Alberta Native News Editorial

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 24, 1993

Enclosed for your information is a copy of a newspaper editorial on settlement of Lubicon land rights.

Alberta Native News, November, 1993


by Dale Stelter

If the newly-elected Liberal government wants to do the right thing by Aboriginal people in Canada, there's a long, long list sitting right in front of them. And they could start on that list immediately.

At this point in time, it is difficult to assess what the performance of the Liberals will be with regard to Native issues, as it's only a scant time since they took over the reins of power.

The Liberals did make a number of clear promises, such as recognition of the inherent right of Aboriginal people to self-government, settling land claims quickly, phasing out the Department of Indian Affairs, and removing the former Conservative government's cap on funding for post-secondary education for Aboriginal people.

These, and the other promises that were made, are a start. There is so, so much to be done.

And speaking of starts, one has to wonder about Prime Minister Jean Chretien's appointment of Ron Irwin, a hitherto basically unknown and a non-Aboriginal, to the post of Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, when he had some Aboriginal people from whom to choose.

There was Ethel Blondin-Andrew, a Dene from the Western Arctic who was the Liberals' critic for Aboriginal issues when the party was the Opposition. There was Elijah Harper, a former MLA in Manitoba, a person who showed what he can handle by almost single-handedly blocking the Meech Lake Accord in 1990. And there was Jack Anawak from the Northwest Territories.

Some of the issues facing the Liberal Government, like phasing out the Indian Affairs department, are very complex, and will likely take a lot of time. There are other issues, such as certain land claims, that could be resolved quickly and would send a positive message out right away.

One of the land rights disputes that could be settled very quickly is that of the Lubicon Lake Cree of northern Alberta. As Ethel Blondin-Andrew wrote in a letter to former Conservative Indian Affairs Minister Tom Siddon earlier this year, this decades-long land rights dispute has been a disgrace to Canada, and "has grabbed the world's attention and is now considered an international human rights issue".

The Lubicon have for a long time had in place the plans and mechanisms for regaining their political, social, and economic self-sufficiency -- plans which have been examined and supported by a wide range of people and groups, including the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review, which released its report early this year.

That report has received widespread support, and the federal Liberals have supported key recommendations in it. For example, the following are excerpts from a letter written earlier this year by Jean Chretien, in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition, to the Friends of the Lubicon organization:

"Time is wasting...It is time for action. 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...

"We support the swift resolution of all claims, and consider the Lubicon claim to be a priority."

That seems to be stated clearly enough. Let's go, then.

As I stated earlier, there is so very much to be done. Will concrete action be taken? Or will this election produce yet another exercise in one-day democracy, in which voters, and especially Aboriginal people, are given the opportunity to put an "x" beside a name on a piece of paper, and are then ignored for four or five years?