OTTAWA, traditional Algonquin territory, June 15 /CNW Telbec/ – A broad network of political parties, unions, human rights and Indigenous organizations are rallying today with the Barriere Lake Algonquins in Ottawa at 11:30 am, in front of Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl’s office at Bank and Wellington, demanding that the Government of Canada stop attempting to assimilate the community’s traditional political governance system.
Barriere Lake is one of the few First Nations in the country that have never been under the Indian Act’s electoral system, continuing to operate under a traditional political governance system that is connected to their use of the land. Despite there being a broad community consensus opposing Indian Act elections, Indian Affairs has announced they will try to impose them on August 19, 2010.
“Community members refuse to accept this unilateral and draconian attempt to wipe out the way we govern ourselves. The government is attacking our governance system because it is intimately tied to our continuing use and protection of the land. We will defend our rights and customs for the sake of our generation and the generations to come,” says Tony Wawatie, a Barriere Lake community spokesperson.
“The federal government has consistently tried to violate agreements and interfere with the internal affairs of this First Nation, all in an effort to access the natural resources of their traditional territory. Obviously, they hope to weaken this community to the point where the logging companies can take over. It is shameful,” says Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada.
Canada and Quebec are refusing to implement binding agreements dating back to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a landmark sustainable development agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Canada has been in breach of the Agreement since 2001. Quebec is violating the agreement by refusing to implement the 2006 joint recommendations of two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln. The 2006 recommendations include giving Barriere Lake a $1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out of their territory annually, and forest plans to harmonize logging operations with the Algonquin’s land use. Quebec has just issued cutting permits to logging companies in Barriere Lake’s traditional territory, while refusing to respect the terms of the Trilateral Agreement.
“We’re joining the community in demanding that the Harper government respect the inherent right of First Nations to self-determination and customary self-government,” says Denis Lemelin, National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Representatives from the New Democratic Party and the Indigenous Environmental Network will be attending, and the demonstration is endorsed by KAIROS, Polaris, and the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement of Ottawa.
The Algonquin Nation Secretariat has also issued a press release supporting the community.
For further information: Media contacts: Norman Matchewan, community spokesperson: 514-893-8283; Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819-860-4121