Wednesday, April 30, 2008

April 30 Press Release


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Canada and Quebec's treatment of Algonquins of Barriere Lake condemned before the United Nations: governments should respect binding agreements and stop interfering in Barriere Lake's governance

Montreal, QC / – Speaking at the 7th session of the United Nation's Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Arthur Manuel, spokesperson for the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, condemned the government of Quebec and Canada for breaching binding agreements signed with Barriere Lake and for meddling with their internal governance.

In 1991 the Algonquins of Barriere Lake signed a Trilateral Agreement with the governments of Canada and Quebec, establishing a pioneering land management planning process based on the 1987 Brundtland Commission's recommendations for sustainable development and conservation, and that Indigenous Peoples have a "decisive voice" in land use decisions that affected them.

Further agreements to improve the dire socio-economic conditions in Barriere Lake were later signed. However, the governments of Canada and Quebec have regularly tried to evade their obligations and liabilities. On March 10th, 2008, for the third time in 12 years, the government of Canada interfered in the internal governance of Barriere Lake, recognizing a Chief and Council whom the Barriere Lake Elder's Council say were not selected in accordance with the community's customs.

"[It is] yet another effort to get out of the signed agreements, because of their precedent setting nature," said Arthur Manuel in his statement to the Permanent Forum. "Not only is there a flagrant disregard for Indigenous customs regarding leadership selection, but the federal government is using the Quebec police force to install the federally imposed Chief and Council, even though the majority of the people do not agree to recognize the federally imposed group as their leaders."

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake live on a 59-acre reserve 350 kilometres north of Ottawa, in moldy, overcrowded homes that have been condemned by Health Canada. Unemployment is between 80 and 90 per cent and the community relies on diesel generators for electricity. Despite these conditions, they have maintained their language, culture and customary system of government.

"I don't think it's right for any government to interfere this way," says Marylynn Poucachiche, a Barriere Lake community member. "The government should respect our traditions and customs and continue with the negotiation of the signed agreements."

"The government doesn't want to recognize the real leadership," says Michel Thusky, another community member of Barriere Lake. "They don't want to negotiate in good faith. And they're going to make the community suffer."

The Elder's Council of Barriere Lake has requested the Government of Canada observe a leadership re-selection process, according to Barriere Lake's Customary Governance Code, but the Government of Canada has refused. The Government of Canada has also refused to release information that they say justified the unilateral imposition of new leadership.

"Canadians are outraged by the actions of their government," said Django Doucet, a member of Barriere Lake Solidarity, a group working with the Algonquin community. "The government should see through on its binding agreements."

Media Contacts:

Arthur Manuel, Spokesperson, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, cell: (250) 319-0688

Michel Thusky, Barriere Lake spokesperson: (819) 435-2171

Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake spokesperson: (819) 435-2113

For Arthur Manuel's complete submission to the U.N's Permanent Forum on Indigenous

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Canada, Quebec condemned before UN re:Barriere Lake

APRIL 21 - MAY 2, 2008


Arthur Manuel, Spokesperson, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (INET)

Chairperson, Members of the Permanent Forum:
I have been asked to make this submission to the Permanent Forum and the delegates, by Elder Harry Wawatie, who is a member of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake Elders Council,

Elder Wawatie thanks you for giving me the opportunity to deliver his message on the mandate of the Permanent Forum the Millenium Development Goals and the matter of Human Rights.


• The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have a population of about 450.
• They have a 59 acre Indian Reserve that was set aside in 1962.
• The housing situation is critical, most of the 60 houses have been condemned by Health Canada for mould infestation, yet the houses are overcrowded with 8 to 18 people living in one house. Quebec’s Youth Protection Agency is refusing to allow infants to return to the community from the hospitals because of the poor housing conditions.
• The unemployment rate is about 80 to 90%.
• The federal government has mismanaged the community’s education services, one study has shown serious age-grade deficiencies under the federal administration of the school.
• The community is one of the last in Quebec who depend on diesel generators for electricity. These generators are operating at full capacity so no no houses or buildings can be added to the community grid.

