EMERGENCY ACTION ALERT
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE UNDER SIEGE BY CANADIAN GOVERNMENTS AND INDUSTRY
March 6, 1996
From its earliest days as a colony of competing European countries, Canada's natural resources have been ruthlessly exploited by powerful foreign interests with little concern for human rights or the environment. Contrary to the face which Canada presents to the world, this is a process which continues essentially unabated to this day -- made possible by vast, resource rich lands and a relatively small population most of whom live within a few hundred miles of the US border and consequently don't have to personally suffer the devastating human and environmental effects of unbridled natural resource exploitation in the hinterland.
The people of the boreal forest in Canada -- Canada's Indigenous peoples -- can't avoid the human and environmental consequences of massive resource exploitation. Typically it occurs where they live and they receive few of the economic benefits which others use to ameliorate its worst effects. Although Canadians as a whole have one of the highest standards of living in the world, the original owners of Canadian land and resources typically live in third world conditions including grinding poverty, over 80 per cent unemployment, overcrowded and substandard housing, high rates of illness, infant mortality, illiteracy and suicide, low educational levels and a life expectancy 10 years shorter than non-Indigenous Canadians.
The plight of Canada's Indigenous peoples does not exist as an anomaly despite Canada's great wealth as a country. It exists as a direct result of the way that wealth is generated. In order to gain unrestricted access to valuable resources, Aboriginal land rights are deliberately subverted by Canadian government working in tandem with transnational resource exploitation companies. Traditional Indigenous economies are systematically destroyed. Aboriginal leadership is cynically undermined. Aboriginal societies are purposefully torn asunder. Subversion of Indigenous land rights, wanton destruction of traditional economies, unbridled exploitation of Indigenous lands and resources, undermining of Indigenous leadership, the tearing apart of Aboriginal societies -- that's a conscious, deliberate formula for wiping out distinct, functioning Indigenous societies in Canada.
In the headlong rush to transform life sustaining natural resources into inedible, unbreathable corporate profits, the people of the boreal forest in Canada are no less endangered than endangered species of boreal flora and fauna. Three Indigenous societies in Canada that desperately need international assistance and support are the Innu of Labrador, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and the Lubicon Cree. An up-date on developments in each of these situations is as follows.
A new multi-national memorandum of understanding which provides for 10 more years of low level military flights has been signed by Canada, U.K., Germany and the Netherlands. The agreement allows for 15,000 low-level military flights a year. Conducted at a height of about 30 metres, these tree-top level military flights produce ear shattering noise, literally shake the ground and play bloody havoc with both the Innu and the animals upon which the Innu depend for survival. The citizens and governments of those other countries are implicated in the human and environmental consequences of these low-level military flights no less than Canada and Canadians. People are urged to press all four involved state governments to immediately stop low level military flights over unceded Innu territory.
Adding to Innu troubles is discovery of a huge new nickel deposit in unceded Innu territory reportedly consisting of 100 million tonnes of ore worth at least $10 billion Canadian. With typical Canadian slight of hand, the company has separated support infrastructure from development of the mine itself -- allowing construction of support infrastructure to proceed without benefit of the environmental assessment supposedly required for large scale mining projects. Existence of already completed support infrastructure will then of course prejudice any eventual environmental study. That's par for the course in the Canadian context where environmental assessments, when they're done at all, are typically more pretence, window dressing and rubber stamp than serious environmental assessments in any technical sense.
The Innu are understandably worried about the environmental consequences of the new nickel mine. One of the main entrepreneurs behind development of the new nickel mine in unceded Innu territory has been associated with several mining disasters in the past including one in Colorado where deadly cyanide leaked into a river killing the fish and causing a $130 million (U.S.) pollution problem which will take years to clean up.
Like other Indigenous societies in Canada the Innu would prefer that the outstanding question of their land rights be settled before anything further is done to exploit the nickel resource in their unceded territory. In any case the Innu want a full federal/ provincial environmental assessment conducted and to be consulted prior to any further work on the mine or related infrastructure. At the very least a full federal/provincial environmental assessment and consultations with the Innu would slow down the current pell-mell process and provide a basis for public discussion of the issues.
