News Release
November 18, 2008

Growing demand for justice for the Lubicon Cree:

More than 60 organizations call for implementation of United Nations recommendations

OTTAWA -- In an open letter to the federal government and the government of Alberta (included below), more than 60 Canadian and international human rights, environmental, labour, religious and Indigenous peoples’ organizations are calling for a negotiated resolution of the long standing Lubicon land dispute and suspension of a planned pipeline across Lubicon lands until the Lubicon give their consent.

Signatories to the open letter released today include the Council of Canadians, the Alberta Federation of Labour, Amnesty International, Oxfam Canada, the Sierra Club of Canada, Greenpeace, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Canadian Friends Service Committee, and the Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan, Alberta.

Calling the situation of the Lubicon Cree a "well-documented and longstanding Canadian human rights tragedy" the organizations cite over two decades of United Nations human rights decisions condemning Canada’s treatment of the Lubicon Cree.

The most recent of these is an August 15th letter from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Committee questioned whether TransCanada Corporation’s planned billion dollar North Central Corridor pipeline across the Lubicon Traditional Territory can be legitimately authorized by the Government of Alberta or the Alberta Utilities Commission without prior Lubicon consent.

Despite the concerns expressed by the United Nations, the Alberta Utilities Commission approved the pipeline in October.

"It’s unacceptable that Canadian officials simply ignore UN human rights bodies when they don’t like what these bodies have to say," says Maude Barlow, UN Senior Advisor on Water and National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. "If international law is to mean anything, governments can’t cherry pick the standards they are willing to respect."

Gil McGowan, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour, added, "The provincial government has got to start dealing fairly with Aboriginal people and the Lubicon case is a good place to start. For years they’ve left the Lubicons out in the cold while they let oil and gas companies do anything they want in the land claim area. That’s got to stop now."

"Three decades of large-scale oil and gas development has already had a devastating impact on Lubicon lands," said Eriel Deranger of the US-based Rainforest Action Network. "The Lubicon have the right to ensure that the pipeline won't add to the cumulative damage already done by unbridled resource extraction."

On November 4, the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs of Alberta, representing the Chiefs from Treaties 6, 7 and 8, passed a resolution to "fully support the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation in their position that TransCanada Corporation must obtain the approval of the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation before TransCanada Corporation begins construction of any projects within Lubicon Lake Indian Nation Traditional Territory."

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For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter
Media Relations (Toronto)
Amnesty International Canada
(416) 363-9933 #32
Cell (416) 904-7158

Kevin Thomas
Friends of the Lubicon

 


November 18, 2008

Open Letter to the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta: Uphold United Nations Recommendations on the Rights of the Lubicon Cree

The United Nations’ repeated, unheeded calls for a just resolution of the long standing Lubicon Lake Cree land dispute in northern Alberta highlight Canada’s disturbing double standard on upholding international human rights laws and standards.

Over the past two decades United Nations human rights bodies have repeatedly raised concerns over Canada’s failure to respect and uphold the Lubicon people’s rights in the face of large-scale oil and gas development on their unceded lands.

Most recently, in an August 15th letter to Canada's representative to the United Nations in Geneva, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination questioned whether TransCanada Corporation’s billion dollar gas pipeline across the Lubicon traditional territory can be legitimately authorized by the Government of Alberta or the Alberta Utilities Commission without prior Lubicon consent.

Yet, on October 10, the Alberta Utilities Commission approved the building of the massive TransCanada gas pipeline through Lubicon territory despite the absence of any agreement between the company and the Lubicon.

Our organizations share the United Nations’ concern with this well-documented and longstanding Canadian human rights tragedy.

The Lubicon Cree are an Indigenous nation of some 500 people in northern Alberta. The Lubicon were overlooked when the federal government negotiated treaties with other First Nations at the end of the 19th Century. Despite having failed to negotiate any legal access to Lubicon lands, the federal and provincial governments have insisted on treating Lubicon land as Crown land. Government licensing of large-scale oil and gas development on Lubicon land starting in the late 1970s led to the rapid collapse of the traditional economy and ways of living on the land. The result has been widespread impoverishment and devastating levels of disease and illness associated with poverty.

