Rebutting Minister Prentice's misinformation

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

December 21, 2006

Attached for your information is a copy of a letter which Indian Affairs Minister sent a Lubicon supporter in BC. It’s a form letter which is undoubtedly also being sent to others writing the Minister about lack of Lubicon negotiations. Mr. Prentice’s letter deserves comment and response.

Mr. Prentice says "At no time have the federal negotiators taken the position that they have no mandate to negotiate issues of self-government and compensation". In fact that’s exactly the position taken by federal negotiators in November of 2003 and subsequently.

One does not need to look to numerous documents in which the position of federal negotiators is repeatedly spelled out. All one needs to do is look at Mr. Prentice’s letter which concludes "The impasse which began in November of 2003 was the result of the Lubicon not accepting Canada’s offers on self-government and compensation". Mr. Prentice says "this is quite different (than saying) that Canada’s negotiator does not have a mandate".

What federal negotiators in fact did was table a non-negotiable financial compensation offer and an offer to talk with the Lubicon people about self-government post-settlement of Lubicon land rights. They said, and Mr. Prentice says nothing different, that they had no mandate to negotiate anything more or different. Mr. Prentice does not seem to grasp that negotiations consist of more than the federal government making an offer and the Lubicons accepting whatever the federal government offers.

Mr. Prentice says federal negotiators "made a compensation offer to the Lubicon that was fair to the Lubicon". Tabling a unilaterally determined financial compensation offer that makes no pretense of any relationship to settlement issues, and is openly described by federal negotiators as being based on what’s left over in their financial mandate after everything else has been paid for -- including buying out oil company leases on proposed Lubicon reserve land which shouldn’t have been sold in the first place and which benefited only the province that received the purchase price and the oil companies that later negotiated the buy out price -- obviously has nothing to do with what’s "fair to the Lubicon".

Mr. Prentice says "Canada’s offer is significantly more generous than the 1989 offer to the Lubicon which was found by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1990 to be ‘appropriate to rectify the situation’". In fact, as was made clear by United Nations officials at the time and has been expressly reaffirmed by two different UN Committees concerned with human rights violations in the last 18 months, the UN Human Rights Committee did not find the infamous 1989 "take-it-or-leave-it" offer to be "appropriate to remedy the situation". It found -- after an earlier 1987 procedural decision in which the Committee ruled that the Lubicon could not achieve effective legal redress in the Canadian court system -- that negotiation of Lubicon land rights with the Lubicon people would be an appropriate way to remedy Canadian violation of the human rights of the Lubicon people under of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (and more recently also under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).

Mr. Prentice says "Canada’s negotiator also has a mandate to negotiate, as part of the land claim settlement, a Framework Agreement on Self-Government". He says Canada also "offered to put a clause in the Land Claim Settlement Agreement that stated that self-government negotiations would begin following the successful ratification of the Land Claim Agreement". He says, condescendingly and inaccurately, "As you may know, a Framework Agreement is the first step in most negotiation processes".

In fact, negotiation of a framework agreement is not "the first step in most negotiation processes" but rather only the first step in a long, convoluted, multi-year procedure established by the federal government for all "Indian groups in Canada that aspire to be self-governing". It has nothing at all to do with negotiating the terms of a settlement of Lubicon land rights, including provision that the Lubicon people will retain their existing right to be self-governing post-settlement.

Moreover, offering to negotiate a non-binding framework agreement as part of a land rights settlement agreement -- which only establishes an agenda for discussing self-government discussions post-settlement -- and offering to "put a clause in the Land Claim Settlement Agreement that stated that self-government negotiations would begin following the successful ratification of the Land Claim Agreement", amount to the same thing. Not much. Both would require the Lubicon people to cede rights to their valuable traditional lands for no more than agreement to later discuss whether, when and on what terms their right to be self-governing might eventually be agreed. Settlement of Lubicon land rights will never be achieved on the basis of the Lubicon people ceding their land rights first and then trying to negotiate key settlement terms later.



Minister of Indian Affairs and
Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor
For Métis and Non-Status Indians
Ottawa, Canada K1A 0H4

July 28, 2006

Dear ----

This is in response to your correspondence of June 30, 2006, concerning the Lubicon people.

Once again, I thank you for sharing your concerns with me; however, it seems that you have been misinformed. At no time have the federal negotiators taken the position that they have no mandate to negotiate issues of self-government and compensation. In fact, in the fall of 2003, Canada made a compensation offer to the Lubicon that was fair to the Lubicon, to other First Nations in Treaty 8 that have settled similar claims and to all Canadians. Canada’s offer is significantly more generous than the 1989 offer to the Lubicon, which was found by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1990 to be "appropriate to rectify the situation".

In relation to self-government, Canada’s negotiator also has a mandate to negotiate, as part of the land claim settlement, a Framework Agreement on Self-government with the Lubicon people. As you may know, a Framework Agreement is the first step in most negotiation processes. When the Lubicon rejected Canada’s offer to enter into negotiations on a Framework Agreement, Canada offered to put a clause in the Land Claim Settlement Agreement that stated that self-government negotiations would begin following the successful ratification of the Land Claim Agreement, at a time when the Lubicon indicated their readiness to begin.

The impasse which began in November 2003 was the result of the Lubicon not accepting Canada’s offers on self-government and compensation. I believe you will agree that this is quite different from your statement that Canada’s negotiator does not have a mandate.

Sincerely,

The Honourable Jim Prentice, PC, QC, MP

 


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