Lubicon: "Sincere Attempt or Just Another Ploy?"

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

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

May 10, 1993

Attached for your information are media reports pertaining to a new Lubicon initiative recently undertaken by Provincial Native Affairs Minister Mike Cardinal. Hopefully this new Lubicon initiative on Mr. Cardinal's part is a sincere effort and not just another government ploy intended to deflect growing public outrage over the plight of the Lubicons during the up-coming Provincial election.

One comment reportedly made by Cardinal spokesman Bob Scott and quoted in the attached April 30th edition of the Edmonton Journal needs correction. There was no agreement to keep the content of the talks confidential. There wasn't even any discussion about keeping the content of the talks confidential.

The only comment made by either side on the question of confidentiality was made by Mr. Cardinal to Fil Fraser over a month ago when Mr. Cardinal told Mr. Fraser, in Mr. Fraser's words:

"He told me that he was prepared to meet Ominayak either on his turf or in some neutral place. The meeting could be open or closed, lawyers could be present or not, the media could be in the room if Ominayak wanted them there -- and they could speak Cree or English".

Presumably Mr. Scott just got his wires crossed somehow and failed to accurately represent his Minister's position on the issue of confidentiality.

Certainly nobody in their right mind would expect the Lubicons to again agree to confidential, behind-closed-door negotiations during an election after what happened to them when they agreed to such a thing during the last Federal election. What happened when they agreed to confidential, behind-closed-door negotiations during the last Federal election was that the mishandling of the Lubicon situation ceased being a political issue during the election campaign, after which Federal negotiators deliberately broke-off negotiations with a "take-it-or-leave-it" offer known in advance to be unacceptable because it failed to make adequate provision for the Lubicons to once again become socially, politically and economically self-sufficient.

Attachment #1: Fil Fraser Column, Edmonton Journal, Saturday, March 27, 1983


A huge buck has taken up residence in Room 104 in the basement of the Alberta legislature. You can't quite see it, but its presence is palpable. The buck is the Lubicon land claim, and it is sitting on the desk of Mike Cardinal, the minister of social services and the man also responsible for native affairs.

Cardinal may represent the last, best chance to stop the buck passing and resolve an issue that has been on provincial and federal agendas for decades.

Others have tried, and failed.

During his brief tenure as federal minister of Indian Affairs, David Crombie appointed E. Davie Fulton, a retired judge and former federal minister of justice, as a special envoy to study the Lubicon claim. But soon after Fulton turned in his report Crombie was moved an the report was shelved.

Former premier Don Getty took a personal interest in the issue, and signed the Grimshaw Accord, which recognized the Lubicon land claim. But the federal government's offer, an integral part of the deal, was rejected.

Earlier this month a commission of inquiry into the Lubicon land claim called for public resumption of negotiations based on the Fulton report.

The band's desire to reach a settlement was made more urgent in the 1970s when the Lubicons' territory became the site of some of he most intensive oil exploration in Alberta. Through the 1980s billions of dollars worth of oil and gas was taken.

By the 1990s the new resource was timber, with provincial government leases being awarded to log the Lubicons' traditional lands.

The impact of oil exploration and logging on trapping and hunting has been devastating. The traditional native economy dried up in less than a generation. Most Lubicons now live on welfare.

Chief Bernard Ominayak, their self-assured, soft spoken, leader has become a kind of international folk hero since he organized a boycott of the 1988 Calgary Olympics and took the Lubicons' case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. To Canada's embarrassment, the committee, in a 1990 report, said that "historical inequities...and more recent developments threaten the way of life and culture of the Lubicon and constitute a violation of Article 27..."

Now the file is on Cardinal's desk. He was not expected to respond to a report commissioned by the opposition. But the minister was born and raised in the same northern Alberta country as Ominayak. Both men have hunted and trapped, both speak the same Cree language. Earlier this month Cardinal let it be known that he was prepared to sit down, privately over coffee, with Chief Ominayak to discuss the issues. Ominayak says there is no point in sitting down with Cardinal to have a cup of coffee -- he ants to begin serious, open negotiations.

Last week Cardinal went further. He told me that he was prepared to meet Ominayak either on his turf, or in some neutral place. The meeting could be open or closed, lawyers could be present or not, the media could be in the room if Ominayak wanted them there -- and they could speak Cree or English. Speaking directly to Ominayak on my NEWSMAKERS program taped earlier this week, Cardinal puts himself on the line. He says, in Cree, that he is prepared to sit down with the chief and his elders to "open negotiations". A wary Ominayak says he welcomes the initiative and looks forward to a meeting with Cardinal and the elders.

