Movie Screening and Fund Raiser for the Algonquins of Barriere Lake
With special guests: Barriere Lake community members including Norm Matchewan and Elder Michel Thusky, and (via Skype) filmmaker Martha Stiegman
Tuesday, April 22 at 6:30pm (doors 6pm)
at the Mayfair Theatre
1074 Bank St. (near Sunnyside)
Buses # 1 & 7 (Bank) or # 5 (Riverdale)
$5-15 suggested donation
(no one turned away for lack of funds)
Fundraiser for Barriere Lake:
Honour Your Word is a new documentary film – an intimate portrait of life behind the barricades for the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, an inspiring First Nation whose dignity and courage contrast sharply with the political injustice they face.
This movie screening of Honour Your Word is the IPSM Ottawa’s 3rd “Earth Day” event Celebrating the Defense of Mother Earth!
Last year we were honoured to work with Defenders of the Land and Land Defenders from Six Nations and we raised $1405 for the legal defense of activists from Six Nations, and in 2009 we organized our 1st event with Minwaashin Lodge, the Tungasuvvingat Inuit, and others.
More about the movie – Honour Your Word (2013, 59min):
New Algonquin leaders are followed as their community fights to protect their land, their way of life and their language.
The title refers to the Algonquins of Barriere Lake’s campaign slogan demanding Canada and Quebec honour a precedent-setting conservation deal signed in 1991. Director Martha Stiegman spent four years shooting this poetic, heartfelt documentary that challenges stereotypes of “angry Indians.” Honour Your Word juxtaposes starkly contrasting landscapes—the majesty of the bush, a dramatic highway stand-off against a riot squad, daily life within the confines of the reserve—to reveal the spirit of a people for whom blockading has become a part of their way of life, a life rooted in the forest they are defending.
Charest allows logging by Resolute Forest Products in violation of Agreement, as supporters prepare casserole demo in Montreal on Wednesday
July 16, Poigan Bay, QC – Tension is escalating between the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake, QC, and Resolute Forest Products (formerly known as Abitibi-Bowater) as their standoff enters its thirteenth day, and as members of the Algonquin community move their protest camp site closer to logging operations to prevent further cutting.
Algonquin families have camped alongside the road where logging has been destroying the community’s sacred sites and moose habitat, and have succeeded in periodically stopping the cutting. Quebec police, including a riot squad from Montreal, have escorted the loggers and maintained a large presence, issuing threats of arrest to community members.
The Montreal-based multi-national company’s operations have been licensed by the Charest government without the Algonquin community’s consent or consultation, and in violation of the Trilateral Agreement the Quebec government signed with Barriere Lake in 1991.
“I was not properly consulted nor did I provide consent to this logging within our territory,” said Algonquin elder Gabriel Wawatie, whose family territory is being clear-cut, in a letter last week to Premier Charest and the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources that has not been responded to by the Liberal government.
“The Charest government has acted in bad faith, giving this company the go-ahead to log while they ignore their signed agreements with our community,” said Norman Matchewan, a community spokesperson. “It has left us with no choice but to try to stop forestry operations. We have been waiting 20 years for the Quebec government to honour it.”
Barriere Lake wants Quebec to honour the Trilateral agreement, a landmark sustainable development agreement praised by the United Nations. The Charest government has also ignored the formal recommendations of two former Quebec Liberal Cabinet Ministers, Quebec representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake representative Clifford Lincoln, that the agreement be implemented. The agreement is intended to allow logging to continue while protecting the Algonquins’ way of life and giving them a $1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out of their territory every year.
Escalade de conflit concernant la coupe à blanc sur un territoire algonquin
Le gouvernement Charest autorise la société Resolute Forest Products à déboiser un territoire, enfreingnant l’Accord, lorsque les sympathisants et sympathisantes se préparent pour une manifestation de casseroles à Montréal mercredi prochain
Le 16 juillet, Baie Poigan, QC – Alors que l’impasse entre la communauté algonquine du Lac Barrière, QC, et la société Produits forestiers Résolu/Resolute Forest Products (anciennement connue sous le nom d’Abitibi Bowater) en est à son 13ième jour, les membres de la communauté déplacent leur campement de manifestation plus près des opérations d’abbatage afin d’empêcher la continuation de la coupe.
