Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
Little Buffalo Lake, AB
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, AB T6J 1A4
March 20, 1994
Last November another major effort to dismember the Lubicon society began. While it's not clear who's behind this latest assault on the embattled Lubicon society certain things are known. A number of the individuals involved are known. Their basic strategy is known. And their basic tactics are known.
Some of the individuals involved in the latest effort to dismember the Lubicon society are officials of the Federal Department of Indian Affairs. However there's no evidence to indicate that their activities are authorized by the new Federal Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin. In fact there's some evidence to indicate that this latest, relatively high pressure and relatively high risk effort to dismember the Lubicon society is being undertaken at this time and in this way specifically to try and collapse the Lubicon society before Mr. Irwin can act on his publicly announced commitment to settle Lubicon land rights. There's also reason to believe that Federal officials earlier undermined sincere efforts to achieve a settlement of Lubicon land rights by a couple of Mr. Irwin's predecessors; namely Conservative Indian Affairs Minister David Crombie and Liberal Indian Affairs Minister John Munro.
Some of the individuals involved in the latest effort to dismember the Lubicon society are Provincial officials who work with the Provincial Native Land Claims Group. In addition there's some suggestion that Provincial Government politicians are involved although there is no unequivocal evidence that the involved Provincial officials are being directed by Provincial Native Affairs Minister Mike Cardinal or Alberta Premier Ralph Klein. In his communications with the Lubicon people Mr. Cardinal indicates that he, Premier Klein, Deputy Premier Ken Kowalski and Provincial Treasurer Jim Dinning all stand behind ex-Premier Getty's commitments to the Lubicons including the Grimshaw Agreement. One of the major objectives of this latest assault on the Lubicon society, however, is clearly to break the Grimshaw Agreement. Thus while it's always possible that Mr. Cardinal may be saying one thing and asking his officials to do another there is no doubt that the actions of Mr. Cardinal's officials are inconsistent with the things he says to the Lubicons. As in the case of apparently subversive Federal officials there's also reason to believe that the Provincial officials involved in this latest effort to dismember the Lubicon society earlier undermined the sincere efforts of the last Provincial Premier Don Getty.
Lastly there are people who were originally involved in the effort to dismember the Lubicon society by the Federal Government but who are not officials of either level of Canadian Government. These people supposedly work for the Woodland Band. They are paid by the Woodland Band with funds which they negotiate with the Federal Government for their work supposedly on behalf of the Woodland Band. But it's crystal clear that they no more work for the members of the Woodland Band now than they did when they were first selected and paid by the Mulroney Federal Government to create the Woodland Band out of the disparate individuals of a half-a-dozen aboriginal societies in Northern Alberta. The key person in this third group is a prominent Calgary lawyer and Vice President of TransCanada Pipelines named Bob Young. Who this third group really represents is also unclear but it has to be somebody or a group of somebodies with considerable wherewithal (and likely lots at stake) to be able to get people as senior as Vice President of TransCanada Pipelines Bob Young to once again come out of the shadows and become openly involved. (TransCanada Pipelines is of course part of the Calgary-based petro-chemical industry which has multi-billion dollar interests in the unceded Lubicon territory.)
The strategy being employed by these three groups working in tandem is clear. Since February of 1989 there has been a continuing effort to "eliminate" the Lubicon society through attrition by essentially buying off people around the fringes -- first by offering people "little bribes" to help overthrow the duly elected Lubicon leadership, and, when the attempt to overthrow the duly elected Lubicon leadership failed, by creating new Bands on either side of the Lubicons and then offering Lubicon members "little bribes" to join one or other of these two new Bands. While this deliberate strategy to "eliminate" the Lubicons has over time profoundly damaged Lubicon society in a number of ways most of the people who were available and vulnerable to these various "little bribes" were people who were pretty peripheral to the Lubicon society -- acquaintances, friends and relatives perhaps but usually not important members of Lubicon society.
Last November the people working to dismember the Lubicon society gained access to one of the main Lubicon families -- the Edward Laboucan family. Recognizing the importance of this family to the structure of Lubicon society these three groups moved aggressively and in concert to try and take advantage of the opportunity which this new access provided. Their purpose is clear. Instead of simply continuing to whittle away at the Lubicon society around the edges they are now seeking to precipitate the collapse of the Lubicon society all at once by trying to take out a main family group. Whether this strategy will accomplish its intended purpose remains to be seen but there can be little doubt that the already badly damaged Lubicon society has never been in greater peril.
One of the notable things about this new strategy is that it is a relatively risky strategy involving relatively high profile people doing some pretty questionable things which could blow up in their faces at any time with banner headlines publicly exposing what they're doing. The opportunity to move in this way may have presented itself last November but that doesn't explain why these people decided to pursue this decidedly dicey strategy when they could have simply continued to pursue the far less risky albeit slower strategy of "eliminating" the Lubicon society by attrition. In context and given the timing and sequence of events the answer as to why these people decided to proceed with this risky new strategy at this time is likely related to election of the new Chretien Government.
The new Federal Liberal Government was elected last October 25th.
On November 18th newly appointed Federal Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin visited Alberta and told reporters that settling Lubicon land rights is one of his four top aboriginal land claim priorities.
On November 20th the first reports of what has come to be called the Laboucan family initiative were received. Some members of the Laboucan family were unhappy with the Lubicon Band administration and were talking to people in the Woodland Band administration about the possibility of transferring. Other Lubicons talked to members of the Laboucan family considering a transfer and convinced them not to let internal disagreements jeopardize hopefully productive talks with the new Federal Indian Affairs Minister.
On November 23rd Lubicon Chief Ominayak wrote Mr. Irwin indicating that the Lubicon people looked forward to meeting him and commencing discussions to finally settle Lubicon land rights.
On December 6th Mr. Irwin wrote Chief Ominayak back proposing either a meeting in Ottawa on December 17th or alternatively a meeting in Little Buffalo "near the end of January".
The following week the first reports of a new wave of what Federal officials call "little bribes" to try and entice people into joining the Woodland Band were received. There were also reports of a January 3rd deadline for accepting those "little bribes".
"Little bribes" of the kind being offered to members of the Laboucan family are inconceivable without the complicity of Federal Government officials. "Deadlines" by which those "little bribes" must be accepted are the currency of lawyers and government bureaucrats -- not northern bush Indians. Disgruntled members of the Laboucan family may have started the talk about transferring but outsiders with their own agenda and a timetable in mind were clearly involved at this point seeking to take advantage of internal tensions.
Over time the list of "little bribes" being offered to members of the Laboucan family started sounding pretty much like the list of things offered to entice people into joining the Woodland Band in the first place -- primarily reserve land, housing and $1,000 per family member. Also like when the Woodland Band was first being organized there were some special items being offered to key Laboucan family members such as a caterpillar tractor for Michael Laboucan and a serviced house at the traditional Laboucan family site at the NW end of Lubicon Lake for Edward Laboucan.
As more and more information became generally available in the Lubicon territory about the "little bribes" being offered the members of the Laboucan family a negative reaction developed among the existing members of the Woodland Band. Woodland Band members expressed growing concern over the offer of housing for members of the Laboucan family when not all of the existing Woodland Band members had received housing -- raising a question as to whether the members of the Woodland Band would be prepared to accept the new adherents being solicited supposedly on their behalf. With acceptance by the Woodland Band in question there were then some extraordinary offers made to members of the Laboucan family such as a Band of his own "down the road" for Michael Laboucan -- a seemingly incredible proposition but one also used earlier to quiet a previously troublesome Woodland Chief named Melvin Laboucan. (What's probably involved here is Young and Co. holding out the prospect of "family reserve" for Michael Laboucan under the land in severalty provisions of Treaty 8 -- something which is periodically raised as a possibility by government agents and others in order to manipulate people but which is in fact highly unlikely for a number of reasons.)
