Saturday, June 28, 2008

Canwest: Indian Affairs official frustrated by "games" that lead to occupation, arrests.

Indian Affairs official frustrated by ``games'' that lead to occupation, arrests.
Canwest News Service
Friday, June 27, 2008
Byline: Jorge Barrera
Source: Canwest News Service

A senior official with the Department of Indian Affairs has expressed frustration with a group of Quebec Algonquins who were behind Thursday's occupation of Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's office that lead to the arrest of six people.

Pierre Nepton, Indian Affairs' Quebec associate director general, said the department would have to invoke rarely used powers to meet the demands of a group supporting the ousted chief and council of Barriere Lake, which sits about 300 kilometres north of Ottawa.

``I don't understand what game is going on around this subject,'' said Nepton, in an interview Thursday afternoon. ``It is unfortunate there is a misunderstanding in the community around leadership.''

Gatineau police arrested six people, including a minor, Thursday after a group of Algonquins from Barriere Lake and non-native activists occupied Cannon's Gatineau, Que., office. Lieut. Luc Seguin said police arrested three women, two men and one youth after they ignored requests they leave the building.

All were charged with disrupting the peace, trespassing and obstructing a police officer.

The protesters entered the office at about 11:30 a.m. in hopes of forcing the minister to intervene in a bitter leadership dispute that has plagued Barriere Lake.

Cannon's Pontiac riding includes the community.

Only two of the arrested, Jessica Thusky, 26, and a 17-year-old minor, were from Barriere Lake, said Montreal resident Courtney Kirkby, 23, who was arrested. Also arrested were Montreal residents Martin Lukacs, 24, Maya Rolbin- Ghane, 26 and independent journalist Drew Jay, 28. They belong to a group called Barriere Lake Solidarity.

The protesters want Cannon to lobby Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl to order a new leadership selection process in the community.

Nepton said the department could force a band election under little used Indian Act powers that would set aside the community's current traditional leadership selection process. However, Nepton added: ``That is not what the department wants to do. I can't remember the last time it was used (those powers).''

Long simmering tensions in the community exploded earlier this year with physical clashes after a faction long opposed to the existing traditional leadership claimed to have formed the band council.

Indian Affairs acknowledged the new government headed by Chief Casey Ratt, whose house recently burned down under suspicious circumstances.

The previous band council, led by former acting chief Benjamin Nottaway, has received the backing of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs which accused Indian Affairs of supporting a coup in the community.