BARRIERE LAKE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND

[français ci-dessous]

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have been forced into a costly legal battle with Canada to protect their land rights.

They cannot succeed without your support.

The community has been fighting for years to ensure Canada and Quebec honour the Trilateral Agreement, a landmark resource co-management agreement signed in 1991.

The governments are determined to quash the agreement and are now trying to seize sensitive community documents supporting the fight for the Trilateral Agreement. These documents include research on traditional land use & occupancy, wildlife habitat studies, and land claims research.

Barriere Lake is being forced to take costly legal action to protect themselves against the actions of the Canadian government, and its proxy, an illegitimate band council that doesn’t represent the community. The band council was put in place last summer by INAC with only a dozen nominations; most community members boycotted the process, defending their customary government system.

Monthly legal costs that the Algonquins of Barriere Lake must incur will rise into the tens of thousands of dollars by the end of the year, amounting to approximately $30,000 by December 2011. The community’s next legal bill – due at the end of August – will total over $6,000 alone.

If the community loses their case to keep possession of the Trilateral documents, they will launch a constitutional challenge against Canada and the imposition of SECTION 74 of the INDIAN ACT. Section 74 allows the Minister of Indian Affairs to impose band council elections on a customary government, which is a violation of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, protected in Section 35 of the Constitution. This legal challenge will cost more than $100,000 dollars over time.

To read about the 3 MAJOR CONSEQUENCES to this legal case, please see our website: http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/2011/08/barriere-lake-legal-defense-fund.html

You can also find a PayPal link on our website for direct financial donations to the community: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=Q22YF238ACE5N.   Everything counts. Please give what you can.

Checks can be mailed to:
OPIRG-GRIPO Ottawa

631 King Edward Ave. (3rd floor / 3ieme étage)
Ottawa, ON
K1N 7N8

** Please make checks out to “Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa”  with “Barriere Lake Legal Defense Fund” in the memo line **

For more information on Section 74 or to find out how you can reach the community directly for support, please contact at ipsmo@riseup.net or barrierelakesolidarity@gmail.com.

For a good background video on Section 74 and the Barriere Lake struggle, please see this short 3-minute film:

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Barriere Lake Solidarity has produced this video to help bring attention to the current struggle by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) against the Canadian Government’s imposition of Section 74 of the Indian Act. By enacting this obscure piece of the Act, the Canadian Government is attempting to take control of the community by imposing band council elections on the community. The ABL have always had their own customary government.

For more information, visit:
http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org

LAC BARRIERE FONDS DE DEFENSE LEGALE

Les Algonquins de Lac Barrière ont été entraînés de force dans une bataille juridique avec le gouvernement du Canada pour protéger leurs droits territoriaux.

Ils n’y parviendront pas san votre appui.

La communauté se bat depuis des années pour s’assurer que le Canada et le Québec honorent l’entente trilatérale, plan de gestion intégrée des ressources signée en 1991.

Les gouvernements sont déterminés à faire annuler l’accord et tentent maintenant de saisir des documents névralgiques de la communauté appuyant leur lutte en faveur de l’accord trilatéral. Ces documents comprennent de la recherche sur l’utilisation et l’occupation traditionnelle du territoire, des études sur l’habitat faunique et de la recherche en lien avec leurs revendications territoriales.

Lac Barrière est forcé de prendre des couteuses mesures judiciaires pour se protéger des actions du gouvernement Canadien et ses représentants, un conseil de bande illégitime qui ne représente pas la communauté. Le conseil de bande a été mis en place l’été dernier par AINC avec à peine une douzaine de nominations; la plupart des membres de la communauté ont boycotté le processus, défendant leur système de gouvernance traditionnel.

Les frais juridiques qu’encourent mensuellement les Algonquins de Lac Barrière totaliseront des dizaines de milliers de dollars à la fin de l’année, soit approximativement 30 000 $ en Décembre 2011. La prochaine facture de frais juridiques de la communauté, dues à la fin d’aout, coutera plus de 6000 $ à elle seule.