Lastly there are some financial inducements offered to the leaders of the Woodland Band to get them "on board" -- such as $25,000 per capita in economic development money for each new adherent with unextinguished aboriginal land rights. (With Woodland settlement economic development monies having largely been doled out to individuals producing few community economic development benefits or opportunities there's a long list of people feeling that they haven't received their share. Consequently there's growing political pressure on Woodland leadership to replenish the economic development kitty.)
Edward Laboucan tells people that the offer of a caterpillar tractor for Michael isn't what it appears -- that Michael isn't being offered a caterpillar tractor but only a loan to buy a caterpillar tractor. While the distinction between being offered a caterpillar tractor and being offered an otherwise unavailable loan to buy a caterpillar tractor might not at first blush seem significant the difference is important in at least two ways. First it gives involved members of the Laboucan family a little softer, more palpable way of understanding and characterizing the so-called "little bribes" they are effectively negotiating with whomever. Secondly the nature of the proffered loan is instructive regarding the various ways the Canadian Government tries to buy off aboriginal people without running the risk of those aboriginal people ever becoming independent of government programs and services -- as for example Government officials did when they offered people $1,000 per family member to accept the Woodland settlement offer supposedly negotiated on their behalf by Government selected and paid lawyers and then deducted the amount of these $1,000 payments from the welfare payments those same people would have received in any case.
Although it's not likely that Michael Laboucan appreciates what he's getting himself into the probable scenario with the loan for a caterpillar tractor is as follows.
The minimum amount of cash equity typically required to apply for normal government economic development program monies is 10%. A used caterpillar tractor can be obtained starting at about $50,000. Michael Laboucan would therefore need bridge capital of about $5,000 in order to apply for normal government economic development programs.
The Woodland Band has an Economic Development Fund which can be used to provide bridge capital in a ratio of 50% loan and 50% grant up to a maximum of $50,000. Michael Laboucan could therefore apply to the Woodland Economic Development Fund for the necessary $5,000 cash equity in the form of a $2,500 loan and $2,500 grant.
With equity capital in the form of about $2,500 loan and $2,500 grant in hand from the Woodland Economic Development Fund Michael Laboucan could apply to the Aboriginal Business Development Program for money to cover up to 75% of the cost of developing a required business plan. Having obtained a grant to partially cover the cost of preparing the required business plan Michael Laboucan could then go back to the Woodland Economic Development Fund and apply for the remainder of the funds needed to pay for the cost of developing the required business plan.
Once the required business plan is prepared Michael Laboucan could apply again to the Aboriginal Business Development Program this time for a grant of up to about 60% or perhaps $30,000 towards the purchase of the caterpillar tractor. Having obtained a grant to partially cover the cost of the caterpillar tractor Michael Laboucan could then apply to the Alberta Indian Investment Corporation for a loan up to a maximum of $250,000 to cover the rest of the cost of the caterpillar tractor.
In other words Michael Laboucan will likely have to apply to the Woodland Economic Development Fund for equity capital, in order to apply to the Aboriginal Business Development Program for partial funding of a required business plan, in order to apply again to the Woodland Economic Development Fund for money to cover the rest of the cost of the required business plan, in order to apply again to the Aboriginal Business Development Program for a partial capital grant, in order to apply to the Alberta Indian Investment Corporation for a loan to purchase the caterpillar tractor. (This is basically the master plan designed to justify the existence of proliferating Government bureaucracy while at the same time making sure that Indians remain forever dependent on Government programs and services earlier devised by Indian economic development whiz kid Peter Harrison and included in the unacceptable so-called "take-it-or-leave-it" offer.)
The chances of Michael Laboucan actually ever obtaining a caterpillar tractor via this torturous route without a whole lot of help and favourable disposition along the way is of course not very good. He'll likely get that help and favourable disposition so long as his continued cooperation is useful to the larger goal of destroying the Lubicon society. The minute that his cooperation is no longer forthcoming or useful his chances of obtaining a caterpillar tractor this way drop to about the same as all of the other aboriginal people competing for limited funds from various Government programs allocated primarily to help justify the existence of these various government programs without ever seriously challenging the need for these programs by enabling Indians to become independent of them. (Predictably the failure rate of Indian enterprises which result from these government programs is nearly 100% -- meaning of course that these government programs are generally functioning exactly as intended.)
The promise of a serviced house at Lubicon Lake for Edward Laboucan is even harder to imagine. A serviced house for a member of the Woodland Band right in the middle of the area set aside for the Lubicons is inconceivable for as long as there is any Lubicon society left at all. For people variously associated with the Federal and Provincial Governments to be making such a promise to an old man who desperately wants to spend his last years at his traditional family site makes one hell of a headline.
Last December 13-15 Bob Young and Woodland Chief Billy Thomas made a trip to Ottawa and met with the Deputy Minister of Indian Affairs Danny Goodleaf. Mr. Goodleaf claims that he told Messrs. Young and Thomas that the Woodland settlement agreement would not be renegotiated to provide additional land, housing and other "little bribes" for members of the Laboucan family. If that's what Mr. Goodleaf really told Messrs. Young and Thomas then their reaction was strange indeed. They returned to the Woodland community of Cadotte Lake all revved-up, making re-newed promises and offers, pressing even harder their January 3rd deadline for acceptance of those "little bribes" and reportedly in possession of "all kinds of information about how much the Lubicons owe their lawyers and how there won't be any money left after all of the bills are paid".
Messrs. Young and Thomas were supported in their renewed efforts to buy up the entire Edward Laboucan family by an official of the Alberta Regional Office of Indian Affairs named Fred Jobin and a senior Provincial Government genealogist named Neil Reddekopp. If Mr. Goodleaf is telling the truth about what he said to Messrs. Young and Thomas during their mid-December meeting in Ottawa then he was being overtly subverted by his Regional Office official Fred Jobin. (Reddekopp reports to senior Provincial land claims official Ken Boutillier who in turn reports to Mike Cardinal. It's inconceivable that Reddekopp would be involved other than on Boutillier's instructions although it's not inconceivable that Boutillier might be proceeding independent of Cardinal's instructions. Boutillier almost certainly played a key role in subverting Premier Getty's earlier efforts to achieve a settlement of Lubicon land rights.)
With the Lubicon community abuzz with rumours about "little bribes" being offered to members of the Laboucan family Lubicon leadership asked for a meeting with Edward Laboucan to clarify the situation. Edward confirmed that his son Michael was transferring to the Woodland Band but denied that he was transferring. Edward said "This (the Lubicon Band) is where I started and this is where I'll finish". (Thus while the pressure was clearly on in mid-December it appeared that the effort to remove the Laboucan family as a key family group had still failed to take.)
On December 16th Mr. Irwin's office proposed January 21st as the date for the meeting in Little Buffalo between Mr. Irwin and the Lubicons. The Lubicons agreed. Mr. Irwin's office then phoned back the next day with several other meeting proposals. Final agreement on the January 21st meeting was achieved on December 22nd.
TransCanada Pipeline Vice President Bob Young spent December 29th in the Woodland community of Cadotte Lake personally trying to cajole members of the Laboucan family into making a commitment to join the Woodland Band before the January 3rd deadline. Mr. Young's personal attendance in this isolated northern community during the holiday week between Christmas and New Year's suggests that lesser lights had been unable to obtain the necessary commitments from Laboucan family members and so somebody was bringing out the big guns to get the job done right. Getting the job done right is reputedly what Bob Young does. For Bob Young to have to do the job personally likely means that others weren't getting the job done.
On January 3rd Woodland Chief Billy Thomas told unbought members of the Edward Laboucan family that "30 people have moved but 50 people will have to move before we can start meetings with the Government about more land and money". Where Chief Thomas got this notion that negotiations could be re-opened if the Woodland Band had 50 new adherents isn't known but it's not likely that he made it up all on his own.
