FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BARRIERE LAKE ALGONQUIN ACQUITTED FOR BLOCKADE CHARGES: FORESTRY COMPANY CAUGHT LYING ON THE STAND
VAL D’Or, QC – On June 5 2012, Norman Matchewan, a youth spokesperson for the First Nation of Mitchikanibiko’inik (the Algonquins of Barriere Lake), was acquitted on what community members alleged all along were politically motivated charges. Matchewan was acquitted of mischief and obstruction of justice stemming from a 2009 blockade protecting his people’s territory from illegal logging.
Matchewan was defending the forest from logging that had been unlawfully authorized by Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources. The logging was also a violation of a 1991 resource co-management agreement signed in 1991 between Barriere Lake, Quebec and Canada.
“Too many native peoples are criminalized for defending their land,” said Matchewan following the acquittal, “Today is a big victory for our community. We will not be intimidated by trumped up legal charges and court battles. We will always protect our land and custom for our future generations.”
Yves Paquette of AbitibiBowater, the forestry company behind the cutting, incriminated himself by repeatedly lying during his cross-examination. Paquette claimed that he encountered no police on the site and was not able to enter the site because the logging road was entirely blocked by the cars of the Barriere Lake community members. However, after seeing video evidence that refuted the latter claim, Paquette also admitted to speaking to two intelligence officers from the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
Vincent Larin, of the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources, admitted on the stand that logging permits were issued without any consultation by his Ministry of the family groups whose territories were being logged. Moreover, after first claiming that the cutting permits could not be altered once they were electronically signed and entered in the Ministry’s computer system, he presented the Court with a cutting permit that was substantially different than the version that had been disclosed to the defense.
“They got caught in their own lies,” said Matchewan following the trial. “The Crown’s case, in the end, was so weak that we were not even required to present a defense,” said Jared Will, the lawyer representing Matchewan at trial.
Last year, the community of Barriere Lake discovered a copper and nickel exploration project at the heart of the hunting and fishing area of several Barriere Lake families. The mineral claims, named the Rivière Doré property by Cartier Resources, were recently sold to Copper One Inc., based in Montreal. Neither the Quebec government, nor Cartier Resources had met their obligations to obtain the consent of the community before beginning work on the site.
Matchewan was a key voice in the community’s successful struggle to stop the exploration activity by Cartier Resources. Soon after he became active in the anti-mining campaign, he was issued a summons to appear in court for the logging blockade that occurred over two years earlier.
For more information, please contact: Norman Matchewan, (819) 435-2171 or his lawyer, Jared Will, (416) 835 2075.
POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE
UN ALGONQUIN DU LAC BARRIÈRE ACQUITTÉ DES ACCUSATIONS PORTÉES CONTRE LUI SUITE À UNE BARRICADE : LA COMPAGNIE FORESTIÈRE MENT À LA BARRE
Val d’Or, QC – Le 5 juin 2012, Norman Matchewan, porte-parole des jeunes de la Première Nation de Mitchikanibiko’inik (Algonquins du Lac Barrière), a été acquitté d’accusations qualifiées de motivées politiquement par des membres de la communauté. Matchewan a été acquitté de méfaits et d’entrave à la justice suite à une barricade protégeant le territoire de son peuple contre des coupes forestières illégales.
Matchewan défendait la forêt contre des coupes forestières illégalement autorisées par le Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec. Les coupes étaient aussi en violation d’un accord de co-gestion des ressources signé en 1991 entre la communauté du Lac Barrière, Québec et Ottawa.
« Trop de Premières Nations sont criminalisés pour avoir défendu leurs terres », a dit Matchewan suite au verdict d’acquittement. « Aujourd’hui est une grande victoire pour notre communauté. Nous ne nous laisserons pas intimider par des accusations légales falsifiées et des batailles juridiques. Nous protègerons notre terre et nos coutumes pour nos prochaines générations. »
Yves Paquette d’AbitibiBowater, la compagnie forestière derrière les coupes, s’est incriminé en mentant à plusieurs reprises pendant son contre-interrogatoire. Paquette soutenait qu’il n’avait rencontré aucun policier sur le site et qu’il n’avait pu y accéder parce que le chemin forestier était entièrement bloqué par les voitures des membres de la communauté du Lac Barrière. Toutefois, après avoir visionné une preuve vidéo qui démentait ses propos, Paquette a aussi admis avoir parlé à deux agents de renseignements de la Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
Vincent Larin, du Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, a admis, alors qu’il était à la barre des témoins, que les permis de coupes ont été émis sans aucune consultation de la part du ministère avec les familles dont les territoires étaient soumis aux coupes forestières. De plus, après avoir soutenu que les permis de coupes ne pouvaient être modifiés suite à leurs signatures électroniques et entrés dans le système informatique du Ministère, il a présenté à la Cour un permis de coupes substantiellement différent de la version qui avait été fournie à la défense.
