After almost a year and a half of fighting through numerous channels to have their customary government recognized, on June 24, 2009, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake held their customary governance process of leadership selection on their traditional territory in Barriere Lake.
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