Des familles algonquines ont campé le long du chemin où le déboisement est en train de détruire non seulement l’habitat des lieux sacrés de la communauté, mais aussi celui des orignaux. Ces familles ont vécu des petites victoires en mettant fin au déboisement pendant des périodes de temps. La police, dont certain de l’escouade anti-émeute de Montréal, a accompagné des bûcherons sur le territoire, et y maintient une présence importante. Elle a déjà menacé d’arrêter des membres de la communauté.
Les opérations de la société multi-nationale, dont le siège-social se trouve à Montréal, ont été autorisées par le gouvernement Charest sans le consentement de la communauté et sans l’avoir consultée. Cette autorisation enfreind l’Accord Trilatéral que le gouvernement du Québec a signé avec la communauté du Lac Barrière en 1991.
“On ne m’a pas consulté et je n’ai donné aucun consentement pour autoriser le déboisement sur notre territoire,” a dit Gabriel Wawaite, aîné de la communauté, dans une lettre envoyée la semaine derniére au premier ministre Jean Charest et au ministre des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune. Bien que la coupe ait lieu sur son territoire et celui de sa famille, il n’a toujours pas reçu de réponse de la part du gouvernement libéral.
“Le gouvernement Charest a agi de mauvaise foi en autorisant cette société a déboisé le territoire en dépit des accords signés avec notre communauté,” dit Norman Matchewan, porte-parole de la communauté. “Par conséquence, nous n’avons pas d’autres options que de tenter d’empêcher la continuation des opérations forestières. Ça fait 20 ans que nous attendons que le gouvernement québécois respecte l’Accord.”
La communauté du Lac Barrière veut que le Québec respecte l’Accord Trilatéral. Il s’agit d’un accord de dévéloppement durable avant-gardiste, qui a reçu l’éloge des Nations Unies. Le gouvernement Charest a aussi ignoré les recommendations de deux anciens ministres du cabinet libéral, soit le représentant de Québec John Ciaccia et celui du Lac Barrière Clifford Lincon. Ceux-ci recommendaient que l’Accord soit mis en application. L’Accord vise à permettre l’abbatage tout en protégeant la mode de vie des AlgonquinEs, et il leur offrirait 1,5 million de dollars des 100 million de dollars de revenus issus de l’extraction des ressources sur leur territoire chaque année.
BARRIERE LAKE ALGONQUIN ACQUITTED FOR BLOCKADE CHARGES: FORESTRY COMPANY CAUGHT LYING ON THE STAND
VAL D’Or, QC – On June 5 2012, Norman Matchewan, a youth spokesperson for the First Nation of Mitchikanibiko’inik (the Algonquins of Barriere Lake), was acquitted on what community members alleged all along were politically motivated charges. Matchewan was acquitted of mischief and obstruction of justice stemming from a 2009 blockade protecting his people’s territory from illegal logging.
Matchewan was defending the forest from logging that had been unlawfully authorized by Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources. The logging was also a violation of a 1991 resource co-management agreement signed in 1991 between Barriere Lake, Quebec and Canada.
“Too many native peoples are criminalized for defending their land,” said Matchewan following the acquittal, “Today is a big victory for our community. We will not be intimidated by trumped up legal charges and court battles. We will always protect our land and custom for our future generations.”
Yves Paquette of AbitibiBowater, the forestry company behind the cutting, incriminated himself by repeatedly lying during his cross-examination. Paquette claimed that he encountered no police on the site and was not able to enter the site because the logging road was entirely blocked by the cars of the Barriere Lake community members. However, after seeing video evidence that refuted the latter claim, Paquette also admitted to speaking to two intelligence officers from the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
Vincent Larin, of the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources, admitted on the stand that logging permits were issued without any consultation by his Ministry of the family groups whose territories were being logged. Moreover, after first claiming that the cutting permits could not be altered once they were electronically signed and entered in the Ministry’s computer system, he presented the Court with a cutting permit that was substantially different than the version that had been disclosed to the defense.
“They got caught in their own lies,” said Matchewan following the trial. “The Crown’s case, in the end, was so weak that we were not even required to present a defense,” said Jared Will, the lawyer representing Matchewan at trial.
Last year, the community of Barriere Lake discovered a copper and nickel exploration project at the heart of the hunting and fishing area of several Barriere Lake families. The mineral claims, named the Rivière Doré property by Cartier Resources, were recently sold to Copper One Inc., based in Montreal. Neither the Quebec government, nor Cartier Resources had met their obligations to obtain the consent of the community before beginning work on the site.
