Letters to New Canadian Prime Minister

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

November 18, 1993

Enclosed for your information are copies a couple of letters to new Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien regarding the continuing Lubicon tragedy.

People concerned about the plight of the Lubicons are urged to write similar letters in order to ensure that the new Canadian Government knows that people haven't forgotten and still care about what happens to the Lubicons.

November 05, 1993, letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien from the Manitoba Oblate Justice and Peace Committee

Dear Prime Minister Chretien:

The Manitoba Oblate Justice and Peace Committee is a group of priests, brothers and lay people working for justice.

We would like to draw your attention to a human tragedy which has brought shame to Canada around the world.

I refer to the situation of the Lubicon Cree of Northwest Alberta. As you may know, the Government of Canada has never honoured the terms of treaty with the Lubicon Cree and the Lubicon have never legally ceded their traditional hunting and trapping lands. Yet, oil companies and the federal and provincial governments have pumped $8 billion worth of oil from their lands; trans-national resource companies such as Daishowa have been given permission by the Government of Alberta to clear cut massive areas of boreal forest which include nearly all of the Lubicon's traditional territory. The enormously disruptive economic activity that has taken place on Lubicon land over the last 20 years has all but destroyed the Lubicon as a people. Whereas 12 years ago, 95 per cent of the people lived independently, off the land, today 95 per cent of the people have been reduced to welfare.

The Lubicon have prepared a proposal that would help them re-establish themselves as a viable community, with a new economic base. Throughout the last 9 years, the Conservative Government continually rejected this relatively modest proposal, despite the pleading of the mediator which they themselves appointed, Mr. Justice E. Davie Fulton. Earlier this year, a non-partisan commission of citizens from the churches, business, labour groups, and the academic community examined the positions of the Lubicon and the federal government and concluded that: "the Lubicon proposal, based on the need for community viability, represents a fairer basis for settlement than the proposals of the federal government". Furthermore, the commission found that

"governments have not acted in good faith. They have

  1. passed retroactive legislation to undermine legal claims,
  2. appropriated royalties that, had a reserve been established at an appropriate time, would have been in Lubicon hands, and
  3. been in conflict of interest because they act as an interested third party, beneficiary of royalties and the presumed judge of the validity of Lubicon claims."

The previous federal government engaged in several highly questionable actions to undermine the current leadership and the strength of the Lubicon people, including engineering a split of the Lubicon people into several separate bands, through means such as paying people to vote in favour of division and then subsequently deducting those payments from their social assistance cheques.

On May 27, 1993, you wrote a letter to the Toronto-based support group, the Friends of the Lubicon, in which you stated:

"We believe that the government has reneged on its fiduciary responsibility to the Lubicon people. (...) As a start, we believe the government should proceed with recommendation number five of the Settlement commission report to hold all royalties in trust and withhold leases and permits on traditional Lubicon lands -- unless approved by the Lubicon. Moreover, future negotiations should reflect the intent of recommendation number eight, asserting that the extinguishment of Aboriginal rights must not be a condition for a settlement -- a position consistent with Liberal policy."

This position was re-iterated by Ms. Ethel Blondin-Andrew, then your party's critic for Aboriginal Affairs, in a letter to Tom Siddon dated May 25, 1993 and in an Ottawa press conference on March 16, 1993.

It is our profound hope that the new Government of Canada, elected on a wave of national hope on October 25, will not once again let down another generation of this much abused people. We ask you to give this matter your immediate attention, and to swiftly follow up your party's commitment to finally come negotiate a just settlement with the Lubicon people, a settlement which would be based on the final report of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review.

Finally, may we congratulate you and your party on your electoral success. We look forward to a new direction in government and a new relationship between the Government of Canada and the Aboriginal people of this land.

Yours truly,

Margot Lavoie, Coordinator, Manitoba Oblate Justice and Peace Committee

November 10, 1993, letter to Jean Chretien from Sister Virginia Nelson, Archdiocese of Toronto

Dear Mr. Chretien:

My first intention in writing to you is to give you a resounding "well done". We all knew that you would do extremely well in the election but you surpassed our hopes. You, your wife and family will be remembered often in the days ahead as you work very hard to turn the economic climate around.

In months gone by I wrote to you and to my surprise and joy I received a letter back, dated May 27, 1993. I had written to you about my concerns for the Lubicon Nation; a few years ago we met Chief Bern. Ominayak when we were in Edmonton and we were struck by his humility, gentleness and yet tenacity. In that same letter I had asked you to read over the Report which had been put out by the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review (Final Report) as I felt that this impartial group had zeroed in on the solutions which would work. Fr. Jacques Johnson, o.m.i. the provincial of the Grandin Province in Alberta, was one of the two co-chair of that Commission. As far as I know the rest of the members were not clergy, so I do not feel there was any bias.

Mr. Chretien, if the Final Report of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review is no longer in your office I would be happy to send you my copy. I feel that your government has a strong sense of what is right and just and I know that you will do your best to settle the dispute that has hung over the heads of the Lubicon for more than fifty years; very often both the provincial and federal governments acted in untruthful ways and mixed up right and wrong and put in half-truths. Somehow I know that you will assign one of your competent persons, perhaps the Minister for the Dept. of Indian and Northern Affairs, to work this terrible injustice through. I am counting on you as are many other persons.

Sincerely, Sr. Viginia Nelson, c.s.j.