The story of northern Alberta’s Lubicon Cree is one of tragedy

Comments: Poverty, malnutrition, substandard housing, addictions, mental illness and appalling neglect. These are but a few of the words that describe the situation facing the Lubicon Cree of northern Alberta.

For many years a number of false promises have been made by various governments in Alberta, promises relating to treaties and land, promises that have not been followed through on.

As it now stands, more than 2,600 oil and gas wells have been drilled on Lubicon land without the permission of the Lubicon people. There is oil sands development planned for the future. While the government, and us, as the citizens of Alberta, profit from this drilling, the Lubicon people have lost their way of life, culturally and physically; they live in appalling poverty and are no longer able to sustain what was, until 1979, a largely self sufficient existence.

Despite the condemnation of the UN Human Rights Committee, Canada has done nothing to resolve this land dispute, while at the same time putting forward the idea that the future of our country is inextricably tied to the success of our youth. This posture smacks of hypocrisy, not to mention classism and racism. The sad truth is that youth are valued, unless the youth in question happen to be of aboriginal descent.

Alberta is, relatively speaking, a very rich province. This wealth has been largely built on oil and gas. This wealth has also been built on a lost way of life, and on the backs of people who have not been allowed a voice, despite being the people most affected by the above mentioned drilling.

The government can and will attempt to talk in, what in my opinion are half-truths and flat out lies, about how they plan to resolve this land dispute. But as it stands, very little, if not no action has been taken. And no action will be taken until we, as citizens of Alberta, put pressure on the government we elected, to do right by the Lubicon Cree, who are also citizens of this province and this country.

I urge the citizens of Alberta to act. Call, write or email your MP, participate in the Amnesty International Campaign, “Justice for the Lubicon Cree,” and be more aware of exactly how marginalized people in this province are being treated.

Compared to so many people around the world, and in our own backyard, compared to the Lubicon Cree, we live a life of immense blessing and plenty. But don’t act because you have much and they have little, or because you are motivated by pity; do it for justice, for human rights. Do it because you recognize, even if our government won’t, that youth are the future. All youth. Including the youth of the Lubicon Cree.

Sarah Kerr

Red Deer