Two weeks ago, Daishowa-Marubeni International President Tokiro Kawamura wrote to Lubicon Chief Bernard Ominayak saying,
"I am writing to formally advise you of DMI's public commitment not to harvest or purchase timber in your area of concern, until your land issue is resolved with both levels of government, including harvesting rights, fish, and wildlife concerns."Chief Ominayak responded promptly on May 25th, saying,
"Hopefully your letter and public announcement that you'll stay out of the Lubicon 'area of concern' pending settlement of Lubicon land rights will end the current dispute between us and allow Lubicon supporters to wind down the boycott of Daishowa paper products. However, given the various definitions of the phrase 'area of concern' used by Daishowa in the past, the Lubicon people require that you publicly define this phrase Lubicon 'area of concern' ...Mr. Kawamura has not responded to that letter.
The first time the Lubicon people ever heard the term "area of concern" was when then-Alberta Provincial Forestry Minister LeRoy Fjordbotten wrote to an Edmonton woman in November 1990 telling her that wholly-owned Daishowa subsidiary Brewster Construction would "not be logging in the area of concern this winter."
That very same day, Brewster Construction began clear-cutting spruce and aspen in the Lubicon traditional territories.
When challenged on the matter first by opposition members and then by reporters, Minister Fjordbotten replied that the area he was referring to when he used the term "area of concern" was the 95-square-mile proposed reserve area, not the entire 4,000 square mile unceded Lubicon traditional territory.
In 1991, when a newly launched boycott forced Daishowa to abandon plans to once again clear-cut Lubicon traditional territories that winter, Daishowa wrote to the Toronto Friends of the Lubicon saying that "Daishowa Canada (and its subsidiaries) have elected to avoid the area of concern to the Lubicons this winter."
The Toronto Friends wrote back, in part asking for clarification of what the term "area of concern" meant. Specifically, their letter said:
"The 'area of concern to the Lubicons' you refer to throughout the document is never clearly defined. We are concerned with the ambiguity expressed. In fact, the very day you wrote us, the Edmonton Journal reported that Daishowa has been using faulty maps in a related dispute, despite having been provided with clear maps delineating the entire unceded Lubicon traditional territory. Any public commitment made by Daishowa Canada Co. Ltd. must include clear representation of the area covered by the agreement."The Toronto Friends never received a response to that letter.
On April 20, 1998, after having failed to shut down the Daishowa boycott using the Canadian courts, Daishowa asked for a meeting with the Friends of the Lubicon to discuss the boycott. Representatives of the Friends met with Daishowa the following morning. During that meeting, Daishowa Inc. President Dick Kazuta asked "If we go to (Daishowa-Marubeni International) and DMI makes a statement saying that they will not go in to the Lubicon area of concern, would that be it?"
Kevin Thomas, of Friends of the Lubicon said, "We would need to clarify the area in question, agree on the details, but if we got that commitment on paper, the boycott would end that very day."
Daishowa's Tom Cochran replied, "So the first step then is to agree on the area, agree on a map."
Thomas replied that the first step was for Daishowa to make an agreement. He said that he was merely pointing out that the area would have to be clearly defined in any agreement.
Needless to say, there was no such definition in the letter Daishowa sent to Chief Ominayak a month later. Asked to comment on the ambiguous "area of concern", Daishowa's Tom Cochran told one reporter that the "area of concern" was the area defined in the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) hearings on approval for the Unocal sour gas plant in 1995. That same line was delivered to another reporter by Daishowa's Jim Morrison a couple of days earlier.
However those ERCB hearings also heard various definitions of what the "area of concern" really means. The map enclosed with their final report, in fact, outlines three different areas: a 95 square mile proposed Lubicon reserve area; an "ERCB Notification Area"; and a "Traditional Lubicon Hunting and Trapping Area." In the end, the ERCB effectively adopted only one definition of the Lubicon "area of concern" and it wasn't the entire traditional Lubicon territory. It was the 95 square mile proposed reserve area.
The Lubicon have consistently asked Daishowa for a clear, public and unequivocal commitment not to cut or to buy wood cut in the entire Lubicon traditional territories until a land rights settlement is reached with both levels of government and a harvesting agreement negotiated with the Lubicons which respects their environmental and wildlife concerns. No one -- Daishowa included -- should be surprised that the Lubicon people require clear, written definitions of the terms of any agreement they might reach with Daishowa. To allow ambiguous promises to pass unchallenged is to invite inevitable trouble later.
Of course, if Daishowa is sincere about giving the commitment that the Lubicons have asked of them, it should be a simple matter to send Chief Ominayak a map outlining the area Daishowa intends to avoid.
If Daishowa is not sincere, they will undoubtedly continue to avoid defining the "area of concern" in the hopes that they can conduct future logging operations within Lubicon traditional territories while claiming all the while to be upholding the terms of their own ill-defined promises.
In the absence of any clear, unequivocal commitment from Daishowa Lubicon supporters will have to assume the latter and will therefore have no reason to end the international boycott of Daishowa products.
Friends of the Lubicon
485 Ridelle Ave.
Toronto, ON M6B 1K6
Tel: (416) 763-7500
Fax: (416) 603-2715