On January 11th another unbought Laboucan family member reported that Laboucan family members were being "promised land and houses any place they want -- including around Lubicon Lake". The people reportedly making these "promises" were Woodland Chief Billy Thomas and TransCanada Pipeline Vice President Bob Young. The area around Lubicon Lake is of course where Lubicon families including the Laboucans have traditionally lived during the summer months as well as being the area set aside for a Lubicon reserve by both levels of Canadian Government. As with the "promise" of a serviced house at Lubicon Lake for Edward Laboucan this "offer" of land and houses for other members of the Laboucan family at Lubicon Lake is inconceivable as long as there is a viable Lubicon Band.
Also on January 11th it was reliably reported that "people are being told that they can sell the houses provided to them by the Lubicon Band in the spring and they will be given new houses by the Woodland Band". On one level such "little bribes" seem simply preposterous. On another level and in context such proposals suggest growing desperation to achieve the objective of buying up the entire Laboucan family and hopefully collapsing the Lubicon society prior to the scheduled meeting with Mr. Irwin on January 21st.
On January 14th it was reported that alerted and alarmed senior Indian Affairs officials at the Departmental Headquarters in Ottawa told Departmental officials in the Alberta Regional Office that the "little bribes" should not have been offered to members of the Laboucan family and would not be honoured. Regional Office officials reportedly responded that they were simply following long-established Departmental policy with regard to offering members of the Lubicon Band everything and anything in order to entice them into joining the Woodland Band.
A couple of days later, on January 16th, members of the Laboucan family left Little Buffalo for meetings with Federal and Provincial officials in Edmonton. Presumably their attendance in Edmonton related to word getting out about the "little bribes" and the resulting negative reaction from officials in Ottawa. Certainly involved members of the Laboucan family subsequently became increasingly cautious and taciturn about their discussions with Federal and Provincial officials.
On January 17th Mr. Irwin phoned Chief Ominayak about re-scheduling the January 21st meeting. Chief Ominayak wasn't home. Mr. Irwin left a message that he wanted to talk to the Chief.
On January 18th there were meetings held in both Ottawa and Edmonton. Given what was happening and who was involved these meetings likely pertained to the tension between the "little bribes" being offered by people variously associated with the Federal Government and the now stated Chretien Government policy that these "little bribes" should not have been offered and would not be honoured.
In Ottawa senior Justice Department lawyer Ivan Whitehall met with Indian Affairs Assistant Deputy Minister in Charge of Claims John Sinclair. Whitehall has been the Justice Department lawyer responsible for the Lubicon file going back to at least the mid-1970s when he filed a brief on behalf of the Federal Government supporting the Provincial Government's refusal to file the Isolated Communities caveat. The refusal to file this caveat ultimately led to the infamous retroactive caveat legislation. Later Whitehall is known to have passed Lubicon genealogy information to the Provincial Government breaching an agreement with the Lubicon people that this information would be kept confidential and effectively undercutting efforts by then Federal Indian Affairs Minister John Munro to achieve a settlement of Lubicon land rights.
In Edmonton there was a meeting of Ken Boutillier, Bob Young, Fred Jobin, Jack Tully and Regional Lands Manager Tony Parrottino.
As indicated earlier Boutillier is the key Provincial native land official. Vice President of TransCanada Pipelines Bob Young supposedly represents the Woodland Band. And Fred Jobin is the Federal Indian Affairs official generally credited with orchestrating Regional Office involvement in creation of both the Woodland and Loon River Bands.
Jack Tully is considered Bob Young's right hand man and he was almost certainly involved in the Woodland/Lubicon enterprise by Bob Young. Tully is an ex-Director General of the Alberta Regional Office of Indian Affairs. His current title is "Advisor" to the Woodland Chief and Council. He is described as "the one that calls the shots" on the ground.
Parrottino supervises another Regional Office official named Roger Cardinal. Cardinal works closely with Jobin and has been heavily involved in creating both the Woodland and Loon River Bands. Among other things Cardinal was the one who stick-handled the controversial Woodland settlement referendum in the Woodland community of Cadotte Lake where people were paid $50 each to vote and promised $1,000 per family member if they voted to accept.
Following the January 18th Edmonton meeting Jobin reported to current Director of the Alberta Regional Office of Indian Affairs Ken Kirby. Kirby's role in all of this is unclear but he was clearly informed about the Laboucan family initiative very early in the game and knowingly or unknowingly transmitted the propaganda version of the Laboucan family initiative to Ottawa.
On January 19th the January 21st meeting between Mr. Irwin and the Lubicons in Little Buffalo Lake was re-scheduled for February 18th.
On January 23rd it was learned that a new "deadline" of February 15th had been announced for acceptance of the "little bribes" and the making of a commitment to join the Woodland Band. Announcement of this new "deadline" only days after the re-scheduling of the Irwin meeting again suggests a link between the Laboucan family initiative and Mr. Irwin becoming personally involved with Lubicon settlement efforts. In context announcement of this new "deadline" also suggests that the job of buying up the whole Laboucan family was still not complete but that some resolution had been reached during the meetings in Ottawa and Edmonton on the 18th regarding the "little bribes" and that the effort to buy up the members of the Laboucan family was consequently continuing.
On January 24th it was reported that 53 members of the Laboucan family had transferred to the Woodland Band.
On January 27th there was another meeting in the Alberta Regional Office of Indian Affairs involving Fred Jobin, Tony Parrottino, Federal Lubicon negotiator Brian Malone and two others believed to be Bob Young and Neil Reddekopp. (Malone was Young's official counterpart in creating the Woodland Band and negotiating the Woodland settlement. He also worked with Reddekopp and a junior lawyer in Young's old Calgary law firm named Ward Mallabone in creating the Loon River Band.)
Between January 27th and February 6th there were additional meetings in the Alberta Regional Office of Indian Affairs with Woodland leaders and members of the Edward Laboucan family.
On February 8th it was reported that Edward Laboucan, his wife Josephine and 5 of their 7 grown children had transferred to the Woodland Band. Their grown grandchildren were reportedly split in unknown proportion.
On February 16th it was reported that the number of Lubicons who'd transferred to the Woodland Band as part of the Laboucan family initiative now totaled 70. It was learned later that these people had not actually transferred but had only signed applications to transfer -- that their applications for membership had in fact not yet been accepted by the Woodland Band.
The application form signed by people as part of the Laboucan family initiative is instructive and reads as follows:
I ___________________ of the Lubicon Band wish to become a member of the Woodland Cree Band #474. Before I become a member of the Woodland Cree Band I understand that:
I will need to meet the following conditions:
1. I will have to register under the Indian Act and be accepted by the Woodland Cree Band members within the terms of their membership by-law; and
2. I must have an as yet unfilled entitlement under Treaty 8 and this will be determined by the governments of Canada and Alberta and the Woodland Cree Band.
My application to join the Woodland Cree Band #474 is made on the understanding that I will be fully advised of my rights (underlining added) if I am part of any future land claim settlement negotiated on my behalf by the Woodland Cree Band.
I fully understand that by signing this paper I am not as yet a member of the Woodland Cree Band.
This Woodland Band membership application form for Lubicons is interesting for several reasons.
First this Woodland Band membership application form for Lubicons is a legal document drafted by someone with a legal background to accomplish specific objectives and provide specific protections. It's not a political document. There's no subtlety to it at all. It spells out its purpose and intent exactly in clear and unmistakable terms.
Second this Woodland membership application form for Lubicons is not a general membership application form to be used with anybody who might be interested in applying for membership in the Woodland Band. It is a membership application form specifically for members "of the Lubicon Band (who) wish to become a member of the Woodland Cree Band". Its purpose is therefore clearly to take apart the Lubicon Band rather than just representing a more general Woodland membership application form.
Third this Woodland membership application form for Lubicons is conditional on the applicant qualifying for Indian status under the Indian Act -- something which is not required under normal Woodland membership criteria nor was it required under the membership criteria employed when the Young and Co. were trying to build up the Woodland membership numbers as high as possible for political purposes. Qualifying for registration as an Indian under the Indian Act, however, is something required by the Federal Government for the Federal Government to consider provision of housing and other services. Clearly the Woodland Band isn't interested in accepting the applications of Lubicon friends and relatives unless the Federal Government is prepared to pay for it.