« Ils se sont perdus dans leurs propres mensonges, » a dit Matchewan suite au procès. « Le dossier de la Couronne, à la fin, était si faible que nous n’avons pas eu à présenter de défense, » a dit Jared Will, l’avocat représentant Marchewan.
L’année dernière, la communauté du Lac Barrière a découvert un projet d’exploration de cuivre et de nickel au cœur de l’aire de chasse et de pêche de plusieurs familles du Lac Barrière. Les claims minéraux, nommées la Rivière Doré, propriété de Cartier Ressources, ont récemment été vendus à Copper One Inc., basé à Montréal. Ni le gouvernement du Québec ni Cartier Ressources n’ont respecté leurs obligations d’obtenir le consentement de la communauté avant de commencer à travailler sur le site.
Matchewan était une voix importante de la lutte, couronnée de succès, de la communauté contre les activités d’exploration de Cartier Ressources. Peu après sa participation active à la campagne contre l’exploitation minière, il a reçu plusieurs sommations, c’est-à-dire des ordres de comparaître en cour, en lien avec une barricade à laquelle il avait participé il y a plus de deux ans.
Pour plus d’information, veuillez contacter Norman Matchewan au 819-435-2171 ou son avocat, Jared Will, au 416-835-2075.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 20, 2011
Barriere Lake Algonquin affirm opposition to mine during Montreal company meeting: threat of mining on their land exposes failure of Quebec’s Mining Act
Montreal /– Today, community members from the Algonquin First Nation of Barriere Lake traveled to Montreal to attend the annual general meeting of Val-D’Or-based Cartier Resources Inc., where they affirmed that the overwhelming majority of their First Nation is opposed to the company’s Rivière Doré copper mining project moving forward on their traditional territory. A solidarity demonstration will happen outside of the shareholders meeting at 11:30 am at Dorchester Square, the corner of Peel and Rene-Levesque.
“The Charest government’s planned amendments to Quebec’s Mining Act do nothing to address the basic human rights violation at its core: the fact that no communities, including First Nations, have the right to give their free, prior and informed consent to a mining project,” said Norman Matchewan, a community spokesperson for Barriere Lake.
The right to free, prior and informed consent to any development is enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has been endorsed by the Canadian government.
In March, Barriere Lake community members discovered copper exploration activities on their traditional territory, south-east of Val D’Or, Quebec. The land has never been ceded by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, who hold constitutionally-protected Aboriginal title and rights at the site of the potential mine.
The land is also already covered by an agreement signed between Quebec and Canada and the First Nation in 1991. This Trilateral Agreement – a sustainable development plan for 10,000 square kilometres of Barriere Lake’s traditional territory – has been praised by the United Nations, but both Quebec and Canada have refused to implement it.
The Elders Council of Barriere Lake issued a letter to the Quebec Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife on May 2 declaring that the community will not allow any resource extraction like mining on their traditional territory until the Trilateral Agreement is implemented.
“Charest’s claim that the Mining Act amendments fit the ‘principles of sustainable development’ is totally hollow,” said Matchewan.”If the Quebec government were concerned about sustainable development, they would not allow a mining company to explore and open a mine against the wishes of a community, to engage in activities that will have negative impacts on the land, water, animals and plants that we depend on. We will not allow this mine to be built.”
The mineral exploration activities have currently stopped, after community members went to the potential mine site to request that the workers leave. The workers respected the community’s wishes.
– 30 –
Norm Matchewan, community spokesperson: 514-578-7109
For more information: www.barrierelakesolidarity.org
POUR PUBLICATION IMMÉDIATE
Vendredi le 20 mai 2011
La communauté algonquine du Lac Barrière s’oppose à un projet minier lors d’une réunion de cette compagnie à Montréal : la menace minière sur leurs terres expose l’échec de la Loi sur les mines québécoise.
