Union of BC Indian Chiefs support Algonquins of Barriere Lake / Mitchikanibikok Inik

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
613-996-3306

Attention: Minister John Duncan

Dear Sir:

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.

Yours truly,

[Original Signed]

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President

The UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

This page and all other News Releases can be found at:
http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/News_Releases/

Cuts to Aboriginal Healing Foundation

In the 2010 budget, the federal government announced it was discontinuing funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. 134 programs across the country are affected as of Wed March 31

On Monday, six women (non-Native solidarity activists from Montreal) staged a sit-in to protest the cuts and demand reinstatement of funding:

On the same day, Aboriginal leaders called on the government to reinstate funding:

Press release: Barriere Lake governance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Canada seeks to unconstitutionally abolish Algonquin’s customary government to avoid honouring agreements and recognizing legitimate leadership

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory:– On Friday, October 30, 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 a section of the Indian Act that would abolish the customary method they use to select their leaders.

The attempt at assimilation would be a violation of Barriere Lake’s constitutionally-protected Aboriginal right to their customary system of government.

“The Canadian government doesn’t want to deal with our Customary Chief and Council because we are demanding that the federal and Quebec governments implement agreements they signed with us regarding the exploitation of our lands and resources. So rather than recognize me, they want to do away with our customary system of government by which I was selected,” says Jean Maurice Matchewan, Customary Chief of Barriere Lake. “And while they are not recognizing our community’s legitimate leadership, Quebec has been taking advantage by illegally allowing forestry companies to clear-cut our forests in violation of our Trilateral agreement.”

Documents released under court-order indicate the Government of Canada was invested in quashing the precedent-setting Trilateral agreement, signed with Barriere Lake in 1991, and undermining Barriere Lake’s legitimate Customary Chief and Council.[1]

Jean Maurice Matchewan was reselected as Customary Chief on June 24, 2009, but the Government of Canada has refused to answer six consecutive letters sent by Barriere Lake’s lawyers, the last on Thursday, October 29, requesting that the Government recognize this result. The June leadership selection process was facilitated by Keith Penner, a former Member of Parliament who chaired the Special Parliamentary Committee on Indian Self-Government in 1983 that culminated in the historic Penner Report on Indian First Nations Self-Government. Penner concluded that Matchewan and his Council “followed and adhered to in each and every respect” Barriere Lake’s Customary Governance Code and are the “the legitimate and properly constituted leaders,” a result which should clear up confusion about the identity of Barriere Lake’s legitimate Customary Chief and Council.[2]

At a Federal Court hearing on September 24, 2009, Prothontary Tabib urged the Minister, in light of the new leadership selection, to withdraw his recognition of Casey Ratt, whom the Minister has been dealing with as Chief since March 2008.  This could allow the claims to leadership to be resolved through the Courts. Rather than recognize the June leadership selection or take direction from the Courts. Minister Strahl has decided to impose elections on Barriere Lake, alleging the community is “lacking the political will and the governance tools to resolve this matter” of their leadership selection.

“We already have a Customary Governance Code, which would work well if it were not for the internal interference of the Government of Canada. First the Government of Canada recognized and worked with a minority faction which didn’t respect our Customary Governance Code, in order to derail our signed agreements. Now that we have the Government backed into a corner because of our legal challenges and the recent leadership selection process, which was documented by credible witnesses, they are trying to win some more time by attacking our customs,” says Customary Chief Matchewan.

Section 74 of the Indian Act states that the Minister of Indian Affairs can impose an electoral system on First Nations with customary leadership selection processes. But Barriere Lake’s Customary governance code is recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, and the Minister is therefore prevented from changing their customary system of government.

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 since 2001. Quebec signed a complementary Bilateral Agreement in 1998, but has stalled implementation despite the 2006 recommendations of two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln, that the agreement be implemented. The 2006 recommendations include forest plans to harmonize logging operations with the Algonquin’s land use and revenue-sharing to give the Algonquins a $1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out of their territory every year.

The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, a Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, continues to support Chief Matchewan.

– 30 –

Media contacts:
Jean Maurice Matchewan, Customary Chief of Barriere Lake: 819-435-2136

Notes
[1] http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com/2009/08/another-smoking-gun-top-diplomats.html
[2] http://ia341334.us.archive.org/0/items/2009-06-24AblPennerLeadershipReport_695/2009-06-24AblLeadershipReport.pdf