People should write Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and demand that all activity related to exploitation of the nickel resource at Voisey Bay be frozen pending settlement of Innu land rights, conduct of a full federal/provincial environmental study and consultation with the Innu people. Noted copies should be sent to Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin and Innu President Peter Penashue. Additional information on the struggle of the Innu can be obtained by Innu Environment Advisor Larry Innes.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien
80 Wellington St., 2nd Floor
Ottawa, ONT K1A OA6
Premier Brian Tobin
Government of Newfoundland
P.O. Box 8700
St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 4J6
P.O. Box 119
Sheshatsiu, Labrador, Canada A0P 1M0
WWW Site: http://www.web.apc.org/~innu
After many years of protests and blockades, in 1991 the Algonquins of Barriere Lake entered into a Trilateral Agreement with the Canadian Federal government and the Quebec Provincial government the purpose of which was to develop an integrated resource management plan (IRMP) for the traditional Barriere Lake territory. In Canada such "agreements" to talk are frequently only a
government tactic for defusing public protest while proceeding with resource exploitation activity.
The timetable for completion and implementation of the IRMP was March 31, 1996. Tensions predictably grew as the date for
completion of the IRMP approached. Real participation of the Barriere Lake Algonquins in resource management of their
traditional area would limit forestry in the Barriere Lake territory. Failure to reach agreement on real participation of the Barriere Lake Algonquins threatened a return to undesirable protests and blockades.
Forever inventive Canadian government and their cronies in transnational resource exploitation companies found a third way to deal with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. The Federal Minister of Indian Affairs simply deposed the Barriere Lake Chief and Council by fiat, replaced them with an obviously sponsored "interim council" and appointed a Federal "financial officer" to take over and administer Band affairs. The Quebec Provincial government then made clear its complicity in deposition of the Barriere Lake Chief and Council by immediately announcing that it would recognize the new "interim council" for purposes of forestry negotiations.
The Federal Indian Affairs Minister based his blatantly colonialistic actions on a petition signed by 150 "dissidents" who claimed that the Barriere Lake Chief and Council didn't represent them. Reminiscent of similar petitions earlier concocted by agents of the Federal government in on-going efforts to undermine Lubicon leadership, many of the people whose names appear on the petition were put on the Barriere Lake membership list by the Federal government under C-31 revisions to the Indian Act. Only 49 of the people signing the petition even live on the Barriere Lake reserve. Many have never set foot on the Barriere Lake reserve. Some of the signatures on the petition were collected from people living as far afield as New York, Pennsylvania and California.
Also reminiscent of the Lubicon situation, the Barriere Lake "dissidents" were represented by the same big, expensive Winnipeg law firm that represents a major Quebec-based logging company called Domtar. Domtar holds one of the largest timber contracts in the Barriere Lake area.
In addition the Barriere Lake "dissident" group is represented by a big, expensive international PR firm called Hill and Knowlton. Among other things Hill and Knowlton represented the Kuwait government going into the Gulf War. Hill and Knowlton was reportedly hired by the Federal Indian Affairs Minister at a cost of $18,000 Canadian to prepare "PR materials" for the "dissident" group. The "PR materials" prepared for the Barriere Lake dissident group use the same format as earlier anti-Lubicon propaganda materials distributed by the previous Conservative Federal government.
Another of Hill and Knowlton's clients is a Tokyo-based forestry company called Daishowa. Daishowa owns the hardwood timber rights to a huge 29,000 sq. km. part of northern Alberta which completely blankets the traditional 10,000 sq. km. territory of the Lubicon Cree. Daishowa has been at odds with the Lubicons since 1988 over clear-cut logging of traditional Lubicon lands and is currently using the Canadian Courts to enjoin Lubicon supporters from boycotting Daishowa paper products unless Daishowa agrees to stay out of the unceded Lubicon territory pending settlement of Lubicon land rights and agreement with the Lubicons respecting Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns.
