Saturday, October 6, 2007
Contact: Joel Klassen (613) 331-0969 (English & French);
Christine Downing 647-296-0969 (English)
Christian Peacemaker Teams sends human rights observer team to Barriere Lake Algonquin Territory
Rapid Lake, Quebec: – Christian Peacemaker Teams Canada has established a human rights observer presence this morning at a peaceful blockade erected by Algonquins of Barriere Lake and supporters on Highway 117 between Maniwaki and Val D'Or, Québec, three hours north of Ottawa. Christian Peacemaker Teams will be monitoring the blockade with a hope to reduce the potential for violence by the Sureté du Québec police patrolling the region.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake signed a Trilateral Agreement with the federal and Québec governments in 1991 to share resources derived from their traditional territories. Since then the federal government has refused to implement the agreement, has undermined local governance practices on several occasions, and cut off much needed funding to the community. The level of poverty in the community is very high in a territory from which scores of millions of dollars of resources are extracted annually, and from which the community does not benefit. Among other things, the Algonquins are calling on the government to honour the Trilateral Agreement.
Carolyn Hudson, a CPTer at the blockade observed, "more and more First Nations, Metis and Innu people are taking non-violent direct actions and saying, Enough! Governments must take heed, listen with respect, and honour past agreements and obligations. It seems "the powers that be" only listen when they are inconvenienced. Let's hope this peaceful blockade, this inconvenience, will have positive results."
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Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Block the Empire-Montreal
Brampton Coalition for Peace and Justice
Building Bridges Human Rights Project-Vancouver
Comité de Solidarité avec les Indiens des Amériques-Nitassinan
Collectif pour L'Autonomie du Peuple Mapuche
Le Collectif Opposé à la Brutalité Policière (COBP)
Edmonton Small Press Association
Flemish Centre for Indigenous Peoples
Haiti Action Montreal
Indonesia Fisherfolk Union / Serikat Nelayan Indonesia
Industrial Workers of the World–Vancouver
Kichesipirini Algonquin First Nation
Latin America Connexions
No One is Illegal Kingston
No One is Illegal Montreal
No One is Illegal Ottawa
No One is Illegal Vancouver
Olympic Resistance Network
Peterborough Coalition Against Poverty
Solidarity Across Borders-Montreal
Sierra Youth Coalition
I have known people in Barriere Lake since the late 1980s. I have written
extensively about them, and filmed them for a National Film Board film. I
have found them down-to-earth people with a real attachment to the land, an
attachment that they have continued even when pushed up against
extraordinary interference and provocation by governments and businesses. I
have found many of them to be repositories of the ancient bush wisdom of
When the original split occurred within the community I was in the position
of knowing, liking and admiring people on both sides of the argument.
What dismayed me was the evident determination of the federal government to
seize the initiative by embarking on their customary divide-and-rule
Their decision to replace the original band council with a council made up
of dissidents was, in my view, inexcusable. But then, who could have been
surprised? The decisions to rob Barriere Lake of its traditional hunting
grounds; the decision to jam Barriere Lake people into the 59 acres of Rapid
Lake; the many failed programmes, programmed to fail, as far as I could
judge; the manifest bad faith of the federal government in its negotiations
over the Trilateral Agreement: all of these were inexcusable, so the later
decision to intervene in the governance of Barriere Lake was no more than a
continuation of the many years of neglect, misunderstanding and arrogance in
relation to Barriere Lake that the federal government showed.
In fact, the history of Barriere Lake since Europeans first arrived among
them could stand as a template for the experience of Aboriginal people in
Canada --- theirs has been a history of hardship, promises and betrayals.
Is this the best that these people can expect in the way of governance? Is
this the best they can hope for in the way of financial and moral support
from the federal government, the government constitutionally responsible for
the care of these people?
Barriere Lake suffers from being remote from the cities; it is difficult for
them to get a real hearing in the cities. And the fact that they are poor,
in addition, puts them into the category of voiceless people occupying the
bottom rung of Canadian society.
I heartily support the actions of Barriere Lake as they struggle to keep
their heads above water, and battle to get the governments to fulfill the
many promises that have been made to them over recent decades.
I am familiar with this community and can tell you that the traditional land users have been working hard for the last 15-20 years to do excellent research to protect the ecological biodiversity of their traditional territory, which they continue to use. They have taken special measures to negotiate with the federal and provincial government to implement their plans. That is what is at the bottom of this struggle. It is between people who are playing "Rez Politics" on DIA programs and the elected system and those who are interested in pushing their "Traditional Territory Politics" with the federal and provincial government. DIA and the province like Indigenous Peoples to focus on Rez Politics so they can have exclusive use of Territorial Lands. Limiting our views to Rez Politics is exactly what the Indian Reserve System was set up to do. This is true in this struggle, and it is also true here in British Columbia.