Fourth this Woodland membership application form for Lubicons is conditional on interested members of the Lubicon having "an as yet unfilled entitlement under Treaty 8 (as) determined by the governments of Canada and Alberta and the Woodland Cree Band". Again not a requirement of normal Woodland membership criteria, nor a requirement of Woodland membership when Young and Co. were seeking to build up Woodland membership numbers as high as possible for political purposes, this condition clearly relates to reducing the number of members of the Lubicon Band with incontestably unextinguished aboriginal land rights. As was made clear a short while later in a similarly legalistic press release issued over Michael Laboucan's name this condition also relates to building a case for breaking the Grimshaw Accord. And of course it relates to the earlier noted promise of additional reserve land for the Woodland Band supposedly at Lubicon Lake with which to accommodate members of the Laboucan family. (Reportedly the Woodland Band is awaiting "approval from Ottawa" to re-open negotiations for more reserve land to accommodate the people who have signed these Woodland membership application forms. With Provincial genealogist Reddekopp on the ground in the Woodland community of Cadotte Lake Provincial Government "approval" has presumably already been obtained -- at least in principle at the technical level. And as with most things involving the government-created and directed Woodland Band "approval" by the Woodland Band apparently depends essentially on what officials of the Federal and Provincial Governments tell Woodland Band leadership to do.)
Fifth the Woodland membership application form for Lubicons "is made on the understanding that (the applicant) will be fully advised of (their) rights (underlining added) if (they are) part of any future land claim settlement negotiated on (their) behalf by the Woodland Cree Band". (Aside from giving new definition to the notion of aboriginal self-determination this clause seems to suggest that the promise of additional reserve land for the Woodland Band to accommodate members of the Edward Laboucan family isn't exactly a foregone conclusion. On the other hand this clause also suggests that the possibility if not the promise of land at Lubicon Lake is still one of the "little bribes" being offered to members of the Edward Laboucan family who join the Woodland Band.)
Mr. Irwin met with Chief Ominayak as scheduled on February 18th in Little Buffalo Lake. One of the topics discussed was the Laboucan family initiative. Mr. Irwin denied that he authorized the Laboucan family initiative. He reiterated the position that Woodland negotiations would not be re-opened to provide additional land and housing for new adherents. He said that he would only deal with duly elected Lubicon leadership and not with any faction of the Lubicon society. And he asked Chief Ominayak for written proposals regarding the re-starting of Lubicon settlement negotiations.
Also on February 18th it was learned that Brian Malone was scheduled to meet the following week with Federal Justice Department lawyer Ivan Whitehall. Whether the meeting went ahead isn't known but just the idea of it is noteworthy since the two men have little in common except the Lubicon file and Malone had supposedly resigned as Lubicon/Woodland/Loon negotiator due to increased responsibilities at his Calgary law firm.
On February 19th Mr. Irwin reportedly told the Chiefs of Treaty 8 that any Indian Affairs officials involved in the Laboucan family initiative would be out of a job. (Sounds like a hell of a fine idea but experience suggests that firing subversive government officials is easier said than done. Probably the best way to help Mr. Irwin in this regard is to press him to settle Lubicon land rights. If he's smart he'll be able to translate such pressure into leverage for obtaining Cabinet level support for his efforts.)
The evening of February 21st Alberta Premier Ralph Klein met privately with Woodland Chief Billy Thomas and members of the Laboucan family in the northern Alberta town of High Prairie. Native participants in the meeting reported that Premier Klein promised to "help (members of the Laboucan family) get land with the Woodland or separately" -- supposedly a reference to the earlier mentioned land in severalty provisions of Treaty 8. Provincial officials however report that Premier Klein only agreed to meet with the people whom Michael Laboucan purports to represent -- that the Premier was "not going to believe a piece of paper or a bunch of bureaucrats". (Presumably the piece of paper Premier Klein is talking about is a list of the people Michael Laboucan purports to represent. The "bureaucrats" the Premier is talking about is less certain but presumably he means the combination of Federal and Provincial officials who've been working to put that list together.)
Travelling with Premier Klein when he met with Woodland Chief Thomas and members of the Laboucan family was a reporter for the Edmonton Sun newspaper named Tom Olsen. In what was almost certainly a pre-planned, pre-arranged interview a normally media shy Woodland Chief Billy Thomas told Mr. Olsen that "a hundred Lubicons disgruntled over lack of a Lubicon settlement are on the waiting list to join the Woodland Cree Band". Whatever the numbers, and the number 100 seems high, the planners and arrangers behind the interview had clearly decided for whatever reasons -- presumably related to reports that the February 18th meeting between Mr. Irwin and the Lubicons had gone well -- to go with whatever they had. (Exaggerating the numbers to the point of flat out lying is sadly a common tactic of both levels of Canadian Government.)
Mr. Olsen phoned Chief Ominayak the following day to ask for reaction to the Chief Thomas interview clearly in anticipation of doing a story for the February 23rd edition of the Edmonton Sun. However the Federal budget was announced on February 22nd relegating the Thomas story about more Lubicons joining the Woodland Band to a couple of passing paragraphs in an article obviously written earlier on the February 18th Irwin meeting. Ironically for the architects of the Laboucan family initiative the headline of that article was "Lubicon Hopeful Settlement Near".
When the Olsen story fizzled in the February 23 edition of the Edmonton Sun a press release over Michael Laboucan's name was hurriedly drafted and issued. Again very legalistic in nature -- nobody who knows Michael Laboucan believes for a minute that he wrote it or that he even understands its implications -- the Michael Laboucan press release is as revealing as the Woodland membership application for Lubicons. The Michael Laboucan press release reads:
Michael Laboucan announced today in a press release that the Edward Laboucan and Calliou family group have applied to the Federal and Provincial Governments to have their Treaty Entitlement arranged with the Woodland Cree Band. (The "Calliou family group" reference in the Michael Laboucan press release pertains to a man named Peter Calliou who married one of Michael Laboucan's sisters.)
This family group, who are the most traditional aboriginals at Little Buffalo, have asked Michael Laboucan to be the spokesperson for them. Michael stated:
"Our families represent slightly over 100 persons who were on the original Grimshaw list. This number represents a majority of the members left of those who can legitimately claim to be part of the Lubicon Band and have an outstanding land claim".
He further continued by stating that he has asked both Governments to respect the families' decision to request membership in the Woodland Cree Band and to support their efforts to "have our legitimate claim settled as an adhesion to the Woodland Cree Land Settlement".
Michael ended his press statement by stating that the group he represents have completely lost trust in the Lubicon Band's consultants and leadership and accordingly "our minds are made up -- there is no turning back -- we want to join with the Woodland Cree Band. They are our close relatives, as well as our closest neighbors, and although we will only be a small part of their band -- we trust them to treat us fairly now and in the future".
This Michael Laboucan press release was faxed to media outlets the evening of February 23rd. However in a manner similar to what happened with the February 21st Chief Thomas interview the Provincial budget was announced the following day resulting in the story not being assigned to a reporter until February 25th. Somebody was clearly having a hell of a time getting the story the kind of prominence they were seeking. However just as clearly they weren't going to stop trying to create the public perception that the population on which the Grimshaw Accord was based no longer exists.
The thrust of the Michael Laboucan press release is clearly to undermine the Grimshaw Accord. That's the essence of it -- what it's all about. If it were true that Michael Laboucan represents "slightly over 100 persons who were on the original Grimshaw list", and if this number really represented "a majority of the members left of those who can legitimately claim to be part of the Lubicon Band and have an outstanding land claim", then there would be less than 100 Lubicons left of the 479 on the Lubicon membership list at the time that the Grimshaw Accord was signed.
