Bernard Ominayak and the Lubicon Lake Band v. Canada

Communication No. 167/1984, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/38/D/167/1984 (1990)

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Bernard Ominayak and the Lubicon Lake Band v. Canada

United Nations Human Rights Committee
Communication No. 167/1984, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/38/D/167/1984 (1990)

Facts

Canada (defendant) allowed private companies to conduct oil and gas exploration in the traditional territory of the Lubicon Lake Band (the Band). The Band brought suit in Canadian courts to challenge the exploration. Having no success, the leader of the Lubicon Lake Band, Chief Bernard Ominayak (plaintiff), submitted a communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (the committee). Ominayak argued that the exploitation of natural resources in the Band’s territory violated the Band’s right to self-determination, in breach of Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Ominayak further argued that by not allowing the Band to dispose of their natural wealth and resources, Canada caused irreparable injury to the Band’s economic base and traditional way of life, threatening the Band’s ability to survive as a people. Canada argued that the resource exploration did not threaten the Band’s existence and that Ominayak, as an individual, could not invoke Article 1 of the ICCPR, which created a collective right. The committee, in 1987, requested that Canada take interim measures to avoid irreparable injury to Ominayak and other members of the Band. In further submissions to the committee, Canada and Ominayak could not agree on the facts of the situation. Canada stated that it made genuine efforts to negotiate with the Band, including offering 95 square miles of land for a reserve and 45 million Canadian dollars in benefits. Canada stated that the Band’s further request for compensation for damages could be pursued in the domestic courts. Ominayak contended that Canada had made no serious attempt to reach a settlement and that the offer was simply a public relations stunt that did not commit the government to anything of substance. Ominayak also pointed to the construction of a pulp mill near the Band’s traditional land.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning ()

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