UN rejects Canada's misrepresentation of Lubicon situation and urges Canada to negotiate

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

August 14, 2007

On August 2, 2007, Markus Schmidt of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to advise the Lubicons of the latest decision of the UN Human Rights Committee on the Lubicon situation.

In 1990 the Committee found Canada in violation of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights over treatment of the Lubicons. There have been a number of subsequent submissions and UN decisions all finding Canada in continuing violation of the human rights of the Lubicons. This most recent decision was based on a "Follow-Up" submission made by Canada August 15th 2006 and a reply to that submission made by the Lubicons.

Basically the Canadian submission sought to refute all Lubicon allegations of abuse under the Covenant and to argue that Canada has met any obligations that Canada has under the International Covenant with a 2003 settlement offer that Canada claims "exceeded the terms that were deemed by the Human Rights Committee in 1990 to be appropriate to rectify the threat to the rights of the Lubicon Lake Cree under... the Covenant".

This most recent Committee decision clearly rejects this Canadian government position stating:

"While noting the complexity of the issues raised by both parties, the Committee observes that they are still not in agreement on an appropriate remedy and urges the State party to resume, without further delay, negotiations with a view to finding a solution to (Lubicon) claims in conformity with the Covenant." (underlining added)

Three points here:

    1. No appropriate remedy has yet been found;
    2. The situation of the Lubicons is still not in "conformity" with the Covenant;
    3. Canada must return to negotiations "without further delay".

On August 9, a Lubicon representative responded to the United Nations thanking them on behalf of Chief Ominayak for their continuing concern over the ongoing abuse of the rights of the Lubicon people.

"For the Committee's information," he wrote, "the Canadian Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice wrote Chief Ominayak a letter marked ‘secret’ at the end of March proposing to give a recently retired Alberta Provincial civil servant with 20 years of highly contentious involvement with the Lubicon situation a contract ‘to meet with representatives of the main parties to the negotiations to determine the chances for settlement’. Chief Ominayak responded immediately that ‘the Lubicon people are prepared to meet with whomever you appoint to represent you in Lubicon settlement negotiations’ but pointing out that ‘neither Canada nor the Lubicons have the option of not seeking a settlement of Lubicon land rights’."

He said that Chief Ominayak wrote "Canada has a Constitutional obligation to resolve the issue of aboriginal title in Lubicon Territory and to ensure that the aboriginal and land rights of the Lubicon people are respected. Lubicon leaders have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to try and satisfactorily resolve this situation. We trust, therefore, that your representative will be prepared to ?explore how, not if, a mutually acceptable settlement of Lubicon land rights can be achieved."

The Minister never responded to the Chief's letter proposing to resume negotiations immediately to explore how, not if, a mutually acceptable settlement of Lubicon land rights can be achieved.

The Lubicon representative wrote to the UN Officer "Although Canada has undoubtedly been aware for some time of this latest Committee decision urging Canada ‘to resume negotiations without further delay with a view to finding a solution...in conformity with the Covenant’, Canada has made no effort to resume negotiations.

"This situation of course again begs the same question raised by Canada's earlier ignoring, misrepresenting and failing to comply with other decisions of the UNHRC and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. What can and should the UN do when a member state with a seat on the new Human Rights Council ignores, misrepresents and fails to comply with key international human rights agreements to which they are a signatory? Where does it leave the UN when a member state with a seat on the new Human Rights Council ignores, misrepresents and fails to comply with two key international human rights agreements?"

Both the most recent Canadian submission, which is 16 pages long, and a copy the Lubicon reply, which is 124 pages long, are available here.

A recent 11 page Lubicon submission to the new UN Human Rights Council that succinctly outlines the involved issues is available here.

Related press coverage is attached below


United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations
CH 1211 Genève 10

August 2, 2007

Dear Mr. Lennarson

I have the honour to refer to the follow-up procedure to communications considered by the Human Rights Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and wish to inform the Committee’s Decisions in the context of the examination of replies from States parties to follow-up to the Committee’s Views during the 90th Session, which took place from 9-27 July, 2007.

