Profit and Power at the expense of the Lubicon

Profit and Power at the expense of the Lubicon

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John Ahni Schertow
February 3, 2008
 

According to a recent communique from Friends of the Lubicon, TransCanada officials have decided to proceed with their application to build a new jumbo gas pipeline across unceded Lubicon Territory.

Not too long ago they were asked to alter their ‘project timelines’ until they adequately respond to the social, environmental, and cultural concerns held by the Lubicon Cree Nation. However, it would seem Transcanada is not the least bit interested in doing so. The same can also be said about Shell, Suncor, Imperial Oil, Exxon Mobile, Cargill and Nexen — all of whom leaped forward over the last four days to support the pipeline. And let’s not forget the Provincial and Federal Government, who’ve systematically denied the Lubicon their rights for years.

Weighing all this in, we find the Lubicon facing the prospect of irreparable social, cultural, economic, and physical destruction.

The reason for this is pretty straight forward: Companies have been illegally exploiting the resources on Lubicon territory for the last 28 years. Over that period of time, an estimated $13 billion in oil & gas revenues from over 1700 wells have been taken without the consent of the Lubicon, who themselves have yet to receive a single cent. In fact, this unbridled and illegal resource exploitation has had the opposite effect on the Lubicon, as is so often the case when it comes to Indigenous People and Development. It has impoverished the Lubicon.

For example, according to statistics gathered in the late 1980’s, 30 years ago less than 10 percent of the Lubicon depended on welfare subsistence. Now it’s over 90 percent. They also suffer from a wide-range of social and health-related problems that were previously unheard of: cancer, tuberculosis, miscarriages, skin diseases, substance abuse, and youth suicide to name a few.

The situation is still no better today, as we were reminded by Cosanna Preston during last summer’s National Day of Action:

Despite the location of their traditional territory in Alberta, the richest province in the country, the Lubicon Cree have been sentenced to a life of tragedy. Since the 1930s they have struggled to settle their land claim but today over 70 years later they remain totally disenfranchised –shunned by both the provincial and federal government — and left to fight for their very existence.

Imagine a community with no running water, where temperatures bottom-out below minus 40 degrees Celsius and the closest bathroom is an outhouse across the yard, through knee-deep snow. Imagine a community where a single 900-foot house is home to three generations with hammocks, couches, and cushions as make-shift beds; where tuberculosis lurks in the close-knit quarters and gas flares light up the windows, outpacing the morning sun. Imagine a community which sustained itself and its environment for hundreds of years but was swiftly destroyed and degraded in just four short years of oil development.

Now imagine that community in the praised ‘first-world’ country, Canada. This is the plight of the Lubicon Cree.

Government agencies continue to fabricate claims that potable water resides in the community’s water tank. Members of the Lubicon Cree communities presently car pool to purchase water jugs from nearby towns. The water, explained Councillor Larry Ominayak, makes one’s skin itch and flake when showering. When boiled, an oily scum coats the top. Few dare to actually drink it.

This completely preventable, ongoing human rights catastrophe is no less than an act of developmental genocide; one that the government deliberately enables by their refusal to comply with their own law and unwillingness to respect the rights of the separate and distinct Lubicon Cree Nation. The most they’ve ever really done is offer a demeaning ‘take it or leave it‘ settlement package, something that was beyond unacceptable to the Lubicon.

A Crown corporation, TransCananda follows Canada’s lead to a “T”. They’ve only ever issued strongly-worded statements that talk about how much ‘they respect the rights of the Lubicon’, about ‘how dedicated they are’ to their financial prosperity and physical well-being. But of course, when it came time to actually do it — well, they just didn’t.

At the rate things are going right now, things are not going to be getting better for the Lubicon anytime in the near or distant future.

If you’d like to learn more, please see /www.lubicon.org, or email the Friends of the Lubicon, fol@tao.ca

What You Can Do To Help

Here’s a few things you can do to help and support the Lubicon—but please keep in mind that in order for this situation to be adequately addressed, it’s really going to take more that a few words on our part. This has to be made into a public issue… There are so few people talking about this right now, let alone aware that it’s being done in their name.

1. Phone TransCanada Pipelines — toll free 1.800.661.3805 (or in Calgary at 403-920-2000)

2. Email the CEO of TransCanada, Harold Kvisle, c/o his “Associate” Janna Leberge at: janna_leberge@transcanada.com

If you like you can also cc a copy to Premier Stelmach at: fortsaskatchewan.vegreville@assembly.ab.ca

and most definitely please copy the new Alberta Utilities Commission Chairman Willie Grieve c/o Acting Chair Carolyn Dahl Rees at: carolyn.dahlrees@auc.ab.ca

3. Join The National Lubicon Petition Campaign, which aims at calling on the government to resume negotiations with the Lubicon Nation. There’s a petition (pdf) as well as a flyer (pdf) you can print out.

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