Transcript of Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review Public Hearing, June 01, 1992
Commission Members Present
Commission Members Absent
Lubicon Representatives Present
Chief Bernard Ominayak
Community Members John Simon Auger and Walter Whitehead
Elders Edward Laboucan, Josephine Laboucan, Bella Ominayak and George Ominayak Advisors Fred Lennarson and Bob Sachs
Father Jacques Johnson: This is a meeting of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review. We are an independent and non-partisan group who are self-sustaining. That is we pay our own expenses. Nobody's supporting us. We want to be involved in this way because we would like to see the negotiations that have been stalled for some time between the Lubicons and the two levels of government to move again. Our mandate or terms of reference are to investigate, compare, assess and report on the presentation of the Lubicon's and of the two levels of government, and to report to the three parties but also to the public. That is why this afternoon I would like especially to welcome the Lubicons who have accepted to appear before the Commission and I hope that the two levels of government will also deign to appear before this Commission as well. They have been invited on two occasions and so far we have received nothing firm in terms of their commitment to appear before this Commission. I would like also as co-Chair to welcome the public and the media that are here today. Your participation is very important and we're very happy to see you here today. The thrust of this Commission to a large extent is to inform the public of the situation that is going on in these negotiations between the Lubicons and the governments, in order to bring out some truth and to help people to maybe become more flexible on all levels and to move forward to solve this crisis which I think is an affliction for our country.
In beginning the Commission would like for us to pray. I thought of maybe asking if there would be one of the Lubicons who would like to lead us in prayer this afternoon.
Edward Laboucan: (In Cree)
Jacques Johnson: Before we ask for an opening statement from the Lubicons I would like to introduce the Commission and perhaps we'll just pass the mike around and have each member introduce themselves.
I'm Jacques Johnson from Edmonton. I'm an Oblate Priest and I've been asked to co-chair this Commission along with Jennifer Klimek.
Jennifer Klimek: Hi. I'm Jennifer Klimek and I'm a lawyer from the City of Edmonton.
Menno Wiebe: My name is Menno Wiebe. I'm with the Mennonite Central Committee representing here the Aboriginal Rights Coalition of eight of the major churches in Canada.
Sandy Day: Sandy Day. I'm from High River. I run a small environmental business and have been active in the environment.
John MacMillan: I'm John MacMillan from Peace River. At the present time just retired.
Regena Crowchild: My name is Regena Crowchild. I'm the President of the Indian Association of Alberta.
Michael Asch: My name is Michael Asch. I'm a professor of Anthropology at the University of Alberta.
Don Aitken: My name is Don Aitken. I'm the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
Jacques Johnson: Missing on our Commission today is Wilf Barranoik from Sherwood Park. He's a former President of the Chamber of Commerce of Edmonton. There's also Norm Boucher who is a forestry person from Peace River. Theresa McBean who is a engineer from Calgary. And a co-chair for the environment is Colleen McCrory of New Denver, B.C.
In proceeding here today I would like to ask each person taking the mike to identify him or herself because we are recording the proceedings which will be transcribed and so we would like, it would be easier for the person doing the transcribing to be able to identify who is intervening at which time.
I'm very pleased to now invite the Chief of the Lubicons, Bernard Ominayak, to make an opening statement if he wishes.
Bernard Ominayak: I guess I will start by introducing the people that I'm with today. On my right is Fred Lennarson who's been an advisor to the Lubicon Nation for quite some time. On my left I've got Bob Sachs who's represented our people in a number of incidents. Also he's been involved with the so-called negotiations over the last while. Also I've got some of the Elders with me today. I've got my father George and also my mother Bella. They're just directly behind me. And also Edward Laboucan and his wife Josephine. Also John Auger and Walter Whitehead. I guess my Dad and Edward both sit on the Elders Council along withthe Chief and Council. Walter is a Councillor and John is a member of the Lubicon Lake Nation.
With that I guess I would start off by saying that I welcome the opportunity for us to be before this Commission and also the whole idea of the Commission as it is set up with the broad representation that is on the Commission. Also I would like to reiterate the position, or the statement made by Father Johnson that I think we've finally been able to open this process to the public that may be interested as to what is happening between the three parties. I know we've heard a lot of different stories depending on who you talk to. I think with this kind of a Commission hopefully we're able to bring out the positions of all the three parties involved and also this allows for the public to see and hear for themselves as to what the positions are and the reasoning for the lack of progress or the lack of a fair and just settlement for our people. I think I can safely and honestly state to the Commission that we've made every effort on our part to try and bring a final and a fair resolution to this problem that has gone on for far too long and has gone on for absolutely no reason. I think with the interest and also the participation of the many different people on this Commission we hope that there is an understanding as to why the Lubicon people would like to get a settlement that's going to enable our people to start building a future. With that I guess I will stop there. Hopefully -- the only other thing that I would like to add at this point is I hope that both levels of government will be equally anxious to participate in this Commission because I think we need all the help we can get from anybody whether it be the Commission or anybody that's interested in seeing a fair and just settlement of the Lubicon problem. I think this is a perfect opportunity for both levels of government to get directly involved and I'm sure that they can use the help just as much as we need the help in bringing this matter to a head. At the same time, I know there is some concern on the part of the federal government with the Commission and I, just thinking back a bit, I've seen statements made by the Minister of Indian Affairs Mr. Siddon where he stated that things were going along fine and that he hoped that there would be a settlement of some kind of an agreement by the end of June. Well, I hope that Mr. Siddon is aware of things I'm not, and I hope that this June, this year sometime, we'll get a settlement. I would welcome his concern and also his statement in that he states that he hopes that there will be some kind of an agreement. I hope -- it is my understanding that they've got a long ways to go before we arrive at that. But I'm sure as a Minister he can bypass a lot of the strings or all the stumbling blocks that have been put in front of us. I hope that he pushes those stumbling blocks aside and we do arrive at a settlement. Thank you.
Jacques Johnson: Thank you Chief Bernard. I would like to ask you to tell us -- some of us know you, some of us don't know you all that much, and maybe the public don't know also -- who the Lubicons are? Could you tell us about the Lubicons? Who are you?
Bernard Ominayak: I guess that's one of the rare questions that I haven't been asked very often. I've been asked a lot of questions but nevertheless to try and put it as brief and simple as possible. For myself, I'm not the issue of this Commission, but to answer your question I'm just a poor bush Indian from northern Alberta. I think I can say that for the rest of us. We've seen a lot and we've been under a whole lot of pressure from many different peoples, especially in the oil field and also the forestry, the logging companies, and all these things. Our people lived off the land for many, many years. All of a sudden they found oil and we were in the way. That brought a lot of social problems to our community. But to try and put it as simple as possible -- our people, we've been proud and I think we can still state proudly before this Commission that we are Lubicon people and we are Indian people, Native people from northern Alberta who have survived off that land for many, many years and I'm proud to say that I'm a Lubicon and I've got nothing to say too much more other than that. We want to try and put something in place for our future where we've been deprived of our way of life.
But now in order to put our people back, hopefully, on some kind of footing where we're able to get back on our own two feet, we're going to have to have something that's fair and just and also in line with what a lot of other people have had in the past. As long as governments are allowed to keep doing what they've been doing for the last 50 years then that isn't going to be possible. That's not to say that we're prepared to give up at this point. I think, as I stated, I hope that with Commission that we're able to bring these concerns out and hopefully get people to understand and hopefully governments are dealt with or pressured to deal with the kinds of problems that are in place today.
Jacques Johnson: Could you tell me, Bernard, how many Lubicons are there presently?
Bernard Ominayak: The last time we were looking at that -- maybe a month ago -- we were looking at around 480. It's always around 500, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less, depending on births and deaths and a lot of this stuff. We've also had a number of attacks on our membership by the federal government and that is part of a concern that we have in the overall...
Jacques Johnson: That would be about how many families roughly?
Bernard Ominayak: I haven't really looked at it from that angle, but probably around 60 families, somewhere in that neighborhood.
Jacques Johnson: Could you tell us where is it that you live precisely? What is your traditional homeland?
Bernard Ominayak: We live in northern Alberta, probably about 5-6 hours north from here. Probably two hours north of Slave Lake. We're between the town of Red Earth and also the town of Peace River. Our traditional territory is in that area. It's probably somewhere around 40-50 miles wide by 100 miles long. That's the traditional area. That's where we have our traplines and that's where our people have hunted all these years.
Jacques Johnson: We've heard or read the figure 4,000 sq. miles. Is that what you mean by 50 by 100 more or less?
Bernard Ominayak: Yes, approximately.
Jacques Johnson: Can you explain to us on what basis your claim of some 4,000 sq. miles of land is part of your aboriginal rights?
Bernard Ominayak: Our position, and if we were to look at it from the legal perspective, I guess a lot of you would have heard that back in 1899 that the treaty commissioners went out into northern Alberta and signed with a lot of the various Bands, the Treaty 8. Through that process we were missed out altogether. What happened basically was that those who signed gave up larger portions of so- called traditional territories at that point and there are different versions of this depending on who you talk to. Again, if you talk to the Native people you get a different version than the federal government's description of Treaty 8. But what they basically stated is that they had these traditional territories and then they, when they signed the treaty, they gave up those larger portions in exchange for a smaller portion which they then called reserves, with certain benefits along with those. Now, as I say, there're disputes over that by a lot of the Native peoples. We've done research into that too whereby the misunderstandings between what was written and what was agreed to verbally. But we were completely missed out of that process, so we retain our aboriginal title to our traditional lands where we've lived all these years as far back as people can remember...well beyond 1899 when the treaties were signed. We've been able to establish that we were there well before the treaties were signed. But we were never a party to Treaty 8. Even though we're within the Treaty area we were never a party to Treaty 8.
