Negotiations & Lack Thereof in 1986 - 1987

Lubicons Reject Federal Government Offer Which Recognizes Fewer than Half of the Lubicon People

Feds Undertake Anti-Lubicon Propaganda Campaign

From: fol@tao.ca

The following is an excerpt from a Historical Overview document dated June 1989 from Lubicon Nation dealing withthe events surrounding negotiations and lack of negotiations in 1986 to mid 1987.


The new Federal negotiator was named Roger Tasse. Predictably Mr. Tasse's credentials and experience were quite different than Mr. Fulton's. While Mr. Fulton is a former Justice Minister and Judge with a reputation for independence and fairness, Mr. Tasse is a former Federal civil servant clearly accustomed to following whatever orders he's given without qualm or question, and who has a long-term and continuing relationship with the Canadian Security Service. (Mr. Tasse is the man to whom the old Canadian Security Service (SS) reported during the period when it was charged with all kinds of political dirty tricks, including the burning down of the offices of a rival political party in Quebec. Tasse then retired from the civil service and the old SS was replaced with the new Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), after the old SS came under increasingly heavy criticism for having "a police mentality and being unable to distinguish between legitimate dissent and political subversion". When Tasse resigned as Lubicon negotiator after being charged with conflict of interest for supposedly negotiating with Mr. Rawson on behalf of some Indians while at the same time reporting to Mr. Rawson regarding negotiations with others, he was given another Security Services appointment by the Canadian Government -- this time to study the recommendations of a Security Intelligence Review Committee which had in the meantime taken a look at the operation of the new CSIS and concluded that it suffers from basically the same problems as the old SS).

Originally negotiations with Mr. Tasse were scheduled to commence on March 1, 1986, with the Provincial Government involved as an observer. However developments with both levels of Canadian Government caused those plans to be changed.

Two weeks before negotiations were scheduled to begin, the Provincial Government commenced a Province-wide propaganda campaign intended to subvert our aboriginal position in those negotiations. Provincial Native Affairs Minister Milt Pahl wrote letters to the editors of various newspapers around the Province falsely claiming that our aboriginal rights "were satisfied by treaty". Provincial officials took out paid political advertisements dressed up to look like public information notices claiming falsely that the Alberta Government has the right to determine whether or not "there is sufficient basis for an entitlement based on the facts presented". And, on February 26th, Mr. Rawson phoned and asked that the start of negotiations be put off until March 17th.

Having heard nothing from Mr. Rawson by March 19th, we phoned his office and asked what was happening. We were told that Mr. Rawson was planning to call "a protocol meeting" involving all three parties for March 24th.

We replied that Mr. Rawson's concern for "protocol" hadn't been much in evidence a couple of days earlier, when we were supposed to start negotiations and didn't even receive the courtesy of a phone call advising us of yet another delay. As for the involvement of the Provincial Government, we said, we weren't prepared to accept the involvement of a Provincial observer while Provincial Government officials were actively seeking to subvert the negotiations.

A short while later an indignant Mr. Rawson phoned Lubicon lawyer James O'Reilly and charged that we were breaking the agreement to allow a Provincial Government observer. Mr. O'Reilly told Mr. Rawson that agreement to allow a Provincial Government observer was based on the notion that involvement of the Provincial Government would facilitate negotiations between the Lubicons and the Federal Government. Current Provincial Government efforts to subvert those negotiations, Mr. O'Reilly said, made clear that Provincial Government involvement wouldn't be helpful.

After a number of phone calls back and forth between Mr. Rawson and Mr. O'Reilly, we agreed to a meeting in Ottawa on March 27th to discuss the Lubicon position on the involvement of a Provincial Government observer. The meeting was held in Ottawa because Mr. Rawson was too busy to meet us in Edmonton. However Mr. Rawson had to leave the meeting in Ottawa early in order to catch a plane for Edmonton, where he was to spend the Easter weekend with his family, who live in Edmonton.

During the meeting on March 27th Mr. Rawson again charged that we were breaking the agreement to allow the involvement of a Provincial Government observer. We pointed out to Mr. Rawson that Provincial officials were actively seeking to subvert negotiations with their public propaganda campaign.

