VIDEOS: Our Land, Our Identity – Algonquins of Barriere Lake Fight For Survival

Michel Thusky and Jacob Wawatie speaking at the event Oct 10, 2012 at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre, Ottawa on unceded Algonquin territory.

Michel Thusky:

Jacob Wawatie:

Event hosted by: Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement of Ottawa (IPSMO), MiningWatch Canada and the Friends Service Committee of Ottawa.

Advertisements

DEC 13, OTTAWA: Day of Action to Support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake

DEMAND THAT CANADA RESPECT BARRIERE LAKE’S TRADITIONAL GOVERNMENT AND TRAILBLAZING ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS

Monday December 13, noon, Parliament Hill

MARCH STARTS AT NOON, PARLIAMENT HILL, ENDS AT THE OFFICE OF THE MINISTER OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, CONFEDERATION BUILDING (BANK AND WELLINGTON)

Supported by: Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Council of Canadians, KAIROS, the New Democratic Party, Green Party, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Mining Watch, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement-Ottawa, Barriere Lake Solidarity-Toronto, Barriere Lake Solidarity-Montreal

Facebook Event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=168050586559745&num_event_invites=0#!/event.php?eid=168050586559745

For more info and to download flyers: www.barrierelakesolidarity.org

What if a foreign regime was destroying your system of government, so it could then steal your resources and prevent you from environmentally protecting your homeland? This is what the Harper Government and federal bureaucrats are doing to the First Nation of Barriere Lake.

For more than two decades, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have been demonstrating environmental leadership to the rest of Canada, campaigning to stop destructive clear-cut logging and to implement a sustainable development plan in their homeland in north-western Quebec.

But multi-national forestry corporations and government bureaucrats have refused to honour any of the agreements signed with Barriere Lake. They have tried at every turn to undermine the small community, one of the poorest in the country, and prevent them from implementing and realizing their vision for the protection and stewardship of the forests.

The David-vs-Goliath story now has a dark new twist: the Conservative government and bureaucrats in Indian and Northern Affairs Canada are interfering in Barriere Lake’s internal affairs, using section 74 of the Indian Act to forcibly assimilate and destroy the community’s traditional government — a traditional government the community has used for countless generations and which maintains their hunting way of life and respect for the environment.

Led by Barriere Lake youth, the overwhelming majority of the community are struggling to preserve their traditional government, so they can continue protecting the watersheds, forests, wildlife and lands for all future generations, Native and non-Native.

The Harper government is violating the Canadian Constitution, which protects the Aboriginal right to self-government. They are violating the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples, even though they have now endorsed it.

Join the Algonquins of Barriere Lake on Parliament Hill as they demand the Harper government and federal bureaucrats reject the use of section 74 and respect the community’s traditional government and  vision for environmental protection!

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 connection 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 used 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.

Blockade!

For Immediate Release

September 1, 2009

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.

– 30 –

Media contacts:
Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan – 819-435- 2136
To arrange interviews in case the line is busy : 514-398-7432