One thing I would like to say is that the traditional system and the Elders who speak the language and practice their culture have real strong research on their traditional land use. I would say they have the highest level of this kind of research in North America. I say this with a lot of experience traveling and seeing other places, so my support here is real. I know that out of all the tribes there is no group in a better position to defend their traditional land use values, knowledge and activities than this group of peoples. I say this so people do not get lost in the Rez Politics and miss out on the bigger picture that is driving this situation. It is an ugly mess because the federal and provincial governments do not want to give up the mutual exclusive powers they have been exercising over these people's lands. The federal and provincial governments do not want to include these indigenous peoples in decision-making regarding their traditional territories. They prefer they fight amongst themselves for DIA Programs and Services.
Look at the substance. I know that where DIA (money) and the SQ (police) give their support should set off bells. Give the traditional peoples your support.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Stephan Harper, Prime Minister
Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900
Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs & Northern Development Canada
Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Terrasses de la Chaudière, North Tower, Suite 2100
10 Wellington Street
Phone: (819) 997-0002/Fax: (819) 953-4941
E-Mail: email@example.com, Strahl.C@parl.gc.ca
Lawrence Cannon, Local Member of Parliament, Minister Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Telephone: (613) 992-5516/Fax: (613) 992-6802
Telephone: (819) 281-2626
Fax: (819) 281-2755
Jean Charest, Premier Minister, Quebec
Téléphone: 418 643-5321/Télécopieur: 418 643-3924
Benoit Pelletier, Ministre responsable des Affaires autochtones
Phone : 418 646-5950/Fax : 418 643-8730
Claude Béchard, Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune
Téléphone : 418 643-7295/Télécopieur : 418 643-4318
Line Beauchamp, Ministre du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs
Téléphone : 418 521-3911/Télécopieur : 418 643-4143
Sample Letter (to sign and fax)
Re: Algonquins of Barriere Lake
I am writing to you regarding the situation of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.
First of all, I strongly condemn the use of a police riot squad on October 6, 2008, during a peaceful protest of Algonquin families on Highway 117.
I have seen the disturbing video footage of Algonquin families, including children and elders, being tear-gassed and physically assaulted by the Quebec police for merely asking that duly signed agreements entered into with their First Nation by both the federal and Quebec governments be honoured and that they be permitted to resolve their leadership issues internally without federal interference.
This is clearly a political matter and should be resolved through the use of good faith negotiations not with a police riot squad tear-gassing and physically assaulting peacefully protesting Algonquin families.
I understand the anger and frustration of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake at the unacceptable delays in implementing the duly signed agreements with the federal and Quebec governments.
This will confirm that I fully support the following demands made by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake:
1. That the Government of Canada agree to respect the outcome of a new leadership re-selection process, with outside observers, recognize the resulting Customary Chief and Council, and cease all interference in the internal governance of Barriere Lake.
2. That the Government of Canada agree to the immediate incorporation of an Algonquin language and culture program into the primary school curriculum.
3. That the Government of Canada honour signed agreements with Barriere Lake, including the Trilateral, the Memorandum of Mutual Intent, and the Special Provisions, all of which it has illegally terminated.
4. That the Government of Canada revoke Third Party Management, which was imposed unjustly on Barriere Lake.
5. That the Province of Quebec honour signed agreements with Barriere Lake, including the 1991 Trilateral and 1998 Bilateral agreements, and adopt for implementation the Lincoln-Ciaccia joint recommendations, including $1.5 million in resource-revenue sharing.
6. That the Government of Canada and the Province of Quebec initiate a judicial inquiry into the Quebec Regional Office of the Department of Indian Affairs' treatment of Barriere Lake and other First Nations who may request to be included.
7. The Government of Quebec, in consultation with First Nations, conduct a review of the recommendations of the Ontario Ipperwash Commission for guidance towards improving Quebec-First Nation relations and improving the policing procedures of the SQ when policing First Nation communities.
I strongly encourage both of your governments to honour the signed agreements made with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and name negotiators to quickly identify and resolve the differences between the First Nation and your governments.
In closing, you can be sure I will be closely watching the Barriere Lake situation and will not accept police violence and repression as a negotiating tactic by your respective governments.
