The Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa (IPSMO) is inviting you to the launch of its Honouring Indigenous Women Campaign and its Honouring Indigenous Women: Hearts of Nations – Vol. 1 booklet!
7 – 9 PM. Monday, March 19, 2012 Arts Court Studio, 2 Daly Ave. Ottawa Unceded Algonquin Territory
Join us for a night of poetry, drumming and more, in celebration of the Power of Indigenous Women and their Special Relationship to Water!
Opening ceremony and women’s teaching by Verna McGregor (Algonquin) and Elaine Kicknosway (Swampy Cree from Northern Saskatchewan)
Ruby Arnga-naaq (Inuit)
Earth Mothers women drumming group
Water teaching by Grandmother Francine Payer
Vera Wabegijig (Ojibwe),
Suzanne Keeptwo (Métis – Algonquin/French & Irish descent),
Jaime Koebel (Métis),
David Groulx (Ojibwe/Métis)
* There will be items made by Indigenous peoples for sale at this event.
About our campaign:
Our Honouring Indigenous Women Campaign aims at raising awareness on and putting an end to the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women. As a group mostly composed of non-Indigenous peoples who have participated or been complicit in the past and present colonization of Native peoples and lands, it is of utmost importance for us to support the work of Indigenous peoples in this regard. This campaign is an act of solidarity, and aims at supporting existing efforts from Indigenous women. As such, we are hoping to mobilize over 500 people to take part in the annual Families of Sisters in Spirit Vigilorganized in Ottawa on October 4th.
This campaign also aims at understanding the links between violence against Indigenous women, colonialism, land and Indigenous Sovereignty. We echo the demands for equity, justice, and decolonizationformulated by Indigenous women whom we have tremendous respect for.
We support self-determination of Indigenous peoples and work towards creating and maintaining respectful relationships with the First peoples of this land.
The campaign would not be as strong without the publication of the Honouring Indigenous Women: Hearts of Nation-Vol. 1 . The booklet, composed of five sections – Struggle, Resistance, Power, Liberation, and Be Solidarity, gives to Indigenous women their due space to express their lived realities through various art forms. Through this publication, we strive to augment the voices of Indigenous women in their many efforts to break the silence surrounding the systemic violence perpetuated by colonialism. It is, for us, a concrete and creative form of solidarity.
As a wise woman told us, we cannot achieve the ethic of respect by formulating demands, we will clearly state our hopes and expectations for this campaign and beyond, as well as announce our upcoming projects at our March 19th event. Stay tune!
Come join us for a full day of plenaries, workshops and ceremony
9:00am-5:30pm, Lamoureux Hall 1st floor, University of Ottawa (www.uottawa.ca/maps – LMX building)
9:00am – Registration and refreshments
9:30am – Opening ceremony and welcome
10:00am – plenary: Climate Justice – An Indigenous Perspective
(with Ben Powless, Bob Lovelace, and Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas)
11:45am – concurrent sessions:
* Indigenous Peoples Space: A space for Indigenous community members to
gather and talk (facilitated by Bob Lovelace and Ben Powless)
* Working as an Ally (facilitated by Corvin Russell and Pei-Ju Wang)
1:00pm – Lunch
1:45pm – concurrent sessions:
* Reclaiming Indigenous Youth Self-Determination
(Krysta Williams of Native Youth Sexual Health Network)
* An Oral History of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (Tony Wawatie)
3:15pm – plenary: Defending the Land
(with Clement Chartier, Russell Diabo, and Tony Wawatie)
5:00pm – Closing ceremony
The Indigenous Sovereignty Symposium is the main focus of this year’s Indigenous Sovereignty Week. In it, we will focus on the experiences and histories of a number of Indigenous communities, and look to create a better understanding of the situation across Canada for Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, two special sessions will focus on practical actions that we can undertake. Other sessions focus on Indigenous culture, decolonization and sexuality for young people and the history of Barrierre Lake.
