Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Press Advisory: Conservative MP Lawrence Cannon dismisses Barriere Lake Algonquin's urgent demands until elections end; refuses to visit reserve


September 19, 2008

After Conservative MP Lawrence Cannon's personal assistant racially slurs a youth spokesperson, the Minister tells Barriere Lake Algonquins to wait until elections end to have their urgent demands addressed by his government: community representatives promise to keep pressure on him during election

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / – Conservative MP Lawrence Cannon held a short meeting today with Algonquin representatives from Barriere Lake in Low, Quebec, but youth spokesperson Norman Matchewan expressed doubts about Cannon's respect for the community.

"He said he didn't have time to ensure the federal government accepts reasonable demands we've spent years trying to reach him about – that the government honour agreements they've signed with us, stop undemocratically propping up an illegitimate Chief and Council in our community, and appoint observers to witness a leadership re-selection and respect its outcome in order to resolve the mess they've created," said Matchewan, a community teacher and part-time police officer who was the victim of racist allegations by Cannon's personal assistant on Tuesday in Maniwaki, after he questioned the Minister about the Conservative government's violations of his community's rights.[1]

"Our community is in crisis, but he refused to even think about visiting Barriere Lake to find out more about the situation," continued Matchewan. "He also said he couldn't get authorization to act as a government representative to commit to our demands, and that we would have to wait until the election was over for him to further consider them. It was ridiculous to hear Stephen Harper's Quebec lieutenant tell us that he doesn't have the power or a few hours to ensure the government honours agreements my parent's generation have waited twenty years to see implemented. We think this is simply a stalling tactic intended to control the damage the racist comments have done to his image. He probably thinks that once he's re-elected, he can ignore us just as he has done for the past two years."

Deeply dissatisfied with Cannon's follow up on the racist remarks, community representatives told Cannon that they plan to continue their campaign to make the Conservative government's mistreatment of Barriere Lake an election issue in Pontiac. Today, they also met with the Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and NDP candidates in the riding.

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Media Contacts:

Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake youth spokesperson: 819 – 435 - 2171, 819 - 334 - 0411