Wednesday, June 11, 2008



Customary Council Denies Allegations of Arson in Latest House Fire: Blames the Department of Indian Affairs for Negligence

(Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory/June 5, 2008) – Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway issued a statement today denying that he or any member of the Customary Council were responsible for the alleged arson of a house on the Rapid Lake Reserve that caught on fire last Sunday, June 1, 2008.

On behalf of the Barriere Lake Customary Council, Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway stated today, “I am confirming that neither I, or any of the members of my Council were involved in the June 1st house fire on our Reserve. We also question the independence of the SQ investigation of the fire. Our people know that the SQ has a bias against our community members. They have already displayed this bias in their selective policing methods and arrests in our community. We know the SQ are being used politically by the federal and Quebec governments to forcibly maintain a Department of Indian Affairs (DIA)-imposed minority faction who is on the payroll of the federal government and working to undermine the previous agreements our First Nation has signed with the governments of Canada and Quebec.”

Acting Chief Nottaway went on to state, “We believe the real crime here is the condition of our community housing and the 90% unemployment rate. My own house burned in 2004, because of the poor wiring. It has not been repaired because there was no insurance. My family and I have been living with my in-laws ever since then.”

Houses in Rapid Lake also burned to the ground in January and the fall of 2007. In both cases, the fire truck was not working and the DIA-imposed Third Party Manager did not pay for housing insurance. There were allegations of arson in the latter case, but again it was determined that arson was not involved. During the fire of June 1st, 2008, the fire truck was not working and there was no insurance on the house that burned. The residents have moved into an apartment they already occupied in Val d’Or, Quebec.

Acting Chief Nottaway concluded by saying, “we would feel better if the fire investigation was done by a body independent from the SQ. Because the SQ is being used as a political tool by the outside governments, the SQ has no credibility in our community. In fact, the local Fire Chief—who is under the authority of the DIA-imposed Third Party Manager—has admitted, in front of the SQ, to breaking out all of the windows of a vehicle owned by one of our community spokespersons on June 4th. The SQ in this instance had no choice but to arrest him. Under the circumstances we ask that people be careful with their allegations until we know the facts for sure through an unbiased investigation.”

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Michel Thusky, Spokesperson (819) 435-2171