Jacques Johnson: Okay. I've heard it said personally that the Lubicons or some Lubicons came in the area after the Louis Riel rebellion in 1885. Is there any truth to that and did the Cree people from your area, were they established long before 1885 do you think?
Bernard Ominayak: Well Jacques, I'm not an anthropologist or done a lot of that research. But I know of an anthropologist who's done a lot of work in that area and who's stated that the Crees have been there for a long, long time. I would be prepared to safely say that we were there long before 1885 or whatever the date that you mentioned. I think we were back into the 16th and 17th century when we were going through our genealogy stuff in preparing for the kind of legal action that we had hoped to pursue. I think there's been a lot of anthropology work and a lot of research done by people, but not necessarily on behalf of the aboriginal peoples. It was more people on the outside, whether they be with government or the multi-national corporations whereby they were trying to establish certain things with these kinds of research. We still see that today. Even in the so- called expertise within the oil field where they will rubber stamp some kind of a report or some kind of a commission by somebody that's supposed to be an expert in a certain field. There's been a lot of work and great effort put in by governments in the past -- especially the federal government -- to deplete or abolish the rights of Aboriginal people to this country. I think the Indian Act is part of it. They come at us from all angles. I think if people were to look at all of that, I think Michael would probably be a better person to speak on behalf of the anthropology aspect of this whole thing. But I will say that we lived off those lands for I don't know how long. As far back as we could go, we went back and we re-checked a lot of this and we checked with the Elders and all the stories and everything that's gone back and also whatever documentation was available and we established ourselves to way before the treaty was signed. So I don't know when Louis Riel would have been up there or when Louis Riel was doing whatever he was doing. This is one of the things that we're seeing today too. For example, if Louis Riel and the people that he was fighting for were behind him there then I don't think I would be here fighting this kind of a battle today. I mean, that's a lesson in itself. That people should stand for what they believe in.
Jacques Johnson: I have one more question regarding your origins and how long you've been there. I am told that the Lesser Slave Lake area, which is south of where you're living now, was the land of the Slavey Indians and that's why the Lake got its name. And that whole area north of there was Slavey and Beaver Indian. Were there also, do you think, Cree Indians co-habitating north of there at the time with the surrounding Dene people, which the Beaver and the Slavey people really are to this day?
Bernard Ominayak: I think there's been a lot of documentation, I guess, to that effect. But there's been a closer look as to what may have happened back in the late 1700s and so on. But we clearly have been there, whether the Slavey were there or not, I don't know, in my time or in Edward's time. But we know that the Beaver Indians were always on the west side of the Peace River and we were always on the eastern side of the Peace. Now whether they went down to Lesser Slave Lake, that we don't know, because we were out there and really never really had any contact with the other peoples. But there's been documentation and reports by priests when they first started coming in saying that we were up there and they were trying to let governments know we were out there and we were never dealt with. And that leads us to quite a ways back. And then there was more research done by a gentleman named Jim Smith who has gone back and talked to a lot of people and gone through all this documentation and basically threw out the documentation that's been done in the past where he's -- I think, maybe Fred could make a comment on that.
Fred Lennarson: This question has come up in the past as Bernard indicated and as you indicated. We've looked at it for a number of years. We find in the archives of the Missionary Oblates in McLennan baptismal records of people from this area in the 1855-57 period where they estimated that Lubicon people from the area they were baptising were 100 years old. We know who they are from the genealogies and we know who their parents are. Those are the Lubicons from the area. With regard to the Beaver Indians and the Slavey people, we have consulted with Chief Harry Chonkolay, the lifetime Chief of the Dene Tha, who tells us that this was always Lubicon territory, that there was a contest between the Beaver and the Cree but it took place north and south on the west side of the Peace River, not in the area north of Lesser Slave Lake, and also east-west to the north of Peace River. We have an affidavit from Chief Chonkolay to that effect. We have reviewed the literature on this question and came across articles by Dr. James Smith from the Museum of the American Indian in New York City, the head of the Ethnology Department there, who had long suspected and had written papers going back to 1975 in which he discussed the common notion that the Cree from the James Bay area moved west in advance of the fur trade but said that he didn't think this was supportable and he thought that the Cree were at least as far as the Alberta/Saskatchewan before the advent of the fur trade in this area. Lubicon Elders tell us that at the time of the fur trade, which was the suggestion as to when the Cree moved west and supposedly displaced the Beaver, that Cree people did move west from the east but they did not go into the Lubicon area. They were in the Lesser Slave Lake area, they were up and down the Peace River, they were all around the area. The Lubicon people knew that these movements were taking place but the Lubicons said that they had always been in this area. The bottom line, in a paper written by Dr. Smith a copy of which we can make available to the Commission, which has been described as the definitive work now on westward Cree migration, Dr. Smith places the boundary dividing the Cree and the Beaver at the Peace River, the western boundary of the traditional Lubicon territory. I can make a copy of that paper available to the Commission. It was reprinted in the American Anthropological Association publication.
Jacques Johnson: We'd appreciate it if you did...(change tapes)...
Regena Crowchild: I'd just like to ask a couple of questions. First of all, could you in your own words explain your claim to us?
Bernard Ominayak: That would have to be in Cree. I don't know how best to describe the claim. We never signed a treaty and we retain our aboriginal title over our whole traditional territory. Until we do sign some kind of an agreement, then that is going to be the case. We've tried to negotiate with governments in the past and haven't been successful in trying the negotiating route. In so far as the treaty is concerned, even though we're not part of the treaty we're kind of, in many ways, held to Treaty 8 in many aspects. The land quantum and what was set aside -- for example, 128 acres per person under Treaty 8. So we had to keep those kind of guidelines in mind as we tried to negotiate an agreement hopefully dealing to a degree with our aboriginal rights or title, and not to try and cede anything that we don't want to cede and also to understand to a certain degree that we have to give up certain areas in any kind of an agreement that we may arrive at. Now I don't know if I've explained myself to you.
Regena Crowchild: I guess I was asking for was what are you seeking in the claim? What do you want in the claim, perhaps?
Bernard Ominayak: As we look at the overall claim we're not asking for anything that hasn't been dealt with in the treaty to a large degree. For example, we are hoping that we're able to move back to our original community right at Lubicon Lake, and in doing so we would have to put in roads, a school, housing, water and sewer, and also look at the possibility of some economic development. We looked at a number of areas. Something that would enable our people to try and make the transition from one way of life into another with the understanding that we have very limited education amongst our Nation. So keeping all these things in mind, we tried to look at things that may work and hopefully work on the younger generation to bring them up to par with the rest of the society that's had the advantage of having the proper schools, the proper teachers and so on which we haven't been able to have. Even though we have a school at this point that's runby the provincial government it's not exactly in line with the wishes of the community. In fact, it contradicts the wishes of the community in many ways.
For example one of the things that we have talked about a lot and have some experience with now in is raising buffalo to try and deal with the diet of the people, which has been basically been moose in the past but that's been depleted because of the activity that's taken place within our traditional territory. So we looked at buffalo, and hopefully in trying to deal with that aspect we're able to bring in some money with part of it and also the local people being able to use that particular diet. Also we were looking at maybe elk, game-ranching I guess basically, trying to pursue those kinds of avenues whereby people who aren't going to be doctors or lawyers or any of that, and yet they want to retain a particular way of life which isn't possible because of what has taken place as a result of resource extraction by the multi-national corporations like the oil development, and also now with the logging interests that are there. For example, in the whole traditional territory and beyond our traditional territory all the timber leases have been given to Daishowa, which is a giant pulp mill which is going to just totally wipe everything out if we can't stop it.
So in order to make that transition from one way to another it's going to take money and that's where we were looking at what is going to be possible. We looked at a lot of things and we talked to a lot of different people -- for example cow/calf operations. We've looked at that and we've talked to different people around Athabasca, around Peace River, people who have been in the business and people who have been successful, we've talked to people who have failed at it to try and get an idea as to what it's going to take to try and pursue that kind of operation.
We also talked to people around Lubicon Lake itself. We have natural saskatoon berries and we heard that there are some hybrid saskatoons now and that they're making money at that. So we thought if we could get into something like that where our people are accustomed to that kind of berry and also if the market for the berries are there, then we could consume part of it and hopefully be able to generate enough so that kind of an operation would be viable in itself. These are all ideas that we've talked about. One of the things that we've really stressed and we've really been pushing is education, school. We looked at trying to bring the school up from say K to maybe grade 10 or 11 or 12, as high as we could, depending on how we do with negotiations. We haven't done very well in that area. But the wishes of the people are that we'd like to bring that as high as possible because the higher we go the older the children become. At this point they go to grade 8 and have to leave when they're 13 or 14 and get into a different school and they're dropped back a couple of grades automatically because the quality of education isn't quite up to par with the rest of the school system. So that is a problem that we saw and wanted to pursue -- the education aspect of it. But in trying to put the school and education as a priority, we ran into a number of difficulties where we also knew that a lot of our people don't have very much education and we have to try and get them educated to a degree to be able to do the things we want to do -- like if we were to get into ranching, we'd have to get into some agricultural things. Like for example, if we have cattle then we're going to need grain and if we're going to have grain then we're going to have to have machinery and everything is getting modern and our people don't read or write. So we have to try and educate people who may be able to run certain machinery, but to also be able to repair them to a degree. So we were looking at a vocational centre tied in with the school. But then you have the different areas, for example, a mechanic, a carpenter, a vet if we're looking at animals -- all these different things that we would have to look at. In our community at this particular point in time our kids don't have anything to look forward to, nothing to go to school for, there's no goals out there. They don't want to leave the community and they're stuck. There's nothing in the bush for them any more. Our Elders have a lot of valuable knowledge as to how to survive off the land but when you destroy the land that knowledge isn't viable any more. So that's why we have the kind of gap between the younger generation and the older generation because we're not able to utilize and tap onto that resource and that knowledge that's there.
