Alberta must respect Lubicon rights: New maps reveal shocking level of resource development on disputed land


Press Release

Date of publication: 
16 June 2010

New maps of resource development on the traditional territory of the Lubicon Cree in northern Alberta reveal a reckless disregard for Lubicon rights in the licensing of oil and gas development on their land.

The maps commissioned by Amnesty International use government and industry data to demonstrate the scale of development since oil extraction began on Lubicon land in 1979.

The maps reveal that more than 2,600 oil and gas wells have been drilled on the territory, of which more than 1300 are currently active. The drilling is supported by a massive infrastructure of more than 2400 kilometres of pipeline and more than 4500 km of roads. Exploratory seismic cut lines 3 to 5 meters wide stretch over 32,000 km.

Roughly 70 per cent of the territory has been leased for future development including in situ oil sands extraction.

This has taken place without any treaty or other agreement with the Lubicon.

International human rights bodies have long been critical of the poverty, widespread ill-health and loss of culture that has resulted from the near total destruction of the Lubicon economy and way of life. Until 1979, hunting, trapping and other traditional activities had made the Lubicon largely self-sufficient.

“The Province of Alberta has tried to portray the Lubicon dispute as principally a federal matter,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “What these maps show is that the province has licensed – and profited from – a scale of development that is blatantly incompatible with the Lubicon people’s use of their traditional lands.”

The maps are accompanied by a new report by Amnesty International that is critical of the province’s licensing process. Little attention is paid to the cumulative environmental impact of resource development. Indigenous peoples are denied both a meaningful role in decision making and an effective means to appeal licensing decisions.

“Canadian law and international human rights standards both recognize a clear obligation on all governments to protect Indigenous peoples’ relationship to the land,” says Alex Neve. “The Province of Alberta is violating these obligations when it comes to the Lubicon Cree.”

The Lubicon have long sought to negotiate a settlement that would recognize their exclusive rights to a portion of their traditional lands as well as ensuring that the remaining territory was managed in a way that would allow the Lubicon to maintain their cultural ties to the land.

The last negotiations with the federal government broke down in 2003.

The Province of Alberta continues to honour a 1988 agreement and not permit oil and gas development on land selected by the Lubicon to form their future reserve. This alone, however, is insufficient to meet the province ‘s human rights obligations.

“By ignoring Lubicon rights throughout the larger territory, the province is significantly undermining the potential for a negotiated settlement,” says Alex Neve “What ‘s worse, the scale of environmental destruction permitted and encouraged by the province threatens to make any future settlement meaningless by forever depriving the Lubicon of the opportunity to use this land in accordance with their own culture and values.”

Amnesty International is calling on the provincial government to agree that until a settlement is reached, it will only issue new licenses on the disputed territory if the Lubicon consent.

Read the report :
>From homeland to oil sands: The impact of oil and gas development on the Lubicon Cree of Canada

For more information, please contact:
Beth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations
Amnesty International 416-363-9933 ext 332

The news release, report and maps are at:

Three decades of massive, unwanted oil and gas development on their lands has eroded the fundamental human rights of Lubicon Cree of northern Alberta. View Amnesty International’s new documentary, show the film in your own community, and join our online campaign.