Si la communauté perd le droit de garder en sa possession les documents de l’entente trilatéreale, elle lancera une contestation constitutionnelle contre le Canada et l’imposition de l’article 74 de la Loi sur les Indiens. L’article 74 permet au Ministre des Affaires Autochtones d’imposer un Conseil de bande plutôt qu’un gouvernement traditionnel, ce qui est une violation des Droits et Traités Autochtones, protégés à l’article 35 de la Constitution. Cette contestation judiciaire couteras plus de 100 000 $ dollars à long terme.

Pour en savoir davantage sur les 3 CONSÉQUENCES MAJEURS de cette affaire, veuillez visiter notre site web : http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/2011/08/barriere-lake-legal-defense-fund.html [Anglais seulement pour l’instant]

Vous trouverez également un lien PayPal sur notre site pour faire une contribution financière directement à la communauté: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=Q22YF238ACE5NChaque montant compte. SVP. Donnez ce que vous pouvez.

Les chèques peuvent etre postés à :
OPIRG-GRIPO Ottawa
631 King Edward Ave. (3e Étage)
Ottawa, ON
K1N 7N8

** SVP libeller les chèques au nom de “Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa
et inscrire “Barriere Lake Legal Defense Fund” au bas du chèque **

Pour plus d’informations sur l’article 74 ou pour savoir comment joindre la communauté pour l’appuyer directement, svp contactez nous. Pour une introduction sur l’article 74 et la lutte de Lac Barrière, veuillez visionner cette courte vidéo de 3 minutes :

 

Harper Targeted First Nations for Increased Surveillance

Harper targeted First Nations for increased surveillance, fears Native “unrest,”
newly released government documents show

Money for housing on reserves slashed, money for surveillance of Natives increased

For immediate release: June 13, 2011

Newly exposed internal documents from Indian Affairs and the RCMP show that shortly after forming government in January of 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had the federal government step up intelligence gathering on First Nations to anticipate and manage First Nations political action across Canada.

Information obtained by the First Nations Strategic Bulletin through Access to Information requests reveals that almost immediately upon Harper’s taking power in 2006, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) was given the lead role to spy on First Nations. The goal was to identify the First Nation leaders, participants and outside supporters of First Nation occupations and protests, and to closely monitor their actions.

To accomplish this task, INAC established a “Hot Spot Reporting System.” These weekly reports highlight all those communities across the country that engage in direct action to protect their lands and communities. They include Tsartlip First Nation, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Six Nations, Grassy Narrows, the Likhts’amsiyu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, and many more.

“Rather than listening to the needs of First Nations communities Harper is making plans to use force to stifle the dissent that inevitably arises from chronic poverty and dispossession in Native communities,” said Russell Diabo, Mohawk policy analyst, in response. “First Nations education and housing is chronically under-funded, but policing and surveillance of legitimate Indigenous movements is always a priority.”

The documents reveal that First Nations are a closely monitored population who are causing a panic at the highest levels of the Canadian government.

Says Gord Elliot of Tsartlip First Nation, “Obviously trust and good faith are expected when working with INAC, the RCMP and other agencies of the Government. We are outraged to discover these same Ministries are spying on us. We were identified as a ‘hotspot’ because we had a roadblock demonstration to voice our concerns about the Treaty process and non-acknowledgment of Section 35 Constitutional Rights and Title.
We felt we had no choice because the Canadian Government won’t acknowledge our Constitutionally protected Aboriginal Rights and Title.”

For more information and to obtain original documents, contact:
Shiri Pasternak, media spokesperson: 647-227-6696

Media Spokespeople:

Russell Diabo, editor and publisher, First Nations Strategic Bulletin: 613-296-0110
Gord Elliot, Councillor, Tsartlip First Nation: 250-883-3970
Shawn Brant, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory: 613- 813-2057

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SOLIDARITY UPDATE ON THE ALGONQUINS OF BARRIERE LAKE

Dear friends and supporters of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake,

Since the great outpouring of support at the Ottawa demonstration in December (http://bit.ly/f7abMo) against the imposition of the Indian Act on their community, a great many of things have transpired on Barriere Lake’s territory. Stronger than ever, the community is ready to fight back and needs your help.