Mr. Rawson said that the Province would have to agree to "a publicity moratorium" in order to attend negotiations as an "observer". We pointed out to Mr. Rawson that the Provincial Government had a similar "publicity moratorium" agreement with Mr. Fulton when Mr. Pahl called his December 10th press conference, and that they supposedly also had a similar "publicity moratorium" agreement with him when they started their current propaganda campaign.

Mr. Rawson said, "We're offering to sit down and negotiate with a Provincial observer". We told Mr. Rawson that we weren't prepared to give Provincial officials access to negotiations, in which technically they had no role to play, and which they were actively seeking to subvert.

Mr. Rawson told us that we had to either agree to the involvement of a Provincial observer "or go to the end of the line" as far as negotiations with the Federal Government were concerned. We told Mr. Rawson that we'd either be negotiating or we'd be doing something else. We assured him that we wouldn't simply be waiting for the Federal Government to solve the problems which it had created for us by not meeting its constitutional responsibilities.

Mr. Rawson said, "The meeting is a nullity" and walked out. One week later we announced our boycott of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games, which ultimately included a nation-wide protest along the entire route of the Olympic Torch Relay -- sponsored by PetroCanada -- and museums from around the world refusing to loan artifacts to the main Olympic cultural event -- a Shell Oil sponsored exhibit of North American Indian artifacts.

Initial Canadian Government reaction to announcement of our Olympic boycott was one of amused disdain. Within two weeks, however, there were two major statements of support clearly indicating the seriousness our boycott. On April 12th aboriginal rights organizations from across Europe announced their support. And on April 13th Churches from across Canada and the United States announced their support.

On June 3, 1986, two weeks before we were to appear before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to discuss lack of negotiations, a more conciliatory Mr. Rawson agreed that negotiations could proceed without the involvement of a Provincial Government observer. While suspicious about the timing of Mr. Rawson's change of mind, we still hoped that it would be possible to engage in productive negotiations with the Government of Canada. We therefore asked the Standing Committee to postpone our scheduled appearance until we had a chance to meet with Mr. Tasse.

During our first negotiating meeting with Mr. Tasse on June 20th we made clear that we weren't prepared to retain less reserve land than other aboriginal people who signed treaty, as determined by the same criteria. Given historic precedent, we said, we were talking about more than 90 square miles of reserve land.

Mr. Tasse refused to agree with our position, saying that "The Government has the right to change the basis for determining land quantum". He said that he was prepared to talk about "some amount in excess of 25.4 square miles (set aside in 1939), but the amount of additional land will have to be discussed".

We pointed out to Mr. Tasse that we weren't dickering over the price of a used car. We told him that we were talking about basic principles of justice, fairness and equity which should guide our negotiations. We reminded him that the 25.4 square mile area was recognized to be only a partial settlement even in 1939. And we told him that Government unilaterally changing the rules at this stage couldn't possibly be considered fair, just or equitable.

Mr. Tasse said that he didn't want to talk about what was just, fair or equitable. If we wanted to talk about justice, fairness and equity, he said, "go to court".

Mr. Tasse said that he rather wanted to talk about what was "practical". He said "The Province will never agree to 90 square miles and the Band will have to go to court". "If these negotiations fail," he said, "the Band will be in court for ten years".

We told Mr. Tasse that the negotiations would certainly fail if we couldn't at least agree that the negotiations should be guided by the principles of justice, fairness and equity. As for Mr. Tasse's statement that our only alternative was to spend the next ten years in court, we told him what we told Mr. Rawson when Mr. Rawson told us to either knuckle under or "go to the end of the line". We told Mr. Tasse that we'd either be negotiating or we'd be doing something else. And we assured him that we wouldn't simply be relying upon the Canadian courts to ensure our survival.

A couple of days later we were advised by one of Mr. Tasse's associates that Mr. Tasse didn't want to commit himself to the principle of equity during our meeting on June 20th "because he just didn't know the implications of such an agreement". We were also told that Mr. Tasse "knows that he will have to address the question of equity at the next meeting".

