The Lubicon Cree: Ongoing human rights violations
The Lubicon Cree: A case study in ongoing human rights violations
“...the basic health and resistance to infection of community members has deteriorated dramatically. The lack of running water and sanitary facilities in the community, needed to replace the traditional systems of water and sanitary management... is leading to the development of diseases associated with poverty and poor sanitary and health conditions.” Lubicon complaint upheld by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1990
Over the last three decades, the province of Alberta has licensed more than 2600 oil and gas wells on the traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree. That’s more than five wells for every Lubicon person. Territory that the Lubicon have relied on to hunt, fish and trap is now crisscrossed by more than 2400 km of oil and gas pipelines. In 2011, one of these pipelines spilled an estimated 28,000 barrels of crude oil into wetlands near the Lubicon community of Little Buffalo. It was one of the largest oil spills in Alberta history.
The Lubicon have never entered into a treaty with the Government of Canada. Nor have they ever given up any rights to their lands and territories. Once-promising efforts to negotiate an agreement to create a Lubicon reserve, and support the rebuilding of the Lubicon economy and society, have been stalled for almost a decade. Meanwhile, the federal and provincial governments have used their own failure to provide legal recognition of Lubicon lands as an excuse for excluding the Lubicon from decision-making over development in their lands and from a fair share in the revenue that has been generated.
The Alberta government has acknowledging that it has brought in vast wealth from development of Lubicon land. In the midst of this wealth, the Lubicon live without running water.
Today, more than 70% percent of Lubicon territory has been leased for future resource development, including oil sands extraction.
United Nations human rights bodies have repeatedly condemned the failure to protect Lubicon rights from the impact of large-scale oil and gas development. The treatment of the Lubicon Cree stands as a powerful, emblematic example of the failure of governments in Canada to respect and uphold the legal rights of Indigenous peoples in the face of resource development.
Photo: Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Lubicon Cree First Nation, 2011