Lubicon Cree still waiting 20 years after UN ruling | National Union of Public and General Employees

Lubicon Cree still waiting 20 years after UN ruling

On March 26, 1990, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Canada had violated the human rights of the Lubicon Cree and yet today the injustice continues.

Ottawa (26 March 2010) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has worked in solidarity with the Lubicon Cree to bring justice to their community.

The union knows the frustrations of trying to move the federal government to take action on this long running human rights issue.

The UN ruling was based on evidence that Canada had failed to recognize and protect Lubicon rights to their lands and that intensive oil and gas development had devastated the Lubicon economy and way of life.

The Committee ruled that “historical inequities… and certain more recent developments… threaten the way of life and culture of the Lubicon Lake Band and… so long as they continue” constitute a violation of the right to culture as protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [CCPR/C/38/D/167/1984]."

This landmark step recognized the vital importance of lands and territories to Indigenous Peoples’ enjoyment of their collective and individual human rights. The decision contributed to the adoption of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007, a declaration that Canada has up to very recently, refused to sign.

Twenty years later the Lubicon people continue to suffer from the same human rights violations that were condemned by the Committee in 1990. Canada has yet to conclude a negotiated settlement. The last talks broke down in 2003 because of the arbitrary limitations the government imposed on both the compensation it would provide and the rights it was prepared to recognize.

On the 20th anniversary of the Human Rights Committee’s decision, NUPGE and others call on the government of Canada to make a clear public commitment to engage in genuine, good faith negotiations on all outstanding issues in the Lubicon land dispute, based on the fulfillment of Canada’s obligations under domestic and international laws.

Oil and gas development on Lubicon land

  • Approximately 2,600 oil and gas wells drilled – more than five for every Lubicon person.
  • Almost 70 percent of Lubicon territory has been leased for non-renewable resource extraction.
  • 1,395 square kilometres of tar sands development.
  • The Alberta government has never sought Lubicon consent for development.
  • The Alberta Utilities Commission denied Lubicon standing when it approved a massive natural gas pipeline across their territory.

Third world conditions in Canada

The massive scale of development has led to severe impoverishment, the proliferation of health problems associated with poverty and loss of culture and social strife.

The federal government has treated its obligations to the Lubicon as benefits to be negotiated as part of the resolution of the land dispute. Their community does not have access to services taken for granted in other communities in Canada, such as safe drinking water and sanitation.

After visiting the Lubicon community in 2007, the UN "special rapporteur" on the right to adequate housing reported “appalling living conditions” and “the asphyxiation of livelihoods and traditional practices” as a consequence of “the destructive impact of oil extraction activities.” [Miloon Kothari, statement made in Ottawa, 22 October 2007]

Rather than focusing on reconciliation and the fulfillment of rights, governments in Canada have often taken an adversarial approach, which seeks to minimize the rights of Indigenous Peoples in favour of its own interests and the interests of powerful sectors of society.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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