The next meeting with Roger Tasse occurred in our traditional community of Little Buffalo Lake on July 8th. At that meeting Mr. Tasse tabled a written settlement offer from the Federal Government which said that the Federal Government was only willing to talk to those Lubicon people recognized as Indians by the Federal Government prior to the passage of C-31 revisions to the Indian Act, or, in other words, the basic list established by the Federal Government following the 1942 McCrimmon removals, plus the direct, legitimate descendants of the people on that list. Regarding this partial list of our members, Mr. Tasse said that the Government was prepared to agree to the same amount of land per person as was retained by the aboriginal people who signed treaty. "In that sense," Mr. Tasse said, "the Band is being treated the same as other Bands."

We told Mr. Tasse that he had a perverse sense of what was fair, just and equitable. We pointed out that his position on membership would effectively disenfranchise more that half of our people of their aboriginal land rights. We pointed out that the aboriginal peoples who'd signed treaty had determined their own membership, using their own historic criteria -- not had their membership determined by Federal bureaucrats using arbitrary and ever-changing criteria which literally split up families and tore aboriginal societies apart. We told him that he was proposing to apply the old Indian Act to us retroactively, after the Federal Government had been forced by international pressure to change that Act as completely unjust, unfair and discriminatory. And we told him that he was in breach of our pre-negotiation agreement that Mr. Fulton's Discussion Paper would be used as the starting point for negotiations, since Mr. Fulton had recommended that C-31 be used as the policy of the day to determine membership.

In spite of constitutional recognition of the aboriginal rights of all aboriginal people, Mr. Tasse said, "The Federal Government is not prepared to accept that non-status and Metis people have any aboriginal rights". He said, "A different approach to different groups is the way around this". He said, "We are prepared to identify an amount of land that could be transferred based on the status people". Regarding the people not on the Federal Government's "status list", he said, "we will not ask them for a release as to any rights they might have". He said, "If they can go to court and prove that they have any rights, then we might be able to provide more land for them".

We told Mr. Tasse that the Lubicon people are all aboriginal people related by family ties and historic ties to our traditional area. We told him that there was nothing more fundamental to us than the fact that we are one people, and that we weren't prepared to let the Federal Government split us up into arbitrary, artificial, Governmentally determined groups with different rights and responsibilities. Therefore, we told him, we'd welcome him back to our community for further negotiations if and when he had a proper mandate to deal with us as a people.

Mr. Tasse spent the next few minutes going from person to person asking them if they knew what they were "giving up for these non- status people". He approached one man who's a member of our negotiating team and asked him if he knew what he was "giving up". The man told Mr. Tasse, "You jackass, don't you realize that I'm one of the non-status people you're talking about?"

Following our brief exchange Mr. Tasse returned to Edmonton, called a press conference and commenced what was clearly a pre-planned propaganda campaign designed to paint our position on land and membership as both unreasonable and unrealistic. He charged that we were trying to use recent C-31 revisions to the Indian Act "to jack-up (our) membership numbers and obtain more land than (we're) entitled to." He said, "The Band, in its wisdom, had decided that it would allow a lot of non-Indians...to be Band members" and that we were now demanding that "Government should give them land as well". He said that C-31 allows for the addition of new members, including "non-Indians", but that it "does not create any land entitlement". And he said that our position on membership had caused negotiations to break-down, because, he said, "the Federal Government is in no position to negotiate a land settlement based on a head count of non-Indians".

In fact, of course, our position on land and membership pre-dates C-31, in no way depends upon C-31, has remained unchanged over the years and is consistent with the way land and membership has historically been determined in Canada. Our people are all aboriginal people linked by family ties and historic ties to our traditional area, whether or not the Federal Government considers all of us to be "Indians" -- by whatever criteria Federal officials happen to be using at the moment. Moreover it's not the Lubicon people but Canadian Government which is seeking to take land that rightfully belongs to somebody else. It's not the Lubicon people but Canadian Government which is trying to manipulate membership numbers in order to effect reserve land size. And it's not the Lubicon people who caused negotiations to break-down by adding so-called "non-Indians" to our membership list, but the Canadian Government who caused negotiations to break-down with a position on membership which would literally require parents to disenfranchise their own children merely to be able to talk to representatives of Canadian Government about settlement of our unextinguished aboriginal land rights.