Please read the update posted below and stay tuned for ways to get involved. Contained herein are:

1. MINING ALERT ON ALGONQUIN TERRITORY
2. REPORT ON THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INDIAN ACT BAND COUNCIL
3. REPORT ON SECTION 74 LETTER-WRITING CAMPAIGN

In sol,
Barriere Lake Solidarity
http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/
https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=30975284378&ref=ts

1. MINING ALERT ON ALGONQUIN TERRITORY

Barriere Lake Algonquins say “No” to mining exploration on their land, Cree workers agree to leave site

RAPID LAKE, QC – Last week, Barriere Lake community members discovered that Val D’ Or based Cartier Resources has begun line-cutting in preparation for mining exploration on their unceded Ab- original lands. According to their website, the mining company claims that their “100% owned” land base of 439 square kilometers boasts rich copper deposits ripe for exploitation.

The so-called “Rivière Doré Project” was undertaken without obtaining the community’s free, prior, and informed consent – the minimum standards set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), which Canada has endorsed in words but not in action. The mining project also violates the community’s own environmental protection regime, the Trilateral Agreement, which was signed in 1991 by Barriere Lake, Quebec, and Canada and has yet to be honoured.

The workers on site, predominantly Crees from the Mistassini and Oujebougamou First Nations, agreed to leave when the Algonquins traveled to the proposed mine location and explained their opposition to the development. The larger battle with the Cartier Resources, however, looms ahead.

Barriere Lake community members will return to maintain a presence at the proposed mining site and stop all further developments. Please stay tuned for further developments and action call-outs.

2. REPORT ON THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INDIAN ACT BAND COUNCIL

The community remains largely in the dark concerning the activities of the band council. Illegitimate in the eyes of most people in the community, this band council rose to power through the imposition of an Indian Act provision (Section 74) that gives the Minister of Indian Affairs discretion to overthrow Indigenous customary government systems.

One thing is clear, though: Barriere Lake is open for business now. Mining companies, logging companies, and costly Hydro electrification and reserve housing development have all been green-lighted by the band council.

While investments in reserve infrastructure are badly needed, they are coming at the price of burying the larger issue of land management of the whole territory.

3. REPORT ON SECTION 74 LETTER-WRITING CAMPAIGN
BARRIERE LAKE SOLIDARITY FORENSIC DECODER OF THE GOVERNMENT’S OFFICIAL STORY

Hundreds of letters have been sent through the Barriere Lake Solidarity website to Minister of Indian Affairs John Duncan in protest of the forced imposition of Section 74 on the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (see http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/2008/03/donations.html). The Department has recently sent out replies to these letters which are telling of Canada’s communications strategy to contain the threat of public awareness on the issue.

Responding to these letters is Pierre Nepton, the Director General of the Quebec Region of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Nepton outlines the “official” story in his response letter: INAC had no choice but to reluctantly impose Section 74 due to internal conflicts over governance, which the community failed to resolve themselves.

But it’s cool. Barriere Lake Solidarity has prepared a forensic decoder of the government’s official story. We’ve drawn up a chart for easy comparison.

Barriere Lake Algonquins and supporters rally for sovereignty

On December 13, 2010, over a hundred community members from Barriere Lake, along with supporters from Montreal and Toronto, drove through the snow to get to Parliament Hill to demand the government take back section 74 and restore their customary rights.

MEDIA REPORTS:

STATEMENTS:

PICTURES:

TAKE ACTION:
Please CALL or WRITE to John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs, demand:
* Canada and Quebec must honor the Trilateral Agreement they’ve signed with Barriere Lake in 1991
* Canada must respect Barriere Lake’s traditional government – REVERSE the forcible assimilation by rolling back Section 74 of the Indian Act

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.