Montréal/ – Aujourd’hui, des membres de la communauté autochtone algonquine du Lac Barrière se déplacent à Montréal afin de prendre part à l’assemblée générale annuelle de Cartier Resources Inc., où ils veulent exprimer l’opposition, par la grande majorité de leur communauté, au projet Rivière Doré, projet d’exploration puis d’exploitation possible de cuivre, sur leur territoire ancestral. Une manifestation de solidarité aura lieu au Carré Dorchester, au coin de Peel et René-Lévesque pendant la réunion des actionnaires de Cartier Resources Inc.
« Le gouvernement Charest planifie des amendements à la Loi sur les mines qui ne changeront en rien la violation des droits humains de base au cœur de cette loi : le fait qu’aucune communauté, incluant les Premières Nations, n’ait le droit de donner leur libre consentement préalable et éclairé à un projet» dit Norman Matchewan, a porte-parole de la communauté du Lac Barrière.
Le droit du libre consentement préalable et éclairé à tout projet de développement est au cœur de la Déclaration des Nations Unies sur les droits des peuples autochtones, qui a été avalisée par le gouvernement du Canada.
En mars, les membres de la communauté du Lac Barrière se sont rendus compte que des activités d’exploration de cuivre avaient lieu sur leur territoire ancestral, au sud-est de Val D’Or. Cette terre n’a jamais été cédée par les Algonquins du Lac Barrière, qui possèdent le titre aborigène, protégé par la Constitution, du site minier potentiel.
Cette terre fait aussi l’objet d’une entente tripartite signée par la communauté et les gouvernements du Québec et du Canada en 1991. Cette Entente trilatérale – un plan de développement durable couvrant les 10 000 km carrés du territoire ancestral du Lac Barrière – a été louangée par les Nations Unies. Toutefois, tant les gouvernements canadien que québécois ont refusé de la mettre en application.
Le conseil des Aînés du Lac Barrières ont écrit une lettre au Ministre des Ressources Naturelles et de la Faune du Québec le 2 mai déclarant que la communauté n’autoriserait aucune exploitation de ressources telle qu’un projet minier sur leur territoire ancestral tant et aussi longtemps que l’Entente trilatérale ne sera pas mise en application.
« L’affirmation de Charest, selon laquelle les amendements à la Loi sur les minutes suivent les ‘principes du développement durable’ est complètement fausse, » dit Matchewan. « Si le gouvernement du Québec était préoccupé par le développement durable, il ne permettrait pas à une compagnie minière d’explorer et d’ouvrir une mine contre la volonté d’une communauté, de se livrer à des activités qui auront un impact négatif sur la terre, l’eau, les animaux et les plantes dont nous dépendons. Nous ne permettrons pas la construction de cette mine. »
Les activités d’exploration minière sont présentement suspendues : les membres de la communauté ont demandé aux employés de quitter le site minier potentiel. Ceux-ci ont respecté la volonté de la communauté.
La manifestation de solidarité se rendra aussi en bas des bureaux de Windermere Capital et de la Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec, deux investisseurs importants de Cartier Resources Inc, afin d’encourager le désinvestissement du projet minier.
– 30 –
Contact pour les médias:
Norm Matchewan, porte-parole de la communauté: 514-578-7109
OTTAWA, traditional Algonquin territory, June 15 /CNW Telbec/ – A broad network of political parties, unions, human rights and Indigenous organizations are rallying today with the Barriere Lake Algonquins in Ottawa at 11:30 am, in front of Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl’s office at Bank and Wellington, demanding that the Government of Canada stop attempting to assimilate the community’s traditional political governance system.
Barriere Lake is one of the few First Nations in the country that have never been under the Indian Act’s electoral system, continuing to operate under a traditional political governance system that is connected to their use of the land. Despite there being a broad community consensus opposing Indian Act elections, Indian Affairs has announced they will try to impose them on August 19, 2010.
“Community members refuse to accept this unilateral and draconian attempt to wipe out the way we govern ourselves. The government is attacking our governance system because it is intimately tied to our continuing use and protection of the land. We will defend our rights and customs for the sake of our generation and the generations to come,” says Tony Wawatie, a Barriere Lake community spokesperson.
“The federal government has consistently tried to violate agreements and interfere with the internal affairs of this First Nation, all in an effort to access the natural resources of their traditional territory. Obviously, they hope to weaken this community to the point where the logging companies can take over. It is shameful,” says Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada.