Ordinarily one would expect a negotiator to be negotiating, trying to negotiate or at least not doing things which would adversely affect his ability to negotiate. After July 8th, however, Mr. Tasse showed little interest in talking to us about negotiations or anything else, and rather spent the next year, until he was forced to resign over conflict of interest charges, trying to sell the Government's artfully conceived propaganda line on our situation. The way he handled this propaganda campaign provides insight into the true nature of the job he been hired by the Federal Government to do.

On October 20th, for example, Mr. Tasse met with an interchurch coalition called Project North to discuss our situation. The report we received from Project North regarding that meeting was typical of reports we received from others meeting with Mr. Tasse.

Despite independent confirmation from a number of qualified observers, Mr. Tasse denied that our traditional economy and way of life was being destroyed by development activity. He claimed that the moose hadn't disappeared from our traditional area because of development activity at all, but rather because we'd killed off all the game. He claimed that massive development activity was actually good for the moose population because, he said, it cleared away old vegetation and allowed for new growth. And he claimed that the miles and miles of new development roads made hunting and trapping easier for us, by providing access to otherwise remote and inaccessible areas.

Regarding charges of ( a word has been deleted here in order not to possibly contravene a court order against FoL ) by qualified independent observers who've spent considerable time in our community studying the problems we face, Mr. Tasse said that these charges were also false. He said that he'd attended a meeting in our community for an hour or so one morning and could safely report that "The Lubicon people are a neat, clean, tidy and reasonably well-off people". He also reported that our houses and children were "neat, clean and tidy".

Regarding the break-down in negotiations, Mr. Tasse repeated charges that we'd "added new members to (our) Band list under C-31 to try and obtain more land than (we're) entitled to". Moreover he claimed that we'd "adhered to Treaty 8 and therefore only had an outstanding land entitlement under Treaty 8, not unextinguished aboriginal land rights". He described the Government's position that we've adhered to Treaty 8 as "not negotiable". (Adhering to treaty is a formal process not unlike the signing of treaty, involving the signing of an actual adhesion document. We never signed any such adhesion document, as both levels of Government well know. In fact the signing of an adhesion document is one of the things which both levels of Canadian Government have since indicated that they will require as part of any settlement agreement.)

Regarding the re-commencement of negotiations, Mr. Tasse repeated that we could never win legal recognition of our land rights in court, because, he said, "a legal determination would take too long". Contradicting his earlier comment that the very nature of our land rights was "not negotiable", he said that the Federal Government's position on the issues is flexible, and that the Federal Government is prepared to enter into negotiations at any time, but that the Lubicon people were refusing to negotiate. He charged that we were "more interested in European travel than negotiating", referring to our work with European Support Groups.

Lastly Mr. Tasse told the representatives of Project North that "for some reason the Lubicon people are after (his) blood, even though (he's) only trying to do (his) job and what's best for the Band".

Fortunately Mr. Tasse looks like what he is and so few people believed him. Our only other contact with him after the meeting in Little Buffalo on July 8th was in the form of an exchange of letters occurring at the end of July, 1986.

On July 21st Mr. Tasse wrote us a letter, obviously for the record, which concluded:

"I would like to reiterate that my offer remains on the table for discussion. I would be pleased to know if any of the elements of the proposal are within the realm of what you hope to achieve and whether talks could resume on that basis. Alternatively, I would be pleased to consider, as a basis for discussion, a detailed proposal from you which sets out your aims."

We responded to Tasse's July 21st letter on July 25th with a letter he never bothered to acknowledge. Our letter concluded:

"You say that you would be pleased to consider, as a basis for discussion, a detailed proposal from us. You already have it, in the form of Mr. Fulton's revised Discussion Paper, which you've repeatedly said was your starting point anyway. Start with Mr. Fulton's revised Discussion Paper and we're prepared to talk. But don't expect us to agree to negotiations based on terms which would, by definition, deny us our rights before we even begin".

Contacted by the press following the July 8th meeting, Mr. Fulton expressed "disappointment" over the break-down in negotiations. He also expressed "surprise" that his Discussion Paper wasn't being used as the starting point for negotiations, because, he said, he'd been told by Federal officials that it would be.