Matchewan was a key voice in the community’s successful struggle to stop the exploration activity by Cartier Resources. Soon after he became active in the anti-mining campaign, he was issued a summons to appear in court for the logging blockade that occurred over two years earlier.
For more information, please contact: Norman Matchewan, (819) 435-2171 or his lawyer, Jared Will, (416) 835 2075.
POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE
UN ALGONQUIN DU LAC BARRIÈRE ACQUITTÉ DES ACCUSATIONS PORTÉES CONTRE LUI SUITE À UNE BARRICADE : LA COMPAGNIE FORESTIÈRE MENT À LA BARRE
Val d’Or, QC – Le 5 juin 2012, Norman Matchewan, porte-parole des jeunes de la Première Nation de Mitchikanibiko’inik (Algonquins du Lac Barrière), a été acquitté d’accusations qualifiées de motivées politiquement par des membres de la communauté. Matchewan a été acquitté de méfaits et d’entrave à la justice suite à une barricade protégeant le territoire de son peuple contre des coupes forestières illégales.
Matchewan défendait la forêt contre des coupes forestières illégalement autorisées par le Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec. Les coupes étaient aussi en violation d’un accord de co-gestion des ressources signé en 1991 entre la communauté du Lac Barrière, Québec et Ottawa.
« Trop de Premières Nations sont criminalisés pour avoir défendu leurs terres », a dit Matchewan suite au verdict d’acquittement. « Aujourd’hui est une grande victoire pour notre communauté. Nous ne nous laisserons pas intimider par des accusations légales falsifiées et des batailles juridiques. Nous protègerons notre terre et nos coutumes pour nos prochaines générations. »
Yves Paquette d’AbitibiBowater, la compagnie forestière derrière les coupes, s’est incriminé en mentant à plusieurs reprises pendant son contre-interrogatoire. Paquette soutenait qu’il n’avait rencontré aucun policier sur le site et qu’il n’avait pu y accéder parce que le chemin forestier était entièrement bloqué par les voitures des membres de la communauté du Lac Barrière. Toutefois, après avoir visionné une preuve vidéo qui démentait ses propos, Paquette a aussi admis avoir parlé à deux agents de renseignements de la Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
Vincent Larin, du Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, a admis, alors qu’il était à la barre des témoins, que les permis de coupes ont été émis sans aucune consultation de la part du ministère avec les familles dont les territoires étaient soumis aux coupes forestières. De plus, après avoir soutenu que les permis de coupes ne pouvaient être modifiés suite à leurs signatures électroniques et entrés dans le système informatique du Ministère, il a présenté à la Cour un permis de coupes substantiellement différent de la version qui avait été fournie à la défense.
« Ils se sont perdus dans leurs propres mensonges, » a dit Matchewan suite au procès. « Le dossier de la Couronne, à la fin, était si faible que nous n’avons pas eu à présenter de défense, » a dit Jared Will, l’avocat représentant Marchewan.
L’année dernière, la communauté du Lac Barrière a découvert un projet d’exploration de cuivre et de nickel au cœur de l’aire de chasse et de pêche de plusieurs familles du Lac Barrière. Les claims minéraux, nommées la Rivière Doré, propriété de Cartier Ressources, ont récemment été vendus à Copper One Inc., basé à Montréal. Ni le gouvernement du Québec ni Cartier Ressources n’ont respecté leurs obligations d’obtenir le consentement de la communauté avant de commencer à travailler sur le site.
Matchewan était une voix importante de la lutte, couronnée de succès, de la communauté contre les activités d’exploration de Cartier Ressources. Peu après sa participation active à la campagne contre l’exploitation minière, il a reçu plusieurs sommations, c’est-à-dire des ordres de comparaître en cour, en lien avec une barricade à laquelle il avait participé il y a plus de deux ans.
Pour plus d’information, veuillez contacter Norman Matchewan au 819-435-2171 ou son avocat, Jared Will, au 416-835-2075.