Canada and Quebec are refusing to implement binding agreements dating back to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a landmark sustainable development agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Canada has been in breach of the Agreement since 2001. Quebec is violating the agreement by refusing to implement the 2006 joint recommendations of two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln. The 2006 recommendations include giving Barriere Lake a $1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out of their territory annually, and forest plans to harmonize logging operations with the Algonquin’s land use. Quebec has just issued cutting permits to logging companies in Barriere Lake’s traditional territory, while refusing to respect the terms of the Trilateral Agreement.
“We’re joining the community in demanding that the Harper government respect the inherent right of First Nations to self-determination and customary self-government,” says Denis Lemelin, National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
Representatives from the New Democratic Party and the Indigenous Environmental Network will be attending, and the demonstration is endorsed by KAIROS, Polaris, and the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement of Ottawa.
The Algonquin Nation Secretariat has also issued a press release supporting the community.
For further information: Media contacts: Norman Matchewan, community spokesperson: 514-893-8283; Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819-860-4121
Local activists to face Quebec judge over Barriere Lake Algonquin highway blockades
by Krishna E. Bera, Lori Waller, and Greg Macdougall, with files from IPSMO
On March 18th, an Ottawa resident along with a co-defendant from the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake will go to trial in a Maniwaki court on charges of obstruction of justice, mischief, and assaulting a police officer. On March 31th, three other local residents will be sentenced for similar charges. What is their grevious crime? Bringing attention to the fact that the governments of Quebec and Canada have not honoured their word.
The cases both stem from a series of peaceful highway blockades mounted in late 2008 by the Mitchikanibikok Inik (Algonquins of Barriere Lake, or ABL), a small First Nation community located 130 km north of Maniwaki, Quebec. Solidarity activists from Ontario and Quebec joined the Mitchikanibikok Inik in two successive blockades of Highway 117, which were staged to protest the provincial and federal governments’ ongoing violation of an agreement signed with ABL over a decade ago .
As Norman Matchewan, youth spokesperson for the Mitchikanibikok Inik explained in an op-ed to the Montréal Gazette: “In 1991, Barriere Lake signed a historic trilateral agreement with Canada and Quebec to sustainably develop our traditional territories – a United Nations report called the plan an environmental ‘trailblazer.’ Yet in 1996, the federal government tried to hijack the agreement by replacing our legitimate chief and council with a minority faction who let the agreement fall aside.”
The colonial pattern continued. In thirteen years of hardship and struggle from the signing of the Trilateral Agreement, it and several subsequent agreements were never fulfilled. Consequently, the Algonquins still have not seen one dime out of the $100 million extracted from their traditional territory every year by logging, hydro, and sport hunting operations. The Barriere Lake Algonquins have witnessed the continual exploitation of their lands, in violation of the Trilateral Agreement guidelines, by unsustainable extraction practices such as clearcutting. In a community where many continue to subsist off the land, this destruction of their traditional territory has directly compromised their ability to live. The exploitation of the land was coupled with strong government interference in the community’s traditional leadership selection process. Not only were the customary chief and council bypassed, but the band council was placed under third party management. Third party management constitutes the highest level of financial intervention in a community and results in a complete financial and managerial takeover. It was this that resulted in the hiring of teachers at the Barriere Lake community school who refused to allow children to speak Algonquin. This was a particularly painful throw back to the era of residential schools.
So in October 2008, after months of public education, letter writing, and visits to MPs, which prompted no response from the government, the community took the difficult decision to blockade provincial Highway 117, demanding to speak to a government representative. The blockaders were attacked within hours by police. Norman Matchewan describes the assault: “To avoid negotiations, the government allowed Monday’s peaceful blockade to be dismantled by the Sûreté du Québec, which without provocation shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of youth and elders and used severe ‘pain compliance’ to remove people clipped into lockbox barrels.”
One person was hospitalized for three days after getting shot with a tear gas canister. An Ottawa student acting in solidarity with the community characterized the government’s behaviour as a sort of warning: “Don’t fuck with us or this is what we’ll do to you”.
