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.

Potluck Feast & Fundraiser! In Celebration of Algonquin Resistance to Assimilation


Potluck Feast and Fundraiser!
In Celebration of Algonquin Resistance to Assimilation 

A dinner with a talk by Michel Thusky, a community spokesperson from the Algonquin Community of Barriere Lake and musical performance by Three Little Birds.

photo credit: Mike Barber

6:00 to 9:00 pm
Thursday, March 1, 2012
PSAC, J.K. Wyllie Boardroom, 233 Gilmour St., Ottawa, Unceded Algonquin Territory


Come share a meal and help support the long-standing resistance of Mitchikanibikok Inik, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, to forced assimilation and extinction. This event is a fundraiser to help cover the community’s legal costs incurred in a costly court battle they’ve been forced into by the Canadian government.

Michel Thusky, a spokesperson from the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake, will talk about community identity in the context of his people’s struggle to defend their land, their way of life, and their traditional governance system against attacks by the colonial governments of Quebec and Canada.

Please bring either a dish to share, or a suggested minimum donation of $5 to 20 to ensure the costs of this event are covered. Some extra food will be prepared to make sure there is enough to feed everyone.

All proceeds after costs are covered, will go to the Barriere Lake Legal Defense Fund.

Download the poster and spread the word!

The event location is wheelchair-accessible.

For more information about the Mitchikanibikok Inik community and their current legal action, please see:

For musical performance by Three Little Birds:

* This event is part of Barriere Lake Speaking Tour in Ontario and Quebec in March 2012: Ottawa (March 1), Waterloo (March 3), Toronto (March 5) and Montreal (Date: TBD)

Algonquin Resistance to Assimilation: Barriere Lake Speaks in Toronto
7:00pm – 9:00pm
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Beit Zatoun, 612 Markham St., Toronto

Snacks and refreshments will be available at the event.

For a good background video on Section 74 and the Barriere Lake struggle, see this short 4-minute film:

Support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake – Demand Canada Remove Their Indian Act Band Council & Recognize Barriere Lake’s Customary Government

In April 2010, the Minister of Indian Affairs imposed a foreign system of governance (Indian Act electoral system) on the Algonquin First Nation of Barriere Lake to avoid honouring the signed agreements and recognizing legitimate leadership.

At 10 am, on Tuesday, Jan. 24 as the Crown and First Nations leaderships gathered at the old Ottawa City Hall, come out to join Barriere Lake Algonquins at a rally in front of the meeting place to show your solidarity and demand CANADIAN government:

photo credit: Mike Barber


10 am
Old City Hall, 111 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, unceded Algonquin Territory.

Map & Directions:


Bring creative signs and banners!

Harper has nothing to teach us about democracy!

photo credit: Mike Barber

For more detailed information:

For a good background video on Section 74 and the Barriere Lake struggle, see this short 4-minute film:


[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:

You can also find a PayPal link on our website for direct financial donations to the community:   Everything counts. Please give what you can.

Checks can be mailed to:

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 or

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



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:


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 : [Anglais seulement pour l’instant]

Vous trouverez également un lien PayPal sur notre site pour faire une contribution financière directement à la communauté: montant compte. SVP. Donnez ce que vous pouvez.

Les chèques peuvent etre postés à :
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 :


Information & Resources on Barriere Lake


The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) are a First Nation who hunt, fish, trap, and harvest on more than 10,000 square kilometers of territory north of Ottawa in what is now called Quebec. They are one of the few First Nations in Canada who still speak their traditional language and have a traditional government that is tied to their land-based existence. (Most First Nations in Canada had their traditional government replaced by the Government of Canada’s “band council” system). The community attributes the strength of their Algonquin language, their culture, and their protection of the land to the endurance of their own governance system, the Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin.

The ABL, like many indigenous people world-over, have been long been embroiled in a land struggle against their colonizers (the Canadian Government). Since 1991 this dispute hinges on a Trilateral Agreement, which both the Federal and Provincial governments have signed, but have failed to honor.


In short, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake are struggling to survive, and preserve their customs and way of life. This involves defending the land on which they live. Since 1991, they have been trying to get the Federal and Provincial Governments to honour the Trilateral Agreement (See below for more detail).

