(EDMONTON) – After decades of negotiations, an agreement has been reached to settle the long-standing Lubicon Lake Band land claim as well as treaty benefits for members.
The Lubicon Lake Band, the Government of Alberta, and the Government of Canada signed the treaty benefits and land claim agreements on October 24, 2018, after members of the community voted overwhelmingly in favour of the settlement.
“The Lubicon Lake band #453 settlement will ensure a brighter future for our children, youth and elders,” remarked Lubicon Lake Band Chief Billy Joe Laboucan.
“This settlement will afford better housing, a recreation centre which includes an indoor skating rink, an elder’s lodge and a new school for the community. Furthermore, the conclusion of this 85-year-old land claim will give our membership a more prosperous economic future. Though it is bittersweet as we have lost the founding members who initiated this claim back in 1933. Thank you to all who have contributed to making our dream a reality.”
The agreement includes a land allocation of more than 95 square miles for the Lubicon Lake Band, as well as $95 million in financial compensation from Canada. In addition, Alberta is providing $18 million. The agreement will also include infrastructure such as roads, housing, utility services, internet and a school.
“Today, we are taking an historic step forward on a path of renewal and reconciliation with Lubicon Lake Band and marking a new beginning with the community,” stated Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett.
“The settlement we have negotiated together honours treaty promises. It will also lead to better living conditions and new economic opportunities for the benefit of members of the Lubicon Lake Band and all Canadians.”
This historic agreement will address a decades-long land claim and will contribute to improving the quality of life for members of the Lubicon Lake Band.
The settlement was approved by Lubicon Lake Band members in a community vote that took place between September 14 and October 15, 2018. This is a historic occasion for the members of the Lubicon Lake Band, for Alberta and for all of Canada.
With this settlement, the Lubicon Lake Band will finally receive the lands and treaty benefits to which they are entitled under Treaty 8.
“This is a truly momentous day for the Lubicon Lake Band, for our province and for all of Canada,” stated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley. “Decades in the making, this settlement represents an important step forward, correcting wrongs of the past, and building a future dedicated to meaningful reconciliation.”
The Lubicon First Nation has had a tumultuous relationship with both the Alberta and the Federal governments.
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, stalled for over a decade. Meanwhile, the federal and provincial governments used ‘divide and conquer tactics’ to weaken the Lubicon Nation and they 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 acknowledged that it has brought in vast wealth from development of Lubicon land. In the midst of this wealth, the Lubicon have lived 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.