Despite the poor social and economic conditions, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have maintained their language, culture and customary system of government.


Over the last 12 years the government of Canada has interfered in the internal affairs of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake three times.

In 1996-97 the Canadian government imposed an outside group as the Chief and Council. The federal government had to reverse its decision and recognize the legitimate customary Chief and Council on April 17, 1997.

In 2006, the federal government refused to recognize the legitimate Chief and Council during a new leadership selection process.

It took the intervention of a Quebec Superior Court Judge, Rejean Paul, who issued a mediation report in May 2007, confirming the legitimacy of the Customary Chief and Council, the Canadian government subsequently had to respect the community’s leadership selection.

However, on March 10, 2008, the government of Canada once again recognized a Chief and Council who according to the Barriere Lake Elders were not selected by the community in accordance with the community’s customs.

The Barriere Lake Elders’ Council has launched a court action against the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl, to have the Minister’s decision to change the Chief and Council overturned. The Department of Indian Affairs even refuses to release the information they based their decision on, to the Barriere Lake Elders. Even though the Barriere Lake Elders are responsible for overseeing leadership selection under their customs.

Not only is there a flagrant disregard for Indigenous customs regarding leadership selection, but the federal government is using the Quebec police force to install the federally imposed Chief and Council, even though the majority of the people do not agree to recognize the federally imposed group as their leaders.

The result of the federal imposition of an unaccepted Chief and Council has led to problems with the delivery of programs and services and confusion around who is the legitimate leadership.


The federal government is trying to replace the legitimate customary Chief and Council just as negotiations were to start on implementing three major precedent setting agreements the Algonquins of Barriere Lake had entered into with the governments of Canada and Quebec.

In 1991, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake convinced the governments of Canada and Quebec to sign a Trilateral Agreement establishing a pioneering land management planning process based upon the Brundtland Report’s concepts of sustainable development, conservation strategies and that Indigenous Peoples have a ‘decisive voice’ over land use decisions that affect them.

Further agreements were signed with the governments of Canada and Quebec but the governments have continued to try and to get out of their obligations and liabilities under these agreements.

Now, the Canadian government has breached Barriere Lake’s governance customs and replaced their Customary Chief and Council with a federally imposed Chief and Council, in yet another effort to get out of the signed agreements,, because of the precedent setting nature of these agreements.

In contravention of the Declaration on the Rights on Indigenous Peoples and the signed agreements with the community, the federal and provincial governments are collaborating on promoting infighting within the community while refusing to honour signed agreements, which contributes to the poor social and economic conditions in the community.

From this case and other like KI, it appears there is a pattern in Canada to remove the Indigenous Peoples from their traditional lands to allow for unfettered corporate resource access and exploitation of forests, minerals, oil & gas and hydro projects.

In conclusion, we recognize that the mandate of the Permanent Forum does not extend to mediating complaints. However, it is our submission the Permanent Forum can examine cases, such as the Barriere Lake situation.

We recommend that the Permanent Forum accelerate the timing of a meeting to determine their role in facilitating the implementation of the UNDRIP, as well as the Millenium Development goals, otherwise the human rights of Indigenous Peoples will continue to be violated by state governments hostile to the norms set out in the UNDRIP.

We also recommend that the Permanent Forum consider ways and means to look into cases like the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, where state governments violate Indigenous cutoms and break signed agreements.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Barriere Lake panel, Monday April 28

MON 28 APRIL 3-5pm :: Barriere Lake Awareness Speech and Presentation
@Montreal Urban Community Sustainment (MUCS)
When? Monday, April 28th, 3:00-5:00pm
Where? MUCS: 2000 Northcliffe, near Maisonneuve, Metro Vendome
#218 (enter by driveway at north side of building)
Wheelchair accessible

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Barriere Lake Benefit Show

*:::End-of-Conference Benefit Dance Party:::
**Sunday, April 20th - 8pm
Cagibi - 5490 St. Laurent *(northbound buses from either metro St. Laurent or Parc)
(regretfully, this venue is not wheelchair accessible)

Join us for the end-of-conference party - plenty of good tunes with guest
Montreal DJs. We'll also be celebrating the launch of the latest issue of
Praxis Journal , an independently published journal of
"student essays that are invested in, critical of, or relevant to radical

*Suggested donation is $5. Proceeds will go towards food supplies and organizing efforts at the Barriere Lake Reserve.

The 2nd Annual Study In Action, :*Linking Undergraduate Students with Community Activism
*April 17th - 20th, 2008

For more information about Barriere Lake:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake

The film The Algonquins of Barriere Lake is now up on google videos, and can be seen below.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Coup d'état in Indian Country

Coup d'état in Indian Country
>by Martin Lukacs
April 8, 2008

Marylynn Pouchachie thought the video camera her mother-in-law purchased with residential school compensation money was the perfect gift for building the family album.

But when a massive Quebec police force pepper-sprayed and billy clubbed their way through her small Algonquin community, enforcing the federal government's March 10 decision to oust the traditional Chief and Council and appoint a small faction as the leadership, she took on the new documentary subject with bitter irony.

"It's just another one of the government tactics we've had to face," said Pouchachie, while showing me film of the arrests of ten people, including her husband, for protesting the new Department of Indian Affairs-recognized Chief's return to Barriere Lake, a community of 450 three hours north of Ottawa.

The regime change has left the reservation in a political crisis, amid allegations that the government is trying to scuttle an unfulfilled co-management agreement Barriere Lake signed with Canada and Quebec nearly twenty years.

Pierre Nepton, the Associate Director of the Regional Office of Indian Affairs, stressed that he merely acknowledges the identity of Barriere Lake’s leadership, which under Indian Act provisions is selected by customary laws rather than elections. Barriere Lake had an existing Chief and Council, but in January a small faction organized a separate leadership selection process and then sought recognition from the government.

“We were satisfied by their leadership process, and we recognized the council,” said Nepton. “I want to emphasize that the decision was made by the community.”

But ousted Customary Chief Benjamin Nottaway says Nepton was aware that only a small minority supported the newly recognized leadership.

"We think the two groups are collaborating," he said. "The two sides want to cut a new deal for programs and services that ignores the previous agreements we've signed."

The trailblazing agreement

In 1961, a priest and the Quebec government negotiated Barriere Lake's 59-acre reservation, which rests on badly eroded sand near a reservoir that flooded their land decades earlier.

In the 1980s, unrestrained clear-cut logging and the depletion of game stock within Quebec's La Vérendrye Provincial Park, which covers part of the Algonquin’s traditional territories, threatened the harvesting lines where community members continue to hunt and trap.

Their initial protests were ignored, but after blockading logging roads under the leadership of their young Customary Chief, Jean-Maurice Matchewan, Canada and Quebec signed the Trilateral Agreement in 1991. A forestry co-management and sustainable development plan for 10,000 square kilometres of their traditional territories, it’s been praised by the United Nations as a "trailblazer" and recommended by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples as model for resolving resource conflicts.

The regional economy draws $100 million yearly in logging, hydro-electricity, and tourism from the surrounding land, but the Algonquin, who live in moldy, overcrowded housing without electricity from the hydro-grid, don't receive a cent.

Later agreements promised new housing, a community centre and school, and expansion of the reservation, which is too small to fit new development. But just before the Trilateral's implementation in 2001, Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault pulled out, saying the process had dragged on for too long and cost too much – despite pledges from former Ministers that they would fund it until the end.

Disputed leadership

The lack of progress on the agreement has fueled increasingly acrimonious divisions over leadership.

"I'm trying to pick up after the former council," said Casey Ratt, the new chief, who has already started negotiating an infrastructure plan with Indian Affairs officials. "They're trying to shut down everything, so they can play the victim card."

Michel Thusky, a community elder, said minor infrastructure deals only offer quick fixes and won't ensure long-term development suited to their needs.

