Sixty Years is too long -
Six labour unions, including the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), have put their muscle behind the tiny Lubicon Lake Indian Nation.
Threatened with a policy change that CLC President Kenneth Georgetti calls "arbitrary and mean-spirited" and PSAC National President Nycole Turmel says is "an outrageous abuse of power," the 500-member Lubicon nation of northern Alberta has suspended land rights negotiations and called for public support. They now have the backing of some of the biggest unions in Canada, representing hundreds of thousands of workers. In addition to the CLC, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), la Fédération autonome Collégiale (FAC), the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), and the Canadian Autoworkers (CAW) have responded to their appeal.
Calling the policy "yet another instance of shameful treatment," CAW President Buzz Hargrove said, "the long-term effect of such bureaucratic insults will be to threaten the very existence of the society and culture to which [the Lubicons] belong." The Lubicons, who have never ceded their traditional territory, have been in the current round of negotiations with the federal government since July 1998. Now the federal government is saying that it will no longer reimburse social assistance costs for band members who live "off-reserve." The Lubicons are quick to point out that, despite years of negotiations, they still do not have a reserve to live "on" or "off."
In fact, while close to $10 billion in oil revenues has been pumped out of their land, the Lubicon community of Little Buffalo has no running water, no extra housing, no sewage - no public infrastructure. Those Lubicons who live in neighbouring communities are now faced with a choice: rely on an overtly hostile provincial government or join another First Nation who can offer them social services. In the words of Chief Bernard Ominayak, the proposed change will "tear our people apart." "How can the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation [engage in] free and fair negotiations about land claims under these circumstances?" asks Turmel.
"This latest decision can only be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to undermine the well-being of the community and influence the land claim negotiations currently underway," said James Clancy, National President of NUPGE. CUPW President Dale Clark agrees, "We must question the rationale to proceed this way at this time." The Lubicons were promised a reserve in 1939, but then oil was discovered. Oil companies flooded into the area in the 1970's, all but destroying Lubicon society and economy and causing a host of health problems.
"It is important to all of us that negotiations with the Lubicon Nation get back on track and proceed in good faith," said Georgetti. The unions are joined in their support of the Lubicons by numerous other organisations and individuals in Canada and Europe, including the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), David Suzuki, the Treaty Chiefs of Alberta, and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The AFN has called for the bureaucrats responsible, seen to be working in collusion with the government of Alberta and oil interests, to be fired. The proposed change is due to go into effect at the beginning of September.
For Immediate Release
Assembly of First Nations
(OTTAWA) The Assembly of First Nations has demanded that the Minister of Indian Affairs remove senior departmental officials for breaching a 1981 social services funding agreement with the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation. A resolution passed unanimously at their Annual General Assembly in Ottawa charges that departmental officials working in conjunction with the Alberta government are part of a campaign to "tear Lubicon society apart."
An attempt by Regional Indian Affairs officials to cut off social assistance funding for Lubicon members living outside of the main Lubicon community of Little Buffalo, Alberta caused a breakdown in ongoing federal-Lubicon land rights settlement negotiations three weeks ago.
Using a 1991 agreement between the Province and the federal Department of Indian Affairs governing social assistance payments to Treaty Seven and Treaty Eight First Nations, senior DIAND Regional Office officials told the Lubicons they will not be able to provide social assistance to Lubicon members living in the nearby communities of Trout and Peerless Lakes because the Department arbitrarily defines the non-reserve communities of Trout and Peerless Lakes as "off-reserve" and the non-reserve community of Little Buffalo as "on-reserve". Under the 1991 Provincial-Federal agreement, the federal government will only reimburse social assistance payments for "on-reserve" status Indians and "off-reserve" Indians will have to go to the Province or another First Nation for social assistance.
Despite promises made as far back as 1939, the Lubicon people still do not have a Reserve to be "on" or "off" of. Further, they are not party to Treaty Seven or Treaty Eight - to which the 1991 agreement applies exclusively - nor were they ever consulted about the 1991 agreement.
Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak told the Minister of Indian Affairs Robert Nault that "it's now very clear that a line has to be drawn or there will be nothing left to talk about at the negotiating table."
At their Annual General Assembly yesterday, the Assembly of First Nations passed the attached Resolution affirming their support for the Lubicon position. It follows a similar resolution passed last week by the Chiefs of Treaties Six, Seven and Eight. The Minister of Indian Affairs has yet to respond.
For more information, please contact
ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS
RESOLUTION No. 20/2000
SUBJECT: Lubicon Lake Indian Nation Provision of Services MOVED BY: Jaret Cardinal, Proxy, Lubicon Lake First Nation SECONDED BY: Chief Tom Bressette, Chippewas of Kettle & Stoney Point, Ontario
WHEREAS in 1981, then-Indian Affairs Minister John Munro agreed that the federal government would reimburse the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation for provision of certain basic services including social services despite the lack of settlement of Lubicon land rights and a recognized Lubicon Reserve; and
WHEREAS in 1991 the Alberta government and the federal Department of Indian Affairs negotiated a social services funding agreement providing that the Alberta government will provide social services to Indians "not ordinarily residing on a Reserve"; and
WHEREAS the Lubicon people were not consulted about this 1991 social services funding agreement and have never agreed to the Alberta government providing Lubicon members with social services; and
WHEREAS the 1991 agreement specifically applies to "Treaty Seven and Treaty Eight Indian First Nations, Tribes, and Bands only" and the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation is not a signatory or party to either Treaty Seven or Treaty Eight; and
WHEREAS the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation does not have recognized Reserve lands to ordinarily reside "on" or "off" of but rather retains aboriginal land rights over unceded Lubicon Territory and is still trying to negotiate a settlement of Lubicon land rights with Canadian governments; and
WHEREAS the Alberta government and senior officials of the Alberta Regional Office of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada are now trying to use the 1991 social services funding agreement to tear Lubicon society apart and subvert Lubicon land negotiations by effectively telling Lubicon members living anywhere but Little Buffalo Lake that they must either join another First Nation or go begging to the Alberta government for subsistence welfare to feed their families;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Chiefs-in-Assembly at the Annual General Assembly in Ottawa hereby direct the AFN National Chief and the Alberta Regional Vice-Chief to intervene with the Minister of Indian Affairs to do the following:
1. Honour the 1981 agreement to reimburse the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation for social assistance provided to Lubicon members wherever they reside pending settlement of Lubicon land rights;
2. Take immediate removal actions against the senior regional office officials in the Alberta regional office of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada who are working in concert with the Alberta government to subvert Lubicon land rights by trying to use the 1991 social services funding agreement to tear Lubicon society apart; and
3. instruct all of his officials to immediately stop all of their continuing efforts to subvert Lubicon land rights and, consistent with the federal government's fiduciary responsibility, do what they can to support settlement of Lubicon land rights.
FINALLY BE IT RESOLVED that the Chiefs-in-Assembly request that the
Minister of Indian Affairs respond in writing within sixty days or sooner
to the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation, to report on the actions he has taken to
address the above concerns.
For more information please contact Friends of the Lubicon at 416-763-7500
or see www. tao.ca/~fol/
Friends of the Lubicon 485 Ridelle Ave. Toronto, ON M6B 2K6 tel: (416) 763-7500 fax: (416) 535-7810 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.tao.ca/~fol