In January of 1986 Mr. Rawson had asked Mr. Fulton to include a recommendation in his final report to the Minister that there be a Provincial Government "observer" at bi-lateral negotiations between the Federal Government and the Lubicon people. Mr. Fulton told reporters that he'd instead recommended no Provincial Government involvement until agreement had been achieved between the Lubicon people and the Federal Government. Should negotiations between the Federal Government and the Lubicon people break-down, Mr. Fulton said, he'd recommended "a direct reference to the Supreme Court on the question do the Lubicon people retain continuing native title". He explained that a direct reference to the Supreme Court would circumvent years of procedural and other delays which would be unavoidable following the normal route. If the highest court in the land ruled that we never ceded our aboriginal land rights, Mr. Fulton said, "the claim would be settled and the Band would be entitled to enormous compensation".

Provincial Attorney General Jim Horsman, whose Government had of course for years used every imaginable legal and political tactic to delay, frustrate and forestall settlement of our aboriginal land rights -- including overt subversion of Mr. Fulton's efforts to seek a negotiated settlement -- reacted to Mr. Fulton's direct reference recommendation by saying, incredibly, that a direct reference would take too long to achieve settlement. He said:

"It (the direct reference) would drag on and on and on, and we would like to see it resolved much more quickly".

Federal negotiator Tasse, who'd earlier argued that we had no choice but to negotiate a settlement since a judicial determination would take too long, responded to Mr. Fulton's direct reference recommendation by making clear that the Federal Government would make a direct reference technically impossible, by denying and/or refusing to admit the basic facts of our situation, such as whether or not we constitute a separate and distinct aboriginal society. He said:

"The Lubicon case will not lend itself to a reference to the Supreme Court because there are still too many facts in dispute".

On November 17, 1986, we received a letter from the newly appointed Federal Minister of Indian Affairs Bill McKnight urging us "to return to the negotiating table to further explore the (Tasse) offer". We responded the same day with a letter indicating that we were ready to proceed with negotiations any time that the Federal Government was prepared to honour the pre-negotiation agreement to use the Fulton Discussion Paper as the starting point for negotiations.

Our June 19th appearance before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, which had been postponed when Mr. Rawson agreed to negotiations without Provincial Government involvement, had been re-scheduled for February 11, 1987. The purpose of our February 11th appearance was to discuss the break-down in negotiations. Mr. Fulton had also been asked by the Committee to appear and had agreed to do so.

On February 9th, two days before the scheduled Standing Committee meeting, Lubicon lawyer O'Reilly received a hand-delivered letter from Mr. McKnight. The letter claimed that the Federal Government was honouring the agreement to use the Fulton Discussion Paper as the starting point for negotiations but that there was more than one way to interpret the Fulton Discussion Paper. The letter therefore proposed a meeting between the Lubicon people and Mr. Tasse to talk about different possible interpretations of the Fulton Discussion Paper.

Rather than again postpone our scheduled appearance before the Standing Committee while we tried to assess Federal Government intentions, as we'd done when Mr. Rawson contacted us immediately before our last scheduled Standing Committee appearance, we decided to use our Committee appearance to issue Mr. McKnight a public challenge. We therefore up-dated the Committee on developments since the premature termination of the Fulton Inquiry and then made the following public proposal to Mr. McKnight:

  1. That the earlier agreement to use Mr. Fulton's Discussion Paper be publicly reaffirmed;
  2. That the Government of Canada publicly release the Fulton Discussion Paper so that people can read it and judge for themselves what it says;
  3. That Mr. Fulton be officially appointed an independent arbitrator or mediator charged with keeping the negotiations honest and on track (In this capacity Mr. Fulton could also answer any questions about how he intended his Discussion Paper to be interpreted);
  4. That the cost of Mr. Fulton's involvement be borne by the Government of Canada, but to avoid what happened to Mr. Fulton earlier, that he report to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs rather than the Government regarding the conduct of negotiations.

Asked by the Committee for his views, Mr. Fulton offered that he thought the term "mediator" was better than "arbitrator". Otherwise, he said, he was prepared to support the Lubicon proposal and work in the way suggested.