"[The new council] is clueless, and they're being used," he said. "It's not Indian Affairs programs and services that are going to preserve and sustain our culture, language, and connection to the land."

Community members say the federal and provincial governments never liked the Trilateral agreement. If implemented, it would protect their harvest lines and areas of medicinal and spiritual importance from logging, conserve wildlife, give them a share in resource-revenue, and not require them to extinguish their Aboriginal title, precedents which native communities in Quebec and across Canada might like to follow.

During the agreement's first years, Quebec and Ottawa dragged their feet. "It is David and not Goliath who is attempting to sustain the agreement," Quebec Superior Court Judge Rheajan Paul wrote during mediation in 1993. "If one wants [the agreement] to die, one only has to shut off the funding tap."

Background to a coup

In 1996, the Department of Indian Affairs changed tack: they rescinded recognition of the Customary Chief and Council and appointed a small faction, keen on getting a piece of the logging action, as an "Interim Band Council."

Never subject to the Indian Act's electoral band council system, Barriere Lake's hereditary Chiefs and Councilors are nominated by an Elder's Council and selected in community assemblies. The community assemblies are open only to Barriere Lake adults who live on the traditional territories and maintain a connection to the land. But after the faction submitted a signed petition, Indian Affairs claimed the community's leadership customs had evolved into "selection by petition."

Barred by the community from returning to Barriere Lake, the Indian Affairs-supported leadership ruled as a "government-in-exile" in Maniwaki, 150 kilometres to the south, receiving millions from Indian Affairs while community members in Barriere Lake were deprived of funding for employment, social assistance, electricity and schooling for more than a year.

"The whole community got together, and survived on the traditional territory," said Thusky, who worries that scenario might be repeated, with a few new twists. "It was the same players then, but we didn't have the SQ [Sûreté du Québec] to deal with, so we managed to keep the government-supported band council away."

After mediation in 1997 restored the Customary Chief and Council, the community codified their customary laws into a 'Customary Governance Code' with Judge Paul, who concluded that their customs had not changed. A judicial review later revealed that Indian Affairs had instructed the small group to submit the petition.

Same old government tricks

Community members now believe Indian Affairs is up to old tricks. In 2006, Jean Maurice Matchewan was re-elected Customary Chief, but the small faction ran a parallel leadership selection, claiming to have adhered to the Customary Governance Code. Indian Affairs refused to recognize Matchewan, and then put the community under Third Party Management – which mandates that an external consultant unilaterally run the community's finances and funding – claiming it was justified by Barriere Lake's large deficit and leadership uncertainty.

The Customary Elder's Council immediately challenged the decision in federal court, arguing the deficit wouldn't exist if the money owed to Barriere Lake from the 1996 funding deprivation had been repaid as promised.

But in the yearly funding budget negotiated by the Third Party Manager and Indian Affairs in 2007, the money owed by the government was simply struck from the record.

Associate director Nepton refused to comment on the matter.

Judge Paul confirmed the legitimacy of Matchewan's Council in leadership mediation in spring 2007, calling the challengers a "small minority" who "did not respect the Customary Governance Code."

New Chief Casey Ratt insists he has majority support this time, but has refused to enter a leadership re-selection process demanded by the Elder's Council to settle the leadership division.

Indian Affairs said it plans to take the new Council off Third Party Management, something the previous leadership say was never offered to them. The new Council has also indicated it wants to quash the court case challenging the federal government for unfairly imposing Third Party Management and for breaching the Trilateral Agreement.

Meanwhile, Quebec has sat for a year-and-a-half on the recommendations for its Trilateral obligations – including implementation of the co-management regime and a $1.5 million yearly share in resource revenue. But even with Quebec's agreement, the Trilateral could only go ahead with federal co-operation.

Marylynn Pouchachie says the last weeks have taken a toll on everyone, including children, who have acted out the leadership rivalry with name-calling. "I think the government has us where they want us, fighting with each other and forgetting about the real issues," she says. "And they can then keep exploiting our land and renegotiate the outstanding issues on their terms."