So considering all these things, we had to try and put something together that we would hope would enable our people to...become a vet or a mechanic or all these different things. But what we would have liked to have done is put all these together within the school to enable our people to start taking, or having at least an opportunity to try and educate themselves in that area. I can go on, but I think that's roughly the kinds of things that we are looking at.
Michael Asch: Bernard, thank you for coming. I know that it's just one more thing. We've all read the different proposals and for people who don't know we have both your proposal and various government proposals and we've looked at them. Each of us has done some thinking about what the difference is between the two and where the disagreements might be between the two. You've just told us something about what you want to see for your people, and I think that might be a place for me to start to ask you, where do you see the difference between your proposal and what we have seen in the various federal proposals about being able to do this?
Bernard Ominayak: Thank you for the welcome, Michael. I've never personally been involved in any of these negotiations. There's some that took place two or three years ago. Fred Lennarson's been directly involved along with Walter Whitehead. In the latest round, Bob Sachs' been directly involved, so maybe I'll ask them to speak to or answer your question.
Fred Lennarson: I think you know from having looked at these proposals that they are very complicated. We can assess them item by item and I encourage you to do so. But for a first cut at this thing, let me suggest my analysis and the analysis of everybody that I've talked to about these things have concluded that what the Lubicon proposal intends to do is to try and rebuild the economy and enable the Lubicon people to be once again socially, politically and economically self-sufficient. That is their objective. It's an integrated plan for accomplishing that objective. I think that all of the pieces really need to be thought about in that context and thought about in relationship to all of the other pieces, because you really can't understand what the Lubicons are seeking to do with their proposals unless you understand that they are not just after a store. They are after a store as part of rebuilding their economy so that their own people can spend their money in their own community and don't have to go 65 miles away to a non-Native community to spend their money, so they have the jobs and build the economy and so on.
The government proposals, I think, can be fairly characterized as proposals which would essentially maintain the Lubicon people in a position of continuing welfare dependence. The things that are firmest in the government proposals are things like roads, water, sewer and houses. The things that are soft or missing are things like a community hall, an old peoples' homes, a community rec centre -- the things that are essential for the Lubicon people to manage their community, to manage their society, politically, culturally. The things that are missing altogether are the proposed economic development activities. I do not think that it's possible to put together a proposal that achieves this objective without deliberation. This is a proposal which, in my judgement and in the judgement of every other person I know who's looked at it closely, would be tantamount to building a zoo for the Lubicons, a new zoo, and then feeding the Lubicons at an appointed time on welfare.
I think that this is the difference. The Lubicons are seeking to once again become socially, politically, economically self-sufficient after having their traditional lands and economy and way of life destroyed. And what the government is seeking to do with their proposals is to maintain the Lubicons in a position of continuing welfare dependency.
Now why this should be so one would have to speculate. But analytically there is absolutely no question that the Lubicon proposals are intended to accomplish self- sufficiency and the government proposals would never accomplish that self- sufficiency. They would unavoidably result in continuing welfare dependency.
Michael Asch: What are the factors in the government proposal that are missing? Is it mostly dollar issues? Is it the way in which the dollars are tied up in what can be done? What are the parameters of what's missing?
Fred Lennarson: There are some people who argue that it is possible to reduce much of this to dollars. That is not my perspective and it certainly isn't the perspective of the Lubicon people who for at least the last 10-12 years have been working to try and develop these proposals. Every single element in this thing has a function. That's what I meant earlier when I was talking about this is an integrated package. The vocational training centre which has a dollar value of something like $3 million in 1988 dollars is equally important in the function that it is intended to perform as the compensation investment fund of $100 million. Now there're different numbers involved. But what the Lubicons are looking for with this community improvement shop/vocational training center is to use the whole development exercise and development activity in their area as an opportunity for their people to gain skills and knowledge that are relevant to the changed world in which they find themselves. They want, while they're building houses, to teach their people building trades skills. While they're developing agricultural lands, to teach their people skills in maintaining farming equipment. While they're building roads to teach their people heavy equipment operation and maintenance. So this is a terribly important function in their developmental thinking.
And I might make just a follow-up statement to Bernard's comments about the importance of education. The Lubicon people see the whole community as a school for their children. Or in other words, they propose that the kids taking biology class and interested in veterinary science would take classes actually in the large animal veterinary clinic they propose to build to help to take care of their cow/calf operation. They propose kids who are interested in auto mechanics and things mechanical would work in the community shop actually working on farming and community improvement equipment.
Equally important but different is the investment fund -- the purpose of which is to generate interest revenues in perpetuity for the Lubicon people. If that $100 million generates after inflation the same kind of interest revenues as the Heritage Trust Fund or a similar fund in Alaska, we're looking at something like 4 1/2% a year return. The Lubicons are looking at, therefore, as an objective, as part of their integrated package here to try and have a fund which will generate about $4 1/2 million a year independent revenues for which they are dependent upon nobody. That's an important function. The vocational training center is an important function. The community recreation center is something that they seek because they're having a hell of a time with their kids in a world where the traditional way of life is gone, the things the kids used to do no longer exist, everybody's at loose ends about what they're going to do, and they'd like to have a place where the kids can go and they can work with them on things like hockey rather than have them out sniffing gasoline or drinking and having head-on collisions with oil company trucks, which is the kind of problem the Lubicon people have been facing as their economy has been systematically destroyed by this development activity.
I don't know if that answers your question but it is my perspective that every single element in here has a carefully calculated purpose and they all have value independent of the money. It's not just a money question to me.
Michael Asch: I understand that. And I guess just to say that what I hear you say is that these are the elements that are missing from the federal package. These are the kinds of elements that are missing from the federal package.
Fred Lennarson: There's been a little bit of an evolution, Michael, but I maybe could use the commercial element as an example. The Lubicons have basically four proposals for commercial activity in their community. One is a general store to which I referred a moment ago. This would be a place where people could go to shop and where people working in the area could go to shop as well. Currently you have to go to Peace River 65 miles away for any kind of serious shopping. So they want that as an economic development activity. They want it as a place where people can spend their own money in their own community. They want it for jobs.
Secondly they want to have an 8-unit motel and coin laundry. Same reasons. There's no place to stay in Little Buffalo Lake during the period of this proposed development activity. There are people in that area in the development business all the time looking for places to stay. So there's an opportunity for a little business there. And the Lubicon people need a place for people to stay in their community or you have to go again 65 miles to Peace River. The third commercial proposal is a gravel crushing operation. They have gravel deposits on the proposed reserve land. They need the gravel for road-building and for their community construction program. And if they don't develop that resource themselves they have to go outside and purchase it.
And lastly they have a proposal for a concrete batch plant to make concrete, also needed for the construction program, and also providing something for which there's a market in the area.
Now they've developed this with people who run gravel pits. They've developed this with people who run stores and make concrete in northern Alberta. The total tab of these commercial activities is $4 million in 1988 dollars. I would refer you to the federal government's offer in this regard, so-called offer. I'll pull my copy and just read it verbatim because it so dramatically illustrates in my mind the differences. The government's proposal for these four items which have a total tab of $4 million -- the government's original proposal and I'll mention where this thing has gone -- but the original proposal is, "The Department of Industry, Science and Technology will seek Ministerial approval in principle for funding from the Native Economic Development Program up to a maximum of $4 million for the following projects provided they meet normal program requirements." Now what that means for these commercial projects is the Lubicons can apply to normal government programs and services and if they are successful, maybe they'll get money, maybe they won't get any money...A year later or so they talked about providing the interest on a $10 million fund and a little later they talked about some kind of per capita calculation. But the bottom line in the most recent proposals tabled by the government are letters from government bureaucrats assuring the Lubicons that if they apply for normal government grants and qualify they will be considered.
I will illustrate it with one other thing. The Lubicons submitted pages and pages -- I don't know how many in total it was because it was in a number of different files -- but 50-60 pages of proposals on their agricultural proposals -- all of which are summarized in one form or another in the Lubicon draft settlement agreement, a copy of which you have. How many cattle they'd buy a year, how much land they would develop for forage crops, how much equipment they had to have -- all of this carefully calculated working with people who run large cow/calf operations and people who sell the equipment and the fertilizer and everything you can think of. The government's reaction to that -- which has undergone some minor revisions now...was: "Canada proposes to develop jointly with the Band a phased planned for an agricultural venture. Federal members of the joint plan will come from Indian Affairs, the Native Economic Development Program, Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, Agriculture Canada and the Western Diversification Fund. Aspects that the joint team will examine are the potential development of a cow/calf operation; the clearing of land -- they're going to examine the potential of that, the possibility of that; the definition of suitable crops -- which the Lubicons have worked years to define with qualified people; productive capacity of the Band -- by which they mean whether the Band can actually do the things the Band is proposing to do; and then environmental impacts...This was the government's proposal to settle Lubicon land rights in this area.
