Saturday, October 25, 2008



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

WED, JAN 7th: Join us in Ottawa in front of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for speeches by Barriere Lake spokespeople, Elizabeth May of the Green Party, NDP parliamentarians, representatives from the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, formerly jailed leadership from Ardoch First Nation, and others. Then march to the Hull Detention Centre, where Benjamin Nottaway, the 28-year old Acting Chief of Barriere Lake and father of six, will be spending the holidays.

THURS, JAN 8th: Join us in Montreal in front of Jean Charest's office.

* Bring banners, signs, placards, noise-makers...
**Hot chocolate and snacks will be served at both rallies.

Benjamin Nottaway, the 28-year old Customary Chief of Barriere Lake and father of six, will be spending the holidays in jail. He is a political prisoner of the governments of Quebec and Canada, who would rather jail an Indigenous leader for peaceful protest than honour landmark agreements and respect a community's customary leadership selection process.


Nottaway's imprisonment for two months is only the latest chapter in the long and difficult struggle of Barriere Lake, a small Algonquin community three hours north of Ottawa in Northern Quebec. Seeing their forests devastated by clear-cut logging, they compelled Canada and Quebec to sign an internationally praised sustainable development agreement in 1991. The agreement was intended to give them joint management of 10,000 square kilometres of their traditional territory and benefits from the resource extraction on their land – $100 million is taken annually in logging, hydro-electricity, recreational hunting and tourism, and they have never received a cent.

But the Canadian government pulled out of the binding agreement in 2001, and Quebec has stalled on its implementation since 2006, despite recommendations issued by provincial and community negotiators. To avoid their obligations under these agreements, the federal Department of Indian Affairs has repeatedly interfered in the internal governance of the community, which selects their leaders according to a customary method. In March, the Canadian government ousted Chief Nottaway and his Council and recognized a faction not supported by the community's majority and whom the Elder's Council says were not legitimately selected. Since then, Barriere Lake has mounted a campaign to have the Quebec and Canadians governments honour their agreements and for the federal government to resolve the leadership crisis by appointing an observer to witness and respect the outcome of a legitimate leadership re-selection.

Their political appeals ignored or dismissed, community members of all ages peacefully blockaded highway 117 outside their reserve in October and November. They asked for federal and provincial negotiators, but on both occasions the Canadian government washed its hands of responsibility while Quebec sent in riot squads, which brutally dismantled the blockades. In October they used tear-gas on a crowd that included Elders, youth, and children, and hospitalized a band councilor with tear-gas neck burns, and the following month they made targeted arrests of community spokespeople and Customary Chief Nottaway. More than 40 people in the community of 450 have received serious criminal charges for the peaceful political protest. (To view the video, click here.)

In court in early December, the Crown asked the provincial Judge "to send a clear message to the community," and the Judge complied. "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," said Nottaway in an interview with the Globe and Mail. "I'm a political prisoner, and they know that. It's all politically motivated." (To read the entire article click here.)

The only message the government of Canada is sending is that they are willing to play with the lives of Indigenous people to avoid implementing precedent-setting agreements.

Join Barriere Lake community members in Ottawa while they demand that the Canadian government live up to its promises, respect the Algonquin's customary government, and stop collaborating with Quebec in the criminalization of an entire community and its leadership.

Respect signed agreements! Release all First Nations political prisoners!