UN urges action on Lubicon settlement

Friends of the Lubicon
PO Box 444 Stn D,
Etobicoke ON M9A 4X4
Tel: (416) 763-7500
Email: fol (at) tao (dot) ca
www.lubicon.ca

November 5, 2005

Attached below are two of the many media reports on the United Nations Human Rights Committee conclusions released this week reaffirming an earlier 1990 Committee decision holding Canada in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights over abuse of Lubicon aboriginal and human rights, expressing concern over lack of Lubicon land negotiations and calling upon Canada "to make every effort to resume negotiations with a view to finding a solution".

The only response so far from federal government officials is from Indian Affairs spokesperson Glen Luff. After being informed of the UN decision, Luff is quoted as saying "We’re not sure there’s anything in the immediate future that would change our mandate to negotiate."

Mr. Luff says a number of other things that indicate that the government of Canada’s calculated response to the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee is to carry on with its traditional pattern of lies and deceit rather than reconsidering its increasingly indefensible mandate for Lubicon negotiations.

Lubicon Councilor Alphonse Ominayak responded to comments by government officials in two letters to the editors of the Edmonton Sun and the Edmonton Journal. Those letters are attached below for your information.

 


Edmonton Sun
November 3, 2005

UN urges Lubicon settlement

By Darcy Henton
Legislative Bureau

The United Nations has weighed in for a second time on the plight of Alberta's Lubicon, but it may not be enough to push governments to resolve the 66-year-old land claim.

The UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern yesterday that negotiations to resolve the claim are at an impasse while Lubicon lands continue to "be compromised" by logging and oil and gas extraction.

It called on the Canadian government "to make every effort to resume negotiations with the Lubicon Lake band with a view to finding a solution."

The committee also called on the governments to consult with the Lubicon before granting licences for the "economic exploitation of the disputed lands."

The statement was released after Lubicon band councillor Alphonse Ominayak made a presentation to the UN committee last month.

But the federal government said yesterday that it had no plans to change its mandate for negotiations - the sticking point that triggered the impasse.

"We have a mandate as to what we can negotiate for self-government, and they're not prepared to accept it," said Glenn Luff, a spokesman for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. "We can't force the Lubicon to return or to accept our offer."

Luff said the Lubicon are also not prepared to accept the amount of compensation Ottawa is offering for the loss of the use of their land.

"We're not sure there's anything in the immediate future that would change our mandate to negotiate," he added.

Lubicon advisor Kevin Thomas called the government's response "shameful."

"If Canada won't answer to the UN, then I don't think it has any business going around the world and talking about human rights elsewhere," he said.

Alberta says the matter is between Ottawa and the Lubicon and no one has invited the province to participate.

Jason Gariepy, a spokesman for Alberta Aboriginal Affairs, said that no oil and gas or forestry licences have been issued for land claimed by the Lubicon.


Edmonton Journal
November 3, 2005

UN urges action on Lubicon claim

EDMONTON (CP) - The federal government should make every effort to resume land-claim talks with a northern Alberta Cree community that has been fighting for status for almost 70 years, says a United Nations report.

The UN Human Rights Committee also says the Lubicon band continues to be compromised by logging and large-scale oil and gas extraction.

"The committee is concerned that land-claim negotiations between the Government of Canada and the Lubicon Lake band are currently at an impasse," the committee says in a report on international civil and political rights released Wednesday.

"The state party should make every effort to resume negotiations. It should consult with the band before granting licences for economic exploitation of the disputed land."

A delegation from the 500-member band went to Geneva last month to ask the committee to condemn Canada for failing to resolve the dispute that stems back to 1939.

The report represents the second time the UN has criticized Ottawa over the impasse. The first was in 1990. The last round of talks between the federal government and Lubicon broke off two years ago.

Lubicon band counsellor Alphonse Ominayak, 50, says he is heartened by the report's findings and hopes it will persuade the federal government to finally resolve the long-standing dispute.

"This situation has been going on since before I was born. It is high time that somebody had the backbone to try to straighten it out," Ominayak said from the Lubicon community of Little Buffalo.

"They have to deal with this as soon as possible so we can get on with our lives before everything is totally destroyed. People are hoping the government will face up to its responsibilities."

Indian Affairs spokesman Glenn Luff said the federal government shares the UN's concern about the lack of progress in the Lubicon land claim, but put the onus for the impasse on the band.

Luff said the Lubicon want a self-government agreement that is different and more wide-ranging than deals that have been reached with other First Nations. He declined to give details.

The band is also seeking more financial compensation than Ottawa is willing to pay.

"We cannot reach an agreement on the amount of financial compensation that we are prepared to offer and the Lubicon feel they are entitled to," Luff said. "There are no talks planned at the moment."