Climate Justice, An Indigenous Perspective (plenary): Indigenous communities are on the frontlines of climate impacts. However, they’re also at the forefront of proposing unique and progressive visions to deal with the causes of climate change. This session will feature a number of Indigenous activists who are focused on advancing the Indigenous perspective on climate change and climate justice.[with Ben Powless, Bob Lovelace, and Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas]
Defending the Land (plenary): Across the land called Canada, many Native communities have been forced to act recently to protect their traditional lands and resources. From mining, oil and gas, to forestry and housing developments, this session focuses on the experience of many communities in asserting their sovereignty. There will also be a presentation on the direction the government is taking towards privatizing Native communities, and recent initiatives to respond to the government. [with Russell Diabo, Clement Chartier, and Tony Wawatie]
Indigenous Peoples Space (session): We will be creating a space for Indigenous community members to have a facilitated discussion about the role of (urban) Indigenous Peoples in re-asserting our voices and visions with regards to Indigenous sovereignty and other issues. We will explore the history of Indigenous social change in Ottawa and relationships to the rest of society. Note: Out of respect, we are asking that only Indigenous community members attend this session. [with Bob Lovelace and Ben Powless]
Working As An Ally (session): “But what can I do?” is one of the most-often heard questions when discussing Indigenous issues. This session will focus on how we can engage in relationships with Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous communities that are respectful and useful. We hope that everyone will come with an open mind and be ready to answer some challenging questions about our own roles as allies with Indigenous communities. This session is open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants alike. [with Corvin Russell and Pei-Ju Wang]
Reclaiming Indigenous Youth Self-Determination (session): This workshop will discuss the relation between sovereignty, self-determination and indigenous sexualities in a youth context. Reclaiming indigenous sexualities, in all of their diversity, is a key element of decolonization in a world that continues to recolonize Indigenous people. [with Krysta Williams]
The Oral History of Mitchikanibikok Inik (The Algonquins of Barriere Lake) (session): The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) have lived on their traditional territory for thousands of years, teachings, knowledge and respect are passed down from generation to generation. The Barriere Lake community is among the few Indigenous communities across Turtle Island who still speak their own language, maintain their custom and carry out their traditional way of life. The traditional territory of Mitchikanibikok Inik is located north of Ottawa in north-western Quebec. In 1991, Barriere Lake signed a sustainable resource co-management agreement over 10.000 sq km of their land with Quebec and Canada after years of resistance to protect the wild life from over exploitation and the forest from clear-cutting. This Trilateral agreement asserts Barriere Lake’s sovereignty, Aboriginal Title to their land and uphold their commitment to co-exist with the English and French documented in the 3-figure Wampum belt dated back to around 1760. However, to this date, neither Canada nor Quebec has honoured the agreement. The struggle to defend Barriere Lake’s sovereignty continues- The latest attempt of the Canadian government is to forcibly assimilate Barriere Lake’s customary governance system using an archaic and rarely invoked piece of Indian Act legislation – Section 74. Tony Wawatie, a community spokesperson from the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake, will be here to share the oral history of his people, their treaty relationship with Canada and their strength to protect their land and culture in the midst of Canada’s assimilation policy.
Ben Powless is a Mohawk citizen and recent graduate from Carleton University in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies. He currently works with the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Defenders of the Land Network with Indigenous communities across Canada and the Americas on issues related to Indigenous sovereignty, environmental justice and climate change. He has travelled to communities across Turtle Island and other parts of the world to work with Indigenous communities.
Robert (Bob) Lovelace is an adjunct Professor at Queen’s University in the Department of Global Development Studies. In 2008, Robert spent 3 ½ months as a political prisoner for his part in defending the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation homeland from uranium exploration and mining. Robert was released on appeal after a groundbreaking decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal found that Aboriginal law is an essential part of Canadian law. He has traveled in Ecuador and Bolivia, speaking with indigenous peoples about the rights of mother earth. Robert is a retired Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. He lives in the Algonquin highlands at Eel Lake in the traditional Ardoch territory where he continues to offer traditional teaching and ceremony. He was also a founding member of the Defenders of the Land network.
Marcelo Saavedra-Vargas is currently National Coordinator of the Bolivia Action Solidarity Network (www.grupoapoyo.org), President of the Group of Support for the Peoples of the Americas (GAPA), advisor to the Federation of Peasant Workers Tupaj Katari and the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of the Qullasuyo (CONAMAQ), member of the Council of Andean First Nations (CANO, www.pusinsuyu.com). and prior advisor to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of El Ecuador (CONAIE – www.conaie.org). Marcelo is currently a Professor for the Program of Aboriginal Studies, University of Ottawa and previously a researcher for the North-South Institute’s “Indigenous Perspectives” project.
Corvin Russell is an activist and writer living in Toronto. The major focus of his work the last several years has been Indigenous solidarity. He is one of the organizers of Defenders of the Land. Corvin is also one of the founders and organizers of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.
Krysta Williams is the Lead Youth Advocate for the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and is an Indigenous Feminist and Turtle clan from Moravian of the Thames First Nation. She is a traditional singer and drummer, learning songs and teachings from the many amazing women in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. She has a degree in Psychology and Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Waterloo. She is currently a member of the Canadians for Choice Toronto Action Committee. She is passionate about food justice, Indigenous self-determination and healing our relationship with the land.
Russell Diabo is a member of the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake, Quebec, and also works as an Advisor to the Algonquins of Barrier Lake. He was a founding member of the Defenders of the Land Network, also bringing his experience as editor of the First Nations Strategic Bulletin.
Indigenous Sovereignty Week is organized by: Defenders of the Land; Indigenous Environmental Network; Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa (IPSMO); Bolivia Action Solidarity Network; MiningWatch; Project of Heart; Public Service Alliance of Canada
Sponsored by: Canadian Union of Public Employees; Public Service Alliance of Canada; Canadian Union of Postal Workers; OPIRG/GRIPO-Ottawa; PSAC NCR Aboriginal Action Circle; PSAC National Women’s Department; CUPE Local 4600 (at Carleton University); Carleton University Graduate Students Association; PROMdemonium Fund; Canada Council for the Arts
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.
Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121
Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923
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
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.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
The UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
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.
Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121
Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923
To arrange interviews you can also email : email@example.com
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.
Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121
Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923
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
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