CAFNA Letter to Canadian High Commission

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

February 14, 1992

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a letter on the continuing Lubicon tragedy to the Canadian High Commissioner in London, England. The letter was delivered to the Canadian High Commissioner as part of Lubicon Action Week.

January 31, 1992, letter from Catholic Action for Native America, London England, to the Canadian High Commissioner

Your Excellency,

We wish to register with you and with the Canadian Federal Government which you represent our dismay at the continuing violation by your Government of the rights of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation and at the destruction of traditional Lubicon lands.

The Lubicon people have been attempting for over fifty years to make a treaty with the Canadian Government under the terms of which they would be guaranteed land for a reserve and assistance in adapting to the demands of a non-subsistence economy. They have consistently been treated in a most dishonourable manner by the Canadian Government, a treatment rooted in part in the manifest injustice represented by that section of the Indian Act which allows the Minister at the Department of Indian Affairs to define who is and who is not an Indian and to create and divide aboriginal societies at will. These powers were used to devastating effect against the Lubicon people by department official Malcolm McCrimmon during the Second World War and more recently by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development in the creation of the spurious "Woodland Cree Band" as a way of dividing the Lubicon people and undermining their land rights.

The first major assault on the Lubicon people, the oil boom which began in Lubicon territory in 1979, took a mere four years to destroy the ecologically sustainable Lubicon way of life based on hunting and trapping. There are sound anthropological arguments to suggest that this way of life - pursued in the area from time immemorial - is the only indefinitely sustainable economic base in the Canadian subarctic forest.

That Provincial and Federal Governments should have allowed oil companies to operate in land never ceded to Canada by treaty or any other legally recognized process is distressing enough; that the Alberta Provincial Government of the time, led by Peter Lougheed, should have passed retroactive legislation to quash the Lubicon band's caveat on the affected area -- and this in a constitutional democracy -- simply defies the imagination. The subsequent arrest by armed police of members of the Lubicon Nation, including children, attempting, by blockading oil roads, to prevent the violation of their land rights and the destruction of their way of life, is reminiscent of the history of that other ex-British colony, the Republic of South Africa.

The Lubicon people's heroic campaign to assert their aboriginal rights and protect their land from destruction has been greeted too often with contempt by the Government of Canada and the Province of Alberta. Notable among the Provincial responses to Lubicon requests for justice was the leasing to Daishowa Canada Limited of 41,000 square kilometres of boreal forest which included the 10,000 square kilometres of Lubicon traditional territory.

The Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Company is not renowned for its environmental sensitivity. Daishowa Canada is currently logging -- with Government permission -- in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta -- a site of such environmental importance that it has been recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.

Daishowa Canada's clear-cut logging activity (a process which is itself ecologically disastrous) in Lubicon territory is to be carried out in order to feed Daishowa's bleach kraft pulp mill at Peace River, Alberta. The processes used in such mills are a major contributor to river pollution throughout Canada and the cumulative effects of massive pulp mill development in Northern Canada on the Mackenzie River drainage, the Arctic Ocean and the aboriginal peoples relying on them for their livelihood are truly horrifying to contemplate. Daishowa has been forced by public pressure from across Canada and elsewhere to avoid logging in Lubicon territory this winter but we are aware of the danger that it will not refrain next winter unless this pressure continues.

As Daishowa has pointed out, however, it is the Canadian Federal Government which actually has the responsibility to come to an agreement with the Lubicon people and make a just settlement with them. We are appalled by the Federal Government's manifest unwillingness to do so.

Given the Federal Government's frankly shocking record of distortion in its presentation of the history of the Lubicon land rights campaign, we are seriously concerned that talks scheduled for February between the Federal Government and the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation may be yet another public relations exercise on the part of the Federal Government, and that nothing more may be on the table than the clearly unacceptable 1989 'take it or leave it' offer.

We are disturbed by the Federal Government's current strategy of providing members of the public with what may euphemistically be called 'misinformation' concerning the Lubicon land rights campaign rather than a demonstrable commitment to pursue justice and truth.

Among the assertions currently being made by the Federal Government is that the Lubicon people lost their aboriginal rights in 189 as a result of Treaty 8. The Federal Government is well aware that the Lubicon people never signed Treaty 8 and that the Government Treaty Party which negotiated that Treaty never entered traditional Lubicon territory. Under the terms of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, as the Federal Government must be aware, the Lubicon people therefor retain unextinguished aboriginal title to the whole of their traditional territory.

Indeed, the Federal Government has made it plain that it knows that the Lubicon people retain aboriginal title: the Government's 'take it or leave it' offer contains an explicit requirement that the Lubicon people "cede, release and surrender to Her Majesty in Right of Canada all their aboriginal claims, rights, titles and interest, if any, in and to lands and waters anywhere in Canada". The 'offer' requires the Lubicon Nation to sign an 'adhesion' to Treaty 8, which clearly suggests, contrary to current Federal Government assertions, that the Lubicon Nation is not covered by that Treaty at present. Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon has admitted as much by stating (in a letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal published on December 2nd 1991) that the Lubicons were "overlooked when Treaty 8 was signed".

The Federal Government would apparently have the international community believe that the Lubicon people are claiming aboriginal title to an area "nearly the size of the Netherlands and Belgium combined" -- that is, an area of some 72,000 square kilometres. The Lubicon Nation has repeatedly made it clear that its traditional territory covers only 10,000 square kilometres and it is most undignified of the Federal Government to stoop to making such misrepresentations.

The 'take it or leave it' offer which the Federal Government made in 1989 would, as the Government knows, condemn the Lubicon people to perpetual welfare dependence. The financial component constitutes some 25% of that which is necessary to construct a new, diversified economy on the ruins of the Lubicon people's traditional way of life -- a way of life not willingly abandoned by the Lubicon people but wantonly destroyed by (the) Provincial Government with the assistance of oil companies and the connivance of the Government of Canada.

The Government of Canada adds insult to injury when it attempts to portray this 'take it or leave it offer' as an 'appropriate remedy' as understood by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to whom the Lubicon people took their case. What the Committee judged to be an 'appropriate remedy' was the process of direct government-to-government negotiations with the Lubicon Band Council, since the Lubicon people's exhausting attempts to achieve justice through Canadian law courts had come to nothing and the process was judged by the United Nations Human Rights Committee to be a waste of time. For that 'remedy' to continue to be 'appropriate' it is essential that the Federal Government negotiate in good faith with the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation to redress the monstrous injustice to which the Lubicon people have been so cruelly and so unnecessarily subjected for so long.

Yours faithfully, Richard Solly, for the CAFNA '92 Steering Committee