On May 5th, two days before we were scheduled to participate in a conference of European Support Groups to discuss the Lubicon situation, we received a hand-delivered letter from Mr. McKnight supposedly responding to our February 12th proposals. By this point the timing and intent of Federal Government moves had gone beyond being suspicious to being obvious. The only time we heard from the Canadian Government was immediately before some major public occasion when they were trying to deflect or defuse our efforts to respond to their steady barrage of deceitful propaganda.

Mr. Rawson, for example, walked out of the meeting on Provincial Government involvement on March 27th and nothing further happened until July 3rd -- over two months later but only two weeks before we were scheduled to appear before the Parliamentary Standing Committee to discuss lack of negotiations. We wrote Mr. Tasse on July 25th regarding our position on use of the Fulton Discussion Paper as the starting point for negotiations and heard nothing back until February 9 -- nearly 7 months later but only two days before we were again to appear before the Parliamentary Standing Committee to discuss the break-down in negotiations. We tabled our proposal regarding the reinvolvement of Mr. Fulton before the Standing Committee on February 11th and received no response until May 5th -- nearly three months later but only two days before we were scheduled to discuss the Lubicon situation at a conference of European Support Groups.

Mr. McKnight's May 5th letter indicated that he had "some flexibility on the initial (membership) proposal tabled (by Tasse) last July", but he rejected our proposals to re-involve Mr. Fulton and publicly release the Fulton Discussion Paper. His stated reason for rejecting the re-involvement of Mr. Fulton contradicted earlier Federal Government insistence on involving the Provincial Government in negotiations, and his stated reason for not publicly releasing the Fulton Discussion Paper was immediately contradicted by officials of the Provincial Government.

Regarding his refusal to re-involve Mr. Fulton, Mr. McKnight said:

"The Lubicon Lake Band's land claim is a matter which must be addressed between us and, if sufficient agreement can be secured, subsequently with the Province of Alberta. As a result, I am not prepared to entertain any third parties at the negotiating table".

Regarding his refusal to publicly release the Fulton Discussion Paper, Mr. McKnight said:

"...the Province of Alberta has advised my department of its understanding that its submissions to Mr. Fulton were made on a confidential and without prejudice basis and that, as a result, Mr. Fulton's paper would not be released without the prior consent of your Band, Canada, and the Province. The Province has also explicitly refused my department's request for its consent to release the paper. Consequently, I regret that I am not prepared to release the paper."

Asked by reporters about Provincial Government refusal to release the Fulton Discussion Paper, Provincial Native Affairs Minister Milt Pahl told reporters "the document was commissioned by the Federal Government, it's Federal Government property and it's up to the Federal Government to release it".

We wrote back to Mr. McKnight on May 18th expressing interest in further discussions on the membership question, pointing out we were not proposing that Mr. Fulton be a "third party" to the negotiations but rather a mediator, advising Mr. McKnight of statements by Provincial officials that it was up to the Federal Government to either release or not release the Fulton Discussion Paper, and therefore asking Mr. McKnight to reconsider his position regarding Mr. Fulton's re-involvement and public release of the Fulton Discussion Paper.

Tasse's resignation over conflict of interest charges was publicly confirmed by Federal officials on July 8, 1987. A month later, on August 6th, we received a letter from Mr. McKnight acknowledging our letter of May 18th, indicating that he was "encouraged" by our willingness to discuss the membership question, formally advising us of Mr. Tasse's resignation, ignoring our request that he reconsider Mr. Fulton's re-involvement, ignoring our request that he reconsider public release of the Fulton Discussion Paper, and informing us that "Mr. Tasse's decision (to resign) will lead to a delay in renewing negotiations while a replacement negotiator is sought".

We responded to Mr. McKnight's August 6th letter the same day, reiterating our willingness to hear what he had to say on the question of membership, but also reminding him of our earlier proposal to re-involve Mr. Fulton and publicly release the Fulton Discussion Paper.

On the same day that we were acknowledging his letter telling us that the Federal Government wouldn't be able to resume negotiations until a new Lubicon negotiator had been appointed, Mr. McKnight was in Calgary telling reporters that we were refusing to negotiate. He said:

"Ottawa has offered to sit down with the Alberta Band and negotiate a settlement but until the Band agrees, there's nothing the Federal Government can do... You can't force a people to negotiate."