Alberta Downplays Lubicon Settlement Commission Report


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

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



March 20, 1993





Attached for your information is a copy of a newspaper article recording the Alberta Provincial Government's first faltering attempts to respond to the critical report of the Lubicon Settlement Commission. Attached also is a copy of a letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal from Lubicon Chief Ominayak regarding that article and a letter to the author of the article from Member of Parliament Ross Harvey.



Newly appointed Provincial Native Affairs Minister Mike Cardinal dismisses the report of this prestigious independent Commission as "nothing new". Maybe it's "nothing new" in terms of the involved issues but it's certainly a noteworthy consensus on those issues among a broad-based group of Canadian citizens who've studied the situation for nearly a year, reviewed all of the involved proposals and heard testimony from knowledgable people ranging from the Lubicons themselves to Government-appointed Federal Inquiry Officer and prominent Canadian jurist E. Davie Fulton.



One thing that is definitely not new is the unanimous "principle finding" of the Commission that Canadian "governments have not acted in good faith" in dealing with the Lubicons. To the profound discredit of both levels of Canadian Government, every credible outside investigator has concluded basically the same thing -- including the World Council of Churches and the United Nations Human Rights Committee.



And one thing is definitely clear. Neither level of Canadian Government is very enthusiastic about the prospect of giving the public access to what actually occurs around the negotiating table -- as distinct from using some available scribe like Jack Danylchuk to create purposeful, self-serving fantasies about what occurs around the negotiating table.


Attachment #1:

March 20, 1993, Edmonton Journal article



OMINAYAK URGED TO MEET CARDINAL



Jack Danylchuk

Native Affairs Writer

Edmonton



The door to negotiations is open for the Lubicon Cree, but there won't be public dealing on the band's land claim, says Native Affairs Minister Mike Cardinal.



"I don't think it's necessary to have public meetings and public grandstanding," Cardinal said Friday, a week after an NDP-appointed commission released a report on the Lubicons' outstanding claim.



The commission said that open talks between Ottawa, Alberta and the band might be a way to end the deadlock that developed last year after Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak rejected a 73 million and 240 sq. km. offer.



Cardinal dismissed the report as "nothing new".



When the report was released, Ominayak accused the governments of hiding from negotiations and slammed Cardinal for his support of the Alberta-Pacific pulp mill project in Athabasca County.



"What's killing native people, and I personally lost 45 to 50 friends in my lifetime, is poverty," said Cardinal.



"A lot chose not to live the traditional lifestyle and the transition we are going through has been devastating."



Projects like Alberta-Pacific "are an opportunity for people to become self-sufficient. It's a matter of attitude. It's living off the land in a modern way," he said.



Cardinal said it is Ominayak who has avoided meetings.



"I've offered twice to meet informally to see where I should move to assist the process. I thought we could sit down and talk about some of these issues -- he won't even give me that opportunity."



The Lubicon failure to come to the table "won't stop me from meeting and negotiating with the other bands," said Cardinal, who met last week with representatives of the Loon River Cree.



"All of the people at the meeting spoke in Cree; that probably never happens across Canada," he said.



"I've offered the same to Bernard and I'm disappointed in him. We can sit down and he can express his concerns, and I can help as much as I can."



The settlement offers are based on band population and a deal for the Loon River band could further undermine the Lubicon position.



The Lubicon lost members to the nearby Woodland Cree three years ago and Ominayak has accused Ottawa of raiding his membership to boost the Loon River ranks.



"I'd like to sit down with Bernard and his band members; let's talk in Cree about cultural issues and trap lines, poverty and needs," Cardinal said.


Attachment #2:

March 20, 1993, letter from Chief Ominayak to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal



Dear Sir/Madam:



Jack Danylchuk's March 20th article entitled "Ominayak urged to meet Cardinal" again prints demonstrably untrue Federal and Provincial Government propaganda as though it were fact. It also contains untrue allegations made by Provincial Native Affairs Minister Mike Cardinal about me without bothering to ask me for reaction -- something which one would hope would have been caught by Journal editorial people and sent back to Danylchuk for correction before such an article was printed.



Referring to a recommendation of the Lubicon Settlement Commission that negotiations between the Lubicons and both levels of Canadian Government be open to the public, Danylchuk quotes Mr. Cardinal as saying "I don't think it's necessary to have public meetings and public grandstanding" -- implying of course that "public grandstanding" is somebody's intention. In fact the Commission recommended open negotiations largely because of the "principle finding" of the Commission "that governments have not acted in good faith" in dealing with the Lubicon people behind closed doors. (A related Commission finding was "the Lubicon have acted in good faith in negotiations".)



Danylchuk states, as though it were fact, that the Commission recommended open negotiations as "a way to end the deadlock (in negotiations) that developed last year after Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak rejected a $73 million and 240 sq. km. offer". In fact the Lubicons did not reject "a $73 million offer". This $73 million figure has been artificially inflated by Federal officials for propaganda purposes and includes such obviously inappropriate items as a million dollars for a Provincial Government road and $10.5 million as the supposed cost of "giving" the Lubicon people a small piece of our own land for reserve purposes. (Deliberately deceitful government propaganda of this kind is part of the reason for the "principle finding" of the Commission "that governments have not acted in good faith" -- and consequently for the Commission recommendation that negotiations be open and public.)



Danylchuk then goes on to print untrue allegations by Mr. Cardinal implying that I'm the reason for this "deadlock" in negotiations. He quotes Mr. Cardinal as saying that "it is Ominayak who has avoided meetings"; that Cardinal has "offered twice to meet (me) informally...to assist the process...and talk about some of these issues but (I) won't even give (him) that opportunity".