Now the economic area's the most blatant. When you go to things like the Band Office, the Community Hall, the Community Rec Centre and things I mentioned before, those are all really soft as well.
Michael Asch: Thank you...(change tapes)...other things but maybe we can come back to this. On a different topic, Don Aitken said that he would be prepared to go next so I'll pass it down to him.
Don Aitken: Thank you, Michael. First of all, Bernard, I'd like to thank you for coming and I'd like to thank the Elders and other members of the Lubicon Lake Nation for coming here. We know it isn't easy. We're not just down the street from you. I'm sure sometimes you're quite thankful of that. You had mentioned a number of really important issues today. One of the first ones that you mentioned I'd just like to address. When you were asked about who are the Lubicons you talked about being a poor bush Indian from northern Alberta and then talked about when oil was found and the Lubicons were in the way. In spite of that for many years you've survived on the land. One of the issues that I read in the proposals from your side has to deal with the land and the natural resources, the surface and the sub-surface rights, the mineral rights. I think you've made it quite clear that in fact there's been a loss of hunting and trapping opportunities and certainly economic loss as a result of not having control of those mineral rights. I wonder if in fact you could give us some idea as to what you see then as a loss? What that loss has been? Just in the time since you've started to put this argument forward? I'm sure that the argument initially was substantial. How much has it increased since then? How we can have an opportunity to understand what has been lost almost on a daily basis and how the longer that no agreement is there the more loss there is and the more reason for an urgent settlement of this dispute?
Bernard Ominayak: I guess I can't do much further than what I said. I think that a lot of this stuff goes hand in hand. We've been raised in a particular way where everything is dependent upon one another. For example, when you have people like the Lubicons, they are always looking and checking and preserving as we went on through the hunting and trapping that we were accustomed to. For example, there are certain areas that are better than other areas so you're dependent on those at different times of the year and also, all the people can't go into one area at any given point because then you have overkill. So you've got to try and preserve the wildlife as you go along.
The same thing applies with anything that we've done. Everybody always had a role to play in all of this. The women had a role. The children had a role. The Elders had a role. And the men all had roles. So in what we were accustomed to we were looking at some kind of a settlement that would keep those things in hand. For example, when I talked about the school and also the vocational centre and what may be possible through that field.
Another example would be the way our leadership is set up. We've got the Chief and we've also got the Council which is in line with everybody else. There's certain things we can't change even though we'd like to change at times. But with the Chief and Council we've got the Elders' Council who have full participation as to what has to be dealt with in so far as the community and the outside is concerned. And with that we were looking at the family ties from the different family groupings that these people represent to try and keep that connection in place.
But we run into the different problems as I pointed out earlier where you have Elders who are here with unlimited knowledge as to how to survive off the land. But then that knowledge we can't utilize. For example, a lot of our kids who are 15, 16, 17, 18, they don't have enough knowledge to survive in the bush, and they don't have enough education to survive on the outside, and they don't have any interest to be on the outside. So we're caught in a cycle where we can't really do anything. They're limited as far as work is concerned. We can't utilize the knowledge that is there because of the destruction that has taken place within our traditional territory. The wildlife's gone as there's more oil development and there's less and less and less of the forest. Especially if Daishowa is allowed to start its logging operations within our traditional territory. That's just going to finish everything off.
For example, again, we've asked a lot of questions as to what is going to happen, because we know it's going to take certain things to prevent certain things. We know that, for example, if the poison gets into the food chain of the wildlife it's going to come back to haunt us, at which point we don't know. We ask these questions. For example, all the pollution in the air gets into the leaves, then the moose eat the leaves, does it get into their system that way? Then we in turn eat the moose. Or if it gets into the fish through the water, then those fish go up and down the streams into our area. It gets into the fish, does it get into the bear? And if it gets into the bear, how far up that food chain does it go? Our people are dependent on this wildlife. Does it get into the beaver once it gets into these streams? These are all serious questions that we've been asking and nobody's been able to answer.
The reason I'm bring all this up is that a lot of these things tie in together at some point as to how we survive and also in order to try and keep that tie, we looked at trying to put a package together from our perspective hoping that our people are going to succeed in the different areas that we hope to pursue. We haven't really concentrated on maybe it's going to cost too much for the government to put in this money. But they're stealing our resource from us 24 hours a day. For how many years have they extracted billions of dollars off our land. That's outright stealing. The Getty Government, Getty himself has stated time after time that he doesn't want to deal with law-breakers and so on. Maybe that's why we don't have our settlement because who is breaking the law more so than the government? It's the governments who are outright stealing and there's absolutely no reason for that.
For us to be able to build a future after the destruction that has taken place to our way of life, and it's not our choice, this is all forced onto us. If we had a choice we would go back to the way we were. But that isn't possible. And the reality is we're going to have to look at something and how best do we put a package together that's going to enable our people to get on our two feet. And that's the big question, the serious issue that we have to contend with. And however we do it -- it hasn't been possible. We've made every effort to try and deal with governments in an honest way, sitting with them. I've been forcing my negotiators in a lot of these cases to stay in there, get everything across to them. It's not that they don't understand, they're just so busy looking at ways and means to undermine us through this process thus far. As long as that's the case, then I don't know how it's going to be possible to resolve these kinds of situations. When are we going to put life over dollars? And that's been the issue.
I think in trying to deal with people in an honest way, it's always hard to see the other side and watch these other guys -- there're there looking at you straight in the eye and they're telling you flat-out lies. I've got to deal with reality. The interest on my part is to try and put something in place for my people that's going to enable my people to start building a future. But the other side is so busy trying to undermine us and shaft us. These are the kinds of problems that we face at all times in trying to bring these issues out to these guys. I hope at some point we're going to be able to start dealing with some honest people. But I guess that holds true right across Canada. I mean, if we had judges that were prepared to deal fairly with laws then we wouldn't have a lot of the problems within the aboriginal communities of this country. The list can go on and on.
The other thing I think that's important to understand is a lot of our people are dependent, as I pointed out to you, in these different areas like wildlife. You know we have certain areas for water fowl, we have certain areas for fish, we have certain areas for fur-bearing animals, and we have certain areas for hunting like for moose, deer and all the different animals that we live off for the meat diet. Not all of our traditional area is good for all these things at any given point. There're certain areas good for that and this and that throughout our traditional territory. We go in there today and what do we see -- either a pump jack or a power line or a major highway that's been put in. So that's gone. Then it's just been reducing and reducing all that our people have been dependent on. For example, the different berries we used to pick, we go there today and there stands a pump jack. In one case there's a big battery station where they've got a major camp where they separate the crude from the water and all this. So that's there. That's gone. That holds true with our medicine, our herbs and stuff. A lot of them we can't even get within our traditional territory any more. They're gone. They're just wiping us off like this. They take one thing today and another thing tomorrow. As time goes, we're boxed into this little area. Now for us to get a lot of this stuff we've got to go way outside to somebody else's territory, if they allow us to, to start looking.
When we speak of the kind of destruction that takes place, that's how they're just eating away. And now we're faced with most of the time, 90% of our people on welfare. I don't know how anybody can survive under those kinds of figures, whether it be a white society or a Native society. That leads to all kinds of problems.
Fred Lennarson: I'd like to give you just some sense of this thing from a little different perspective. In the traditional Lubicon society the men would support their families and an extended family through their skills as a hunter and trapper. With the traditional economy destroyed and dramatically so these roles are in serious jeopardy. The moose is the primary source of food for the Lubicons. In 1979 when the road came in there were 219 moose killed for food. By 1981 it had dropped to 110. By 1982 it had dropped to 37. By 1983 it had dropped to 19. So people say to me, "What's it like?" I say, what would Edmonton look like 10 years after everybody had been forced onto welfare and had to stand in line with their hand out in order to survive? What would that do to relationships between men and women and parents and children and the old people? These people pride themselves on supporting a family through their skills as a hunter, they pride themselves on going into the bush with a couple of 30-30 shells and coming out and feeding several families with it. Now, they can't go into the bush and feed themselves. One Lubicon man, a hunter, forced onto welfare in order to feed himself and feed his family, started drinking, wife left him, took welfare herself -- she had the choice of either leaving or joining him in drinking and you know what happens in a family like that -- so the man committed suicide with his hunting rifle. It's the first known suicide in Lubicon history. During one 18 month period there were something like 21 pregnancies, 18 children were still- born. The others were born prematurely with all kinds of problems. There is not one single Lubicon here who has not experienced unnatural death in his own family through alcohol-related incidents -- a man freezing to death on his trapline, a man killing himself with his hunting rifle, still-born children, kids running head-on into an oil company truck. They couldn't even identify the bones. They didn't even know which bones went with which child. This has been rightly described by the World Council of Churches as genocide. I don't know if that's what you were looking for, but that's the consequence on this society of what's been done to them while the Alberta Government and the oil companies and dominant Canadian society, all of the rest of us have benefited to the tune of an estimated $8 billion in oil revenues, and now they're proposing to go in and chop down something like 11,000 trees a day, dehydrate them and send them to Japan as part of supposed diversification of the Alberta economy.
That's what we're talking about. We're talking about a population of people who a couple of years ago had a tuberculosis epidemic which affected 1/3 of the population. That's the kind of thing that you normally hear about in the Third World or a developing country or in a different period of North American history. A public health nurse up there when this occurred said rightly that tuberculosis is a disease which people get when they're immune system is down. That's what happens when you've got people committing suicide, relatives of Lubicon kids drinking photocopy fluid plainly marked poison, people drinking too much and burning themselves alive in their homes, people having too much to drink and going to their trapline and freezing to death on the way to their trapline, premature born babies, still-born babies, and so on. And there should be no question about what's being done to these people as a result of these actions by both levels of Canadian Government.
Don Aitken: Thank you. I think what I'm hearing basically is that there isn't enough money to buy back all the damage that's been done. I mean, that's the bottom line. You just cannot buy back what has been lost.
Bernard Ominayak: Mr. Aitken, I don't think there's any amount of dollars that would be able to put back in place what we lost by way of our traditional way of life but rather we've concentrated on trying to put something together that would enable us to build some kind of a future for our people, especially for our younger generation. One of the things that we're always very careful about is to try and put something together that is going to hopefully benefit the future generations of our people, because once we make an agreement, then we pretty well have to live by that agreement. Now whether the governments can say the same, I don't know at this point. But from our side, it's something that we have to look at very, very closely.
For example, I'll give you another example. Early on with the traplines a lot of our trappers were out there trapping and they had their traps set out. The guys who were in the oil fields would have their cat and go out of their way to destroy traps. A few of the people had tried to get compensation for some of the damage that was done to the traplines and so on. But the whole issue is not the $5.00 trap or anything. We were losing a way of life that we were accustomed to. That's one of the things that was very important to us. We were trying to hang on and hang on and hang on, and not necessarily concentrating on the $5.00 trap but rather to try and preserve what we had. That wasn't possible because they kept coming. There was no response even to the complaint, to a lot of the complaints that were put by the trappers. On one hand while the trappers were out there and we were trying to keep them from shooting the guy running the cat, these were all things that we were dealing with very early on, and at the same time to try and keep our people from going to jail, because we kept telling them if you kill this guy they'll just put more in. It's not these guys. They're only out there doing a job and there're many of them. So these were the problems that we've gone through. I hope a lot of the people end up understanding that we've been forced into a lot of situations. We've fought a battle and I don't think we were expected to be able to be here today. Or even this year. But we hope that we're going to be able to withstand what may come in the future as long as we don't have a settlement. But that's anybody's guess as to how long that's going to be possible, or if it's going to be possible. As I stated in my opening remarks, I don't think there is a need for this kind of action to be taking place and be practised by governments or anybody interested in any kind of natural resource. I think we've got to deal with the people as people, regardless of their color. I think there needs to be a greater understanding by the general public of Alberta and within Canada and beyond that we can't allow these kinds of practices to be practised by governments of the day any longer.
Jacques Johnson: Thank you Bernard. We've been sitting almost an hour and a half. I propose that we take a 15 minute break. There's coffee up there for all of you.
We will continue for the next hour or so. By 4:30 we will be looking at our watch seriously. We would like to resume tomorrow morning around 9:30. Let's say 9:30. If we can count on the Lubicons to be back we'd appreciate that very much. In continuing this afternoon I will ask the other members of the panel in turn to see if they have any questions they would like to raise.
Jennifer Klimek: Like the other Commissioners I'd like to welcome you all here today and to thank you for coming. My question is with respect to the proposal. I've had an opportunity to review it and it certainly seems very clear and well organized. What I'd like to know is a little bit of the background that went into it. How did you come up with these numbers, not specifically, but some of the methodology about how you came up with the figures and what needed to be there?
Bernard Ominayak: I guess a few years ago, it's a continuing process that we got ourselves into, whereby we actually went to people who are in the business. For example, in the area of housing, we've gone to people in Peace River, different lumber suppliers, given them an idea of the kind and type of house and what it would cost to build that kind of a house. So in compiling all this information we've gone out to people who are in the business. For example, the cow/calf operation, we've gone to a lot of different farms where they've been in the cow/calf operation...and what it costs, like how much grain for x number of head.
We've gone through this process. These people have given us figures as to what it would cost to run those kinds of businesses on a yearly basis. So the simple answer would be we've gone directly to people who are directly involved in the different areas. For example, in road construction, we've gone to a number of different people. I think one of your Commissioners would be better able to answer that kind of a question because he's been in the business and knows the area. Because a lot of these areas in northern Alberta are somewhat different than say southern Alberta where you don't have as much muskeg and swamps and so on and the water table may not be as high. In northern Alberta these factors come into play. The other thing too that I think's important to know is that material costs are somewhat higher in the town of Peace River than in the City of Edmonton or Calgary. So all these factors are included in these kinds of prices that we used in putting together our package. For example, the school too. We had people involved with that when we first started talking. We had the local people say this is the kind of school we'd like to have in place taking into account the vocational training center and also the school itself and trying to put an overall education facility in place that would hopefully benefit more than just the kids, but also the people that need up-grading to a certain degree with the different shops, and also putting in place the kinds of goals that the younger children may work towards. For example, as I pointed out earlier, we've talked about a vet and we've also talked about game-ranching. These then become reality once you can put these things together to a stage where they're actually working. So I guess a lot of this stuff is intertwined. That's something we've been accustomed to in the past where we were dependent on a certain area and we were confined to that area because anytime we got outside of that, we had the Beaver and Slavey on the north and west and other Crees to the north, east and south of us. So we always respected their territory and they respected ours and that's how we've operated all these years until the oil development moved in and then they wanted to take everything.
Fred Lennarson: Maybe just one little conceptual handle on this thing. When the traditional economy was being destroyed, the Lubicon people sat down as a group and tried to figure out what they could do about this situation. Everything in this proposal flows from the experiences that they had. Bernard said that they depend upon moose for food. The moose are gone. What can they do? There used to be buffalo in the area. The old people had found old buffalo skulls. Maybe they can raise buffalo. Another key part of this whole thing is the Lubicon people, culturally and in terms of their religion, see the land as something that you support and take care and then it supports and takes care of you. The oil companies, on the other hand, see the land as something you exploit and move on.
So there's been the tension all along. The Lubicon people as a goal really are trying to figure out a way they can survive on domestic plants and animals in a smaller area because they no longer have the option of wild plants and animals in a big area. Then as Bernard said we went to people in relevant businesses and we got actual quotes. These are not guesstimates. These are all based on actual quotes from people in the business, the people who run the veterinary clinic in Peace River advised the Lubicons on how to set it up. The farming equipment prices are all quotes from people -- and the best quotes we could find. When we talked to the government in December of '88 about these numbers, in instance after instance they thought the Lubicon numbers were too low. And the reason they thought the Lubicon numbers were too low was because we aggressively pursued the lowest possible numbers for all of the things the Lubicons wanted to include in their proposal.
Jennifer Klimek: I have one other question out of that. When you say the government has thought the numbers were too low, is it that there's no disagreement as to the numbers but just a disagreement as to whether or not you should get that particular item? Is that where the disagreement is?
Fred Lennarson: That was certainly the situation in December of '88. Bob Sachs here might want to talk about it now, but when we were meeting there was initially some disagreement on some kinds of numbers. In other words they said "We don't think you need two tractors. Why can't you use the same tractor to do both of these different things?" We worked and worked on that trimming out any possible fat in the proposals. But at the end of that process there was no longer any disagreement over the numbers. The disagreement was over on whether the items should be included at all.
Jennifer Klimek: And then one final question. I notice this is a 1990 document. Are you going to be factoring in inflation or is this document still the one that's on the table from your point of view.
Fred Lennarson: Those are the actual quotes in 1988 dollars. And as you'll see, although it's a 1990 document, all of the things say 1988 numbers. And the reason for that is that those are actual quotes. To up-date them we'd have to go back to all of the different vendors again and get up-dated quotes. We haven't been able to do that so we just rely upon the quotes in 1988 dollars.
Menno Wiebe: I have one question I'd like to tag maybe for tomorrow to answer and address especially to the Elders, if they'd willing to speak to this tomorrow. I think we'd be interested in hearing something about the spiritual connection you have to the Lubicon area. If you could give us some insights on that that would be helpful to us. So we can save that one until tomorrow. Than I have a few factual questions. Bernard, I've heard you talk about a settlement that would provide a long-range economic base. You are not talking only about cash settlement but that which would have long-range sustainability and we've read your proposal with the plans in it. Could you say just a little bit more about how you see the transition being made? If the hunting tradition is really going because of depletion of game and maybe also resistance of the younger ones to go hunting -- unless we'd like to be corrected on that...(change tapes)...
Bernard Ominayak: ...and hopefully that we're able to get the Elders to make a few comments or if there're any questions that may arise or with comments in general. In so far as looking at the long-range plans I guess we've looked at a number of ways to try and deal with these situations. For example, we've got people who are 40 years old and older. A lot of them are not going to want to get into anything but hunting and trapping. We've gone back to them and we've said what would you like to do. They said we want to do what we've been doing. So keeping that in mind, we've tried to look at it from different angles.
One of the things that we've done is tried to deal with the Alberta Government on that particular topic, where we started negotiating with them on a wildlife/management committee that would look at and deal with the whole traditional territory where our traplines are and also where we do a lot of the hunting. For example, when an oil development was going to come into this area they would have to go to this committee for their license and so on. Depending on which area they wanted to work in they'd have to get the authorization. One of the things that we pushed very heavily on was to get equal representation and equal say on this committee by our people. They were talking about involving Forestry and they were talking about involving Fish and Wildlife. The thing on that was that if there was an oil company coming in and wanting to do a particular job within our traditional area, they would go through this committee. If they got their okay then one of the things that we wanted to put in there, too, was to have an equal opportunity for the kinds of work that may be coming in through this particular oil company -- not any kind of preferential treatment but rather an equal opportunity if we were able to do the job that needed to be done, to have an equal opportunity to be able to bid for the work. The important thing in this set-up was what we were looking at was because of the depletion of the game, for example moose, we talked about how best do we deal with the problem. We tried in the past where we said, let's not hunt this fall or this winter to try and bring back some of the moose. But the minute we did that we saw everybody else coming in and hunting, so it didn't do any good to try and hold off. We had to compete with these guys in order to have the moose that came into the area. But with this wildlife management committee, we figured if the moose were really down -- and they are down -- so maybe it would be good if we didn't hunt for 1 year or 2 years to try and bring back some of the moose into the area. In the fall there's a tendency of moose moving around a lot. They come out of the different areas into our area when they're mating. So maybe, we thought, if hunting was prevented for a year that some of these animals would stay, depending on how much activity and so on was taking place in the given areas. Or we look at certain areas and stop hunting in those areas, depending on what the situation was. But these are the kind of ideas that we were talking about.
Same thing with trapping. For example, they reduced our trappers to one lynx and one fisher one winter. We couldn't kill two lynx, we couldn't kill more than one fisher. Our trappers were out there and they had their traps out. One day maybe they caught two lynx. What did they do with the other one? Fish and Wildlife wanted to take it and sell it. So we were caught in a situation where, while we were trying to look at conservation, everything seemed to be against us. So we said, okay, if that's the case, if the lynx are depleting and they wanted to put a control on that, then let's not trap. But then when we go in and we want to renew our trapline they say, "Well you guys didn't do anything, therefore you shouldn't be having a trapline." They said "there's a lot of people on this waiting list that are wanting traplines within this area." So we're caught in this situation where we're damned if we do and damned if we don't.
These are the kinds of things that are important to us because of the particular way of life our people and that fact that they would like to try and preserve that as long as possible.
So that is one of the ideas that we've looked at. The other one is game-ranching, as Fred pointed out, there's been buffalo in the past in that area and we've got a few buffalo at this point. There're very few, but what we wanted to do was look at how they adapted to our area and what it would take to raise them. Do you have to feed them year-round? Do you have to feed them grain? How are they going to adapt? They've done very well. They're not hard to keep and you only feed them when the snow is deep. They're strong and they can do well on their own.
Menno Wiebe: Just a few additional questions. We're talking about the immediate reserve area...and beyond that the larger hunting area. How much development, either in terms of oil extraction or timber harvesting...(has occurred in)...the proposed land areas in question -- have calculations been made about the amount of monies extracted from them. I want to get to the point of the question. What contributions have been made to community building by either the oil companies or Daishowa?
Bernard Ominayak: With the billions of dollars that have been extracted by way of natural resources off our traditional territory, there has not been a red cent that has been coming back to the community other than welfare from the federal government. There're been a lot of claims made by governments that they can't be handing out tax dollars to Native people like the Lubicons all the time. I don't think we're talking about any tax payers' dollars when we're talking about a settlement for the Lubicon people, considering the amount of money that's been extracted through the various oil development and also the logging companies up to this point.
You mentioned the two areas or the three areas. In so far as the 91 square miles right around Lubicon Lake itself -- we went out of our way not to include the existing pump jacks that are to the south and to the north and to the east of Lubicon Lake itself where we selected the 91 sq. miles. That also holds true for the 2 sq. miles at Haig Lake and also the 2 sq. miles at Bison Lake. There are no producing wells or any pump jacks within those lands that were set aside in the Grimshaw Agreement. On the 16 sq. miles where we just hold the surface rights, before any work can take place by the government we would have to have an equal say or we'd have to authorize any development that may transpire within those 16 sq. miles.
Menno Wiebe: Your selection of that larger plot of land -- did you intentionally try to avoid lands on which there were pump jacks?
Bernard Ominayak: That is correct. That's what I said. We were having enough problems trying to get lands and we always try to consider other peoples' interests in this fight. Hard as it is, we still try to do that. That's one of the reasons why we went the way we did. Also, within the 91 square miles, we've kept the oil development out of there for the last 4 or 5 years. We've told all the oil companies that nobody is going to do any kind of exploratory work or any drilling of any kind within the 95 square miles. We did catch one seismic company that snuck in through the back door a couple of winters ago. And we had to assist them in getting out of there. But we haven't had too much problem keeping them out. There's been interest indicated by a number of different oil companies wanting to explore within those lands, but at this point we don't know if there's anything in there, or if there's nothing.
Menno Wiebe: Would you confirm for me here -- the larger areas designated for hunting outside of the 95 square miles, however, has a lot of oil and timber development in it?
Bernard Ominayak: That is correct.
Fred Lennarson: I'd like to elaborate just a little bit on Bernard's remarks about the discussions with the province. We can provide materials on that as well which I don't believe you have. The Lubicon position historically has been that they wanted to retain wildlife management and environmental protection rights over the bigger area. At Grimshaw Premier Getty agreed to talk about that. In subsequent negotiations with the province, there was an agreement in principle -- it was part of the bigger deal which has never been done -- but there was agreement in principle with the province that the entire Lubicon territory would be established as a special wildlife zone, and there would be, as Bernard said, there would be a committee of people that would be in the majority Aboriginal people from the area who would constitute this committee. They would, among other things, establish the number of big game that could be taken, the number of big game that would be required by the Aboriginal people of the area for subsistence, and the number that could be taken in total. If 500 could be taken and the Aboriginal people needed 300 of the 500 that could be taken, then only 200 tags could be issued to people from the outside area. There is a provincial computerized system for protecting particularly sensitive areas. If, for example, there's a breeding ground or a burial ground or the like you put that in the computer system and then whenever there's an application for somebody to do development work, they are advised that they cannot drill a well in the middle of a burial ground or an animal breeding ground or something. Then there are a series of other powers that this committee would hold with regard to the establishment of forestry practices in the area and other things. But the major powers have to do with hunting and management of traplines. There's one other element which Bernard may want to speak to as well, and that is called a Trappers' Support Program. The model comes out of Quebec with the James Bay Cree. Especially for the older people who find their identity and feelings of self-worth going to a trapline -- these guys get up and go to the trapline every day because that's what a responsible human being does, whether you catch anything or not...The problem is that these people can no longer support themselves off the land but neither can they support themselves in the bush on welfare with store- bought groceries. So the Lubicon people have put forward a proposal, and this is included in the package in the Lubicon Draft Settlement Agreement, called the Trapper' Support Program. The idea of the Trappers' Support Program is that the trappers would receive compensation for the difference between what they used to be able to make in the bush and what they can now make, related to the number of days that they actually put in trapping...So it would enable a guy to trap even though he could not technically be self-supporting by only trapping.
Menno Wiebe: Just for the record here, Bernard, when you proposed or were talking about a wildlife management committee or commission, you were talking about equal and full participation? I'm drawing this to our attention because many of the land claim agreements have the Native people as advisory to the committee. We just want to make sure that we're hearing you on that?
Bernard Ominayak: That is correct Menno. To agree to play an advisory role in any kind of committee we've see time after time doesn't work. It's just a complete waste of time on anybody's part, especially the Aboriginal people. So we either have to have an equal say as to what takes place within our traditional territory or we have to do something else.
Sandy Day: I too say welcome. As a group our goal is to get negotiations going again between you and the government. With that in mind, I ask, do you Bernard have a vision on how to open negotiations or a different tactic or way to go about trying to reach some settlement?
Bernard Ominayak: We have numerous ways or a lot of ideas that would probably work if the will was there on the part of the government. But as long as it's not there then I don't see what is going to work. Here, with this Commission...I would hope that they take the opportunity to participate and hopefully this may lead to a more substantive discussion than what we've had in the past years. I think that as more people become aware and more people become involved in this process I would hope that would enhance the will of the governments that hasn't been there for a number of years. But as I pointed out to the people, the media and that, I think it would be in the best interests of all that this matter be resolved -- meaning the oil development, the logging companies and everybody else that's involved in stealing our resources. What is being done up to this point and is still going on can not go on forever. That is something that has to be understood by a lot of people...I would hope that they take every advantage of getting the assistance of the Commission here in arriving at a fair and just settlement for the Lubicon people.
John MacMillan: Bernard, I see in the red book there's a press release stating that maybe the Lubicons are asking too much or are greedy. But it would have been very easy for you to outline your reservation and absorb those oil wells, wouldn't it have been? It was intentionally done that you did not take them into your reservation, is this right?
Bernard Ominayak: Well, John, yes, that's what I said just a little earlier to Menno. We went out of our way not to include existing producing wells within those lands that were set aside in the Grimshaw Agreement. I think more than that, with all the development that has taken place within our whole traditional area, as long as we don't have an agreement with both levels of government then those lands and whatever resources those lands contain are rightfully ours until we get an agreement in place. Within those lands they've extracted billions of dollars and billions of dollars. We're not talking about tax payers' dollars when we're talking about a settlement for the Lubicon people. If we were looking at the kinds of money that was hauled out of there, you know, you take $170 million versus I don't know how many billions of dollars, it's peanuts. I mean, this is a real good deal on the parts of the governments if they were prepared to look at an agreement. But no, it seems to be greed as one of the major players in this war where they are stalling and stalling and stalling and in the meantime they're stealing and stealing. That's the game they're playing. I know they're putting us under all kinds of pressure because the longer they prevent us from getting an agreement, the more resources they steal. Also at the same time, they've put all kinds of obstacles all around us. For example, the Woodland Cree, right now they're in the process of creating another Band to the east of us. That's to try and divide and conquer the Lubicon people and they say, "the more Lubicons we steal from the Lubicon Nation, then the bigger the problem it is for the Lubicon people." So they'd rather not deal with us, but at the same time, we're there and we've been able to stand up to this point.