Friday, July 13, 2007
In March 2008, the Minister of Indian Affairs recognized a small, minority-faction of the community as leaders over the customarily selected council because, as documents now confirm, this minority faction would be less assertive than Barriere Lake’s customary council about implementing their historic Trilateral agreement (see: http://www.dominionpaper.ca/articles/2560).
The selection was held on the ABL's traditional summer settlement, called Barriere Lake, about 50 km to the north of the reserve of Rapid Lake. Many families continue to use this area as the base for their hunting, trapping, and fishing, in both the winter and summer seasons. As Norman Matchewan put it at the end of the day, "This is where everything begins for us.”
Benjamin Nottaway, Barriere Lake's Acting Customary Chief from 2008 to 2009, and his council had been pushing for a leadership reselection process since early last summer. Nottaway and the Tribal Council argued that if Ratt were confident that he in fact had the majority of the community's support, he should go ahead and have it confirmed by a reselection. Nottaway had always promised to abide by such a result. Despite the best efforts of the Elder's Council and Nottaway's, they have not been able to persuade the Casey Ratt-led minority faction to participate in this process. The Ratt Council has consistently refused to participate and most recently, their lawyer Michael Swinwood, tried to motion for an injunctive release, essentially trying to block the Elder's Council in the community from actually convening meetings to discuss the leadership reconciliation or reselection.
The Nottaway-led group suspended the leadership reselection process last month and tried to involve the Ratt group in a reconciliation process, but these efforts have also failed. The Ratt Council had been given opportunity to select a co-facilitator, but either stalled or refused to do so, so the community finally re-set their date and proceeded with the process without them.
So, on that bright, beautiful day in June, with more than 100 eligible people in attendance – to be eligible to participate one must be over 18, live on the traditional territory of Barriere Lake, and have connection to and knowledge of the land - the Elders' Council chose Jean-Maurice Matchewan as Customary Chief of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. Matchewan led the community's struggles in the 1980s and '90s, overseeing the signing of the Trilateral Agreement.
Click here to send a message to government officals : Demand that the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have their legitimate leadership recognized.
PRESS RELEASE FROM JULY 6, 2009
Jean Maurice Matchewan Re-Selected as Customary Chief of Barriere Lake: New Council Vows to Defend Rights & Seek Implementation of Agreements with Canada & Quebec
(Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / July 6, 2009) – On June 24, 2009, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, a small community in northwestern Quebec that has won a national profile for its defence of its land rights, re-selected Jean Maurice Matchewan as Customary Chief. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake expect this result to settle the issue of who is the legitimate Chief and Council, after suffering through the government of Canada's meddling in their internal customary governance.
More than a hundred eligible members present confirmed their re-selection in a a leadership assembly at their traditional settlement at Barriere Lake, with several outside observers in attendance, including David Bleakney of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Algonquin Nation Secretariat Grand Chief Norman Young and Chief Harry St. Denis of Wolf Lake First Nation.
The Barriere Lake customary 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 resulted in the historic Penner Report. which advocated constitutionally-recognized Aboriginal self-government. Mr. Penner now operates DisputeRes, a conflict resolution company in Ottawa.
Mr. Penner prepared a Facilitation Report documenting the Barriere Lake leadership selection process, which the Barriere Lake Elder's Council has submitted along with the Elders confirmation of the outcome to the governments of Canada and Quebec.
Long-Time Custom Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan stated today “our people are determined that they will stand together to defend our rights and convince the federal and Quebec governments to implement the Agreements they have signed with our First Nation. I have been selected along with our Customary Council, to lead the fight for justice while protecting and advancing our Aboriginal and Treaty rights.”
The mandate of the Customary Chief and Council is to enter into relations with the Crown, including the signing of treaties and agreements. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake expect the Crown governments to recognize and enter into relations with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake's duly selected leadership.
When asked what the community will do if the federal Department of Indian Affairs does not recognize the legitimate Custom Chief and Council or respect the signed agreements with the First Nation, Chief Matchewan responded “our community has decided there will no forestry activities or any new developments in our Trilateral Agreement Territory until the status of our leadership and the agreements we signed, are resolved to our community's satisfaction.”
