LUBICON CREE SUPPORTERS GO TO COURT TO FACE INJUNCTION AND MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR LAWSUIT SOUGHT BY JAPANESE MULTI-NATIONAL
May 1, 1995
The Friends of the Lubicon went to court last week to face the injunction application filed by Daishowa Inc. The injunction application, filed in the Ontario Court's General Division, seeks to prevent Friends of the Lubicon from continuing its boycott activities of Daishowa and those Daishowa customers who use Daishowa products (ie. paper bags).
The boycott began in 1991 in response to a request from Alberta's Lubicon Cree to help prevent the resumption of clear- cut logging on their territory. In 1988 it was announced that Daishowa was awarded a logging license (or "Forest Management Agreement") by the Alberta government for a huge 25,000 square kilometre area which includes almost the entire traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree. The Lubicon, promised a reserve in 1939, still have not had their land rights settled, despite decades of negotiations, broken government promises, and more recently, pressure from groups around the world concerned about the violated Aboriginal rights and human rights of the Lubicon Cree. In the absence of a land rights settlement, the Lubicon's traditional territory as well as the Lubicon community have been devastated by extensive oil development and potential logging development.
In 1990 Daishowa-owned Brewster Construction clear-cut on Lubicon land. Fearing more cuts in 1991, the Lubicon people requested help from their support network. In response, the Friends of the Lubicon launched a public boycott of Daishowa until such time as the company committed itself publicly and unequivocally that it would stay out of traditional Lubicon territories until a land rights settlement was attained and a timber harvesting agreement respecting Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns was negotiated. Daishowa has never made that public commitment. Consequently, the Friends of the Lubicon approached the customers of Daishowa, which produces paper products including paper bags, to convince them not to buy from Daishowa given the company's refusal to commit publicly to staying out of the Lubicon territory.
As a result of the boycott over the past four years, dozens of national retail chains (representing thousands of retail outlets) no longer buy paper bags from Daishowa. Daishowa alleges in the injunction application that the boycott has cost the company millions of dollars in lost sales.
In January, Daishowa filed an application for an injunction in the Ontario courts. If the application is successful, the Friends of the Lubicon would be effectively prevented from pursuing a highly effective consumer boycott. The injunction application was heard in the Ontario courts on April 26 - 28, 1995.
Daishowa maintains, citing fifty year old labour laws used to restrict picketing at secondary sites, that the boycott is illegal because Friends of the Lubicon is singling out Daishowa's customers. The Friends of the Lubicon can't organize a direct consumer boycott of Daishowa because the company does not sell directly to the public. Friends of the Lubicon argue that the effective point at which people can make an ethical choice about supporting the Lubicon is when they are purchasing products from Daishowa customers, and that informational picketing at these outlets is protected by the values embodied in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "The issue is the right to inform the consumer and ask them to make a moral choice at the time of purchase," maintained the Friends of the Lubicon in court. Any injunction barring the Friends of the Lubicon from approaching Daishowa customers will, de facto, end the boycott.
The Friends of the Lubicon's legal counsel were Clayton Ruby, Harriet Sachs and Jill Copeland, who argued that this was an issue of freedom of expression. (As the Washington Post points out [Washington Post, 29 IV 1995, "Canadian Boycott Turns Spotlight on Free Speech"] this type of anti-boycott lawsuit "would have very little chance in the U.S.")
Madam Justice Kiteley will deliver her ruling on the injunction case on Friday May 19 at 9:00 am at the Osgoode Hall Law Courts, Toronto, Ontario.
Message posted by the Aboriginal Rights Coalition / Project North.
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