The trick of course is in the phrase "those who can legitimately claim to be part of the Lubicon Band and have an outstanding land claim". As determined by whom using what criteria? Depending upon the criteria employed the results can vary substantially. Some years ago, for example, the Boutillier group massaged the numbers and reduced the number of Lubicons with unextinguished aboriginal land rights from 500 as determined by historic criteria to 7 or less as determined by new criteria devised specifically for the purpose of reducing the number to 7 or less. (This kind of deliberately deceitful numbers manipulation is characteristic of Boutillier and Co. -- suggesting that they're the ones behind this current numbers manipulation as well.)
Whether true or not, and all of the available evidence suggests that the numbers have again been manipulated as they have been so many times in the past, these claims about greatly reduced "legitimate" Lubicons with "outstanding" land rights will almost certainly be used by the Provincial Government or at least some people associated with the Provincial Government to try and break the Grimshaw Accord. Breaking the Grimshaw Accord would of course represent a major step backward and return the debate to a deliberately endless and non-productive discussion of numbers, entitlement, who determines entitlement and how.
Needless to say Michael Laboucan doesn't think in such terms nor would there be any reason for him to issue a press release making such claims. Why he would consent to his name being used in this way is another question. Likely his understanding is that the press release simply asks that the Laboucan family be allowed to have their unextinguished aboriginal land rights recognized with the Woodland Band instead of the Lubicon Band.
The claim made in the Michael Laboucan press release that he is the "spokesperson" for "slightly over 100 persons" is not likely accurate either. "Slightly over 100 persons" would almost certainly mean the entire Laboucan family and Michael Laboucan doesn't represent the entire Laboucan family. He doesn't represent a couple of his grown brothers and their families and he reportedly doesn't even represent all of his own grown children -- some of whom are upset with the claim in the press release that Michael represents the whole family.
On March 1st Chief Ominayak sent Mr. Irwin the promised proposal on re-starting Lubicon negotiations. As of March 20th no response has been received from Mr. Irwin. (Some reports suggest that Mr. Irwin is facing "internal opposition" to accepting Lubicon negotiation proposals -- not terribly surprising in light of the foregoing. Again the best way to help Mr. Irwin do the right thing is to press him to accept Lubicon negotiation proposals which he can hopefully translate into leverage with his Cabinet colleagues.)
On March 2nd the Peace River Record Gazette included an article on the Michael Laboucan press release complete with quotes from Chiefs Thomas and Ominayak. A copy of the article is attached. The article adds little that's new but does confirm some things -- such as Chief Thomas making clear that the Woodland Band is only prepared to accept "those with claims" (as determined by the governments of Canada and Alberta). The main problem with the Record Gazette coverage, of course, is limited circulation of a small town newspaper. One doesn't create generally accepted public illusions with articles in one small town newspaper -- especially when the article confuses the issues by quoting both sides.
On March 8th Lubicon advisor Fred Lennarson received a phone call from the national CBC Morningside radio show asking about "a third wave of Lubicons leaving the Lubicon Band to join the Woodland Band". Noting the way the story was being characterized Mr. Lennarson told the caller that the situation was more complicated than her question suggested -- that a variety offers had been made to people to join the Woodland Band, that based on those offers some people had applied to join the Woodland Band, that Federal officials are now saying that the offers should not have been made and would not be honoured, and that Woodland Band acceptance of the applicants is dependent on the Federal Government making good on the offers which Federal officials are now saying shouldn't have been made and would not be honoured. The caller said that the story was clearly too complicated to try and cover in a morning news report. Thus fizzled another effort to portray the Laboucan family initiative as people simply deserting the Lubicon Band over frustration related to Chief Ominayak's refusal to accept the government's supposedly "extravagant" settlement offer.
On March 14 a self-described right wing Alberta news magazine called the Alberta Report ran a full page article on the Laboucan family initiative. The Alberta Report has a broader circulation than the Peace River Record Gazette and as overt political pamphleteering instead of objective news reporting doesn't worry about balance or accuracy. It simply and unabashedly prints propaganda as news. (In fact a reporter for the Alberta Report made clear that the magazine knew details about the "little bribes" offered to members of the Laboucan family and deliberately decided to leave that complicating information out of the article in favour of printing only the carefully concocted propaganda line.)
The main thrust of the attached Alberta Report article is that Lubicon numbers are dwindling "but they want more money than ever". Like the "greed not need" propaganda campaign launched immediately following the breakdown of negotiations in January of 1989 variations on this basic theme will undoubtedly be heard a lot over the next little while.
The lead paragraph in the article claims that "Lubicon elders advised (Chief Ominayak) to accept an extravagant land claims settlement offer in 1992...(but)...he decided to hold out for more". It says "He may yet regret that choice". (Characterizing the 1992 so-called "offer" as "extravagant" says more about the reporter and the publication for which she writes than it does about the substance of the offer -- the provisions of which have been described as "deficient" by as widely ranging a group of people as ex-Conservative Alberta Premier Don Getty, ex-Conservative Federal Justice Minister E. Davie Fulton and the broadly-based members of the independent Lubicon Settlement Commission. Similarly inaccurate is the assertion that Lubicon Elders advised Chief Ominayak to accept the 1992 offer. In fact Lubicon Elders supported Chief Ominayak's rejection of that offer as an only slightly disguised version of the unacceptable 1989 "take-it-or-leave-it" offer.)
Obviously referring to the February 23rd Michael Laboucan press release the article says that "100 members announced late last month that they intend to desert the Lubicons in favour of the neighboring Woodland Cree Band". The article then makes clear at a number of points that the announced transfer has yet to occur without offering any explanation as to why it has yet to occur -- a curious omission since announcing the intention to transfer unavoidably begs the question of why the people involved haven't yet transferred. (Pursuing the question as to why people have not yet transferred would of course lead to a discussion of the dicey issue of the "little bribes" which the Alberta Report apparently decided deliberately to leave out of the article.)
The concluding sentence in the lead paragraph of the article underscores the main propaganda point being made. Turning over the notion of fewer Lubicons supposedly demanding even more money it says "This latest departure from the already depleted Lubicon ranks could substantially decrease the largesse available to the band". (This theme that the amount of "largesse available to the band" will have to be reduced to take into account a dramatically reduced population is then recurrent throughout the article. It's of course also consistent with the February 23rd Michael Laboucan press release and it will undoubtedly soon be used in an attempt to rationalize breaking the Grimshaw Accord.)
The article says "Although the band obtained the right to a reserve in 1939, it still hasn't reached an accord with the federal and provincial governments". Historically this is an Ivan Whitehall pseudo-legal argument which has been worked over by Federal spin artists and subsequently incorporated in Federal and Provincial propaganda materials. (Whitehall's basic argument, which ignores both history and historical precedent, is that the Lubicons are covered by Treaty 8 and consequently have a right to reserve land under Treaty 8 but for whatever reasons they simply haven't received reserve lands.)
The article claims that the 1992 offer "was worth a total of $73 million" which it says is "an average of $146,000 for each of the 500 natives then allegedly belonging to the band". In fact the offer isn't worth anything like $73 million, none of the proposed settlement money would go to individuals and the Lubicon population of 500 had been fully documented and accepted by the Federal prior to efforts by both levels of Canadian Government to dismember the Lubicon society by creating two new Bands and using taxpayers money to try and entice Lubicon members into joining these two new Bands.
The article quotes the Michael Laboucan press release as saying that "the latest group of deserters...say they comprise a majority of the remaining Lubicons who can legitimately claim to be part of the original treaty". Presumably the reference to people who are "part of the original treaty" pertains to the people who made up and/or descend from the first officially recognized Band list in 1939. If so this is another example of twisting the facts to deliberately create a mistaken impression of lower numbers. As both levels of Canadian Government well know that first official Lubicon Band list was explicitly recognized at the time as being only a partial list. (This kind of misrepresention of the facts again smacks of the Boutillier group.)
The article quotes Michael Laboucan as saying that "the latest group of deserters" are leaving because "We're sick of waiting". Next it quotes Chief Ominayak as saying "the latest group of deserters" are leaving "because the Woodland Cree are making them attractive offers". It then quotes both Michael Laboucan and Woodland Councillor Roy "Letender" (sic) as "hotly denying any such offers".