Apart from the selection of Matchewan as Customary Chief, Benjamin Nottaway and David Wawatie were re-selected as Councillors, along with two new councillors, Eugene Nottaway and Joey Decoursay. The new Customary Chief and Council of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake are as follows:
· Jean Maurice Matchewan - Chief
· Benjamin Nottaway - Councillor
· Eugene Nottaway - Councillor
· Joey Decoursay – Councillor
· David Wawatie - Councillor
– 30 –
Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan: 819 – 435 - 2136
Grand Chief Norman Young, Algonquin Nation Secretariat: Cell: (819) 627-6869
Monday, May 14, 2007
Canada and Quebec use riot police, tear gas, and "pain compliance" on peaceful Algonquin families to avoid negotiations
*Please credit photographer, Charles Mostoller
Peaceful Algonquins arrested
Algonquin children watching police
Peaceful Algonquins and non-native supporters running from tear gas
Elder crying after police spray tear gas at Algonquins
*Please credit photographer, Dru Oja Jay
Police subject peaceful protester to 'pain compliance'
Photos of the road blockade on Highway 117 before it is dismantled by police
"Non au coup d'etat". Algonquins blockade highway 117 in northern Quebec, and promise to keep it up until the federal and provincial governments honour the agreements they signed and stop interfering with their customary government.
Algonquins and supporters blockade highway 117 in northern Quebec, and promise to keep it up until the federal and provincial governments honour the agreements they signed and stop interfering with their customary government.
"Honour your word". Algonquins blockade highway 117 in northern Quebec, and promise to keep it up until the federal and provincial governments honour the agreements they signed and stop interfering with their customary government.
FOR MORE PHOTOS OF THE PEACEFUL BLOCKADE:
Representatives of Barriere Lake Algonquins met with Lawrence Cannon after his office assistant racially slurred Norman Matchewan.
Cannon says demand for a government-appointed observer to witness a new leadership selection is "reasonable," but that he needs advising and can follow-up only after the elections. In a response to the community, published in Le Droit the following week, Cannon flips his position, refusing to play his part to right the Federal government's violation of Barriere Lake's rights. He rejects the idea of an observer, and labels the majority of the community "dissidents".
Norman Matchewan, part time police officer, elementary school teacher and youth spokesperson, is racially slurred by Conservative MP, Lawrence Cannon's personal assistant outside of the campaign office.
Algonquins of Barriere Lake and supporters seek justice from Michael Wernick, top ranking bureaucrat at Indian Affairs
*Photos taken by Charles Mostoller, please credit upon reprinting
Friday, August 8th Barriere Lake community members and supporters gathered at Deputy Minister Michael Wernick's house. After appeals to their federal representative, Minister Lawrence Cannon, and protests at the offices of Indian Affairs were ignored, the community felt they were left with no choice.
Norman Matchewan is interviewed by a ring of journalists outside of Michael Wernick's home.
Algonquins of Barriere Lake hold up posters outside of Wernick's home.
A delegation including Louisa Ratt, Norman Matchewan, and some children from Barriere Lake delivered a letter to Michael's house. The package contained a press release from the event and a letter, addressed from Grand Chief Norman Young of the Tribal Council to Indian Affairs Minister, Chuck Strahl, calling for Indian Affairs to have observers witness and respect the outcome of a new leadership selection in Barriere Lake.
As the day dragged on, Algonquins of Barriere Lake community members and supporters moved north to Gatineau and performed political street theatre in front of the Department of Indian Affairs. The scene depicts Chief Norman orchestrating a coup d'etat on Michael Wernick's territory with help from an Ontario police officer.
Occupation: Barriere Lake Algonquins in Cannon's Office
*Reprinted from the Dominion
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Where is Barriere Lake?
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake live just under 5 hours from Montreal, traveling north west. Once you leave the city limits you follow a two lane highway, the 115, that eventually narrows to one, past vacation spots like Mount Tremblant and a number of road-side stands selling poutines and cheeseburgers.
The distance between towns widens, and logging roads start trailing off the highway. Large trucks, perhaps belonging to the American multinational Domtar, stacked high with freshly shaved trees, drive towards one of the local paper mills. In the heart of one of their prime cutting zones sits the Barriere Lake reserve; created in 1961 without consultation with the small Algonquin community's customary chief and council.
The nomadic community, only a few hundred people strong, was squeezed onto 59 acres in 1961, despite having a traditional territory roughly 17,000 square kilometers large. Some houses on the reservation hold up to 18 people. The land-base is too small to accommodate new houses, and the diesel generators that currently power the community have hit maximum capacity.
The community is still waiting to be hooked up to the grid-another unfulfilled promised. Ironic-considering the millions of revenue dollars extracted from the area from the numerous hydroelectric dams.