In 1990, after a long and extensive review of a complaint brought forward by the Lubicon, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the failure to reach a land settlement with the Lubicon constituted an ongoing violation of fundamental rights protected under binding international law.

The Human Rights Committee repeated its concern about the plight of the Lubicon when reviewing Canada’s human rights record in 2005. The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing have since repeatedly expressed concern about the failure to reach a negotiated resolution of this dispute and the continuing licensing of additional oil and gas exploitation within Lubicon lands.

Despite the urging of these bodies, there have been no real negotiations between the federal government and the Lubicon since the last round of talks broke down in 2003, and the licensing of additional oil and gas exploitation within Lubicon lands has proceeded without pause.

The persistent failure of Canadian officials to respect the rights of the Lubicon is one of the most egregious examples of Canada's double standard in respect to UN human rights mechanisms. While Canada has long championed the UN human rights system, Canadian officials have all too often chosen to ignore the UN's findings of human rights abuses within Canada. There is no clearer example than the ongoing failure to reach a just resolution to the Lubicon land dispute.

Canada has long played a powerful role at the United Nations holding other nations to account for their violations of international human rights standards. This important moral leadership is drastically undermined by Canada’s failure to uphold those same standards at home.

Our organizations urge the Government of Canada to uphold its obligations under international human rights law by immediately committing to returning to negotiations with the Lubicon Cree with the intention of ensuring that their rights are fully respected and upheld.

We also remind the Government of Alberta that provincial governments also have a duty to respect and uphold international human rights laws and standards. Therefore we urge the Government of Alberta, consistent with UN recommendations, to ensure that no further development takes place within the Lubicon land claim area without the free, prior and informed consent of the Lubicon Nation, including the proposed TransCanada pipeline.

Submitted by:

 

Aboriginal Rights Coalition Atlantic (ARCA)

Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)/Action Canada pour la population et le développement

Aktionsgruppe Indianer & Menschenrechte e.V., Germany

Alberta Federation of Labour

Alberta Public Interest Research Group (APIRG)

Amnesty International Canada

Amnesty International Netherlands

Amnesty International United Kingdom

Andrea Bear Nicholas, Chair in Native Studies

St. Thomas University, Fredericton

Arbeitskreis Indianer Nordamerikas (AKIN), (North American Indian Working Group) Austria

Association for the Support of North American Indians (ASNAI) e.V., Germany

L’Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI)

Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT)

Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Citizens for Public Justice/Citoyens pour une Politique Juste

Coalition Québecoise sur les impacts socio-environnmentaux des transanationales en Amérique Latine.

Council of Canadians - National Office

Council of Canadians — Edmonton Chapter

Council of Canadians - Lethbridge Chapter

Council of Canadians - Peace Region Chapter

Council of Canadians — Red Deer Chapter

David Suzuki Foundation

Earthlink e.V., Germany

L'Entraide missionnaire, Montréal

Friends of the Lubicon

Friends of the Lubicon Alberta

Greenpeace Canada

INCOMINDIOS (International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas), Switzerland

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Keepers of the Athabasca

Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group (LPIRG)

Maritimes-Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network

Peggy Mason, Former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the United Nations, Senior Fellow, NPSIA

Menschenrechte 3000 e.V., (Human Rights 3000) Germany

Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)

National Union of Public and General Employees

Oil Sands Truth

Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) — Carleton University

Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) — Kingston

Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) — Peterborough

Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) - University of Ottawa

Oxfam Canada

Oxfam Prairies

Most Reverand Gerard Pettipas, C.Ss.R.m Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan, Alberta

Bruce Porter, Social Rights Advocacy Centre

Prince George Public Interest Research Group

Pro Regenwald e.V., Germany

Quebec Native Women’s Association

Quebec Public Interest Research Group at McGill University

Rainforest Action Network

Safe Drinking Water Foundation

Scarboro Missions

Sierra Club Canada

Sierra Club Canada - Prairie Chapter

Sierra Youth Coalition

Sierra Youth Coalition - Prairies Region

Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)

Society for Threatened Peoples, Germany

Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG)

For more information, please contact:

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter
Media Relations (Toronto)
Amnesty International Canada
(416) 363-9933 #32
Cell (416) 904-7158

Kevin Thomas
Friends of the Lubicon


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