FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHO ARE THE ALGONQUINS OF BARRIERE LAKE?
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) are a First Nation who hunt, fish, trap, and harvest on more than 10,000 square kilometers of territory north of Ottawa in what is now called Quebec. They are one of the few First Nations in Canada who still speak their traditional language and have a traditional government that is tied to their land-based existence. (Most First Nations in Canada had their traditional government replaced by the Government of Canada’s “band council” system). The community attributes the strength of their Algonquin language, their culture, and their protection of the land to the endurance of their own governance system, the Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin.
The ABL, like many indigenous people world-over, have been long been embroiled in a land struggle against their colonizers (the Canadian Government). Since 1991 this dispute hinges on a Trilateral Agreement, which both the Federal and Provincial governments have signed, but have failed to honor.
WHAT'S THE STRUGGLE ABOUT?
In short, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake are struggling to survive, and preserve their customs and way of life. This involves defending the land on which they live. Since 1991, they have been trying to get the Federal and Provincial Governments to honour the Trilateral Agreement (See below for more detail).
From an outside perspective, it can seem like a very complicated struggle. The struggle has taken many twists and turns, as the ABL have had to respond to a wide array of tactics used by the Canadian Government to try to weaken them. The ABL have written letters, blockaded the highway that runs through their land, fought for their rights in court, marched in Toronto, participated in days of action, and so on. The details of many of these actions can be learned about on this website, as they've been documented and archived.
CURRENTLY, the ABL is running a campaign against Section 74 of the Indian Act, because the most recent tactic of the Canadian Government to take control has been to impose band council elections on the community. The ABL have always had their customary government. You can read our primer about that HERE.
WHAT IS THE TRILATERAL AGREEMENT?
The Trilateral Agreement is a contract between the Federal Government (Canada), the Provincial Government (Quebec) and the ABL that deals with land use of 10 000 km2 of land traditionally inhabited and used by the ABL. It is an alternative to Canada’s preferred negotiation policy, called the "Comprehensive Land Claims." This negotiating process forces First Nations to extinguish their Aboriginal rights and title upon settlement, to give up communal land rights for private property ownership, and to shoulder expensive legal and land use mapping costs that eventually get docked from meager settlements.
The ABL rejected this Comprehensive land claims approach, and chose instead to sign a conservation plan called the Trilateral Agreement. In summary, the Trilateral agreement would see the ABL included in decision making about the land, and gain a financial return from any resource extraction or commerce on their land (logging, hydro-electric, tourism). It would see traditional Algonquin knowledge of the land integrated into how the territory might be used and conserved.
Both the provincial and federal governments have dragged their heels in implementing this agreement, going so far as to deny its legitimacy as a contract and orchestrating coups of the customary government in the ABL community, sowing internal foment. Instead, Canada has hired expensive diplomats to help strategize on how to break their own commitments. Proof of this has been made clear by a report penned by one of these diplomats, Marc Perron, in Dec 2007, in which he outlined strategies to disrupt the community and take them off course from pursuing the Trilateral Agreement. The imposition of Section 74 is but another tactic to try to divide and weaken this community that has shown such strength in its struggle to defend the land.
WHAT IS BARRIERE LAKE SOLIDARITY?
BLS is a network of people from outside of Barriere Lake who are working with the community to support their struggle.
Perron Report, 2007: Top Diplomat's report to Minister laid out strategy for government subversion of Algonquin community
A Coup in Context