Hydroelectricity is not the only resource extracted from the traditional territory. When logging and tourism are added to the equation, it is estimated annual revenues add up to roughly $100 million. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake do not see a cent of it. Over time a number of private companies and Crown corporations have increased the extraction of resources from the territory.
A history of protest and government repression
Over twenty years ago the unrestrained clear cut logging practices and sport hunting became too much for the community to quietly bear witness to. Protests, and later the blockading of logging roads, finally led to negotiations with the Canadian and Quebec governments.
A landmark agreement
The outcome of those negotiations was the Trilateral Agreement; an agreement based on the United Nations Brundtland Commission, with conservation and sustainable development as the main pillars. The landmark agreement promised co-management of resources and revenue sharing in the traditional territory in order to protect the Algonquin way of life while co-existing with non-native land users.
Indian Affairs attempts to scrap Trilateral Agreement
The government had other plans.
Just before the Trilateral's implementation in 2001 Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault pulled out, leaving the community with a large bill to pay for remaining research on traditional land use.
Cutting funds hasn't been the only method employed by the federal government in attempts to scrap the trilateral agreement. Since 1996, there have been three interventions in the community's leadership selection.
Round one: leadership interference
Indian Affairs imposed Third Party Management on the community, the third and most severe level of financial intervention in an Aboriginal community. Third Party Managers gain complete control of community finances.
During the 15 month period that Indian Affairs refused to recognize the Customary Chief and Council, both the minority faction Council and Third Party Management were unable to establish themselves on the Rapid Lake reserve, and instead ruled from exile in Maniwaki (150km south). Two million dollars in funding never reached Rapid Lake, programs and services were suspended, and the only school was closed.
Third Party mis-Management
For a second time Indian Affairs appointed Third Party Management. Once again, the school was shut down after parents discovered the teachers hired by Third Party Management refused to allow children to speak their Algonquin language -- a grim throw back to residential schools.
”[Cannon’s] inaction confirms that his Conservative Government's residential school apology was meaningless, because they continue violating our customs." - Michel Thusky, community spokesperson.
Ousted Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway
This past March, Indian Affairs Minister, Chuck Strahl, ousted Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway and empowered a minority faction as the new leadership. This brings the count up to three: three times now Indian Affairs has meddled in the internal governance of Barriere Lake.
The Algonquin Nation Secretariat and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs called the move a coup d'etat.
The Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, continues to recognize and work with deposed Acting Chief Nottaway and his Council.
Cannon speaks with a forked tongue
Lawrence Cannon speaking about First Nations and the Canadian government (August, Maniwaki):
“The Government of Canada is committed to honoring its lawful obligations to First Nations, recognizing that their legal rights must be respected and upheld.”
"We are demonstrating the advantages of co-operative negotiations that enable us to resolve longstanding grievances without resorting to the courts. We strongly believe in negotiated agreements that settle contentious issues in a way that is mutually acceptable and benefits all parties.”
Occupying Cannon's office
Thursday, June 26th Algonquins of Barriere Lake and some of their supporters from the Montreal-based Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective, peacefully occupied Lawrence Cannon's office.
Lawrence Cannon, is a cabinet minister, Harper's Quebec lieutenant and MP in Barriere Lake's riding of Pontiac. Protesters were calling on Cannon to use his power to ensure Indian Affairs upholds the law and oversees a leadership re-selection.
Algonquins of Barriere Lake demands
“It has been about 20 years now [since the signing of the Trilateral Agreement] -- I was eight years old when we first signed the agreement. I’m 26 years old now. I’ve been waiting; we’ve been waiting a pretty long time now for the government to honour its agreement to the Barriere Lake people.” – Jessica Thusky, one of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake arrested in the action.
See, hear, speak...
Arrested while waiting for Cannon to obey the law
Two Algonquins, one of which was a minor, and four supporters spent the evening in jail and now face three charges: obstruction of a police officer, trespassing, mischief.
"We told them we would stop disobeying the law if Cannon did so as well. It's a small act of civil disobedience to draw attention to a far greater crime." – Martin Lukacs, member of Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective.
Keeping up the pressure
"The community will pursue Cannon wherever he is publicly, and we will only stop when Cannon honours his word, and ensures his Conservative government oversees a leadership re-selection, then stops meddling in our affairs for good." – Michel Thusky.
As the community works to get Indian Affairs and the Canadian government to uphold the law and recognize the Algonquins of Barriere Lake's customary governance code, more and more of the land continues to be irreparably damaged by logging and hydroelectric companies, and unemployment rates that run around 80-90 per cent persist.