Lu­bi­con Lake Band signs his­toric land claim deal

$121 mil­lion set­tle­ment reached with Ot­tawa, prov­ince ‘a long time com­ing’

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - CLARE CLANCY [email protected]­ twit­­clancy

ED­MON­TON A land claim dis­pute that spanned 85 years, spurred an Olympic protest and be­came a sym­bol for Indige­nous self­de­ter­mi­na­tion in Canada ended Wednes­day when the Lu­bi­con Lake Band inked a $121-mil­lion deal with the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments.

“There is no use lament­ing the past, we have to look into the fu­ture,” said Chief Billy Joe Labou­can at a news con­fer­ence held at the Fed­eral Build­ing on the Al­berta leg­is­la­ture grounds. “This has been a long time com­ing.”

Mem­bers of the Lu­bi­con Lake Band, a 680-strong com­mu­nity once de­scribed by the New York Times as “the tribe Canada for­got," have never ben­e­fited from the oil and gas in­dus­try that boomed around them in north­ern Al­berta, he said. In­stead the com­mu­nity con­tin­ues to live in im­pov­er­ished con­di­tions.

“Most of our homes are mouldy, no run­ning wa­ter,” Labou­can said.

But the deal — which in­cluded $95 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion from Ot­tawa and $18 mil­lion from the prov­ince — will change that, he said. It also out­lined $8 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing to cover ne­go­ti­at­ing costs.

The First Na­tion that was left with­out a re­serve when mem­bers didn’t sign Treaty 8 in 1899 will now have 246 square kilo­me­tres of land near Lit­tle Buf­falo.

Ot­tawa has also promised in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment in­clud­ing hous­ing, a new school, in­ter­net, util­ity ser­vices and roads.

“These changes will bring dig­nity and heal­ing to com­mu­nity mem­bers who have waited decades,” said fed­eral Crown-Indige­nous Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Carolyn Ben­nett.

“While the re­gion around them flour­ished, Lu­bi­con mem­bers were with­out clean run­ning wa­ter, proper sewage dis­posal in their homes — homes that re­cent stud­ies have deemed 100 per cent con­demned and ir­repara­ble,” she said, adding the agree­ment seeks to ad­dress his­toric wrong­do­ing.

When the Lu­bi­con Lake Band didn’t sign Treaty 8 more than a cen­tury ago, the com­mu­nity was left with­out fed­eral sup­port. A land claim launched in 1933 was fol­lowed by decades of on-and-off ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“You have made tire­less ef­forts to pro­tect your land, your tra­di­tions and your peo­ple,” Premier Rachel Not­ley said at the news con­fer­ence.

She ref­er­enced on­go­ing crit­i­cisms from hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, which noted in a 2010 re­port that more than 2,600 oil and gas wells were drilled on Lu­bi­con land in the pre­ced­ing decades.

The United Na­tions Hu­man Rights Com­mit­tee rec­og­nized the vi­o­la­tion of Indige­nous rights fol­low­ing a com­plaint filed in the 1980s by then-chief Bernard Omi­nayak.

Ten­sion peaked when he spear­headed ef­forts to protest the 1988 Win­ter Olympics in Cal­gary and a re­lated Glen­bow Mu­seum Indige­nous ex­hibit. Later that year, com­mu­nity mem­bers cre­ated a block­ade on oil and gas roads lead­ing into their ter­ri­tory in an ef­fort that was even­tu­ally dis­man­tled when po­lice made ar­rests.

It was also the year when then­premier Don Getty signed an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple in Grimshaw, and again dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in 1992. That deal never came to fruition, but the land bound­aries out­lined in the lat­est set­tle­ment are the same.

Not­ley ac­knowl­edged the role of for­mer Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive premier Jim Pren­tice in end­ing the dis­pute, who in 2014 paid a visit to the First Na­tion and ef­fec­tively restarted ne­go­ti­a­tions.

He was the first sit­ting premier in nearly two decades to visit Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern Al­berta and helped the Lu­bi­con Lake Band to launch a land claim.

Wednes­day’s mile­stone was bit­ter­sweet given that many band mem­bers who launched the orig­i­nal land claim in 1933 are no longer alive, Labou­can said.

“We al­ways look for­ward seven gen­er­a­tions ahead, that’s what we’ve been taught,” he added.

He said there aren’t out­stand­ing is­sues with the set­tle­ment.

“At a cer­tain point you have to cut the deal ... oth­er­wise we’d be here for an­other 100 years.”

A cer­e­mo­nial sign­ing will be held Nov. 13 in the Lu­bi­con Lake Band com­mu­nity. Lit­tle Buf­falo is about 460 km north­west of Ed­mon­ton and 100 km north­east of Peace River.

While the re­gion around them flour­ished, Lu­bi­con mem­bers were with­out clean run­ning wa­ter, proper sewage dis­posal in their homes.


Premier Rachel Not­ley and Lu­bi­con Lake Band Chief Billy Joe Labou­can take part in a news con­fer­ence Wednes­day af­ter the band, Ot­tawa and the prov­ince reached a land claim set­tle­ment. “You have made tire­less ef­forts to pro­tect your land, your tra­di­tions and your peo­ple,” Not­ley said.


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