Instead of being lured away by attractive offers, the article quotes Michael Laboucan as saying, the "deserters" are impressed with the progress being made by the Woodland Band. Next it quotes Michael Laboucan as saying "We looked at their roads and houses and here we are just sitting, waiting and going nowhere". (This exchange of course again begs the whole question of why the transfers have not yet been made. For not only is Michael Laboucan here in effect making reference to the "offers" he had just denied were made, his application to join the Woodland Band is in fact on hold pending Federal Government agreement to make good on those so-called "offers".)
Next the article provides insight into the membership numbers which Director of the Regional Office of Indian Affairs Ken Kirby earlier transmitted to Ottawa. It also effectively ties Kirby and/or people reporting to Kirby to the Laboucan family initiative since the figures Kirby transmitted to Ottawa a couple of months earlier clearly take into account the 100 plus people Michael Laboucan now purports to represent -- even though that number was clearly only a target in January and likely still hasn't been achieved.
The article says that "The Department of Indian and Northern Development (sic) estimates that the band numbers 250, a figure that will decline to 150 when the latest exodus occurs". It says (Michael) Laboucan places the maximum number of genuine Lubicons at 185...(instead of 250)". (What constitutes a "genuine Lubicon" is not defined in the article but it's not likely a concept which originates with Michael Laboucan -- more likely it again originates with the Boutillier group.)
The starting point of 250 people is of course the number of people on the Government-maintained list of registered Lubicons rather than the Lubicon-maintained list of Lubicons entitled to be registered. Thus instead of starting with the list of 500 Lubicons whom the Government earlier agreed are entitled to be registered they're starting with the smaller list of Lubicons already on the status list and they've then worked their way down from there undoubtedly making all kinds of assumptions along the way in order to jack up the list of "deserters" as high as possible. The result is the smallest possible number of remaining Lubicons on which to base the Grimshaw Accord -- not in fact but in terms of the public illusion which the architects of the Laboucan family initiative are seeking to create. The name of the game here is clearly not truth or facts but deliberately deceptive illusion.
The 185 "genuine Lubicons" who Michael Laboucan claims are left minus the "slightly more than 100 persons" whom Michael Laboucan purports to represent produces a number pretty close to the 60 to 75 that Ken Kirby reported to Ottawa in January were left on the Lubicon membership list. In January when Mr. Kirby made his report to Ottawa the number 100 was clearly a target rather than a fact. The number 185 now being claimed by Michael Laboucan is clearly the result of the application of unknown criteria to the Lubicon membership list rather than representing some kind of objective reality. And the number 250 is clearly the registered list instead of the list of those entitled to be registered. For Mr. Kirby to arrive at essentially the same numbers independent of the highly manipulative and deliberately deceitful way it's done in the March 14th edition of the Alberta Report is all but inconceivable.
The article then quotes Roy "Letender" (sic) in context as "maintaining" that Michael Laboucan's estimate of 185 "genuine" Lubicons is too high -- that the Lubicons "can't have more than 100" members. If Mr. "Letender" (sic) were to be right about this, and "slightly over 100 persons" are leaving a population of not "more than 100", then the Lubicons have disappeared altogether or are perhaps actually in a deficit position in terms of membership
-- an anomalous situation which hasn't existed since the time when the Woodland Band was originally created and Federal PR man Ken Colby was regularly claiming that more Lubicons were leaving the Lubicon Band than there were Lubicons to leave.
Clearly this "now you see them now you don't" approach to Lubicon membership numbers impressed new Regional Office PR man Marcel Pronovost who is quoted in the article as acknowledging "All of that will have to be taken into consideration" since, according to the article, "treaty claims will be settled on a per capita basis". (The Lubicons of course don't assert treaty rights as defined by a written document which they never signed and which demonstrably doesn't even represent what was agreed by the aboriginal people who did sign it. Rather the Lubicons continue to assert unextinguished aboriginal land rights over some 4,000 square miles of resource-rich northern Alberta and the terms of any treaty which might eventually be negotiated with the Lubicon people have yet to be determined.)
Lastly the article quotes both Roy Letendre and Michael Laboucan as expressing curious concern that Chief Ominayak has a "secret list which probably includes a number of non-Lubicons". It says "They (inexplicably) worry that (Indian Affairs) bureaucrats won't challenge (Chief Ominayak's membership numbers)". It quotes Roy Letendre as asserting with uncharacteristic authority that "The government can't deal with (Chief Ominayak) until they see the original list". It also quotes Roy Letendre as insisting that "It wouldn't be fair (for the Government to deal with the Lubicons) until they see the original list". (Roy Letendre needn't worry. Contrary to Woodland membership rules which basically provide that the Woodland Chief and Council can use their discretion to determine Woodland membership -- including apparently non-aboriginal people -- Federally approved Lubicon membership rules explicitly provide that all Lubicons must be people of known aboriginal ancestry related to other Lubicons by blood and to the traditional Lubicon territory by history.)
The article doesn't say exactly who Roy Letendre is worried about being unfairly treated if the government deals with the Lubicons without seeing the so-called "original list". Presumably he's worried about the Woodland Cree being somehow unfairly treated although the notion of that is in itself obviously preposterous under the circumstances. Plus the Woodland Cree reportedly have some kind of agreement with the Canadian Federal Government that their settlement will be enhanced if a Lubicon agreement provides substantially greater benefits -- in which case one would think that Roy Letendre would be rooting for the Lubicons to negotiate the best possible agreement.
More than anything else this strange concern attributed to Roy Letendre and Michael Laboucan over the Federal Government not challenging Lubicon membership numbers sounds like it was made in Alberta by officials of the Alberta Provincial Government. Certainly officials of the Alberta have always been the ones who've manufactured such deliberately deceptive arguments in the past.
The Lubicons ask that people write Mr. Irwin urging him to publicly denounce the continuing efforts to tear Lubicon society asunder and to severely censure involved Departmental officials, urging him to state publicly that Woodland negotiations will not be re-opened to provide additional land and housing for new adherents, urging him to state publicly that he will only deal with the duly elected leadership of the Lubicon Nation regarding the unceded aboriginal land rights of the Lubicon people and urging him to respond positively to Lubicon negotiation proposals -- which are basically that he appoint someone to negotiate with the Lubicon people not associated with past and continuing efforts to destroy the Lubicon society, that he give that person a mandate to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement of Lubicon land rights with the Lubicon people and that he agree to refer any items which cannot be resolved through negotiations to the independent three person tribunal originally proposed by Premier Getty, supported by E. Davie Fulton, supported by the Lubicon Settlement Commission, supported by the Canadian Churches, supported by organized Labour in Canada and supported by people across the country and around the world.
The Lubicons ask further that people write Mr. Cardinal urging him to also publicly denounce the continuing efforts to tear Lubicon asunder and to severely censure involved Provincial officials, urging him to reaffirm the agreements and commitments made by and with Premier Getty including the Grimshaw Accord, urging him to appoint someone to negotiate with the Lubicon people not associated with past and continuing efforts to destroy the Lubicon society, urging him to give that person a mandate to negotiate a fair and equitable settlement of Lubicon land rights with the Lubicon people and urging him to agree to refer any items which cannot be resolved through negotiations to the independent three person Getty Tribunal.
It might also be a good idea if people wrote to the President and Chief Executive Officer of TransCanada Pipelines Mr. Gerald J. Maier asking him if he knows what his Vice President of Legal Affairs is doing to the Lubicon people and asking him to stop it. Mr. Maier's mailing address is P.O. Box 1000, Station M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 4K5.
Related media coverage and other materials are attached including excellent letters to Messrs. Irwin and Cardinal from Co-chair of the Lubicon Settlement Commission Jacques Johnson.
Attachment #1: Woodland/Lubicon Membership Application
I ___________________ of the Lubicon Band wish to become a member of the Woodland Cree Band #474. Before I become a member of Woodland Cree I understand that:
I will need to meet the following conditions:
1. I will have to register under the Indian Act and be accepted by the Woodland Cree Band Members within the terms of their membership by-law; and
2. I must have an as yet unfilled entitlement under Treaty 8 and this will be determined by the governments of Canada and Alberta and the Woodland Cree Band.
My application to join the Woodland Cree Band #474 is made on the understanding that I will be fully advised of my rights if I am part of any future land claim settlement negotiated on my behalf by the Woodland Cree Band.
I fully understand that by signing this paper I am not as yet a member of the Woodland Cree Band.
Signature of Applicant
Attachment #2: The Edmonton Sun, Wednesday, February 23, 1994
LUBICON HOPEFUL SETTLEMENT NEAR
By Tom Olsen and Paul Bucci
The beginning of the end of the 50-year-old Lubicon Lake native land-claim dispute may be in sight, band Chief Bernard Ominayak said yesterday.
Ominayak said he left a Friday meeting with federal Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin optimistic that his band's claim will finally and fairly be dealt with.
"The minister stated he'd like to see it resolved, and we certainly want it resolved," Ominayak said from the Lubicon Lake band office, 345 km northwest of Edmonton.
The chief said there's cause for optimism "if we take things at face value in regards to the meeting...It's a little early at this stage to determine if they're serious. But if they are, I'm sure we'll be able to make some movement."
The 500-member Lubicon band has rejected a federal offer of up to $45 million and 645 sq. km. of land.
In related news, Ominayak said he's heard rumors that a second wave of his members plans to break away and join the Woodland Cree, a band formed by Lubicon disgruntled with the stalemate.
In 1989, the 450-member Woodland Cree signed a pact with the government that gave them 142 sq. km of reserve land, a $19 million trust fund, $3 million for vocational training and $28.8 million over five years for developments such as homes and sewers.
Attachment #3: Michael Laboucan Press Release
Little Buffalo, AB
c/o Cadotte Lake, AB
Michael Laboucan announced today in a press release that the Edward Laboucan and Calliou family group have applied to the Federal and Provincial Governments to have their Treaty Settlement Entitlement arranged with the Woodland Cree Band.
This family group, who are the most traditional aboriginals at Little Buffalo have asked Michael Laboucan to be the spokesperson for them, Michael stated:
"Our families represent slightly over 100 persons who were on the original Grimshaw list. This number represents a majority of the members left of those who can legitimately claim to be part of the Lubicon Band and have an outstanding land claim."
He further continued by stating that he has asked both Governments to respect the families' decision to request membership in the Woodland Cree Band and to support their efforts to "have our legitimate claim settled as an adhesion to the Woodland Cree Land Settlement."
Michael ended his press statement by stating that the group he represents have completely lost trust in the Lubicon Band's consultants and leadership and accordingly, "our minds are made up - there is no turning back - we want to join with the Woodland Cree Band. They are our close relatives, as well as our closest neighbours and although we will only be a small part of their band -we trust them to treat us fairly now and in the future.
Signed by Michael Laboucan, February 23, 1994
Attachment #4: The Edmonton Journal, Saturday, February 26, 1994
LUBICONS LOSING THIRD SPLINTER GROUP
100 set to join with Woodland Cree
Journal Staff Writer
A third group of natives hopes to leave the shrinking Lubicon band so they can settle their treaty claim with the federal government.
A family group of 100 people, including a Lubicon elder, approached the Woodland Cree, who were the first to break away in 1989.
"The group has complete lost trust in the Lubicon band's consultants and leadership," said Michael Laboucan in a statement.
"Our minds are made up. There is no turning back."
He could not be reached for further comment.
The Laboucan and Calliou families are related to Woodland Cree band members.
The band negotiated a $57-million settlement with the federal government and is now building 101 houses, a fire hall and school about 15 km west of the Lubicon settlement.
Ottawa recognized a second group as the Loon River band after it defected from the Lubicon in 1991.
Woodland Cree Chief William Thomas said Friday that his band will grow to mor than 800 if the federal government approves the new members.
"The reason people are walking away is because they've had enough waiting. They've been waiting for 51 years."
Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak still says he's seeking a settlement on behalf of 500 members because the 100 dissenters haven't notified him of their plans.
"What is sad about this is that the federal minister just visited earlier this month," he said Friday.
The Lubicon set up road blocks in October 1988 to push for a land claims settlement.
They are seeking $170 million, including $100 million for lost oil and gas royalties. They turned down an offer from the former federal Conservative government and Alberta for $73 million, including 246 sq. km of land.
Ominayak, who has headed the negotiations since 1979, said people want to leave because of attractive offers made by the Woodland Cree.
"I imagine they're going after what they were promised. I realize we're up against a huge obstacle and powerful sources that include two levels of government and a lot of money."
The Lubicon leader said he has thought of quitting more than once during the past five years, but his members continue to show him support.
"There's been many thoughts run through my mind. As long as the majority of people still want me to take them in this direction, it's not for me to decide to change," he said.
Attachment #5: Peace River Record-Gazette, March 02, 1994
GROUP OF 100 SAID TO BE LEAVING LUBICONS
By Beth Wilkins
More natives want to break away from the Lubicon Lake Nation, formerly band, and join the Woodland Cree of Cadotte Lake.
The 100 dissatisfied Lubicons are fed up, says spokesman Michael Laboucan. "We are tired of waiting for the settlement, Laboucan said. For some, there has been a half a century of waiting for a land claim settlement from the federal government which has seen six ministers of Indian and Northern Affairs in the past decade.
In a new release issued Feb. 24, Laboucan said the Edward Laboucan and Calliou family group had applied to the federal and provincial governments to have their Treaty Settlement Entitlement arranged with the Woodland Cree Band. This family group are the most traditional aboriginals at Little Buffalo.
"Our families represent slightly more than 100 persons who were on the original Grimshaw list. This number represents a majority of the members left of those who can legitimately claim to be part of the Lubicon Band and have an outstanding land claim."
If the group is successful in joining the Woodland Cree, it will be the third splinter group wanting to break away in the past three years.
The group, represented by Laboucan, has completely lost trust in the Lubicon Nation's consultants and leadership, he says. "Fred Lennarson is the one that does all the talking. Bernard seems to listen to him," says Laboucan. Lennarson is one of Ominayak's consultants.
"We've heard a lot of rumors for quite some time now. There's been all sorts of offers and promises made by Woodland," says Chief Bernard Ominayak. He hasn't paid too much attention to the rumors, but he checked with the Lubicon Nation's regional registrar in Edmonton who told him no one has transferred.
"It's a whole lot of commotion and I don't think anybody really knows."
Technically, the procedure when people wish to switch their allegiance is to inform the chief and council. It's a courtesy as much as anything, says Ominayak. "None of that has been done."
He suggested the Woodland Cree have recruited more members. "We could paly the same kind of games the government is doing with Woodland if we chose to, but at this point we have not."
The number of people currently registered as part of the Lubicon Nation is about 500 in the area, says Ominayak. "It's (number) been a lot of years now because in the Woodland situation where they said X number of Lubicons went over there, what they were doing is they had a special committee set up to deal with the Bill C-31 returnees in Ottawa. They transferred them on to the Lubicon and then transferred them to Woodland at the same time, some people we had never heard of and people who don't necessarily live here. A lot has been instigated and created by government and a lot of it is completely out of our hands."
Chief William Thomas of the reported 800-member Woodland Cree Band said he isn't coaxing or enticing anybody to join his band from the Lubicons. "They're (Laboucan and Calliou) the ones to decide. I'm not calling any people over. They want to join. They're the ones that come and sit down with me. We can't just accept everybody only those with claims -- entitlement," said Thomas.
The group decided to move last November. "They are our neighbors. It's only about two kilometres away from our reserve where those people live, north of Little Buffalo at Marten Lake."
The breakaway group want to establish a community in Marten Lake. "Most are my friends. I have to accept them because I grew up with those people. We see tem everyday come to the store (Cadotte) and we are altogether. It's one huge area all supposed to be in one reserve in the beginning, but it's gone a different way.
"I don't have anything against Bernard," he emphasized.
The people want running water and other amenities. They see the Woodland Cree who settled in 1991 with new houses and things they want and feel it is their right to have. "They would like to be part of it."
The Grimshaw list was part of the Grimshaw agreement of October 22, 1988. At the "Grimshaw Summit" Ominayak met with then premier Don Getty in Grimshaw.
The list contained an undisclosed number of names of people considered to be eligible for the land claim settlement.
In November of 1988, formal negotiations to reach a settlement of Lubicon rights began in Ottawa. The membership number agreed to was 506, up from the Grimshaw number "because of natural increase and updated research," author John Goddard says in his book, Last Stand of the Lubicon Cree.
According to Goddard's book, the numbers the provincial and federal governments have on the Lubicon and the splinter groups has been hazy throughout the history of the land claim settlement.
Attachment #6: Alberta Report, March 14, 1994
Desertions thin the Lubicons' ranks, but they want more money than ever
When Lubicon elders advised their chief, Bernie Ominayak, to accept an extravagant land claims settlement offer in 1992, he decided to hold out for more. He may yet regret that choice. While federal Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin seems anxious to settle the 55-year old Lubicon claim and the chief is working on a "proposal" for impending negotiations, 100 band members announced late last month that they intend to desert the Lubicons in favour of the neighbouring Woodland Cree band. This latest departure from the already-depleted Lubicon ranks could substantially decrease the largesse available to the band.
The Lubicons are located about 60 kilometres miles north of Lesser Slave Lake. Although the band obtained the right to a reserve in 1939, it still hasn't reached an accord with the federal and provincial governments. Following years of widely-publicized disputes that built popular support for the Lubicons' claims, Ottawa and Edmonton made what seemed a generous offer in August of 1992. The proposed settlement was worth a total of $73 million, an average of $146,000 for each of the 500 natives then allegedly belonging to the band.
The Lubicon's leaders weren't impressed. Chief Ominayak's main advisor, a non-native named Fred Lennarson, dismissed the offer as "disgraceful".
But while Chief Ominayak and Mr. Lennarson are still holding out for more, many others have had enough. In 1989, the neighbouring Woodland Cree band negotiated a $57 million settlement. That group is now building 101 houses, a fire hall and a school about 10 miles west of the Lubicon settlement. A second group formed the Loon River band in 1991.
The latest group of deserters, the Laboucan and Calliou families, say they comprise a majority of the remaining Lubicons who can legitimately claim to be part of the original treaty. Their spokesman, Michael Laboucan, says the decision to settle their claim as an addition to the Woodland Cree band was reached by consensus. "We're sick of waiting," he says. "We hear that it's always so close to being settled, and then something else comes up."
But Chief Ominayak contends more mercenary motives are behind the group's impending departure. The families want to leave, he says, because the Woodland Cree are making them attractive offers to join their band.
Both Woodland Cree councillor Roy Letender and Mr. Laboucan hotly deny any such offers. Instead, Mr. Laboucan says, they were impressed with the Woodland Crees' progress. "We looked at their roads and houses, and here we are just sitting, waiting and going nowhere."
In spite of the defections, Chief Ominayak last month told the Edmonton Journal that he's still seeking a settlement based on a population of 500 members. Virtually no one else seems to regard that as a reasonable figure, however. The Department of Indian and Northern Development (DIAND) estimates that the band numbers 250, a figure that will decline to 150 when the latest exodus occurs. Mr. Laboucan places the maximum number of genuine Lubicons at 185, while Mr. Letender maintains that "they can't have more than 100" members. The number is critical, since treaty claims will be settled on a per capita basis. "All of that will have to be taken into consideration, obviously," acknowledges DIAND spokesman Marcel Pronovost.
Messrs. Letender and Laboucan contend that Chief Ominayak has a "secret list" which probably includes a number of non-Lubicons. They worry that DIAND bureaucrats won't challenge his claim. "The government can't deal with him until they see the original list," insists Mr. Letender. "It wouldn't be fair."
Attachment #7: March 02, 1994, letter from Jacques Johnson to Ron Irwin
Dear Mr. Irwin:
As Co-chair of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review, I continue to follow events at Little Buffalo with great interest and concern. Everyone involved with the Commission was delighted that you were able to go to Little Buffalo on February 18th to meet with Chief Bernard Ominayak and other members of the community. It was a powerful symbol of your commitment and good will. We were also happy that, at that meeting, you stated your commitment to Aboriginal sovereignty and your rejection of a policy of `divide and conquer'.
Since that meeting, as you know, public statements have been made by one member of the Lubicon community to the effect that around one hundred members of the Lubicon Nation are seeking membership of the Woodland Cree Band. Unsurprisingly, this is causing even greater tension within the Lubicon community. There are rumours that those people seeking membership in the Woodland Cree Band have been misled by individuals from outside the community who are assuring them that the Woodland Cree Band will be given more land and more money if they join it. There are also rumours that these outside individuals are deliberately trying to undermine the Grimshaw Agreement by reducing Lubicon membership. Whether or not such rumours are true, it seems that Lubicon members who are applying to join the Woodland Cree Band are doing so because they think they will have a better chance of obtaining housing and other benefits by doing so.
All of this appears to be undermining the Lubicon people's trust in the Federal Government again. It threatens to undo the good which was achieved by your visit. I suggest that it is extremely important that you take vigorous action now to overcome these misunderstandings. I urge you to take two steps which I think would help to reaffirm the Lubicon people's trust in the Federal Government:
For the sake of the Lubicon people and of the good faith which your own actions have inspired, I urge you to act quickly.
Jacques Johnson, OMI
Members of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review
Attachment #8: March 02, 1994, letter from Jacques Johnson to Mike Cardinal
Dear Mr. Cardinal:
As Co-Chair of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review, I continue to follow events at Little Buffalo with great interest and concern - an interest and concern which are deepened by my pastoral involvement with both the Lubicon and Woodland Cree people. Everyone involved with the Commission was delighted that Federal Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin was able to visit Little Buffalo last month. It was a powerful symbol of his commitment and good will. We were encouraged by his explicit and public rejection of the policy of `divide and conquer'.
We are very worried, however, by other events which have occurred in the community and by the rumoured involvement of Provincial representatives in those events.
Public statements have been made by one member of the Lubicon community to the effect that around one hundred members of the Lubicon Nation are seeking membership of the Woodland Cree Band. Unsurprisingly, this is causing even greater tension within the Lubicon community. There are reports suggesting that those people seeking membership in the Woodland Cree Band have been misled by Provincial representatives who are assuring them that the Woodland Cree Band will be given more land and more money if they join it. Individuals are apparently being promised land, cash and new houses if they desert the Lubicon Nation. Some individuals have, it is rumoured, even been promised land within the area set aside for the Lubicons under the Grimshaw Agreement - which, of course, would undermine that Agreement.
This is most unfortunate. It is our understanding that it is the Federal Government policy NOT to reopen negotiations with the Woodland Cree Band either on land or on funding, irrespective of any increase in Band membership. For people to be led to believe otherwise, and allowed to make important decisions on the basis of such belief, is in our opinion indefensible; all the more so, given that the Woodland Cree Band is finding it difficult to provide housing for its current membership.
I suggest that it is extremely important that you take vigorous action now to assist in the just and speedy resolution of the problems which have of so long beset the Lubicon people. I urge you to take three steps which I think would assist Mr. Irwin and the Lubicon Nation in fruitfully pursuing negotiations in an atmosphere of trust and good faith:
It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of creating an atmosphere of trust and honesty to the successful completion of negotiations. Neither the Lubicon people nor the Woodland Cree will ultimately benefit if these are lacking. I urge you to act quickly and resolutely to restore them.
Jacques Johnson, OMI
Members of the Lubicon Settlement Commission of Review
Rt Hon Ron Irwin, MP, Minister of Indian Affairs
Pearl Calahasen, MLA