Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Barriere Lake Algonquins begin campaign during MP Lawrence Cannon's quest for reelection in Pontiac: question whether his broken promises make him fit to represent riding
Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory – With Stephen Harper's election call for October 14th, the Barriere Lake Algonquins will begin campaigning in the Pontiac riding to build support for their rights and to demand incumbent MP Lawrence Cannon follow through on his promises.
On March 10th, 2008, for the third time in 12 years, the Government of Canada interfered in the governance of Barriere Lake, denying the community the elementary right to choose their own leadership. The Government has rescinded recognition of the Customary Chief and Council supported by the community's majority and recognized individuals whom the Barriere Lake Elder's Council says were not selected in accordance with their Customary Governance Code. To resolve the situation, Barriere Lake has demanded that the Government of Canada send observers to witness a leadership re-selection, and in good faith recognize the outcome.
They also want the Government of Canada to uphold an internationally lauded sustainable development agreement Barriere Lake signed with Quebec and the Conservative federal government in 1991. The Government of Canada has been in breach of the agreement since 2001.
"We have written letters to Cannon, briefed his assistants, picketed at his Maniwaki constituency office, peacefully sat-in at his Buckingham office, and protested for days at his Ministry of Transport office in Ottawa," said Norman Matchewan, a spokesperson for Barriere Lake. "And yet he has not so much as answered once – which puts the lie to his promises to respect First Nations rights."
On August 9, 2007, Cannon told a crowd in Maniwaki that 'the Government of Canada is committed to honoring its lawful obligations to First Nations, recognizing that their legal rights must be respected and upheld.'
'We are demonstrating,' Cannon continued, 'the advantages of co-operative negotiations that enable us to resolve longstanding grievances without resorting to the courts. We strongly believe in negotiated agreements that settle contentious issues in a way that is mutually acceptable and benefits all parties.' 
'In fact, contrary to his public statements, Cannon would rather force us to endure hardship and go to the courts then to encourage his government to meet our reasonable demand, that they act in good faith and respect the law," said Michel Thusky, a Barriere Lake spokesperson. "As an important Cabinet member who is the representative in Barriere Lake's riding, Cannon can ensure that his government respects our leadership customs and the agreements signed with our community."
'At his office or on the campaign trail, what matters is getting our message to him,' added Marylynn Poucachiche, another Barrière Lake spokesperson.'We will hold him accountable to the people in the riding.'
Barriere Lake representatives will meet this week with the NDP, Bloc Quebecois,and Liberal candidates in the Pontiac riding, to raise awareness about the violations of their rights and to increase support for their demands.
The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, the Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, continues to recognize and work with Customary Chief Benjamin Nottaway and his Council. Across the country, more than thirty environmental and civic groups and organizations have supported Barriere Lake's demands.
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Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819-334-0411
Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake spokesperson (available 12:30-1:30pm, and after 3pm): 819-435 - 2171
Michel Thusky, Barriere Lake spokesperson (available 12-1pm, 4pm–onward): (819) 435-2171