Indian Affairs imposes new Chief and Council on Barriere Lake with the consent of only a half dozen people

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Indian Affairs imposes new Chief and Council on Barriere Lake with the consent of only a half dozen people: “This looks like tyranny,” say community spokespeople

Kitiganik, Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / – Despite overwhelming community opposition, the Department of Indian Affairs has announced that a new Indian Act Chief and Council have been elected by acclamation in Barriere Lake, after between 6 and 10 nomination mail-in ballots were received by a government electoral officer.

But even the acclaimed Chief, Casey Ratt, has announced he will not take the the position, refusing to break ranks with the community’s broad opposition to the Indian Act band elections that the Department of Indian Affairs has been trying to impose on Barriere Lake.

“The overwhelming majority of our community remains opposed to the Indian Act band election regime. Almost two hundred people signed a resolution in May rejecting it and supporting our traditional selection process. Does the Minister of Indian Affairs really think that the consent of a handful of people can let them get away with eradicating our system of government?” says Tony Wawatie, a community spokesperson. “The government has lectured us about democracy. But how can this be democratic if it goes against the will of our entire community? This looks more like tyranny.”

On Friday the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo sent a letter to Minister of Indian Affairs John Duncan demanding that he rescind the section 74 order to impose band elections, and that he respect the community’s reconciliation process, which will ultimately result in a new Customary Chief and Council being selected according to Barriere Lake’s traditional selection process.

“I strongly urge you to reconsider the decision of your predecessor to invoke section 74,” Atleo wrote. “Trying to force the community into the Indian Act election system, when they seem to be overwhelmingly opposed, will only increase tensions and the risk of confrontation with your Ministry.”

“The decision to impose section 74 band elections is an attack not only on our traditional system of government, but on our culture, language and way of life, which are all connected to our traditional system of government,” says Marylynn Poucachiche, another community spokesperson. “We will not accept it. Until our basic and legitimate rights are respected, we will escalate our actions, including not allowing any resource extraction within the Trilateral Agreement Territory.”

The government had announced the elections would originally take place September 23rd, 2010.

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.

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Media contacts:

Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121

Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923

Or email to arrange interviews: barrierelakesolidarity@gmail.com

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/

Action Alert/Action Urgente! Barriere Lake Algonquins say NO to Canada and Quebec’s armed-imposition of unconstitutional Indian Act election

Spend 5 minutes to support the Barriere Lake Algonquins as they take action to protect their inherent right to govern themselves according to their customs!

On August 12, the Canadian and Quebec Governments are using the Quebec police to impose the Indian Act election process.  The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are boycotting!

Say NO to Canada’s armed-imposition of an unconstitutional regime!

Send an online letter to the new Minister of Indian Affairs John Duncan and Indian Affairs Quebec Regional Director Pierre Nepton here: http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com/2007/10/blog-post.html

Call Minister of Indian Affairs John Duncan: 1-800-667-280, 613-992-2503,

—> If you can DONATE to or ENDORSE Barriere Lake’s campaign, please contact us: barrierelakesolidarity@gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

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.

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Media contacts:
Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121
Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923
To arrange interviews you can also email :
barrierelakesolidarity@gmail.com

Action Alert!

Updates on July 22:

Media Coverage on Algonquins of Barriere Lake prevented elections officer from entering reserve this morning:

Barriere Lake Algonquins set up peaceful blockade to stop unconstitutional attack on their customary government

Spend 5 minutes to support the Barriere Lake Algonquins as they take action to protect their inherent right to govern themselves according to their customs!

Send an online letter to Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl and Indian Affairs Quebec Regional Director Pierre Nepton here: http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com/2007/10/blog-post.html

Call Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl:  (604) 847-9711, 1-800-667-2808

—> If you can DONATE to or ENDORSE Barriere Lake’s campaign, please contact us: barrierelakesolidarity@gmail.com

For more information: www.barrierelakesolidarity.org

PRESS RELEASE

Thursday, July 22, 2010

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.