The people of Barriere Lake rejected rule by the Federally imposed "interim council" and refused to accept services from this puppet regime. The Federal government consequently sought and obtained a court injunction enjoining the people of Barriere Lake from interfering with delivery of services by their "interim council".
The people of Barriere Lake responded to this first court injunction by establishing a checkpoint on the only road leading into the reserve and refused to turn administration of their community over to the "interim council" established by the Federal government -- which, unwelcome in the community, is operating out of a non-Aboriginal community some 150 kms. from the Barriere Lake reserve. In an effort to create a physical base for their "interim council" on the Barriere Lake reserve, the Federal government sought and obtained a second court injunction enjoining the Barriere Lake people from blockading their own reserve roads, occupying Band-owned facilities, taking Band records or in any way being rude to the Federal Indian Affairs Minister or his "interim council".
These two injunctions obtained by the Federal government are typically a precursor to police action in Canada. It's the way government in Canada resolves political disputes with Indigenous societies under the guise of enforcing the law. If the people of Barriere Lake continue refusing to accept the effective political take-over of their community by the government of Canada, they'll almost certainly be charged with contempt of court and arrested. In Canada indigenous people aren't arrested for having a political disagreement with the government. That would expose the carefully maintained myth that Canada is a country where human rights are respected and where there's a sincere official concern over environmental degradation. Indigenous people in Canada are rather arrested for contempt of court when they refuse to accept arbitrary imposition of the government's political will.
Deposing the Barriere Lake Chief and Council by fiat represents a significant escalation over previous government efforts to overthrow the duly elected Lubicon Chief and Council. At Lubicon Lake the government first tried to overthrow the Chief and Council by adding "dissident" members to the Lubicon membership list under C-31 and using these "dissident" Lubicons to try and defeat the Lubicon Chief and Council in an election. When the effort to politically overthrow the Lubicon Chief and Council failed, the federal government tried to pull Lubicon society apart by using the same kind of petition used at Barriere Lake to constitute a new Band out of the so-called "dissidents" and then offering Lubicon members a number of enticements -- "little bribes" -- to join the new Band. Variations on these subversive approaches are continuing at Lubicon Lake where a second Band has now been created and efforts are currently underway to create a third new Band.
Despite all of these subversive activities on the part of both levels of Canadian government, Lubicon society under duly elected Lubicon leadership continues to fight the unbridled pillage of their lands and abuse of their Indigenous rights. What's being done at Barriere Lake clearly represents an effort on the part of Canadian government and their transnational resource exploitation cronies to directly bring the Barriere Lake people to heel by simply deposing the Barriere Lake leadership and replacing it with a more cooperative puppet regime. If they're successful in defeating Barriere Lake opposition to their pillage of natural resources by simply deposing Barriere Lake leadership and replacing it with a more cooperative puppet regime, it's likely that they'll use the same tactic with Indigenous societies elsewhere in Canada and a crucial element of the international movement to preserve the plants, animals and people of the boreal forest would be emasculated or at least brutally driven underground.
People are urged to write Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and demand that the Government of Canada stop intervening in the internal affairs of the Barriere Lake people but rather work with Canada's Indigenous peoples to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution of any differences -- including completion and implementation of the Integrated Resource Management Plan envisioned under the Trilateral Agreement. Noted copies should be sent to Quebec Premier Lucian Bouchard and Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan. Additional information on the struggle of the Barriere Lake people is available from Russell Diabo at the address listed below for Chief Matchewan.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien
80 Wellington St., 2nd Floor
Ottawa, ONT K1A OA6
Premier Lucian Bouchard
Government of Quebec
885 Grande Allee, Building J
Quebec City, Quebec G1A 1A2
Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan
408 Queen Street
Ottawa, ONT K1R 5A7
In 1978 the Alberta Provincial government completed construction of an all weather road into the unceded Lubicon territory opening it up for resource exploitation activity. Dozens of oil companies moved into the area starting in the winter of 1979-80.
