Lubicon Cree fight injunction on anti-frack protests

The Lubicon Lake Nation of Cree in Alberta, Canada, is appealing a court order prohibiting the indigenous community from blockading gas operations on unceded territory. Calgary-based Penn West Petroleum won the order from an Alberta court last month, barring the blockade set up in December by Lubicon Cree protesters for a period of six months. "The judge denied [us] the opportunity to raise any of the constitutional issues and arguments for the Lubicon," said Garrett Tomlinson, Lubicon Lake Nation communications director. Lubicon Cree leadership argued that Canada has never entered into a treaty with them, which renders permits for oil and gas development on Lubicon land null and void.

Penn West is exploring for potential fracking operations between Haig and Sawn lakes, an area where the Lubicon Cree have long carried out traditional activities such as fishing and hunting. The 1899 Treaty 8 includes Lubicon territory, but was not signed by the Lubicon Cree. Canada's federal government transferred the lands in question to the provincial government in 1930, but Tomlinson protests that "you can't buy the house from the neighbors, so to speak. So in that case, all the 2,600 leases and oil and gas wells that have been drilled on the Lubicon territory have essentially been done illegally, in accordance with Canadian and international legal standards."

In a 2009 report, UN Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari called for a moratorium on all oil and extractive activities in the Lubicon territory until a negotiated settlement is reached. This followed an initial 1990 ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee that "Historical inequities…and certain more recent developments threaten the way of life and culture of the Lubicon Lake Band, and constitute a violation of article 27 [of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights] so long as they continue."

Negotiations between the Lubicon and the Canadian government broke off in 2003. Last summer, the Lubicon Lake Nation filed a $700 million lawsuit against both provincial and federal governments, due to the unwillingness of Canada to engage in good-faith negotiations. (ICTMN, Feb. 6;, Jan. 29)