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Media contacts:

Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121
Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923

SAY NO to Indian Act Section 74

Take a stand today!
Support the Barriere Lake Algonquins and their inherent right to govern themselves according to their customs:

Write/call/fax Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl and Indian Affairs Quebec Regional Director Pierre Nepton: http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com/2007/10/blog-post.html

—> For more info, or to endorse the campaign: please email barrierelakesolidarity@gmail.com, www.barrierelakesolidarity.org, ipsmo.org

The Canadian government is forcibly assimilating Barriere Lake’s customary governance system using an archaic and rarely invoked piece of Indian Act legislation.

Indian Act: Sect 74 (1) (Elected Councils)
Whenever he deems it advisable for the good government of a band, the Minister may declare by order that after a day to be named therein the council of the band, consisting of a chief and councillors, shall be selected by elections to be held in accordance with this Act.

This strategy is a draconian, last ditch attempt to sever the community’s connection to the land, which is at the heart of their governance system. By breaking their connection to the land, the Canadian and Quebec governments hope to get away with violating resource- use agreements and illegally clear-cutting in their traditional territory.

Section 74 hasn’t been forcibly imposed on a community since 1924, when the Canadian government unilaterally deposed the traditional government of Six Nations, padlocking shut the Haudenasaunee Confederacy lodge.

Barriere Lake is one of only two dozen Native communities still operating with their traditional governance system. They attribute the strength of their community, language, knowledge and protection of the land to its endurance. The impacts of losing their customary government would have devastating consequences on their way of life.  There is a broad consensus in Barriere Lake in favour of retaining their customs and against a Section 74 order erasing their Customary government.

“Community members and youth plan to defend our rights for the sake of our generation and the generations to come.” – Tony Wawatie, spokesperson.

UPDATES: Indian Affairs announces election date; SQ harassment escalates; Canadian spies visit Barriere Lake solidarity activist

a) The Department of Indian Affairs has circulated a notice in Barriere Lake announcing they intend to hold section 74 Indian Action band elections on August 19, 2010, and nomination meetings for a Chief and six Counselors on July 8th. The community has every intention of resisting Indian Affairs’ attempts to abolish their traditional governance system.                      

b) There has been an escalation in harassment by the Quebec Police, known as the Surete du Quebec (SQ), who have been policing Barriere Lake’s reserve since April 1, 2010. Community members have been regularly pulled over on the highway and on the access road to their reserve. Some women have recounted being pulled over by an SQ officer and being made the subject of sexist remarks. “What have you got there in back seat? Got something for me?” they were asked. The officer then followed them home in his cruiser after telling them, “I’m going to come over and sleep with you guys.”

The escalation is an indication that the Canadian and Quebec governments may attempt to use the Quebec police to impose their political dictates, as they’ve done in the past. Barriere Lake’s supporters will need to be vigilant and hold their governments to account, lest they attempt to push through section 74 Indian Act elections with brute force.

c) Read a description of how CSIS agents visited and harassed a member of the Barriere Lake solidarity collective in Montreal, an indication of the lengths the federal government is willing to go to to undermine the community’s struggle for their rights: http://www.mediacoop.ca/blog/martin-lukacs/3622

d) The Green Party of Canada issued a press release on June 9th endorsing Barriere Lake’s struggle to protect their traditional governance system: http://greenparty.ca/media-release/2010-06-09/algonquins-barriere-lake-trying-protect-governance-system

e) The Assembly of First Nations put out a supportive if vaguely worded press release (they also didn’t send it out on the press wire, but only posted it online):  http://www.nationtalk.ca/modules/news/article.php?storyid=32735

f) APTN coverage of the demo on June 15, the segment is about 10min in:  http://www.aptn.ca/pages/news/index.php?wmv=tuesday/six

:::: BACKGROUND ::::

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake live on their unceded territory 300 kilometers north of Ottawa, in Quebec. They govern themselves by a customary system, the Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin. Unlike most First Nations, they have never had band elections imposed on them by the federal government through the Indian Act.

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:

“Whenever he deems it advisable for the good government of a band, the Minister may declare by order that after a day to be named therein the council of the band, consisting of a chief and councillors, shall be selected by elections to be held in accordance with this Act.”