MASS RALLY on Tues, noon-1pm, at City Hall (Human Rights Monument, Elgin& Lisgar) please arrive early – We demand immediate halt to cutting and an Emergency Open Council Meeting including ALL Stakeholders by noon Wednesday Feb 2nd – invite people to the rally via Facebook
UPDATE – This morning (Tues Feb 1st), at sunrise, warriors from the Algonquin Nations chained themselves to the trees of the Beaverpond Forest in the South March Highlands to prevent further destruction of this important woodland. Media contact: Paul Renaud,613-277-5898 – update: read this story
UPDATE #2 – At 11:45 am (Tues) , concerned community members began a sit-in at Mayor Jim Watson’s office, demanding he take responsibility by immediately stopping cutting at Beaver Pond and calling for an emergency council meeting, open to all residents of Ottawa. Link to press release. Media contacts: Pei-Ju Wang (in mayor’s office) 613-276-8941, Ramsey Hart (offsite) 613-612-1768.
PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW:
Consider getting out to the Goulbourn Forced Road Parking lot to bear witness (approx map: http://bit.ly/eQ1e3i)
Print off pamphlets to hand out to friends, random people (print single-sided, or double sided and then cut in half to get two flyers)
CALL & email the following, demand they stop this
ASK him to put his foot down: Robert J. Potts Principal Negotiator and Senior Legal Counsel Algonquin Treaty Negotiations (Algonquins of Ontario)
Telephone: 1-877-593-7221 x3952 email: email@example.com
Mayor Watson: 613-580-2496, Jim Watson <firstname.lastname@example.org>;
Watson’s Community Liason Director, Adam DeCaire 613-580-2424 x22700
Hon. Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism and Culture – Markham-Unionville, Liberal
– Suggestion of what to say to Minister Chan:
“All of the Algonquin First Nations have invoked their constitutional right to consultation and accommodation regarding the imminent destruction of provincially significant cultural resources in the South March Highlands. The Honour of the Crown is attached and it is your duty under the emergency powers of the Ontario Heritage Act to issue a Ministerial Order requiring a new archaeological study be done by an independent agency such as the National Capital Commission. This matter is URGENT and in the interests of the 14,500 citizens of Ontario who support the Algonquin and who, in addition to me, demand that you protect all heritage in Ontario.”
Ministry of Tourism and Culture
9th Floor, Hearst Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 2E1
450 Alden Rd., Unit 5
Markham ON L3R 5H4
Premier Dalton McGuinty
Tel: (416) 325-1941
Fax: (416) 325-3745
Open Letter to Minister John Duncan August 11, 2010
Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
SENT VIA FAX: 819-953-4941
Attention: Minister John Duncan
Union of BC Indian Chiefs support Algonquins of Barriere Lake/Mitchikanibikok Inik
We would like to take a moment to congratulate you on your recent appointment as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. We look forward to working with you as we jointly undertake the myriad of challenges that confront First Nations of this country.
We are writing to convey our strong and unwavering support for the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in their ongoing struggle to protect and defend the integrity of their customary leadership selection code known as the Barriere Lake Governance Code (BLGC) . As you may or may not be aware, the BLGC was adopted by the community in 1997.
We are shocked, alarmed and deeply angered to hear that the Government of Canada, through Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and the Government of Quebec, through the Surete du Quebec, are openly collaborating to forcefully impose the Section 74 Election provisions of the Indian Act on the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. We understand that Surete du Quebec police officers shall be deployed into Algonquin territory for the purposes of overseeing the establishment of polling stations and have been ordered to arrest anyone who opposes the imposition of the Indian Act Election system.
Needless to say, this flies-in-the-face of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian Constitution and most importantly, the Inherent Indigenous and Treaty Rights of the Algonquin Peoples.
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs publicly condemns the aggressive, bullying tactics of the governments of Canada and Quebec. Shame on Prime Minister Harper and Premier Jean Charest!
We would like to point out that the Union of BC Indian Chiefs is not alone in its condemnation of the thuggish actions of Canada and Quebec. Recently, at the Assembly of First Nations Annual General Assembly in Winnipeg an AFN Resolution was unanimously supported by the Chiefs-in-Assembly which called for the following:
1. Condemnation of the Federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl for his disregard for the customary leadership selection code and reconciliation process within the Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation by trying to impose the Indian Act Section 74 Election System over the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.
2. Demand that the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl, immediately rescind the Section 74 Order imposing the Section 74 elective system over the Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation.
3. Demand the governments of Canada and Quebec implement the 1991 Trilateral Agreement and related agreements with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.
4. Mandate the AFN to work with First Nations, Tribal Councils, PTOs and AFN regional offices on a national framework to support and facilitate First Nations-driven elections and leadership selection processes, including the resolution of community disputes, consistent with the internal sovereignty and customs and traditions of First Nations.
