Remote Algonquin First Nations travels en masse to Ottawa to protest Harper government’s attacks on their community and environmental agreement
Photo opportunity: A delegation will deliver a present — a giant copy of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a community resolution against assimilation– to Ministers Duncan and Harper at their offices
OTTAWA, DEC 13/CNW/– More than a hundred members of the Barriere Lake Algonquin First Nation traveled to Ottawa today to demand the Harper government honour a landmark environmental agreement and stop waging a campaign of forcible assimilation against the community. They will be joined by a broad network of hundreds of supporters, including the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Public Service Alliance of Canada, the Council of Canadians, KAIROS, the New Democratic Party and Green Party, Christian Peacemaker Teams, and many others.
“How can anyone trust a government that won’t honour its word?” says Tony Wawatie, a Barriere Lake community spokesperson. In 1991, Canada and Quebec signed the United Nations-praised Trilateral Agreement with Barriere Lake to create a sustainable development plan for 10,000 square kilometers of the community’s traditional territory, but both the federal and provincial governments have refused to implement it.
“This agreement would allow us to protect our land and be economically independent. But Canada and Quebec don’t want to share the land’s wealth. So the Harper government is violating our constitutional rights by trying to forcibly abolish our traditional government, which maintains our sacred connection to the land and our ability to protect the environment,” says Wawatie.
In August, the Harper government imposed an Indian Act election process on Barriere Lake, in which less than a dozen community members cast ballots, while the rest of the community boycotted. Almost 200 people signed a resolution rejecting the entire process, wishing to preserve the traditional governance system they have used for countless generations. Four councillors and a Chief were acclaimed, but even the Chief resigned in protest.
“This is an undemocratic, unwanted, and foreign governance regime installed in order to derail our environmental agreement” says Wawatie. “Minister Duncan and the Harper government must reverse their draconian action and respect our right to maintain our traditional government.”
In an op-ed published today in the Globe & Mail, author and Giller-prize winner Joseph Boyden called on the Harper government to end its “abusive, bullying, and undemocratic” treatment of Barriere Lake.
“It would be a terrible tragedy for [Barriere Lake’s] customs to be struck down by the mere stroke of a Minister’s pen after they have served this First Nation well for so many decades and centuries,” National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations wrote Minister Duncan in a letter recently, urging him to reverse his department’s actions. “The Chiefs in Assembly have instructed me to stand with and in support of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and I will do so. My preference is to do so in a way that promotes reconciliation with the department rather than confrontation.”
“Indigenous people who gather, hunt, and fish their food have an unmatched knowledge of the land and an interest in caring for it. They are the front-line of defense in protecting the environment for all of us,” says Arthur Manuel, director of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, and member of the Defenders of the Land network. “This is also their right because it is their land. This right is affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Canadian Constitution. It’s time for the Canadian government to deal honourably and respect that right.”
“Maintaining a traditional governance system that is rooted in their cultural heritage is an integral part of fulfilling mandates that meet the vision of a sustainable community,” said Elizabeth May, national leader of the Green Party of Canada.
WHEN: Monday, Dec. 13, at 11:00 AM
WHERE: Charles Lynch Room (130-S, Centre Block), Parliament Hill, Ottawa
WHO: Charlie Angus- NDP MP, Arthur Manuel, spokesperson for the Indigenous Network of Economies and Trade, Tony Wawatie – Barriere Lake Community spokesperson
WHEN: Monday, Dec. 13, from NOON to 2PM
WHERE: March begins on Parliament Hill, with speeches then starting at 1-1:15pm in front of Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan’s office at the Confederation building (Bank & Wellington).
For further information:
Tony Wawatie, Barriere Lake community spokesperson: 819-860-4121
To arrange interviews : 514-550-8706
For more information: www.barrierelakesolidarity.org
French version of this release (.doc): http://bit.ly/i3ul9T
For Joseph Boyden’s op-ed in the Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/why-we-try-to-protect-our-land-lessons-from-barriere-lake/article1833684/