Thursday, December 25, 2008

Action Alert

NATIVE RIGHTS UNDER LOCK & KEY: Rallies to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and jailed Customary Chief Benjamin Nottaway

WEDNESDAY, January 7th, 2008, NOON
WHERE: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
Corner of Wellington and Montcalm in GATINEAU
MARCH to the Gatineau Detention Centre, 75 Rue St. Francois

THURSDAY, January 8, 2008, NOON
In front of Jean Charest's office
corner of McGill College & Sherbrooke

* Bring banners, signs, placards, noise-makers...

**Hot chocolate and snacks will be served at both rallies.

For more information, click here

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Send a letter to Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway

Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway is being held in jail for 45 days, not counting 2 weeks in pre-trial detention, for peacefully protesting on highway 117 in attempts to have Barriere Lake's signed agreements honoured and for the Canadian government to respect Barriere Lake's Customary Governance.

This is part of a larger and disturbing trend in Canada, where indigenous leadership are being jailed for standing up for their constitutionally-recognized Aboriginal rights. In Ontario, both KI6 and Bob Lovelace were jailed for peaceful protest for several months. A decision that was overturned in the court of appeal.

To send Benjamin a letter of support:

Benjamin Nottaway
Hull Detention Centre
P-6, D-3
75 Rue St. Francois
Hull, Quebec J9A 1B4

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blockade leader says he's a 'political prisoner'

December 15, 2008

Speaking from a jail cell, deposed native leader Benjamin Nottaway says he is a political prisoner, targeted for his outspoken opposition to the
governments of Canada and Quebec.

He is the latest casualty of a power struggle that has included
allegations of a political coup, fire bombings and several interventions
by riot police.

It reads like a tale ripped from the headlines of a war-torn dictatorship.
Instead, it's the story of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, a Quebec
community of 450 people three hours north of Ottawa.

Mr. Nottaway, imprisoned for 45 days for leading a highway blockade, says that although he misses his children, he is being treated with respect in jail, where fellow inmates refer to him deferentially as the "chief." But
the question of who actually is the chief of Barriere Lake is far from

Mr. Nottaway alleges that he was deposed by an ambitious group of plotters led by Casey Ratt, who launched what Nottaway supporters call an "administrative coup d'état" this year and installed themselves as the
band government.

He calls Mr. Ratt a "puppet" and a "government agent," propped up by
officials in Ottawa and Quebec City who see him as a soft touch when it
comes to defending aboriginal land title and resource rights.

Mr. Ratt laughs at these suggestions, and says there is no leadership
crisis in Barriere Lake, save for the grumblings of those who have lost
their grip on power and have enlisted non-native activists to push their
case in the news media.

He says he came to power in January after a three-month leadership review, which he launched because he was upset that Mr. Nottaway's group had closed the band school, a move he perceived as motivated by their own political aims.

"It's no good for our kids to use them as political pawns," Mr. Ratt says.
"A lot of people didn't agree with those tactics."

After Mr. Ratt was declared chief, his opponents said he had hijacked the
traditional selection process and tried to push him off the reserve. His
house burned down in suspicious circumstances, he says, as did the band

"But I'm still in the community," he says. "It's a steady struggle."

Barriere Lake does not elect leaders according to the one-member, one-vote system set out in the Indian Act, but instead uses a selection system led by a council of elders. The federal government says it has no role in adjudicating that system, but has acknowledged the election of Mr. Ratt's group and says it will conduct business with his council.

After several escalating protests against Mr. Ratt's government, the
Nottaway group blockaded Highway 117 twice in recent months. In October,
riot police were sent in by the provincial police force and were accused
of using violent tactics to disperse the protesters. In November, Mr.
Nottaway and four other prominent political opponents of Mr. Ratt were
arrested by riot police for staging another highway blockade, which they
called a tactic of last resort. They were asking the federal government to
appoint an independent observer to oversee a new leadership selection.

"When I was in court my lawyer told me, 'The Crown wants you to suffer,
they want you to feel the pain.' They asked for 12 months, but I got 45
days," Mr. Nottaway says. "I'm a political prisoner, and they know that.
It's all politically motivated."

The people of Barriere Lake have never signed a treaty with Canada, and
they say they have never received a fair share, or had a say, in the
resource revenue extracted from their traditional territory, which they
estimate at $100-million a year. For its part, the community suffers
crippling unemployment and is not connected to the power grid, so it runs
on diesel generators.

Mr. Ratt says he wants to put the power struggle behind him and work
toward finding both short- and long-term solutions for his community.

Mr. Nottaway says he can't allow the band to be led by a chief he
considers illegitimate. His goal is to see a 1991 trilateral agreement on
resource management honoured by the province and the federal government.

"The government imposed a minority faction on our community," he says.
"That's not what we want and we're never going to accept it. Even though
I'm in here, we're not going to stop fighting."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quebec judge imprisons Algonquin Chief for two months for peaceful protest: Crown asks for one year to send "clear message" to impoverished community


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quebec judge imprisons Algonquin Chief for two months for peaceful protest: Crown asks for one year to send "clear message" to impoverished community

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / - On Thursday December 4th a Quebec judge sentenced Barriere Lake Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway to forty-five days in jail, in addition to fifteen already served in pre-trial detention, for participating in peaceful blockades intended to draw attention to violations of Barriere Lake's rights by the Canadian and Quebec governments.

Barriere Lake has been demanding that Canada and Quebec honour signed agreements and that Canada appoint an observer to witness and respect the outcome of a new leadership selection in accordance with Barriere Lake's Customary Governance Code.

"It's shameful that the government of Quebec would rather throw me in jail than fulfill their legal obligations by implementing signed agreements," said Acting Chief Nottaway, a father of six who passed his twenty-eighth birthday in jail last Thursday. "Meanwhile, the Government of Canada continues to interfere in our internal affairs while trying to wash its hands of responsibility for this situation."

Nottaway was charged with three counts of mischief and breach of conditions stemming from March blockades on Barriere Lake's access road and a November blockade on highway 117 outside the community's reserve in Northern Quebec. Another blockade in October was violently dismantled by Quebec riot police, who used tear-gas on a crowd that included Elders, youth, and children. More than 40 members of the community of 450 have been charged for these actions.

"Quebec has now joined the company of Ontario, which put the leaders of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation and Ardoch Algonquin First Nation behind bars for peaceful protest. It seems like the provinces' preferred method for dealing with our rights is to use the police and the courts to punish us until we forget about them," said Marylynn Poucachiche, a community spokesperson who was arrested during the November blockade.

Crown Attorney France Deschamps asked Judge Jules Barriere for a sentence of 12 months, saying a "clear message" was required "to make sure Nottaway has no desire to do this again, and to discourage the group – because his supporters are waiting to hear what happens here." Judge Barriere noted that the Crown's request was "partly illegal," as 6 months is the maximum possible sentence for summary convictions. But he agreed with Deschamps that a prison sentence was necessary, saying it was "important to pass a clear message to the community."

"The only message the Canadian and Quebec governments are sending is that they are willing to criminalize our community and split apart our families in order to avoid implementing precedent-setting agreements and respecting our leadership customs," added Nottaway.

Barriere Lake wants Canada and Quebec to uphold signed agreements, dating back to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a landmark sustainable development and resource co-management agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Canada has been in breach of the agreement since 2001. Quebec signed a complementary Bilateral agreement in 1998, but has stalled despite the 2006 recommendations of two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln, that the agreement be implemented.

On March 10th, 2008, the Canadian government rescinded recognition of Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway and his Council and recognized individuals from a minority faction whom the Barriere Lake Elder's Council says were not selected in accordance with their Customary Governance Code. On March 2nd and 3rd, community members had set up blockades on their access road to prevent members of this minority faction from entering the reservation, anticipating the Canadian government would try to illegally interfere in Barriere Lake's internal customary governance for the third time in 12 years.

In 2007, Quebec Superior Court Judge Rejean Paul issued a report that concluded that the current faction recognized by the federal government was a "small minority" that "didn't respect the Customary Governance Code" in an alleged leadership selection in 2006 [1]. The federal government recognized this minority faction after they conducted another alleged leadership selection in January 2008, even though an observer's report the government relied on stated there was no "guarantee" that the Customary Governance Code was respected [2].

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.


Media Contacts:

Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819 – 435 – 2171

Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819 - 435 - 2113


[1], pg 26-27

[2] , pg 2





OTTAWA— Earlier this fall Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse, on behalf of First Nations in Ontario, communicated by letter to Premier Jean Charest and Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the use of force against peaceful civil protestors was contrary to the goal of reconciliation between First Nations peoples and federal and provincial governments. In addition, at a gathering of the Chiefs in Assembly in November, First Nations leadership again expressed their concern regarding the use of force against the same protestors.

On the same day that the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal of a decision earlier this year by the Ontario Court of Appeal concerning the ordered release of aboriginal leaders from jail for their actions in asserting their rights, it was reported that a First Nation leader from Barrier Lake was sentenced to a 45 day jail term for his actions for asserting the rights of his people.

"All Ontarians know that the use of force and imprisonment against First Nations people involved in the assertion of constitutional rights situations is unacceptable," says Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. "We have learned this through the Ipperwash Inquiry and its recommendations and through the court proceedings involving aboriginal leadership in Ontario. The Ontario government learned this and it appears the federal and Quebec governments must also learn this."

Regional Chief Toulouse is calling on the government of Quebec to initiate proceedings leading to the release of jailed Barriere Lake leader Benjamin Nottaway. "All governments in Canada must understand that when First Nations communities assert their rights they are acting in accordance with the Rule of Law and the application of violence and imprisonment against people trying to assert their constitutional rights is contrary to the Rule of Law," says Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse.

The Chiefs in Ontario, comprising the 133 First Nations in Ontario, is a political forum and secretariat for collective decision-making, action and advocacy.


For more information, please contact:

Harmony Rice
Chiefs of Ontario


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Marylynn Poucachiche takes on Assistant Regional Director of Indian Affairs, Pierre Nepton, on Radio Canada International's The Link (Dec 8 2008). The interview starts half way through the file and lasts for 10 minutes.
Click here to listen.