Therefore, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs supports the Algonquins of Barriere Lakes call for your Ministry to immediately rescind its order s to impose the Indian Act Section 74 election system on their community against their wishes. Rather, we support the immediate intervention of our AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo to assist in the facilitation of an internal community reconciliation/leadership selection process under the Barriere Lake Governance Code.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
The UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Barriere Lake Algonquins mount boycott of government-imposed election poll in face of threats of arrest by Quebec police
Kitiganik, Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / – On August 12, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake will protest and boycott a nomination poll for Indian Act band elections that the Department of Indian Affairs is unilaterally forcing on their community.
The Quebec Police, the Sûreté du Québec, will be guarding the polling stations in the community’s territory and have threatened to arrest anyone who tries to interfere or set up blockades.
After community members peacefully blockaded a federal government electoral officer from entering the reserve on July 22, the Department of Indian Affairs rescheduled the nomination poll for August 12.
“The Canadian and Quebec Governments are shamefully treating our community like criminals for peacefully protecting our inherent right to govern ourselves according to our customs,” says Tony Wawatie community spokesperson. “The Canadian government is attempting to unconstitutionally abolish our traditional leadership selection. They claim imposing this regime is a democratic move, but the overwhelming majority of our community members are opposed and want instead to maintain our own system of government.”
The government officer is seeking nominations for a Chief and Council that would be voted for in an election the Department of Indian Affairs has planned for September 26, 2010. Barriere Lake is one of the few First Nations in the country who have never been under the Indian Act’s electoral system, continuing instead to operate under a Customary Governance Code that they have used for generations.
During the July 22nd nomination meeting only 4 nominations were sent by mail-in-ballot – and all from individuals who have never lived within Barriere Lake’s traditional territory.
“The Canadian government claims they are imposing Indian Act elections because our traditional system doesn’t work, but it’s in fact the government’s interference in our internal affairs that has destabilized our governance,” says Marylynn Poucachiche, another community spokesperson. “The real reason they are imposing band elections is to sever our connection to the land, which is maintained by our traditional political system. They don’t want to deal with a strong leadership and a community that demands the governments honour signed agreements regarding the exploitation of our lands and resources.”
Barriere Lake’s inherent right to customary self-government is protected by section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and is enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A May, 2010 report by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples affirmed that First Nations have the right to maintain control over their internal
affairs and be free to pursue their vision of customary government.
The Assembly of First Nations has passed a unanimously-backed resolution condemning the government and demanding that the Minister of Indian Affairs rescind the band elections, imposed through section 74 of the Indian Act.
Under Barriere Lake’s customary governance code, participation in leadership selections is open only to those band members who live in the traditional territory and have knowledge of and connection to the land.
Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121
Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923
To arrange interviews you can also email : email@example.com
Barriere Lake Algonquins set up peaceful blockade to stop unconstitutional attack on their customary government; AFN passes emergency resolution condemning Minister Strahl
Kitiganik, Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / – This morning Barriere Lake community members set up a peaceful blockade on the access road to their reserve to prevent an electoral officer from conducting a nomination meeting for Indian Act band elections.
The electoral officer aims to implement the federal government’s plan to abolish Barriere Lake’s traditional leadership selection system by holding nomination meetings in the community for a band election imposed through section 74 of the Indian Act. Barriere Lake is one of the few First Nations in the country who have never been under the Indian Act’s electoral system, continuing instead to operate under a Customary Governance Code that they have used since time immemorial.
At its General Assembly in Winnipeg on Wednesday, the Assembly of First Nations passed an emergency resolution condemning Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl and demanding that he rescind the section 74 order to impose Indian Act band elections.
“We reject the Minister’s unconstitutional attempt to assimilate our leadership selection customs by imposing a foreign regime on us. The community is unanimously in favour of continuing to be governed by our customs,” says Marylynn Poucachiche, a community spokesperson. “Because the government has not heeded its constitutional obligations or our community’s wishes, we are turning to peaceful direct action. We will be preventing the nomination meeting from proceeding and are demanding the federal government immediately cease and desist in their attempt to abolish our customs. The government is breaking the law, but through our actions we are protecting it.”
Barriere Lake’s inherent right to customary self-government is protected by section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. A May, 2010 report by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples affirmed that First Nations have the right to maintain control over their internal affairs and be free to pursue their vision of customary government.
“The Canadian government is trying to forcibly assimilate our customs so they can sever our connection to the land, which is at the heart of our governance system,” says Tony Wawatie, another community spokesperson. “They don’t want to deal with a strong leadership, selected by community members who live on the land, that demands that the federal and Quebec governments implement the outstanding agreements regarding the exploitation of our lands and resources.”
Under Barriere Lake’s customary governance code, participation in leadership selections is open only to those band members who live in the traditional territory and have knowledge of and connection to the land. This ensures that people who have a stake in the land and it’s health select leaders. But Indian Act band elections would open voting to individuals on the band registry list who do not live in the community’s territory.
The federal government has slightly delayed the date for the Indian Act band elections, announcing they will try to hold them on September 8, 2010.
Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121
Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923
Local activists to face Quebec judge over Barriere Lake Algonquin highway blockades
by Krishna E. Bera, Lori Waller, and Greg Macdougall, with files from IPSMO
On March 18th, an Ottawa resident along with a co-defendant from the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake will go to trial in a Maniwaki court on charges of obstruction of justice, mischief, and assaulting a police officer. On March 31th, three other local residents will be sentenced for similar charges. What is their grevious crime? Bringing attention to the fact that the governments of Quebec and Canada have not honoured their word.
The cases both stem from a series of peaceful highway blockades mounted in late 2008 by the Mitchikanibikok Inik (Algonquins of Barriere Lake, or ABL), a small First Nation community located 130 km north of Maniwaki, Quebec. Solidarity activists from Ontario and Quebec joined the Mitchikanibikok Inik in two successive blockades of Highway 117, which were staged to protest the provincial and federal governments’ ongoing violation of an agreement signed with ABL over a decade ago .
As Norman Matchewan, youth spokesperson for the Mitchikanibikok Inik explained in an op-ed to the Montréal Gazette: “In 1991, Barriere Lake signed a historic trilateral agreement with Canada and Quebec to sustainably develop our traditional territories – a United Nations report called the plan an environmental ‘trailblazer.’ Yet in 1996, the federal government tried to hijack the agreement by replacing our legitimate chief and council with a minority faction who let the agreement fall aside.”
The colonial pattern continued. In thirteen years of hardship and struggle from the signing of the Trilateral Agreement, it and several subsequent agreements were never fulfilled. Consequently, the Algonquins still have not seen one dime out of the $100 million extracted from their traditional territory every year by logging, hydro, and sport hunting operations. The Barriere Lake Algonquins have witnessed the continual exploitation of their lands, in violation of the Trilateral Agreement guidelines, by unsustainable extraction practices such as clearcutting. In a community where many continue to subsist off the land, this destruction of their traditional territory has directly compromised their ability to live. The exploitation of the land was coupled with strong government interference in the community’s traditional leadership selection process. Not only were the customary chief and council bypassed, but the band council was placed under third party management. Third party management constitutes the highest level of financial intervention in a community and results in a complete financial and managerial takeover. It was this that resulted in the hiring of teachers at the Barriere Lake community school who refused to allow children to speak Algonquin. This was a particularly painful throw back to the era of residential schools.
So in October 2008, after months of public education, letter writing, and visits to MPs, which prompted no response from the government, the community took the difficult decision to blockade provincial Highway 117, demanding to speak to a government representative. The blockaders were attacked within hours by police. Norman Matchewan describes the assault: “To avoid negotiations, the government allowed Monday’s peaceful blockade to be dismantled by the Sûreté du Québec, which without provocation shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of youth and elders and used severe ‘pain compliance’ to remove people clipped into lockbox barrels.”
One person was hospitalized for three days after getting shot with a tear gas canister. An Ottawa student acting in solidarity with the community characterized the government’s behaviour as a sort of warning: “Don’t fuck with us or this is what we’ll do to you”.
Unfortunately, there was still no negotiation, so the ABL erected blockades again in November 2008. This time the police response seemed deliberately appeared less violent; although community members felt clearly threatened when the police approached with teargas cannon launchers. Instead police carried out targeted arrests of community leaders, including chief Benjamin Nottaway. Arrestees were stip-searched and intimidated with what one activist called “bureaucratic violence”; an Ottawa student activist spent 24 hours in jail before being released, and an ABL community spokesperson spent five days in custody because “they couldn’t find a translator”. In all, over 40 people from the community have been arrested and charged since March 2008 and a few, including then-chief Nottaway, have served sentences in prison.
The ABL have not given up, and have no intention of surrendering aboriginal title to their land. They continue to live on the land and apply traditional management techniques where possible, preserving their language and culture, while pursuing court cases to ensure their leadership selection process is respected.
In August 2009, a 2007 private report to the federal minister of Indian Affairs was obtained under court order. The report lays out a wide-ranging set of schemes to undermine the Barriere Lake First Nation’s Customary Chief and Council and ensure that the community’s Trilateral agreement never takes on life. Couched in the language of development and progress, it demonstrates what the community has known for a long time but which the Department of Indian Affairs has always publicly denied: the federal government has refused to implement the Trilateral Agreement because it fears it would throw into question their Comprehensive Claims process, which amounts to a modern-day land grab aimed at extinguishing aboriginal title to the land. (Details on the report can be found on Barriere Lake Solidarity’s website)
In October 2009, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl sent notice to the Algonquins of Barriere Lake that he will not recognize their legitimate leadership, but instead impose elections on the community in April 2010, by invoking section 74 of the Indian Act that would abolish the customary method they use to select their leaders.
In February 2010, the ABL presented arguments in the Supreme Court of Canada defending their latest leadership selection. A couple weeks later, the court’s decision was that the selection was not held according to ABL’s customary governance code. At the time of writing, we haven’t heard from the ABL community on their legal opinion on this court decision. However, it is our opinion that the judge misinterpreted the customary governance code with inconsistent logic in his arguments, which might play a role in paving the way for the INAC to impose section 74 of the Indian Act.
Meanwhile, local activists and Barriere Lake community members are preparing for trial and/or sentencing on the charges stemming from the 2008 blockades. Support is needed in the form of presence in the courtroom and donations toward legal and research costs; if you can attend court (on March 18 and 31 in Maniwaki – rides being arranged from Ottawa) or would like to donate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read more about the Mitchikanibikok Inik and their struggle on the websites of the following groups, or by coming to one of the meetings or events in your area:
• Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa: www.ipsmo.org
• Barriere Lake Solidarity: http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com
*Note: different versions of this article appeared on Linchpin.ca and in the local Peace and Environment News (PEN) paper
Algonquins place bodies in front of logging machines: prevent logging until Quebec and Canada respect agreements and leadership
Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory /- This afternoon members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake will peacefully block the machines of Abitibi-Bowater forestry workers, preventing logging in their territory until Quebec implements agreements covering forestry on Barriere Lake’s lands, and the Quebec and Canadian government’s recognize the First Nation’s legitimate leadership.
“Our community has decided there will be no forestry activities or any new developments in our Trilateral Agreement Territory until the status of our leadership and the agreements we signed are resolved to our community’s satisfaction,” says Jean Maurice Matchewan, Customary Chief of Barriere Lake. “The Quebec government has acted in bad faith, giving companies the go-ahead to log while they ignore their legal obligations, leaving us with no choice but to stop forestry operations until Quebec complies with the agreement. We have waited more than 3 years for Quebec to implement it.”
Matchewan received no response to a letter he sent to Manager Paul Grondin of Abitibi-Bowater’s Maniwaki mill on August 25, requesting that the company suspend logging operations until the governments follow through on their obligations.
“Our plan is to peacefully put our bodies in front of their machines until we get some results. We expect they may use the police, because we are used to such tactics. This is our territory and they can’t push us off our lands,” says Matchewan.
Canada and Quebec have refused to acknowledge the results of a June 24, 2009 leadership selection process that reselected Jean Maurice Matchewan as the legitimate Customary Chief of Barriere Lake. National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations, however, met with Chief Matchewan on August 19, to discuss the Trilateral agreement and other community concerns. The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, a Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, also recently reiterated their support for Chief Matchewan.
“Instead of acting honourably and cooperating with our Customary Council to implement these signed agreements, the federal and provincial governments have been working in unison to try and install a minority faction whom they can use to sign off on the cutting of our forest,” says Matchewan.
Barriere Lake wants Canada and Quebec to uphold signed agreements dating back to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a landmark sustainable development and resource co-management agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Canada has been in breach of the agreement since 2001. Quebec signed a complementary Bilateral Agreement in 1998, but has stalled despite the 2006 recommendations of two former QuebecCabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln, that the agreement be implemented. The agreement is intended to allow logging to continue while protecting the Algonquin’s’ traditional way of life and giving them a $1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out of their territory every year.
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Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan – 819-435- 2136
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