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:

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

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

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

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