Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
April 5, 1993
Attached for your information is a transcript of a recent television program on the report of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review.
Transcript of ITV Newsmakers (6:30 P.M.) Saturday, March 27, 1993
Fil Fraser, ITV Newsmakers: Hello. My name is Fil Fraser. Welcome to Newsmakers. Thanks for tuning in.
The Lubicon Indian Nation settlement issue has been on the books of Canada since at least 1933 and beyond that. In 1933 the Band petitioned the federal government officially for recognition. In the years between then and now, the issue's been on the agenda of both the federal and provincial governments, and, to Canada's shame and embarrassment, that of the United Nation Human Rights Committee. We're certainly not going to solve this problem on this program, but I hope that Newsmakers tonight can shed some light on this issue and give us all a better understanding of where the roadblocks are in this most tragic chapter in Canada's history.
To help us understand I invited 3 people who are part of the issue to join me.
Sharon Venne is a lawyer, a proud indigenous person. She answers her phone that way. She is a winner just recently of the Rockerfellow fellowship to do studies in self-determination for indigenous people around the world. She'll be in the field for 12 years working at the international level. She knows a lot about the issue.
Jennifer Klimek is co-chair of a commission which recently reported on the issue, having held hearings and studied the issue, taken briefs and having come up with a report which you may have read about recently in the press.
No discussion of this would be complete without the man at the center of it. He's Chief Bernard Ominayak, the Chief of the Lubicon Nation, who have been fighting since before he was born for a place in the Canadian Sun.
This unpretentious photocopied report called the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review Final Report has touched off another round of discussion, at least in the press and at the public level of something that's been on the burners of this country for many, many years -- the Lubicon Nation problem with getting a reserve.
Jennifer Klimek is the co-chair of this Commission which was established, we have to say at the outset, by a political party -- the New Democrats. Some people think that that gave it some kind of a spin. Let me ask you perhaps to respond to that, but also to tell me briefly what's in this report.
Jennifer Klimek, Co-Chair, Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review: First of all, with respect to being established by Ray Martin, that is true but once it was established we were off and running completely on our own. We had no further contact. We were self-financing, self-supporting and we set our own agenda for how we were going to look at this issue.
What we did is we looked at the proposals -- both the federal and provincial -- and we had witnesses come in. Chief Bernard was there together with some of the other Lubicons. Both the federal and provincial governments were invited to attend but both chose not to. We had the honor of having Davie Fulton there, who had studied this issue in detail. We had other concerned parties. We had the Mayor of Peace River, plus the head of the Board of Trade. From that we came up with our conclusions. We made some findings, but what I think is more important is we went on to recommendations of where we go from here.
Fraser: So it's not just a repeat of history and another regurgitation of this tragic story, but some hard ideas about how to get off the spot that we're on?
Klimek: Certainly. I mean, the history is important to understand how to get out of it, but to dwell on it is just focusing on spinning the wheel. We need to move ahead from there.
Fraser: So how do we do that?
Klimek: Well, we came up with some recommendations. First of all, that we get the people who are decision-makers at the table, not bureaucrats. It has to be decision-makers -- and that is particularly true from the government's point of view. They've been sending people, we understand, who do not have the ability to make decisions.
Some methods of moving it beyond -- independent mediators; a tribunal; negotiations being done in public so that the posturing that has been happening cannot continue; holding the royalties in trust because the Lubicons have not received the benefits and to equal out the bargaining...
Fraser: Royalties being royalties from oil and gas and now soon to be timber, as well?
Klimek: That's correct. Those are going to the government. And then getting on with the things that have been decided. Our understanding is that the land has been set aside for the reserve. Let's get that set up and let's it get running. The other things can be decided as they go along.
Fraser: Break the log jam.
Fraser: Chief Ominayak, how do you respond to this? Do you think this helps? Do you think it is going to help break the log jam?
Chief Bernard Ominayak, Lubicon Lake Indian Nation: I would certainly hope that there is some movement by both levels of government. I think the recommendations that have been made by the independent Commission that you have outlined, the various recommendations I think would be a very good basis to start some serious negotiations. I think it allows for that process, an opportunity for all to get involved, where we've got an independent commission saying "This is how we see it and this is what we recommend to get things moving."
Fraser: You've been living with this all of your life and you've seen this before. You've seen other groups come along, look at the situation, make recommendations, try to put pressure on government. Do you think this is going to be any different from previous occasions?
Ominayak: I certainly hope so. What I see in the Commission is we've got people who represent all walks of life and different fields of expertise. From our point of view when we first looked at it at the community level, we were looking at it more or less on the basis of trying to put the human side of this situation to the public, where we've got various people representing various interests -- whether it be the churches or people like John MacMillan who's worked in the area for a long time and knows most of our people and has worked with our people in the past. So we've had these different people involved which leads to a broader base and a broader representation by the people represented here.
Fraser: So you're optimistic?
Ominayak: I think it's a real opportunity for both levels of government to start a process of serious negotiations, a negotiating process which I would hope would lead us to a fair and just settlement for our people.
Fraser: I hope so too. I want to bring in a clip from E. Davie Fulton who's been an important player in this through many years. He went up to Lubicon territory in the mid-80s at the behest of then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs David Crombie, and spent a year there working on a study which he then put on the table with Mr. Crombie. Crombie was moved out of Indian Affairs. Bill McKnight was moved in. I asked him -- he attended the press conference that attended the release of this report -- I asked him if there was much resonance between his report and this report.
The Hon. E. Davie Fulton: This report adopts my discussion paper as the basis of their findings. So that part of it, the background and the necessity for action and certain of the bases on which solutions should be found are common. Their recommendations are their own. I did not make recommendations in my report except as a method. My discussion paper was supposed to be a basis on which agreement might be arrived at. It contained no specific recommendations. So this one does, and that's the difference.
Fraser: The suggestion was made that as a last resort, perhaps the U.N. Human Rights Committee or Commission might serve as a third party and perhaps be part of a binding arbitration of this matter. Do you think that's a good idea?
Fulton: It's interesting. All I can say is it's interesting. I don't know whether it's practical. What I would prefer to see is real concentration on making the negotiating process bring about a final solution. Because you'll see that in the report itself it suggests a process for a form of arbitration if negotiation doesn't succeed -- and set up a tribunal. I hope that that tribunal would bring in a binding recommendation. My first reaction is I don't think one should contemplate another stage with reference internationally because let us say we've got to have a solution on our own.
Fraser: Would you serve on such a tribunal?
Fulton: I have said up to now that I would do anything within reason and that is proper that I can do to help bring about a solution.
Fraser: That's E. Davie Fulton, a former judge, a former Federal Minister of Justice, and his input into this situation which has been so substantial.
Sharon Venne, you've been involved at the international level for some time. Do you agree with his comments about not going to the U.N. Human Rights Committee as a final arbitrator in this?
Sharon Venne, International Indigenous Rights Lawyer: The Committee would probably be reluctant to take jurisdiction, to arbitrate it. But we have been pushing over the 12 years I've worked at the U.N. to have an independent body at the United Nations look at issues like this. When a State like Canada stalls and uses every tactic known to man to prevent a settlement, there has to be some external pressure put on a government to make them move.
Fraser: There is some pressure there. The U.N. Human Rights Committee did look at this issue, did issue a report, and has appointed a Rapporteur to keep tabs on it.
Venne: Right. That's the difference between what the Committee has done and what Canada's P.R. machine has said. The government P.R. machine said that Canada was completely exonerated by the Committee, which is not true. They have asked the Rapporteur to look into the issue and there's been at least 4 requests for the Government of Canada to provide further information in relation to the Lubicons. Canada has stone-walled and refused to cooperate. I think if the Canadian public knows that, this is what Canada's public position outside the country is, they should put pressure on their own government...
Fraser: So someone representing the United Nations, someone from Hungary I believe, is asking Canada as a government for some answers on this issue...
Venne: Yes. Please provide us with some information ASAP. They've asked them 4 times and Canada has not responded. I think if Canada says anything they're going to have to own up to the lie that they told the Canadian public which is that the Committee said, "You guys did a great job in relation to the Lubicon," which is an out and out lie. And they're going to have to own up to that and they don't want to, so they just stone-wall and hope it will go away.
Fraser: We'll get some input from Alberta on this when we come back and hear from the Hon. Mike Cardinal.
Earlier this week I visited the Hon. Mike Cardinal in his office at the Provincial Legislature. He's an interesting new player in this whole issue who was recently made a Cabinet Minister. He is an aboriginal person, he a Cree from northern Alberta not far from where Chief Bernard and his people live. I asked him if he has anything to say to Chief Bernard Ominayak.
Mike Cardinal, Alberta Minister Responsible for Native Affairs: (In Cree)
Fraser: Is that an invitation?
Cardinal: An invitation to come and meet and sit down and move forward with the negotiation process, and including Elders in the process to discuss their concerns also...
Fraser: Will you go to him?
Cardinal: No, I will be calling Bernard personally to ask him to come and sit down.
Fraser: And will you go to his community or does he have to come...
Cardinal: Wherever he wants to meet. If he wants me to meet him in his community I will go there. If he wants to meet in Edmonton I will be here. If he would want to hold it in another neutral place or another northern Native community, I'm willing to go anywhere.
Fraser: And you did say to begin discussing negotiations?
Cardinal: Basically what I'm asking at this time is to advise me as to where they think the Alberta Government and myself, as a Minister, and my staff can be involved to speed up the process. And that is what I'm asking input in.
Fraser: So there's a direct appeal to you, Chief Ominayak, from Mike Cardinal. He told me that he's invited you to meet, or he wants to meet with you any place, any time. He said he doesn't care if there is media in the room, or if there are lawyers in the room, or if it's in English or in Cree, or if it's public or private. He wants to talk to you. How do you respond?
Ominayak: Well first, I guess I would like to say to Mike Cardinal, if we're talking bull, then whatever language we talk it's still bull. I would hope and I would welcome an opportunity for somebody like Mike to get serious and let's get going and start dealing with the serious problems that we have before us. We'd welcome that. If at all possible, we'd certainly welcome him to our community where we could meet with him and hopefully our Elders would have an opportunity to talk to him because in our way, in the Native way, we are so dependent on land and everything that surrounds land. The more destruction that takes place within our land it affects us as Native people in a bigger way than most of the different groups of people. So I would hope that we have that opportunity where we speak to him, whether it be in English or in Cree. If we're serious -- and I would hope that it's a serious trip that he would make and a serious meeting and let's get on with dealing with the crucial problems before us.
Fraser: Well, I don't want to put you in the situation where you're negotiating on television on this program, but he sounded serious to me and I hope that the meeting happens and I hope that it is productive. Something that is hard for a lot of us to understand is how much can the Provincial Government do without the support and cooperation of the Federal Government?
Ominayak: There's a whole lot more that the Alberta Government can do than has been done thus far. I think we've stated that in the past. It is true that the Federal Government needs to be involved in a positive way rather than a negative way, because we've been passed back and forth between the two levels of government. One time the feds pretend that they're serious and then the Alberta Government pulls back and then vice versa. I think it's high time that we all got involved.
I'd like to make a further comment to Mr. Cardinal. And that is, as Native people, there's a serious question whether Mike is there to represent AlPac or to represent the Alberta Government in his portfolio as Native Affairs Minister. I would hope that he has a better understanding once we meet as to why Native people have the serious problems that we have with clear-cut logging operations. Because that's an issue that's before him. I would hope that he will have a better understanding and hopefully better represent the Native people in this Province and within his portfolio.