Between 1979 and 1983 over 400 oil wells were drilled within a 40 km. radius of the traditional Lubicon community of Little Buffalo Lake. The impact of this intense resource exploitation activity in the unceded Lubicon territory has been horrific on the land, the animals and the people.
After studying the Lubicon situation the World Council of Churches charged that the actions of the Alberta government and the oil companies could have "genocidal consequences" for the Lubicon people. The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations considered the Lubicon situation and found Canadian treatment of the Lubicons to violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In February of 1988 the Alberta Provincial government announced construction of a giant new bleached kraft pulp mill to be built just to the west of the unceded Lubicon territory by a Japanese forestry company called Daishowa. The new pulp mill would transform 13,000 trees a day into 1,200 metric tonnes of dehydrated pulp. The number of trees the new pulp mill would consume a year would fill a wood lot the size of a football field to a height of 221 metres -- the height of a 72 story skyscraper. It was soon learned that the trees to supply the new pulp mill would come from a huge 29,000 sq. km. area which completely blankets the 10,000 sq. km. traditional Lubicon territory.
News that the Alberta government had sold the trees from unceded Lubicon land to a Japanese forestry company met with nation-wide protests. Officials of Daishowa responded by requesting a meeting with the Lubicons. In March of 1988 officials of Daishowa agreed to stay out of the unceded Lubicon territory until there's a settlement of Lubicon land rights and an agreement negotiated with the Lubicon people respecting Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns. On the basis of that agreement the nation-wide protests were called off.
In August of 1990 Daishowa tried to send in sub-contractors and a wholly-owned Daishowa subsidiary called Brewster Construction to clear-cut Lubicon trees claiming that these sub-contractors and the wholly-owned Daishowa subsidiary weren't covered by Daishowa's agreement with the Lubicons. When that tack failed Daishowa claimed that these sub-contractors and Daishowa's wholly-owned subsidiary weren't sub-contractors at all but independent contractors obligated by the Provincial government to provide timber to Daishowa. Next Daishowa claimed that the agreement with the Lubicons only covered so-called "new areas" and that the areas they were proposing to log had all supposedly been logged previously by small scale logging operations. Then Daishowa claimed that the agreement with the Lubicons only covered a 246 sq. km. proposed Lubicon reserve area not delineated until months after the March 1988 agreement with Daishowa was made.
In October of 1990 two Daishowa-related companies commenced clear- cut logging in unceded Lubicon territory. Shortly thereafter a logging camp belonging to one of them was torched ending clear-cut logging in the unceded Lubicon territory that season. Thirteen Lubicons have been charged but not convicted of the raid on the logging camp.
In April of 1991 Daishowa started denying that there'd ever been an agreement with the Lubicons claiming that all Daishowa did in the March 1988 meeting was explain to the Lubicons the provisions contained in the 20 year Forest Management Agreement between Daishowa and the Alberta Provincial government. The Lubicons responded by asking people to boycott Daishowa paper products until Daishowa makes a clear, firm and unequivocal public commitment to stay out of the unceded Lubicon territory pending settlement of Lubicon land rights and negotiation of an agreement with the Lubicons respecting Lubicon wildlife and environmental concerns.
A Toronto-based support group called the Toronto Friends of the Lubicon carried primary responsibility for organizing the Lubicon boycott of Daishowa paper products. Since Daishowa sells its paper products to companies rather than to individual consumers, the boycott was directed at companies using Daishowa paper products. Stores were asked not to purchase Daishowa paper products and people were asked not to patronize stores that continued using Daishowa paper products. Largely as a result of the efforts of the Toronto Friends of the Lubicon, 47 companies representing 4,300 retail outlets across Canada have joined the boycott.
Claiming that the Lubicon boycott had cost them $5 million Canadian in lost sales and that they were losing money at the rate of $3 million Canadian a year, in 1995 Daishowa asked the Canadian courts to enjoin the Lubicon boycott, or, more specifically, to enjoin the Toronto Friends from asking people not to patronize stores which use Daishowa paper products. Daishowa is also suing individual Toronto Friends for damages to compensate Daishowa for the millions of dollars which Daishowa claims to have lost as a result of the boycott.