Has the buck finally stopped? We'll see. It's certainly been passed long enough.

(Fil Fraser is an Edmonton writer and broadcaster, and the former chief commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.)

Attachment #2: March 31, 1993, Peace River Record Gazette Editorial


The Lubicon land claim issue now sits in a folder on MLA Mike Cardinal's desk in Edmonton. Cardinal, a native himself, is responsible for native issues in the province and the buck passing has stopped at his legislative office.

Cardinal carried a time bomb in this issue because it has been festering for such a long time and Lubicon Cree have watched a number of settlements reached in the recent past, while their goes untouched.

The problem has not rested as much with Edmonton as it has with Ottawa. Don Getty and Bernard Ominayak's Grimshaw Accord looked to be a great deal until Ottawa vetoed it. Now Cardinal must act as an intermediary and put pressure on his Ottawa counterparts to make an earnest attempt at solving this land claim for the benefit of all the region's people.


Attachment #3: April 15, 1993, Edmonton Journal


Fil Fraser

A lot of people are upset with Dianne Mirosh, the Klein Conservatives' minister of community development. But Mirosh's ill-advised ramblings are only bruising feelings. They do not affect the well-being, security and future of a people. As she plays out a cynical agenda designed to appeal to the dark, uncharitable side of what she blithely hopes is a majority of frustrated Albertans, Mirosh has created her own backlash.

But her cabinet colleague, Mike Cardinal, is doing continuing and material harm to a tiny group of Albertans who see no end to the battering by government. While Mirosh angers people with badly chosen words, Cardinal's weapons are silence and inaction. He is giving the Lubicon Cree additional cause for frustration and despair that has passed beyond rage.

Three weeks ago, Cardinal, the minister responsible for native affairs, was ready to talk with Lubicon Cree Chief Bernard Ominayak. Cardinal told me he was anxious to speak with Ominayak about their land claim, to reopen negotiations. It seemed to be a bright, fresh initiative by a new minister. Cardinal could easily shed the baggage of years of government inaction punctuated by failed negotiations. He is himself a Cree. He grew up in northern Alberta as did Ominayak. The two men know each other.

You expect that when a minister of the Crown makes a commitment, and does it in public, that something will happen. But Ominayak is still waiting.

There has been no call.

I am astonished. Mike Cardinal looked me right in the eye and said he would make the call. Nearly a month later, he has yet to pick up the phone.

People who work with the Lubicon are not astonished. This, they say, is the way the system works, has been working, and will continue to work. They tell me about Ominayak coming back from a meeting with government officials and telling his people they would have to change the way they operated. Government officials, he said, could sit across the table, look you straight in the eye, and lie through their teeth.

Prove it, I said. Give me one concrete case.

The most recent example of government duplicity they could produce was the February release of an official statement by the Canadian government concerning the Lubicon land claim. The document is reported to have been distributed to the media by the Canadian consulate general in Duesseldorf, Germany. The Germans and other Europeans have supported the Lubicon cause since the boycott of the 1988 Calgary Olympics. That support strengthened after the United Nations Human Rights Committee issued a 1990 report strongly censuring Canada's historical treatment of the Lubicon band.

The document is clearly designed to put the best possible face on the government's behavior. Critics and opposition politicians are not so kind. They say the document outrageously distorts the Lubicon land claim, and by claiming that the band is demanding 10,000 square kilometre of land, lies outright.

Mike Cardinal's office has no explanation for the minister's failure to follow up on his undertaking. A spokesman said he thought it was up to Ominayak to make the approach, and that, anyway, the Lubicon chief wasn't serious. Ominayak, however, told me that while experience had taught him to be cautious, he welcomed Cardinal's initiative.

The native affairs minister was not available for comment.

(Fil Fraser, an Edmonton writer, broadcaster and teacher, is the former chief commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission.)

Attachment #4: Transcript of CBC Radio News Broadcast (5:30 P.M.)

Tuesday, April 27, 1993

Krysia Jarmicka, CBC News

Alberta's Minister of Social Services met with the Lubicon Indians in Little Buffalo today. Mike Cardinal, a Treaty Indian, met with Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak, Band Councillors and Elders for about an hour. Cardinal asked for the meeting. The Lubicons say the Minister promised to talk to Cabinet to help resolve their land claim. They say Cardinal told them their proposals were "reasonable". Cardinal has not been available for comment.