Fraser: Well, I would hope that he was elected to represent the people of Alberta, which includes you, and that's what his job is and that he certainly has a better insight than anybody who's been in that job before. I hope.
Ominayak: Well, that's basically what I'm saying. I would hope that we have that opportunity and can achieve a better understanding -- because clear-cut logging and pulp mills not only affect the Lubicons but it affects the whole of Alberta and all of Canada. It's a destruction that we cannot afford any longer.
Fraser: You have lots of allies fighting that battle with you. I'd like to know from you Chief Ominayak what happened to the Grimshaw Accord? You seem to have developed a relationship with Don Getty when he was Premier. You met several times. You reached an agreement with some land. At least there was an agreement to structure a reserve for your people. And then it seemed to fall apart. What happened?
Ominayak: One of the major problems was that the federal government didn't want any part of that agreement. What they said was "Well, it's fine and dandy for the Premier of Alberta to make an agreement and send the bill to somebody else." So that's what's been going back and forth. I think Getty, to be fair, has made numerous efforts to try and bring the Federal Government on-side. The Federal Government basically took the attitude -- and this is directly from the Alberta Government -- that they wanted to just crush the Lubicons rather than deal with the Lubicons.
Fraser: Let me go to Jennifer Klimek again. Let me ask you, as a lawyer, how you see the complexities of this issue. As a legal issue there are now quite a few precedents in Canada and internationally which suggest that this should be fairly straight-forward.
Klimek: That's a difficult question Fil. It could be straight-forward if we had more good will at the table. We saw evidence of the Feds or the Province not wanting to deal with this. They would not attend at the Commission to explain or answer any questions. Our intent was not to attack them or anything else. So you can have all the precedents in the world, but if you don't have people who want to use them or to solve a problem, they don't matter a whole lot.
Fraser: Sharon, from an international point of view, how does this stack up in legal terms.
Venne: Pretty much the same as other Indigenous people who stand in the way of development...
Fraser: It's happening all over the world.
Venne: Yes. I just wanted to add something to the question that you asked earlier about, you know, if Mike Cardinal is serious. From my own perspective, if he is serious they would cease and desist licensing people to go into the Lubicon territory until this issue is settled. You know, start setting aside the royalties from oil and gas into a separate account. To me that would indicate that they're serious. Until then...
Fraser: That was one of the recommendations.
Venne: Until then, it's just words. I can say anything I want and he can say anything he wants in English or in Cree. It all sounds good but in the end, that and a dollar might buy you a cup of coffee.
Fraser: Let me come back to Chief Ominayak. Can you tell me in a word how much time you have? Your people, from the time that you were a boy growing up to a time that now your children are beginning to grow up, what is the situation with your people and how much longer can you hold out?
Ominayak: I guess that's always a question that's before us. We've had a drastic change in our way of life to something that's been forced on us in a short time frame. I think that's what's caused a lot of the problems that we have before us at the community level. At the same time, we have the federal government and the provincial government making every effort and in fact spending a lot of money to try to undermine us -- creating new bands and trying to tear us apart at the community level. This has all taken place and is continuing even at this point. It's something that I don't think is necessary but then, you know, you've got a government that is doing this and at the same time they're giving out more and more leases to the oil companies and now to Daishowa and it's outright stealing.
Fraser: We'll leave it there on that word. We'll be back to wrap up in a moment.
Well, the Lubicon issue is making news again. It's in the newspapers. It's on television. I hope that you who watched this will take some time to inform yourselves and make your views known.
My thanks to my guests Sharon Venne; Jennifer Klimek, the co-chair of the Commission; and to you, Chief Ominayak, I certainly wish you and your people every success and hope that perhaps this is the time that it will get off dead center. Thank you all for coming. Thank you all for watching.