In fact I have never refused to meet with Mr. Cardinal to discuss "assisting the process" or to "talk about some of these issues". Nor would I. Rather I have received two phone calls from Mr. Cardinal's office advising me that Mr. Cardinal would buy me a cup of coffee if I dropped by his office the next time I'm in Edmonton. I specifically asked if Mr. Cardinal was proposing a meeting to discuss the pressing issues facing the Lubicon people. Both times I was firmly advised that Mr. Cardinal was not prepared to discuss the issues -- that he only wanted to meet me. My response both times was that I'd be pleased to meet with Mr. Cardinal any time he was prepared to discuss the issues -- and that I'd even buy the coffee.



The March 20th Danylchuk article thus creates a totally erroneous impression about the current Lubicon situation. Such an article may well serve the propaganda purposes of Canadian Government but it is a real disservice to people reading the Edmonton Journal in hopes of learning the truth.



Sincerely,



Chief Bernard Ominayak

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation


Attachment #3:

March 23, 1993, letter from Federal Member of Parliament Ross Harvey to Jack Danylchuk



Dear Mr. Danylchuk:



I should at the outset confess my biases: I am a longtime and determined supporter of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation and its leader, Chief Bernard Ominayak. I believe the treatment accorded these unhappy people over the decades by successive provincial and federal governments has been wilfully destructive and among the more shameful episodes in our nation's checkered history. I believe the proposals for a settlement agreement advanced by the Lubicon Nation in 1989 are reasonable and workable. More importantly, I believe they constitute a basis on which Lubicon society may yet survive.



But I am prepared to accept that reasonable people may reasonably disagree. Further, I understand and appreciate that a "fact" is a very slippery item, and that what I may consider to be deliberate misrepresentation may honestly be deemed accurate reportage by the person doing it. Finally, I acknowledge that selection is the essence of journalism, and the construction of a coherent whole necessarily entails the excision of parts. "All the news that's fit to print"is not a boast, it is a confession.



So it is that, in past, I have stewed quietly when reading your various reports of matters concerning the Lubicon Nation and their ongoing struggles with Canadian and Albertan governments. I disagree profoundly with your evident perspective on these matters, and believe your selection of "facts" for presentation from time to time to be biased. So be it. We are all biased. (Evidence supporting the contention that the selection is biased can be found easily through reference to the (properly, in my opinion) outraged letters from Chief Ominayak all but invariably occasioned by your articles-- even in the heavily edited form in which they eventually make it onto the Journal's letters pages, they are still quite instructive in these regards.) But I accept that you are quite within your rights to present the facts as you see them. In the spirit of the maintenance of a free press, I wouldn't have it otherwise.



What I cannot accept, however, is the levelling of accusations without the accused being allowed the right to respond.



This happened in an article entitled "Ominayak urged to meet Cardinal", which appeared under your by-line in the Journal's issue of March 20. In this article, you reported without comment Mr. Cardinal's contention that "...it is Ominayak who has avoided meetings."



"I've offered twice to meet informally to see where I should move to assist the process. I thought we could sit down and talk about some of these issues -- he won't even give me that opportunity."



"The Lubicon failure to come to the table `won't stop me from meeting and negotiating with the other bands,' said Cardinal, who met last week with representatives of the Loon River Cree."



Et cetera.



There is no evidence in the article of your having made any attempt to secure comment from Chief Ominayak. Not even the customary "Chief Ominayak could not be reached for comment" graces the article as printed.



Thinking it odd that Chief Ominayak would refuse such an apparently open offer to enter into discussions with Mr. Cardinal, I asked Chief Ominayak, at an open public meeting that same morning the article appeared, if he had been contacted by you for comment on Mr. Cardinal's remarks or if, to the best of his personal knowledge, any attempt had been made by you to contact him in these regards. He said no. He said the offers referred to by Mr. Cardinal were made to him (Chief Ominayak) by assistants to Mr. Cardinal, and that it was made plain that all Mr. Cardinal wanted was to engage in a bit of informal and friendly chat -- it was made clear that any substantive discussion of the Lubicon matter would most definitely not be undertaken at any such meeting. I believe him; I have no reason not to.



Now, it is true that Chief Ominayak may occasionally be a difficult man to get hold of. But it is equally true that an enterprising reporter of your undoubted abilities is more than equal to the task.



This is especially so given the article was not of a pressing or "breaking" nature.



It opened with Mr. Cardinal's comments on an element contained within the final report of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review, a report which had been mae public eight days before (thus, it could hardly have been deemed journalistically "hot"). Even an additional 24 to 48 hours' delay in its publishing would not have rendered the article any less pertinent or newsworthy.



Under the circumstances, for you to proffer (and for the Journal to print) what amounted to Mr. Cardinal's unsubstantiated allegations of improper conduct against Chief Ominayak without affording Chief Ominayak at the very least the opportunity to rebut was, by any standard of journalistic practice, unethical.



I suggest you do what you can to rectify the situation. I suggest rectification include, in part, your notifying your superiors of your disinclination henceforth to undertake reporting of matters related to the Lubicon Nation, and your suggestion that, in future, such reporting assignments be given to a reporter or reporters willing to bring more evidently balanced a perspective to the effort.



Looking forward to your reply, I remain,



Sincerely yours,



Ross Harvey



cc:

Ms. Linda Hughes, Publisher, The Edmonton Journal

Mr. Bernard Ominayak, Chief, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation