the amount claimed by the Lubicon Indians would "far exceed any land claim settled with other bands."

The Ouje-Bougoumou Crees in Quebec -- with a slightly smaller population -- received $79-million for "reserve set-up costs compared to the projected Lubicon reserve set-up costs of approximately $70-million."

In both cases, the chief said, the issue of compensation for mineral and timber removed from the native land remains outstanding.

The Crees are furious over Mr. Siddon's statements that two years ago the UN Human Rights Committee, which examined a Lubicon complaint against Canada, found Ottawa's offer to the Indians to be fair.

James O'Reilly, a lawyer for the band, said the committee clearly found that Canada's treatment of the Lubicon was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and he accused Ottawa of now distorting the committee's finding by suggesting that it approved of the federal offer.