On April 8, 2010, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl signed off an order to invoke section 74, initiating the process to impose Indian Act band elections on Barriere Lake. The federal government has already hired an electoral officer to oversee this process, meaning the federal government aims to hold elections within a matter of months.

Despite its inclusion in the Indian Act, section 74-imposed band elections would be a violation of Barriere Lake’s Indigenous customs, a draconian interference in their internal affairs, a breach of their constitutionally-protected Aboriginal right to a customary system of government, and a violation of the minimum standards included in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is an attempt to politically weaken the community, by destroying the way they have governed themselves since time immemorial.

The affirmation of Aboriginal and Treaty rights in Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution in 1982 guarantees Barriere Lake’s right to maintain their customary system of government. There has been absolutely no case-law since 1982 that would indicate that the Minister has the power to infringe on Barriere Lake’s rights.

The Government move also contradicts a recent Federal Court decision concerning Barriere Lake’s leadership. On February 17, 2010, Federal Court Judge Robert Mainville concluded in the case of Ratt v. Matchewan that Barriere Lake can “select their leadership in accordance with their customs unimpeded by any conditions or requirements which the Minister may deem appropriate.”

But the Canadian government, even if they had Canadian law on their side, would have no authority to interfere with Barriere Lake’s inherent jurisdiction over their lands, which precedes Canadian sovereignty claims by thousands of years. Barriere Lake has never ceded their lands by treaty or agreement and continue to exercise their jurisdiction over their lands by responsibly managing the territory.

Barriere Lake’s customary government is tied to their use of the land – their hunting, fishing, trapping, harvesting over their vast traditional territories. Only those band members who live within their territories and have knowledge and connection to the land can participate in their customary system of government. The position of Chief is based on hereditary entitlement, but other factors are equally or more important, including leadership abilities, knowledge of the land, and community support. Elders have a key role in the leadership selection process, ensuring the customs are respected. They oversee a blazing ceremony, nominating potential leadership candidates who are then approved or rejected by community members in public assemblies. Leadership requires the consent of the governed, meaning leaders can be removed at any time. Such a directly democratic form of government accords well with the community’s decentralized organization.

For the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, their governance system is one of the sources of their political strength and assertiveness: eligible community members have a stake in the land, and they will select leaders who ensure its protection and responsible management.

But if the Canadian government can impose section 74 Indian Act band elections, this will change. Elders will lose customary responsibility for cultivating leaders and for shepherding leadership selections. Voting by secret ballot would undermine the consensus-based, directly democratic process. Fixed terms for elections would destroy the hereditary elements of their system. Indian Act elections would open eligibility for selecting leaders to people on the band registry list, not just those who live and use the traditional territory. As in many First Nations across the country, off-reserve band members who have no stake in the land’s protection but a say in elections or referendums concerning agreements or modern treaties will likely vote for cash deals that may extinguish Inherent, Aboriginal, or Treaty rights to the land.

The federal government’s attack on the community’s inherent right to a customary governance system has served the ends of the Quebec government, which has been allowing forestry companies to illegally log in Barriere Lake’s traditional territory, without consulting and in areas that are supposed to be off-bounds under the terms of the 1991 Trilateral agreement. Quebec has just issued cutting permits for a new period of logging.

—->Please take a moment to support a community that has protected their territory from extractive industries for decades at great expense and sacrifice to their lives.

DEMAND THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT RESPECT BARRIERE LAKE’S CUSTOMARY GOVERNANCE SYSTEM

SEND AN EMAIL VIA THE BARRIERE LAKE SOLIDARITY WEBSITE: http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com/2007/10/blog-post.html

Three-Figure Wampum, an agreement between the Barriere Lake Algonquine, the Church and the settlers
Three-Figure Wampum belt, dated back to around 1760, is an agreement between the Barriere Lake Algonquine, the Church and the settlers. The belt depicts an acknowledgement whereby, under the sign of the cross, no interference would be made into the local native ways of life.