The Lubicon were missed when a federal commission negotiated Treaty 8 in Alberta in 1899. They were largely ignored until the land they inhabit - and never surrendered via the treaty - became valuable for its oil, gas and forest resources.

In earlier talks, the band demanded $50 million to establish a reserve on 10,000 square kilometres of land it claims around Little Buffalo. (FOL editorial note: 10,000 square kilometres refers to Lubicon traditional territory while the reserve size would be in the neighbourhood of 246 square kilometres.) It also wants $120 million in compensation for energy and forestry development that have already taken place on the land.

The Alberta government is prepared to make some territory available to the band for a reserve, including some land with mineral and subsurface rights, said Aboriginal Affairs spokesman Jason Gariepy.

The key sticking points in the dispute are federal issues, he said.


LETTER TO EDMONTON JOURNAL FROM LUBICON COUNCILOR ALPHONSE OMINAYAK:

November 3, 2005

Letters Editor
Edmonton Journal
Fax: : 780-498-5677

On November 3rd the Edmonton Journal reported on a UN Human Rights Committee decision reaffirming an earlier 1990 Committee decision holding Canada in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights over abuse of Lubicon aboriginal and human rights, expressing concern over lack of Lubicon land negotiations and calling upon Canada "to make every effort to resume negotiations with a view to finding a solution". It quotes Indian Affairs spokesman Glen Luff as blaming the Lubicons for lack of negotiations claiming, among other things, that "the Lubicons want a self-government agreement that is different and more wide-ranging than deals that have been reached with other First Nations".

In fact federal officials refused to discuss long-standing Lubicon self-government proposals, on the table since 1985, saying they were too complicated and would take too long to discuss to include in a settlement of Lubicon land rights. We therefore put our self-government proposals in the language of agreements with other First Nations and federal officials still refused to discuss them. When we asked why federal officials refused to discuss language already agreed with other First Nations, Chief Federal Negotiator Brad Morse told us "Those other agreements are different". He said "Those other agreements are non-binding framework agreements and agreements-in-principle". He said "Putting it in a final settlement agreement, that’s binding, that’s different than putting it in a non-binding framework agreement".

Subsequently we obtained secret Justice Department "Guidelines for Federal Self-government Negotiators" which provide detailed instructions on how to negotiate recognition of constitutionally recognized aboriginal self-government using "carefully crafted" language explicitly designed to ensure that such agreements will not be legally binding on the federal government. These Guidelines say, among other things, while "the inherent right of (aboriginal) self-government is an existing right within the meaning of s. 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982", the federal government "remains agnostic as to which groups actually have such a right".

That’s the real reason why federal officials refuse to discuss long-standing Lubicon self-government proposals -- not because Lubicon proposals "are different and more wide-ranging than deals that have been reached with other First Nations", but because including agreement that the Lubicons have the right to manage our own affairs in a Lubicon settlement agreement would make it legally binding on a federal government which likes to talk publicly about constitutional recognition of the inherent right of aboriginal people to be self-governing but secretly plots to deny aboriginal people that right. Other aboriginal people would do well to study these secret Justice Department Guidelines before believing that Canadian officials are negotiating self-government agreements or anything else in good faith.

Alphonse Ominayak

Councilor

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation


LETTER TO EDMONTON SUN FROM LUBICON COUNCILOR ALPHONSE OMINAYAK

November 3, 2005

Editor
Edmonton Sun
Fax:: 780-468-0139

On November 3rd the Edmonton Sun reported on a UN Human Rights Committee decision reaffirming an earlier 1990 Committee decision holding Canada in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights over abuse of Lubicon aboriginal and human rights, expressing concern over the lack of Lubicon land negotiations and calling upon Canada "to make every effort to resume negotiations with a view to finding a solution". It quotes Indian Affairs spokesman Glen Luff as saying that the federal government has no plans to return to the negotiating table because, according to Mr. Luff, "We have a mandate as to what we can negotiate for self-government and they’re not prepared to accept it". In fact, as Committee members know, federal officials have refused to discuss Lubicon self-government at all as a part of a settlement of Lubicon land rights.

Mr. Luff is quoted further as saying that the Lubicon people are not prepared to accept the amount of compensation Ottawa is offering for the loss of use of their land. In fact, as Committee members also know, federal officials brought negotiation of compensation to an end by asking the Lubicons for "a bottom line figure" and then trying to use the requested bottom line figure as a new starting point for negotiations. When the Lubicons refused to go along with this sleazy negotiating tactic federal officials accused the Lubicons of refusing to negotiate.

The real problem in reaching a settlement of Lubicon land rights is this endless game playing on the part of federal officials and their inability to tell the truth. In response the Lubicon people have repeatedly asked that Lubicon land negotiations be open so Canadians can judge the issues and positions of the parties for themselves but federal officials have consistently refused.

Alphonse Ominayak

Councilor

Lubicon Lake Indian Nation.

 


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