Sunday, December 18, 2005

Liberal Genocide; The Lubicon

Back in the early 1970's the University of Alberta student newspaper the Gateway was a radical collective of left and right wingers, all opposed to the War in Vietnam and pro-student democracy. This was part of the move to democratize institutions and work places that was the New Left. The university took exception to their publishing the FLQ manifesto during the October Crisis, and offence to their front page picture of Uncle Sam humping a Canadian Beaver with the headline Fighting for Peace is like F***ing for Virginity. This got the paper banned and the collective was disqualified from running the paper.

I was still in high school, and part of the high school student radical movement, we also produced our own underground newspapers, as well as a Radio Program on CKUA and were active in the embryonic Video Guerrilla movement.. We produced an underground paper for the city that was called The Orb, much like the Georgia Straight, and had followed after the demise of the city’s first underground paper, the Rice Street Fish Market.

The Gateway staff did something unheard of and never done before or since, they took the paper, its advertising revenues and its membership in Canadian University Press (CUP), off campus. They killed the Gateway on campus and were reborn as a radical people’s community newspaper called, appropriately; Poundmaker; named after the Cree Chief who fought with Riel. Those of us working on The Orb, who were also doing a Peoples Defence Fund, providing the inner city youth, poor, and druggies with free legal aid, were approached by the Poundmaker folks to join forces in one newspaper. So we did.

One of the people in the collective was Bob Beal, a noted journalist and Prairie Historian, who has co authored one of the best books on the Riel Rebellion; Prairie Fire.

The paper identified a common struggle in Alberta, between workers fighting to unionize the then embryonic Tar Sands, the native peoples struggles in the same region, and the corporate dominance of Alberta under the new Lougheed Government. One of the stories that we broke that made the news was the disaster at Buffalo Lake, the outbreak of TB and the extreme poverty of the Woodland Cree people who belonged to the Lubicon Nation.

Because the paper also had members of the collective working for the Mainstream Press we were able to get national coverage of this disaster. A disaster of the then genocidal policies of the Department of Indian Affairs of the Trudeau Liberals, under the Minister of the day; Jean Chrétien. It was a paper policy of assimilation at all costs and here it was in all its horrible reality Northern Alberta. The independence of the aboriginal peoples was being denied by the Liberal Government of the day, and native resistance was growing to the policies of assimilation or death.

The Lubicon have been without treaty rights and denied a historical and geographical existence because they remained autonomous from Treaty 6. There are other aboriginal groups across Canada who remain autonomous, outside of the treaties, though small in number they actively supported the American Indian Movement, and in Alberta they developed their own schools, and community services, without State funding or regulation. And during the seventies one of these autonomous aboriginal communities gave ‘sanctuary’ to Leonard Peltier who was later illegally kidnapped from this autonomous zone by the RCMP on behalf of the FBI.

The Lubicon and their rights to the land, land they never gave up, land that has been sold by the Federal and Provincial governments to the Oil Companies and to the Logging industry, remains the longest unresolved land deal in Canadian history.

And it belies the current Liberal governments claim to be dealing with Aboriginal rights. The recent Aboriginal round table and the accord, was between federations of treaty Indians, and Métis who the colonialist Department of Indian Affairs approves. Who led these 'first peoples' discussions, who set their agenda, none other than Phil Fontaine, Liberal flack and President of the AFN, a comprador ogranization that is just an extension of the Department of Indian Affairs. Nothing was said, or done for the Lubicon.

Blogger Dr. Dawg has done an exceptional job on documenting this history of injustice, and yes modern day genocide by the Liberal Government in its treatment of the Lubicon. I thought I would end this article and quote his closing comments from his excellent article; Paul Martin: Crossing the Lubicon

It is an issue as important as that of the recent disasters on reserves over the unhealthy living conditions they have been left in. And unless a boycott campaign, such as was launched by the Friends of the Lubicon, draws attention to them, the Federal Government continues to ignore the Lubicon, and continues to perpetuate this injustice.

Dr. Dawg says it’s an issue for this election. I agree. It is a disgrace, and it exposes the real scandal that is the historical role of the Liberal Government and its policies towards Canada’s aboriginal peoples; Assimilation or Death.

Successive federal governments have intervened shamelessly to break the Lubicon resolve. Using its power to create Indian bands under the Indian Act, the Liberal government under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien invented two other bands, hoping to lure away Lubicon; the members of one band, the "Woodland Cree," had been promised $1000 each if they voted for a federal offer of a pitifully inadequate reserve, but they later found out that this would be deducted from their welfare payments.

This brings us almost to the present day, and Paul Martin's shameful continuation of this miserable tradition. He promised to start negotiations with the Lubicon by the end of March 2004, but this never took place, and federal officials claim that they have been given no mandate to negotiate. It's been bad faith all the way with Mr. Dithers.

Amnesty International has denounced Canada for its treatment of the Lubicon; and the UN Committee on Human Rights, which heard the Lubicon complaint and found against Canada in 1990, repeated its concerns only last month.

Decency demands that we make Martin and his Liberal "team" accountable for this outrage during the current campaign campaign. But we ought to be even-handed about it. We should embarrass the Conservatives, whose own record has been nothing to be proud of on aboriginal affairs, and we should force the NDP to put this issue on the front burner. The survival of the Lubicon--those who are left--depends upon it. Let's stand up for them before it's too late."

1 comment:

Dr. Dawg said...

Bravo for your article and thanks for the mention, Eugene. I hope that this issue and aboriginal issues generally will be raised on the campaign trail this time around. The plight of the Lubicon was international news for a while, but the Conservatives and the Liberals have immense staying power--they have a history of just waiting out these controversies. Maybe this time people won't let them. I sure hope so.