Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Support native rights for the Lubicon -- Amnesty International

(Editor's note: The Lubicon Cree have never been offered a treaty. Removed in the 1930s from Indian Affairs band lists by a zealous federal accountant (promoted for his efforts) they have been asking for recognition for more than 30 years [see timeline], while forest and oil companies invaded their land and wantonly destroyed their traditional ecology. Quakers supported their protests throughout the 1980s. Promises were often made, and always later broken, by the provincial and federal governments which quickly caved in to the business lobbies. In recent years Canada has joined the US and NZ as one of the most fervent opponents of aboriginal rights at United Nations hearings. This is the latest stage in their long struggle for human security.)

pro-Lubicon demonstration in the 1980s
Amnesty International asks your group sign on to the letter below....
In August 2008, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination sent a strongly worded letter to Canada expressing concern about continued, large-scale oil and gas development on disputed land of the Lubicon Cree in northern Alberta:

Over the last two decades, UN treaty bodies and special mechanisms have raised the Lubicon issue in ever stronger language - and all without action on the part of either levels of government.

This now stands as one of the most blatant examples of Canada's refusal to implement the recommendations of UN human rights experts.

With the agreement of the Lubicon leadership, Amnesty International, KAIROS and Friends of the Lubicon have put together the attached sign-on letter calling for action on the outstanding UN recommendations concerning the Lubicon and uses the example to highlight the larger issue of Canada's double standard when it comes to internationally recognized rights of Indigenous peoples.

We would like to encourage as many organizations as possible to add their names to this letter.

It's particularly timely right now as the Alberta Utilities Commission has just approved the massive pipeline across Lubicon land which was challenged in the CERD letter.

We would like to have sign-ons by next Monday (November 3).

Please send your contact name and information to: Craig Benjamin (AI Canada) at
kind regards, Tara Scurr
(Business and Human Rights Campaigner, at Amnesty International Canada)

RCMP ordering Lubicon demonstrators to disband or face jail
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 standards 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 planned multi-million 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.

We 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 lead 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.

No comments: