Press Release: Support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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

At 10 am, on Tuesday January 24, Barriere Lake Algonquins and allies will rally in front of the Crown and First Nations leaderships’ meeting at the old Ottawa City Hall. 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.

Barriere Lake’s Customary Governance Code is recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. By 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 — The Harper government is violating the Canadian Constitution, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.

“Even after the Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued an apology on behalf of Canadians to former students of the Indian Residential Schools in 2008, the Canadian government has continuously failed to reverse their colonial relationship with our community. Revoking Section 74 of the Indian Act in our community and respecting our customary leadership is the only way to send a positive message on their sincerity to reset our nation-to-nation relationship between First Nations and Canada across the country.” said Norm Matchewan, a youth community spokesperson.

At 10 am, on Tuesday January 24 as the Crown and First Nations leaderships gather at the old Ottawa City Hall, Barriere Lake Algonquins and our allies will rally in front of the meeting place to demand the Canadian government:


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For further information and interview:

Norm Matchewan, Barriere Lake Community spokesperson: 819-334-0047

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

For more information:

Press release: Barriere Lake governance


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Canada seeks to unconstitutionally abolish Algonquin’s customary government to avoid honouring agreements and recognizing legitimate leadership

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory:– On Friday, October 30, 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 a section of the Indian Act that would abolish the customary method they use to select their leaders.

The attempt at assimilation would be a violation of Barriere Lake’s constitutionally-protected Aboriginal right to their customary system of government.

“The Canadian government doesn’t want to deal with our Customary Chief and Council because we are demanding that the federal and Quebec governments implement agreements they signed with us regarding the exploitation of our lands and resources. So rather than recognize me, they want to do away with our customary system of government by which I was selected,” says Jean Maurice Matchewan, Customary Chief of Barriere Lake. “And while they are not recognizing our community’s legitimate leadership, Quebec has been taking advantage by illegally allowing forestry companies to clear-cut our forests in violation of our Trilateral agreement.”

Documents released under court-order indicate the Government of Canada was invested in quashing the precedent-setting Trilateral agreement, signed with Barriere Lake in 1991, and undermining Barriere Lake’s legitimate Customary Chief and Council.[1]

Jean Maurice Matchewan was reselected as Customary Chief on June 24, 2009, but the Government of Canada has refused to answer six consecutive letters sent by Barriere Lake’s lawyers, the last on Thursday, October 29, requesting that the Government recognize this result. The June leadership selection process was facilitated by Keith Penner, a former Member of Parliament who chaired the Special Parliamentary Committee on Indian Self-Government in 1983 that culminated in the historic Penner Report on Indian First Nations Self-Government. Penner concluded that Matchewan and his Council “followed and adhered to in each and every respect” Barriere Lake’s Customary Governance Code and are the “the legitimate and properly constituted leaders,” a result which should clear up confusion about the identity of Barriere Lake’s legitimate Customary Chief and Council.[2]

At a Federal Court hearing on September 24, 2009, Prothontary Tabib urged the Minister, in light of the new leadership selection, to withdraw his recognition of Casey Ratt, whom the Minister has been dealing with as Chief since March 2008.  This could allow the claims to leadership to be resolved through the Courts. Rather than recognize the June leadership selection or take direction from the Courts. Minister Strahl has decided to impose elections on Barriere Lake, alleging the community is “lacking the political will and the governance tools to resolve this matter” of their leadership selection.

“We already have a Customary Governance Code, which would work well if it were not for the internal interference of the Government of Canada. First the Government of Canada recognized and worked with a minority faction which didn’t respect our Customary Governance Code, in order to derail our signed agreements. Now that we have the Government backed into a corner because of our legal challenges and the recent leadership selection process, which was documented by credible witnesses, they are trying to win some more time by attacking our customs,” says Customary Chief Matchewan.

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. But Barriere Lake’s Customary governance code is recognized and affirmed by Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, and the Minister is therefore prevented from changing their customary system of government.

Barriere Lake wants Canada and Quebec to uphold signed agreements dating back to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a landmark sustainable development and resource co-management agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission since 2001. Quebec signed a complementary Bilateral Agreement in 1998, but has stalled implementation despite the 2006 recommendations of two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln, that the agreement be implemented. The 2006 recommendations include forest plans to harmonize logging operations with the Algonquin’s land use and revenue-sharing to give the Algonquins a $1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out of their territory every year.

The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, a Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, continues to support Chief Matchewan.

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Media contacts:
Jean Maurice Matchewan, Customary Chief of Barriere Lake: 819-435-2136