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."
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 Issues:www.barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com