Barriere Lake Human Rights Delegation Report Back
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010
PSAC building JK Wylie boardoom, 233 Gilmour (at Metcalfe)
15 delegates from across Ontario and Quebec attended a human rights delegation to the Algonquin Nation of Barriere Lake this August. In this trip, these delegates visited the Algonquin reserve at Lac Rapid and their traditional territory, 45 minutes north of the reserve. The purpose of this delegation was for the delegates to learn and understand the history of the struggle of Barriere Lake. And in return, it was for the community to gain more support for their fight over their self-determination and self-governance. More than 3 months later, the situation of Barriere Lake has not changed ….
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Mitchikanibikok Inik, is a small yet strong First Nation. Their 59-acre reserve at Lac Rapid is 4 hours north of Ottawa, in north western Quebec. Their traditional territory covers the entire area of La Verendrye wildlife reserve. Mitchikanibikok Inik has never surrendered Aboriginal title to its traditional territory.
For those who attended this delegation, this trip was such an inspiring experience; all expressed their gratitude and willingness to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake for their struggle to protect their land and assert their sovereignty. One of the delegates, Ramsey Hart of Mining Watch Canada, said:
“Visiting Barrier Lake filled me with a strange combination of hope and anger. The anger from the Canadian and Quebec government’s despicable failure to honour an agreement that is so very reasonable, from seeing a dam creating electricity from flooded Algonquin lands that by-passes the community on its way south while noisy, polluting, expensive diesel generators provide electricity for the community. The hope came from the strength of the traditions, the generosity, the path of healing and the beautiful lands of the Alqonquin. At the end of the day the hope won-out but the anger is still there”
To be in solidarity with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and their continuous demand for Canada to respect their traditional government and trailblazing environmental agreement – the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, we would like to invite you to join 3 of the 15 delegates as they share their experience and reflection from such inspiring trip. They are:
Colin Stuart, Christian Peacemaker Teams
Dylan Penner, Council of Canadians, Ottawa Peace Assembly
Ramsey Hart, Mining Watch Canada
This event will be facilitated by Pei-Ju, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement – Ottawa.
A DAY OF ACTION to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake has been planned for Dec. 13. This event is also our attempt to invite you to learn about the community. And hopefully, you will also be inspired and decide to stand together with Barriere Lake and us (their supporters) for the day of action!
Background: HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT DESTROYING BARRIERE LAKE’S TRADITIONAL GOVERNMENT? AND WHY?
The government has used an archaic section of the Indian Act – section 74 – to unilaterally impose a different system of government on Barriere Lake.
Barriere Lake’s traditional government – open to community members who have connection to the land, and in which Elders guide potential leaders and safeguard their customs – ensures that community members maintain their sacred bond to the land and their hunting way of life. The band council electoral system the Harper government has imposed destroys the sacred governance bond the community has with the land. By breaking Barriere Lake’s connection to the land, the Canadian and Quebec governments hope to get away with violating trailblazing environmental agreements and with illegally clear-cutting in Barriere Lake’s traditional territory.
The overwhelming majority of community members want to protect their traditional governance system, but the bureaucrats in Indian and Northern Affairs Canada are spreading the misinformation that they are only a small group.
Through the summer, the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada bureaucracy ran an illegal process, imposed by the Quebec police, to bring the new system into the community. Fewer than a dozen ballots were sent in to nominate candidates for an Indian Act Chief and Council, who where then seated by acclamation. Meanwhile, almost 200 community members had signed a resolution rejecting this process! That represents a majority of community members who are eligible to participate in their political process.
Even the acclaimed Chief resigned in protest, refusing to break ranks with the community’s majority. But four rogue band councillors with no community support have been illegally making decisions on behalf of Barriere Lake ever since. Shuttled to secret meetings with forestry companies and government officials, these councilors are being usined by the government to derail Barriere Lake’s precedent-setting environmental agreements and to facilitate illegal clear-cut logging.
Youth in the community are leading the movement to protect their traditional government and to heal and overcome the community divisions created by the internal meddling of government bureaucrats.
They are demanding the Harper Government cancel the imposition on Barriere Lake of the section 74 Indian Act band council system and respect their right to select leaders according to their traditional system of government.