Daishowa's lawsuit is part of an ominous new development in civil litigation called SLAPP suits. SLAPP is an acronym for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. One U.S. judge recently defined SLAPP suits as "suits without substantial merit brought by private interests to stop citizens from exercising their political rights or to punish them from having done so". Daishowa's legal action fits this definition of SLAPP suits to a tee.
Daishowa lawyers sought and obtained a court order shutting down the boycott pending the injunction hearing, or, in other words, Daishowa was successful in having the court shut down the boycott before the merits of the case were even heard. The court then declined to grant Daishowa an injunction on the merits but Daishowa appealed that decision and sought another court order shutting down the boycott pending the hearing of the appeal -- which was also granted, or, in other words, Daishowa again managed to shut down the boycott despite having lost the injunction application. Daishowa was then successful on appeal in obtaining an interim injunction shutting down the boycott pending the hearing of another Daishowa injunction application this time requesting a permanent injunction of the Lubicon boycott.
The Toronto Friends are seeking leave to appeal the interim injunction and preparing to argue the application for the permanent injunction, which is the main action asking the court to find individual members of the Toronto Friends liable for huge financial damages incurred by Daishowa as a result of the boycott. The bottom line in all of this complicated, convoluted legal manoeuvring is of course that the Toronto Friends are being legally prevented from working on the boycott and are being forced instead to spend all their time and efforts dealing with various aspects of the lawsuit and with fund-raising to cover legal costs. The question of financial damages hangs over their head like a sword of Damocles.
Daishowa's Director of Corporate Development Tom Cochran publicly denied that the Daishowa legal action is a SLAPP suit. He said "Daishowa does not object to boycotts per se -- they object to boycotts which inflict economic damage to the company". Referring to the 100 jobs at a Daishowa subsidiary which makes paper bags, Mr. Cochran said "The Friends of the Lubicon think the livelihood of a hundred families is worth sacrificing for giving some Indians some land rights".
Noting that Daishowa's timber lease in Alberta is three times the size of the entire traditional Lubicon territory, Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak responded to Mr. Cochran's inane remarks by pointing out that jobs aren't at risk because of the boycott of Daishowa paper products. The Chief said "Jobs are at risk because Daishowa refuses to make an unequivocal commitment to stay out of unceded Lubicon territory until Lubicon land rights are settled". The Chief said "All Daishowa has to do for the boycott to be called off is to make that commitment".
Toronto Friends spokesman Kevin Thomas responded more sharply to Mr. Cochran by pointing out "What's really at issue here is whether Canadians want to support the theft of unceded Indian lands and resources and the destruction of an indigenous society simply to enhance the profits of a Japanese multinational corporation".
Just as it will be a terrible precedent if Canadian government and their transnational resource exploitation cronies are allowed to get away with deposing indigenous leaders who oppose their unbridled pillage of natural resources in Canada, it will be a terrible precedent if Daishowa, known to be working closely with the Alberta Provincial government and a major U.S. based oil company with interests in the Lubicon area called Unocal, is successful in using Canadian law and the Canadian courts to silence Canadian critics of their actions in Canada. Again as in the Barriere Lake case, a crucial element in the international movement to preserve the plants, animals and people of the boreal forest would effectively be emasculated or at least brutally driven underground.
People are asked to write Daishowa Executive Vice President Tom Hamaoka indicating support for an international boycott of Daishowa paper products and demanding that Daishowa immediately drop its legal harassment of the Toronto Friends of the Lubicon. Noted copies should be sent to Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak.
Additional information on the plight of the Lubicon can be obtained from the Lubicon Edmonton office noted below.
Lubicon Lake Indian Nation
3536 - 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6J 1A4
www net page: http://bioc02.uthscsa.edu/~gst/nl/lubicon.html
Mr. Tom Hamaoka
Executive Vice President
Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd.
Suite 3500 - Park Place
666 Burrard Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6C 2X8
Phone: (604) 684-4326
Fax: (604) 681-8659