Attachment #5: April 27, 1993, Alberta New Democrat Press Release


Barrie Chivers, MLA

Native affairs spokesperson

New Democrats are pleased that the Minister of Family and Social Services has finally taken the initiative to meet with Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak, says Barrie Chivers, New Democrat native affairs spokesperson.

"I understand that the Minister met with the Chief this morning in Little Buffalo, and that he is responding to recommendations made by the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review. The members of the Commission spent many months hearing testimony and reviewing the Lubicon situation at their own expense. They are to be commended for their useful suggestions intended to stimulate negotiations.

"I hope that the Minister has the commitment of government to facilitate a settlement," says Chivers. "We will support any government initiatives bringing a fair and reasonable settlement.

"The Lubicon have suffered many injustices during the more than 50 years they have been seeking a settlement. Not the least of these injustices is the extinguishment of their legal rights through retroactive amendments to the Land Titles Act which I noted in the Legislature yesterday.

"The provincial and federal governments owe the Lubicon fair compensation, and I sincerely hope the recommendations of the Settlement Commission will provide the basis for furthering a speedy and negotiated settlement," concludes Chivers.

For further information contact

Barrie Chivers, 427-2236

Attachment #6: Friday, April 30, 1993, Edmonton Journal


Jack Danylchuk

Native Affairs Writer


Lubicon Cree leader Bernard Ominayak and Mike Cardinal, Alberta's minister for native programs, are talking again.

The two met earlier this week at the Lubicon community of Little Buffalo, 450 km north of Edmonton, and agreed to hold further discussions, said Bob Scott, a spokesman for Cardinal.

Scott would not reveal the nature of the discussions and said both sides agreed to keep the content confidential.

The Lubicon chief left Thursday night for meetings next week with the Human Rights Commission of the Hague and the European Parliament in Brussels.

He has been invited to answer questions about the band's outstanding land claim.

Claim negotiations have been at a standstill since last year when Ominayak rejected an offer the federal government said was worth $73 million.

The Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review -- an NDP appointed citizens' group -- accused the federal and provincial government of "hiding" from claims negotiations.

The commission urged that talks be held in public, a course Ominayak supported but Cardinal rejected.

Attachment #7: May 10, 1993, WINDSPEAKER


Alberta's social services minister said he would discuss the position of the Lubicon Indians with the provincial cabinet following a meeting with the band's chief May 04. Mike Cardinal met with Lubicon band Chief Bernard Ominayak and council members in Little Buffalo, Alberta at his own request. The face-to-face discussion came over a month after an independent report initiated by the provincial New Democrats suggested the long-standing land claim dispute be referred to a third party arbitrator like the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The NDP were pleased with news of the meting, said Alberta NDP MLA Barrie Chivers. "The provincial and federal governments owe the Lubicon fair compensation," he said. "I hope the recommendations of the settlement commission will provide the basis for furthering a speedy and negotiated settlement." Ominayak, who was in Brussels, Belgium speaking before the European Parliament, could not be reached for comment.

Attachment #8: Transcript of CKUA Radio News Broadcast (12:00 Noon) Monday, May 10, 1993

Hans Walter, CKUA News

The Lubicon Indian Band is awaiting word from Alberta's Native Affairs Minister on what action the Province will take on the Band's long-standing land claim. Lubicon spokesman Fred Lennarson says Chief Bernard Ominayak met with Mike Cardinal recently and that Cardinal wanted to know what it would take to settle the Band's claim.

Fred Lennarson, Lubicon Advisor

Mr. Cardinal said "What do we have to do to get this thing fixed? Give us a point by point presentation of exactly what's lacking in the Federal Government offer that has to be attended to somehow." The Chief agreed to do that. He has since done it. It's our understanding that Mr. Cardinal will be talking to his Cabinet colleagues about these items. But I don't know exactly how all that is going to sort out. I don't know if the Province will talk to the Feds about some of these items.


Lennarson says some of the items in question include a vocational training center for the Lubicons so they can learn various skills. The Band also wants compensation from the Province for oil royalties it's received from resources on land the Lubicon claim belongs to them. The Lubicon are seeking $170 million from the Federal and Alberta Governments in compensation and to set up a community infrastructure on their northern Alberta settlement.

On another matter, Chief Ominayak recently returned from Europe where he spoke to representatives of the Human Rights Commission of the Hague and the European Parliament in Brussels. The Parliament will vote on a resolution backing the recommendations of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review. The independent panel recommended Ottawa and the Lubicon Band resume negotiations in a public setting and reach a quick settlement to the land claim which is now more than 50 years old.