From an outside perspective, it can seem like a very complicated struggle. The struggle has taken many twists and turns, as the ABL have had to respond to a wide array of tactics used by the Canadian Government to try to weaken them. The ABL have written letters, blockaded the highway that runs through their land, fought for their rights in court, marched in Toronto, participated in days of action, and so on. The details of many of these actions can be learned about on this website, as they’ve been documented and archived.

CURRENTLY, the ABL is running a campaign against Section 74 of the Indian Act, because the most recent tactic of the Canadian Government to take control has been to impose band council elections on the community. The ABL have always had their customary government. You can read our primer about that HERE.


The Trilateral Agreement is a contract between the Federal Government (Canada), the Provincial Government (Quebec) and the ABL that deals with land use of 10 000 km2 of land traditionally inhabited and used by the ABL. It is an alternative to Canada’s preferred negotiation policy, called the “Comprehensive Land Claims.” This negotiating process forces First Nations to extinguish their Aboriginal rights and title upon settlement, to give up communal land rights for private property ownership, and to shoulder expensive legal and land use mapping costs that eventually get docked from meager settlements.

The ABL rejected this Comprehensive land claims approach, and chose instead to sign a conservation plan called the Trilateral Agreement. In summary, the Trilateral agreement would see the ABL included in decision making about the land, and gain a financial return from any resource extraction or commerce on their land (logging, hydro-electric, tourism). It would see traditional Algonquin knowledge of the land integrated into how the territory might be used and conserved.

Both the provincial and federal governments have dragged their heels in implementing this agreement, going so far as to deny its legitimacy as a contract and orchestrating coups of the customary government in the ABL community, sowing internal foment. Instead, Canada has hired expensive diplomats to help strategize on how to break their own commitments. Proof of this has been made clear by a report penned by one of these diplomats, Marc Perron, in Dec 2007, in which he outlined strategies to disrupt the community and take them off course from pursuing the Trilateral Agreement. The imposition of Section 74 is but another tactic to try to divide and weaken this community that has shown such strength in its struggle to defend the land.

For a timeline of the recent history of ABL:

Coverage of Algonquins of Barriere Lake logging protest in the summer of 2012

Video: Algonquins of Barriere Lake VS Section 74 of the Indian Act

Dec 13: Barriere Lake Algonquins and supporters rally for sovereignty
OTTAWA: Day of Action to Support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake

Barricading INAC: Barriere Lake unites in opposition to the federal government’s imposition of Indian Act elections By Amy German on August 13, 2010
‘This looks like tyranny’ Canada imposes chief and council on Algonquin community By Gale Courey Toensing on Aug 26, 2010
Canada’s stealth democracy
: Federal operatives infiltrate Barriere Lake to arrange secret “elections” for their pre-selected leaders By Amy German on August 27, 2010
Indian Affairs imposes new Chief and Council on Barriere Lake with the consent of only a half dozen people

Supportive Letter from AFN to Minister of Indian Affairs

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

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

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

SAY NO to Indian Act Section 74

Barriere Lake Algonquins protest Conservative government’s assimilation of their traditional political governance system: Political parties, major unions, Indigenous groups call for respect for community’s Inherent rights


Press release: Barriere Lake governance

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

Local activists to face Quebec judge over Barriere Lake Algonquin highway blockades

Blockade on the 117 (Oct. 2008)

Barriere Lake: Blockade Round II (Nov. 2008)

NFB film: Blockade – Algonquins Defend The Forest directed by Boyce Richardson


BLS Collective is a network of people from outside of Barriere Lake who are working with the community to support their struggle. IPSMO is part of the collective in Ottawa.

For more resources please visit:

Video: Algonquins of Barriere Lake VS Section 74 of the Indian Act

Algonquins of Barriere Lake vs Section 74 of the Indian Act from Barriere Lake Solidarity on Vimeo.

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:


Dear friends and supporters of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake,

Since the great outpouring of support at the Ottawa demonstration in December ( 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:


In sol,
Barriere Lake Solidarity


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.


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.


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 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.




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


Monday December 13, noon, Parliament Hill


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:!/event.php?eid=168050586559745

For more info and to download flyers:

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


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.


Media contacts:

Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121

Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923

Or email to arrange interviews: