Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Amnesty International supports native opposition of pipeline

Amnesty International supports native opposition of pipeline
'This is one of Canada’s, and Alberta’s, most notorious human rights failings'

by Angela Brunschot, from FFWD, October 23, 2008.

Amnesty International has launched a global campaign in support of the Lubicon Cree, days after TransCanada subsidiary Nova Gas was granted permission to build a natural gas pipeline though the band’s traditional land.

At a press conference on October 16, Amnesty International called for a halt to all resource and pipeline development on traditional Lubicon land until the federal government settles their land claim. The Lubicon band is a tiny nation of 500 people living about four hours north of Edmonton. They have never signed a treaty or ceded their land to the government and have existed in a legal limbo for decades.

“This is one of Canada’s, and Alberta’s, most notorious human rights failings,” says Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International.

Nor is this the first time the international community has pressured Canada on behalf of the Lubicon. The United Nations Human Rights Commission found Canada in violation of agreements that protect the rights of minorities in 1990, and has repeatedly pushed for changes in Canada’s relationship with the Lubicon.

The band voiced its opposition to the pipeline to the Alberta Utilities Commission, but because the Lubicon do not have treaty rights to the land, their concerns were not considered as part of the application.

Alphonse Ominayak, a band councillor, says band members are not fundamentally opposed to development and are willing to co-operate with the government and oil companies as long as the band is part of the discussions.

“It’s not always the money,” he says. “There are all kinds of other concerns,” including the community’s health and safety and the viability of local wildlife.

TransCanada spokesperson Cecily Dobson says the company did consult several First Nations groups about the pipeline, but that the company does not have the authority to settle land claims.