Fred Lennarson: I'd just like to make one small point of clarification. When Bernard met with Premier Getty in October of 1988 and made this deal on the 79 sq. miles and the 16 sq. miles, Bernard took the position that there were no oil wells within that area. That was what was believed at the time. Afterwards it was realized that there were a couple of oil wells just inside the line around the periphery and so what the Lubicon people did was agree that the places where these oil wells were located would be included in part of the 16 sq. miles where the Lubicons do not have sub-surface rights and that they would give the province access to those particular oil wells. So what Bernard says when he says there're no oil wells within that area is true in this sense. The Lubicons took that position in the beginning and when a couple of wells were located just inside the boundary, the agreement was then made that the sub-surface rights belonging to those wells would remain with the province...The Lubicons are not benefitting from any of these wells.
John MacMillan: Another thing I'd like the Commission to hear is the numbers of the Woodland Cree. There were probably 780 members of the Woodland Cree and today about, what, 250 living in Cadotte? Could you go through that bit, Bernard? What I'm trying to get at here is that a lot of those members aren't even from the area. Is that right or is that wrong?
Bernard Ominayak: Well, John, I guess depending on which report you want to follow. As far as we know the membership of the Woodland Cree at this point is 700+. It is true that maybe there's 200, maybe 300 people living at the community of Cadotte Lake. But what they had done in the process of trying to build up their membership, they went out of their way to recruit members from all the different areas. They went all the way to B.C., Peace River, Grimshaw, all those little towns, High Prairie, Slave Lake, Edmonton here, Wabasca, Bigstone -- all these different areas in trying to build this so-called Woodland Band. A lot of them were getting in under C-31. One of the things that the federal government had done was set up a special committee to deal with C-31 registration of the Woodland Cree in Ottawa. They had this committee set up and they went around taking applications from many of the Native people in the surrounding area under this new bill, Bill C-31. Then they would put them on the Lubicon membership list and then the minute they got them on, they'd transfer them to Woodland. This was all being done in Ottawa. So a lot of the people weren't even aware as to what was happening. In the meantime, though, the Chief and Council of the Woodland, especially the Chief, thought that if they brought up their membership that meant more land. But what the government was doing was they only had a few people that they were giving land for, because their position has been -- and I'm not sure if it's still the position to this day -- was no land under C-31. So while these guys were jacking up their membership, the land that they were each getting was getting smaller because all these people are getting on their list. So anyway, that's about all I know. I don't really pay too much attention as to what kind of an agreement they make or to what they're doing in so far as the Woodland is concerned, because it's really a pitiful situation where the government should be bloody ashamed of themselves for the kind of shafting they've done to these Native people. I'm not questioning or arguing the point whether the people of the Woodland have any rights. Whatever rights they may have had are all gone and what I see is just a disgraceful agreement and the government...should be ashamed for what they've done to those people.
John MacMillan: But aren't you going to have to let some of those people back into your reservation if there is a broken family situation?
Bernard Ominayak: Well John, in reality, whoever was included or whoever signed the kind of release that the Woodland people signed in order to get the agreement that they got is not going to be a member that's going to be beneficial to the Lubicon people by any means at this point. That is reality...Most of them are still living in our community even up to this point. We, from the community, have tried to avoid any kind of tension with those people, with the understanding that they made a choice on their own to go some place else. But at the same time, they're coming back, coming back and asking if they can rejoin the Lubicon people. So this is a continuing thing and it's a problem that's going to have to be dealt with internally. But it's a problem that we see and it's there and it's a reality. How best we deal with it, I guess, is a question that is before ourselves as a Lubicon Nation. But as you brought it out, in trying to get an agreement the government bought them. They've got absolutely no right at all from the government's point of view at this point. But having said that, that's not a factor on our part. It's something that we will have to consider at some point as we face it...(change tapes)...
John MacMillan: ...family member, $1,000 to sign to the Lubicon Band? Or to the Woodland Cree?
Bernard Ominayak: To the Woodland Cree. Certainly not to the Lubicons. I think they'd rather hang me than give me a thousand dollars at this point. There's been articles written on that too, also, a lot of the people have come to us a month later with the problems that they were having. First they were paying them $1,000 per family member if the vote turned right and then they paid them each $50 to vote. If there was a family of five, they got $5,000. But later on, after everything had gone through and the referendum was in favor of signing the agreement, then they turned around and deducted these payments from peoples' welfare allowance. So they were in a big mess there for quite a while. A lot of them came crying to us trying to get welfare until their time was made up. But there's been no rules, or there's been no right or wrong in a lot of this stuff. For example, the Indian Affairs Minister just on his own created this Band under Section 17 of the Indian Act. It's something that we may have been more accustomed to a hundred years ago, but at this point in time, well, it still happens.
Fred Lennarson: If I may, I'd like to provide the Commission with just a little bit of history on the creation of this thing. I don't know if everybody here knows the history of it. There is a man by the name of Henry Laboucan who was born in a neighboring community, or his father was from a neighboring community.
His father's name was Henry McGillivray and his mother was a Lubicon. His mother left his father and moved in with a Lubicon man for a couple of years and then left the Lubicon man and moved to a place called Grouard. They moved out of the Lubicon area in '49 and have lived in Grouard ever since. In the early 70s Henry Laboucan got the old Lubicon man, with whom his mother had lived for a couple of years, to sign an affidavit saying he was Henry's father. It wasn't technically true but as a cultural phenomena, in these communities the people that raise you are called mother and father. So the old man said sure "I'll sign an affidavit saying I'm your father" and Henry used this to get on the status list of Lubicon Indians. But he'd moved out of the area to Grouard. So after the Grimshaw Agreement and it looked like there was going to be a settlement of Lubicon land rights, Henry Laboucan contacted a provincial MLA by the name of Larry Shaben and said he wanted to pursue something called land in severalty. Land in severalty is a provision of Treaty 8 which provides land of 160 acres per person for everybody who wants to live apart from everybody else. Henry didn't want to go back and live in Lubicon territory. He hadn't been there since 1949. He'd grown up in Grouard and he wanted reserve land there. Larry Shaben referred this request for land in severalty to the provincial negotiating team and they gave it to the feds and the feds brought it to the negotiating table in December of 1988. What they said to us is, "We have an inquiry here about land in severalty from a guy named Henry Laboucan and our first point is that we don't deal with individuals. We have to negotiate aboriginal land rights with the aboriginal society, not with individuals. So we're not going to talk to him. And we want to say to you on the Lubicon negotiating team, if you want to negotiate land in severalty we want to tell you right now that there's never going to be any land in severalty settlements with the Lubicon people or anybody else." Justice Department lawyer Ivan Whitehall said, "If you pursue it we guarantee you we'll tie you up in court forever." I just make this point. He didn't say, "We'll refer it to the courts for determination." He said, "We'll use the rules of the court to prevent you from ever being able to take advantage of this particular clause of the treaty."
At any rate the Lubicon negotiating team said land in severalty is not on our agenda. The Lubicon people didn't tell us to negotiate any land in severalty. Henry is operating on his own and as far as we're concerned he's got to straighten this out with the Lubicons. If the Lubicon people tell us to negotiate land in severalty, that's what we'll do. But unless or until that happens we won't do it.
The federal government then broke down negotiations the following January with the so-called "take-it-or-leave-it" offer, copies of which you have. That was on January 24th as I recall. The first part of February -- and I'd have to check the date but it was something like February 10th -- they made arrangements to go and meet with Henry Laboucan up in High Prairie. We have information about what happened at the meeting. What they said to Henry at that meeting was, "We can't negotiate a separate deal with you independent of the Lubicons, but if you can identify other Lubicons who agree with you, we'll help get them on the list, overthrow the existing Lubicon leadership in the election scheduled for that fall, and then we'll make a deal and give you your land in severalty." And it was at that point that the government agents, working with some of the aboriginal people in the area, starting beating the bushes in High Prairie, Peace River and other places, trying to find aboriginal people to go on this list. These aboriginal people, many of whom had been taken off the membership lists of half-a-dozen Bands in the surrounding area, went along to try and get their names back on the status lists. The government was trying to use them to overthrow the existing Lubicon leadership. They were trying to use the federal agents to get back on the status list. So they were trying to use each other.
The government hired a Calgary lawyer by the name of Bob Sachs -- not Bob Sachs, Bob Young. I'm sorry. They flew Bob Young from Calgary up to Edmonton and introduced him to these people in the Edmonton office of Indian Affairs. They flew these dissidents down from High Prairie on a chartered plane using our tax money and introduced them to their new lawyer. Bob Young next went to a cocktail party in Calgary and mentioned that he'd been hired to represent Lubicon dissidents. There was somebody from the Calgary Herald at the party. The story broke and then the government started claiming there were 200 Lubicon dissidents, 300 Lubicon dissidents, 400 Lubicon dissidents, more Lubicon dissidents than there were Lubicon people.
So the Lubicon leadership, facing the situation where their mandate was being challenged, who they represented was being challenged, called an early election and that election was uncontested and Lubicon leadership was re-elected unanimously. Now what happened is these so-called dissidents by definition had no political base in Lubicon territory. They were largely from these surrounding communities.
The following week the government announced that they were going to set up the Woodland Cree Band, which up to that point didn't exist. There's no historic Woodland Cree community. The Woodland Cree existed only in motel rooms in places like Peace River in meetings called by agents of the federal government, trying to set this thing up.
They then created the Woodland Cree under a section of the Indian Act to which Bernard referred which I call to the Commission's attention. I have it before me. It's Section 17 and it reads as follows:
"The Minister may, whenever he considers it desirable, constitute new bands and establish band lists with respect thereto from existing bands or from the Indian Register if requested to do so by an unspecified number of persons proposing to form the new band."
That means if you've got a membership of 500 people they can go in and find 5 people and try to cook up a little deal with them. And if they can make that deal, and solicit a request which is what happened in this case, they've met their first requirement.
"Where pursuant to Subsection 1" -- which I just read -- "a new Band has been established from an existing band or any part thereof, such portion of the reserve lands and funds of the existing band as the Minister in his sole discretion determines" -- he can just sit at his desk and sign a letter and decide this -- "shall be held for the use and benefit of the new band."
The third section reads:
"No protest may be made in respect to the deletion from or the addition to a band list consequence on the exercise by the Minister of any of his powers under subsection 1."
We need to think about the consequences of this. This would be like if Prime Minister Mulroney didn't like Don Getty so he sent somebody to Edmonton and picked up a few people on the streets of Edmonton and dealt with them instead of duly elected provincial leaders. That's the kind of anti-democratic power this Indian Act gives to the federal minister and this is how he's used it in this situation to create this band which has no history. There is no Woodland Cree community. It didn't exist until these disparate individuals were pulled together in the fashion I've indicated. And the government now, Mr. Siddon last November 1st and at other points as well, says the Lubicon people no longer enjoy aboriginal land rights to their traditional territory because other people -- namely the Woodland Cree -- who in his words have an equal right to the area have ceded the aboriginal land rights to that area.
You'll hear more about that. I just thought that background material might be helpful to the people who don't know it.
Jacques Johnson: So I guess that takes care of the Lubicon claim to aboriginal rights, right?
Fred Lennarson: It depends on who you talk to.
Jacques Johnson: I have a question maybe to Mr. Sachs. In regards to the on- going negotiations, I read in a newspaper clipping recently in regards to this Commission a voice coming from the Indian Affairs department says that they have no comments because of the sensitive nature of the on-going negotiations between the Lubicons and the feds. I wonder if you would have any comment about that Mr. Sachs?
Bob Sachs: Heretofore, the negotiations have been sort of one-sided in nature. What has occurred is back in November of last year, Bernard spoke with Siddon. Bernard presented Siddon with the Lubicon proposal and asked for his response to that proposal. There has still not been a response to that proposal. In essence what has transpired over the last, well, since February, is a series of meetings in which their, according to their view of things, new and improved offer has been placed on the table. I believe you have that before you. The essence of the difficulty is much what Jennifer was getting at earlier, and that is -- and probably Regena and Don who deal constantly with government can understand this way of thinking -- that there is nothing in the Lubicon proposal which they will agree to which does not fit into an existing program. In other words, if one wants -- and we'll just take an example -- an old folks' home for lack of a better term. There is no existing federal program to build an old folks' home so you don't get it. It is program-specific and when they talk about their offer, it is always in terms of dollars. In other words, their very generous offer is always in so many dollars. Of course, when you analyze their offer, a lot of those very generous dollars are not in fact a solid proposal. In other words, it's what Fred was talking about. "Well, you may qualify for this program which can yield you up to x number of dollars. You may be able to do this. You may be able to do that."
So the difficulty that we see at the present time is a difficulty that we've been encountering now for 3 1/2 years. Their response is much the same as it was to the negotiations which took place in 1988-89. And that is as I described it. Those items where there is a commonality to them -- a school, a house, a road, those sorts of things -- they have again, if you know anything about government, some very complicated formulas as to the amounts that are placed in their offer. So many people yield you so many houses. So many people produces so many children which produces a school of this size. That is all sort of population driven or formula driven and does not really speak to the fundamental issues that weigh in this particular situation. The Lubicon situation is a very particular situation. And for god knows how many years they've been trying to convince the federal government that this sort of thinking of compartmentalizing various pieces to the puzzle is just not the way to deal with this issue.
And so in essence nothing much different in terms of the way of looking at this problem has changed in the federal government in the 3 1/2 years since negotiations originally commenced.
Jacques Johnson: Thank you Mr. Sachs. That's very helpful. So in a sense you're saying that there has been no progress in negotiations, really no movement worth speaking of?
Bob Sachs: Numbers have sort of been gerrymandered around but in essence from a format point of view -- it's exactly the same format. In other words, if schools fit into a program we have then yes you get a school. If an old folks' home doesn't fit into a program, sorry then there's no money for that. On the socio- economic side, from a business point of view, again, if you qualify for a program. That's the sort of thinking that has gone on and nothing much has changed in that type of thinking.
Jacques Johnson: I have one question for Chief Bernard here. It is very simple. Regarding your membership, I know that there seems to be something very sacred about membership lists. It is very difficult to get the lists. I don't know if there has been a public list of the Woodland Cree people. Would it be possible for the Lubicons to give this Commission a band list, if that's what you call it?
Bernard Ominayak: I guess, just looking back at the experience we had with providing information and stuff for the governments to work off is one of the questions that we'd have to ask ourselves. But I certainly will bring that up before the Council and the people and depending upon what they say in providing that particular information, we've tried to provide whatever information we had to the Commission, so I would hope that there is a possibility that that may be possible. But at this point I can not answer your question as to whether I can or not.
The other thing I would just like to maybe add to Bob's comments to you in so far as the supposed negotiations at this point in time. Basically what is happening - - and I think the Commission has been provided with two books that are supposedly proposals from the federal government. Basically what you're seeing is the $45 million "take-it-or-leave-it" offer that was there. They're trying to work around it, but basically from our point of view that's what it is. Whether we can go on beyond that, I really don't know. We hope that there's a possibility that they will get involved in this and also to utilize the help that may be provided, depending on what the outcome of this particular Commission does. So with that I guess that's the only comment I've got in that regard. Fred here is jumping up and down.
Fred Lennarson: I'd like to just make a couple of additions to that. We've looked at these most recent offers in terms of the impact of inflation -- because these are in 1992 dollars whereas the "take-it-or-leave-it" offer was in 1988 dollars -- and while some of the numbers have increased slightly, some of them have in fact gone down even in terms of 1988 dollars. So the bottom line is that the current proposals are worth less by some 8-10 million dollars than the offer in 1988. Thus the current proposals which are, as Bob describes, essentially the same and Bernard describes as essentially the same; as a matter of fact, in terms of dollars, are not as good as the so-called "take-it-or-leave-it" offer. On the question of membership which has come up, the government keeps saying the Lubicons have lost membership and the Lubicons have offered repeatedly to sit down and identify anybody whose name appears on both lists and bring them in and ask them where they want their names to appear. The government has consistently refused to do that. The government has consistently refused to provide lists for the Woodland Cree for example. They say that's private information. Where on the other hand, Lubicon lists, which the Lubicon people provided to the government, were used by people going house to house when they were trying to talk people into joining the Woodland Cree, offering to buy people such things as these little red bush trikes and all the rest of it if they joined the Woodland Cree, and they used the Lubicon membership list to identify the people to approach. So that's not to say you won't get it. That's for the Lubicon people to decide. But that's what's happened in the past and I think the Commission should know it.
Jacques Johnson: I have one last question. It's a very quick one and to follow through on John MacMillan's questioning. Are there still potential oil and gas resources on the proposed reservation?
Bernard Ominayak: I guess that's anybody's guess. At this point we've got no knowledge as to whether there's any oil or gas within those 95 sq. miles. There's been some suspicion that there was some natural gas in part of the area. But at this point, I just can't say yes there is or no there is none. When the question arose from Mr. MacMillan, we did go out of our way, because we could have easily pulled in I don't know how many wells if we wanted to, without going out of our way to include wells within the 91 sq. miles right around Lubicon itself. The only thing I can say is I don't know if there's anything under those 91 sq. miles at and around Lubicon at this point.
Jacques Johnson: It's 4:35. Maybe we should call it a day. I would like to thank all the Lubicon people who have appeared before our Commission today. Also members of the media and members of the general population. We're very happy and encouraged by your presence. I'd also like to thank my peers here at the front table and invite all of you to resume tomorrow morning at 9:30. We have some outstanding issues that we would like to discuss with you. Among some of those are the question of compensation that we have barely touched. There's the question of aboriginal rights. Maybe something having to do with self-government. At the same time, the meaning of your presence within Treaty 8. Right now, what does that really mean. Perhaps we will deal a little more with the infrastructure question that has been dealt with somewhat but maybe there's more. The members of the Commission will be meeting immediately after the closure of this meeting. We will be together reviewing what happened today and also planning for tomorrow morning. Of course, this meeting will be in camera. We have to have some time by ourselves. So we'd like to thank you all for your participation and for your presence. Have a good evening.
Go to Transcript of Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review Public Hearing - Day Two