With respect to the case of Mr. Bernard Ominayak, Chief of the Lubicon Lake Band, Communication No. 167/1984, "While noting the complexity of the issues raised by both parties, the Committee observes that they are still not in agreement on an appropriate remedy and urges the State party to resume, without further delay, negotiations with a view to finding a solution to the author’s claims in conformity with the Covenant."

Yours Sincerely,

Markus Schmidt

Officer in Charge

Treaties and Council Branch


August 9, 2007

To: Markus Schmidt

From: Fred Lennarson

Dear Mr. Schmidt:

Your letter of 2 August 2007 regarding the decision of the 90th session of the Human Rights Committee on communication No. 167/1984 arrived in the mail today.

I have faxed Chief Ominayak a copy of your letter and he would like you to thank Committee members for their continuing concern over the on-going abuse of the rights of the Lubicon people under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

For the Committee's information, the Canadian Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice wrote Chief Ominayak a letter marked "secret" at the end of March proposing to give a recently retired Alberta Provincial civil servant with 20 years of highly contentious involvement with the Lubicon situation a contract "to meet with representatives of the main parties to the negotiations to determine the chances for settlement". Chief Ominayak responded immediately that "the Lubicon people are prepared to meet with whomever you appoint to represent you in Lubicon settlement negotiations" but pointing out that "neither Canada nor the Lubicons have the option of not seeking a settlement of Lubicon land rights". Chief Ominayak wrote:

"Canada has a Constitutional obligation to resolve the issue of aboriginal title in Lubicon Territory and to ensure that the aboriginal and land rights of the Lubicon people are respected. Lubicon leaders have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to try and satisfactorily resolve this situation. We trust, therefore, that your representative will be prepared to explore how, not if, a mutually acceptable settlement of Lubicon land rights can be achieved."

The Minister never responded to the Chief's letter proposing to resume negotiations immediately to explore how, not if, a mutually acceptable settlement of Lubicon land rights can be achieved.

Although Canada has undoubtedly been aware for some time of this latest Committee decision urging Canada "to resume negotiations without further delay with a view to finding a solution...in conformity with the Covenant", Canada has made no effort to resume negotiations.

This situation of course again begs the same question raised by Canada's earlier ignoring, misrepresenting and failing to comply with other decisions of the UNHRC and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. What can and should the UN do when a member state with a seat on the new Human Rights Council ignores, misrepresents and fails to comply with key international human rights agreements to which they are a signatory? Where does it leave the UN when a member state with a seat on the new Human Rights Council ignores, misrepresents and fails to comply with two key international human rights agreements?

These are still questions that remain before us all.

Please give my best regards to your colleagues with the Office of the High Commissioner.

Sincerely,

Fred Lennarson

 


Alberta's Lubicons get a boost from U.N. Human Rights Committee

Aug, 13 2007 - 4:50 PM

Edmonton/630 CHED - A U.N. Committee on Human Rights is urging Canada to negotiate a long standing land claim treaty with the Lubicon Cree Nation of north central Alberta

The U.N. Human Rights Committee wrapped up two-and-a-half weeks of hearings in Geneva, late last month, and on the agenda was the issue of Alberta's Lubicons.

The Lubicon Cree, which say they have not given up title to their land, have been trying to get a treaty with Ottawa since the late 1930's.

In 1984, the band filed a complaint with the U.N. ... in 1990, the U.N. ruled that Canada, a signatory of the Human Rights covenant, was in violation.

However, it said Canada was at least making an effort to negotiate.

It's not saying that anymore.

An official with the U.N. committee, Marcus Schmidt, says the world body is now urging Canada to get back to negotiations and to reach a settlement in compliance with the covenant.

There have been no treaty talks with Ottawa and the Lubicon since 2003. (bc, ccg)


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