Unfortunately, there was still no negotiation, so the ABL erected blockades again in November 2008. This time the police response seemed deliberately appeared less violent; although community members felt clearly threatened when the police approached with teargas cannon launchers. Instead police carried out targeted arrests of community leaders, including chief Benjamin Nottaway. Arrestees were stip-searched and intimidated with what one activist called “bureaucratic violence”; an Ottawa student activist spent 24 hours in jail before being released, and an ABL community spokesperson spent five days in custody because “they couldn’t find a translator”. In all, over 40 people from the community have been arrested and charged since March 2008 and a few, including then-chief Nottaway, have served sentences in prison.
The ABL have not given up, and have no intention of surrendering aboriginal title to their land. They continue to live on the land and apply traditional management techniques where possible, preserving their language and culture, while pursuing court cases to ensure their leadership selection process is respected.
In August 2009, a 2007 private report to the federal minister of Indian Affairs was obtained under court order. The report lays out a wide-ranging set of schemes to undermine the Barriere Lake First Nation’s Customary Chief and Council and ensure that the community’s Trilateral agreement never takes on life. Couched in the language of development and progress, it demonstrates what the community has known for a long time but which the Department of Indian Affairs has always publicly denied: the federal government has refused to implement the Trilateral Agreement because it fears it would throw into question their Comprehensive Claims process, which amounts to a modern-day land grab aimed at extinguishing aboriginal title to the land. (Details on the report can be found on Barriere Lake Solidarity’s website)
In October 2009, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl sent notice to the Algonquins of Barriere Lake that he will not recognize their legitimate leadership, but instead impose elections on the community in April 2010, by invoking section 74 of the Indian Act that would abolish the customary method they use to select their leaders.
In February 2010, the ABL presented arguments in the Supreme Court of Canada defending their latest leadership selection. A couple weeks later, the court’s decision was that the selection was not held according to ABL’s customary governance code. At the time of writing, we haven’t heard from the ABL community on their legal opinion on this court decision. However, it is our opinion that the judge misinterpreted the customary governance code with inconsistent logic in his arguments, which might play a role in paving the way for the INAC to impose section 74 of the Indian Act.
Meanwhile, local activists and Barriere Lake community members are preparing for trial and/or sentencing on the charges stemming from the 2008 blockades. Support is needed in the form of presence in the courtroom and donations toward legal and research costs; if you can attend court (on March 18 and 31 in Maniwaki – rides being arranged from Ottawa) or would like to donate, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read more about the Mitchikanibikok Inik and their struggle on the websites of the following groups, or by coming to one of the meetings or events in your area:
• Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa: www.ipsmo.org
• Barriere Lake Solidarity: http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com
*Note: different versions of this article appeared on Linchpin.ca and in the local Peace and Environment News (PEN) paper
Join us to celebrate the launch of UPPING THE ANTI number eight!
Panel Discussion: Algonquins Defend the Forest
- Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake Community Spokesperson
- Martin Lukacs, Barriere Lake Solidarity Montreal
- Matt Kristjansson, Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa
Tuesday June 9, 8:00 pm
Exile Infoshop, 256 Bank Street Suite 200 (Second Floor)
Suggested Donation: $5.00; $10.00 with journal
No one turned away for lack of funds
[[[ IN THIS ISSUE ]]]
Upping the Anti number eight includes:
- Interviews with David McNally, Sam Gindin, and Leo Panitch on the economic crisis
- Interview with Deborah Gould on the legacy of ACT UP
- Interview with Helen Hudson on building sustainable movements
- John Clarke on anti-poverty organizing during the economic crisis
- Shourideh Molavi on Palestine solidarity organizing after the assault on Gaza
- Shiri Pasternak on the struggle at Barriere Lake
- Roundtable with members of the Student Liberation Action Movement (SLAM)
- Roundtable on activist study groups
and more… http://uppingtheanti.org
[[[ WHO WE ARE ]]]
UPPING THE ANTI: A JOURNAL OF THEORY AND ACTION is a radical journal published twice a year by a pan-Canadian collective of activists and organizers.
We are dedicated to publishing radical theory and analysis about struggles against capitalism, imperialism, and all forms of oppression.
In our first seven issues, we’ve published articles by and interviews with renowned activists and intellectuals, including Aijaz Ahmad, Himani Bannerji, Grace Lee Boggs, Ward Churchill, Michael Hardt, John Holloway, Sunera Thobani, and many more.
In every issue, activists and organizers reflect on the state of contemporary organizing in Canada and beyond. We publish theoretical and critical articles, interviews and roundtables. UPPING THE ANTI also includes a book review section where activists assess new writing on the Left.