Saturday, June 28, 2008

Canwest: Indian Affairs official frustrated by "games" that lead to occupation, arrests.

Indian Affairs official frustrated by ``games'' that lead to occupation, arrests.
Canwest News Service
Friday, June 27, 2008
Byline: Jorge Barrera
Source: Canwest News Service

A senior official with the Department of Indian Affairs has expressed frustration with a group of Quebec Algonquins who were behind Thursday's occupation of Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's office that lead to the arrest of six people.

Pierre Nepton, Indian Affairs' Quebec associate director general, said the department would have to invoke rarely used powers to meet the demands of a group supporting the ousted chief and council of Barriere Lake, which sits about 300 kilometres north of Ottawa.

``I don't understand what game is going on around this subject,'' said Nepton, in an interview Thursday afternoon. ``It is unfortunate there is a misunderstanding in the community around leadership.''

Gatineau police arrested six people, including a minor, Thursday after a group of Algonquins from Barriere Lake and non-native activists occupied Cannon's Gatineau, Que., office. Lieut. Luc Seguin said police arrested three women, two men and one youth after they ignored requests they leave the building.

All were charged with disrupting the peace, trespassing and obstructing a police officer.

The protesters entered the office at about 11:30 a.m. in hopes of forcing the minister to intervene in a bitter leadership dispute that has plagued Barriere Lake.

Cannon's Pontiac riding includes the community.

Only two of the arrested, Jessica Thusky, 26, and a 17-year-old minor, were from Barriere Lake, said Montreal resident Courtney Kirkby, 23, who was arrested. Also arrested were Montreal residents Martin Lukacs, 24, Maya Rolbin- Ghane, 26 and independent journalist Drew Jay, 28. They belong to a group called Barriere Lake Solidarity.

The protesters want Cannon to lobby Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl to order a new leadership selection process in the community.

Nepton said the department could force a band election under little used Indian Act powers that would set aside the community's current traditional leadership selection process. However, Nepton added: ``That is not what the department wants to do. I can't remember the last time it was used (those powers).''

Long simmering tensions in the community exploded earlier this year with physical clashes after a faction long opposed to the existing traditional leadership claimed to have formed the band council.

Indian Affairs acknowledged the new government headed by Chief Casey Ratt, whose house recently burned down under suspicious circumstances.

The previous band council, led by former acting chief Benjamin Nottaway, has received the backing of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs which accused Indian Affairs of supporting a coup in the community.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

LEGITIMATE LEADERSHIP RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS OF ARSON

For IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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.”

- 30 -

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

Michel Thusky, Spokesperson (819) 435-2171

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Globe & Mail: Government-imposed chief's house burns downs

www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ story/LAC.20080604.BARRIERE04/TPStory/National

The Globe & Mail finally deigned to report on the situation in Barriere Lake, after a hiatus of several months. They weren't interested in the government orchestrated coup d'etat of March, nor the several protests conducted by the community in the ensuing months. But a fire, that's sensational!

Bill Curry has written previously about Barriere Lake, one article about Barriere Lake's short-lived camp-out on Parliament Hill in the summer of 2007, and another about the school closing in the community. The first was decent, but the second uncritically accepted the government's description of events, assuming that their "intervention" in the community was well-intentioned. But there are mounds of legal evidence, freely available on our website, accessible to Curry, that conclusivly demonstrate otherwise. Curry has also yet to visit the reservation.

This latest article, however, is quite bad. There's nothing like an alleged arson, as well as allegations of band "corruption," to stoke the usual prejudices about natives, in a story mostly devoid of the necessary political context.



BARRIERE LAKE RESERVE
Arson suspected after fire levels native chief's house

BILL CURRY

June 4, 2008

OTTAWA -- Quebec police are launching a criminal investigation into a suspected arson on the Barriere Lake reserve after the house of a native chief went up in flames over the weekend.

Police say investigators discovered flammable liquid at the scene, leading them to suspect criminal activity.

The possibility of arson raises the stakes in a bitter leadership dispute that has divided this impoverished Quebec Algonquin community 300 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

["Divided" gives the impression of an balanced split; but the deposed Chief and Council are supported by a large majority. Even if Curry didn't have time to visit the reservation, and make a judgement for himself, he could have read Quebec Superior Court judge Rejean Paul's report from 2007, issued at time of the last leadership "challenge." It is available on our resources section. Judge Paul labelled the faction now collaborating with the federal government a "small minority" that "clumsily followed the Customary Governance Code." There is no evidence available to indicate that the number or the lack of respect for customary procedures has changed. ]

Chief Casey Ratt, 35, lived in the small, two-bedroom home with his pregnant wife, two sons and his mother and father. They were looking for a new place to live yesterday. He says he has no doubt the fire was deliberate.

"Right now, we're not quite sure who it is, but we suspect it's the opposition," he said.

Mr. Ratt and a new council were chosen in a band procedure earlier this year.

[Calling the minority faction's leadership challenge a "band procedure" lends it a legitimacy there is no reason to believe it deserves]

The fire occurred on Sunday morning while the Ratt family was at a powwow in Maniwaki, about 200 kilometres southeast of Barriere Lake. The family had already been concerned for their safety. On the previous Tuesday evening, Mr. Ratt said he was watching television with his mother and four-year-old son when vandals smashed his bedroom window and fled.

"The whole window just shattered," he said.

Mr. Ratt and the new members of council say they organized their bid to replace the previous chief and council in January as a group of concerned parents taking a stand against what they saw as a corrupt traditional leadership. Frustrated by alleged mismanagement of the local school and band finances, they called a special community meeting to trigger a provision of the band's leadership code for replacing the chief and council.

["Corrupt native leadership" just sets bells ringing in the minds of Canadians systematically mis-educated by mainstream journalism. A responsible journalist might seek out a smidgen of evidence for this allegation, or at the least ask Mr. Ratt what he means. But when the subject is the alleged corruption of native leadership, well, you don't really need evidence. If Curry had done some digging, he might also have discovered that there is no "provision" that the community can trigger to replace the chief and council; there is, however, a mechanism that can be triggered for a leadership review by Barriere Lake's Elder's Council. In this case, there had been no consensus amongst the Elders about the need for such review (this can be read about in the legal challenge on our resources pages).]

The previous chief and council, led by Benjamin Nottaway, say the meeting was not legitimate and insist they are still in charge. The umbrella regional native group, the Algonquin Nation Secretariat, continues to support Mr. Nottaway as chief.

Mr. Nottaway said yesterday he doubts the fire was deliberate, but if it was, Mr. Ratt's supporters did it to win public support.

"If they're calling it arson, they have the money to pay their own supporters to go burn his own house down," he said. "Us, we're broke. Why would we be doing that?"

Mr. Nottaway and his supporters say Mr. Ratt has been imposed on the community by non-native outsiders because his administration has been too vocal in fighting for a cut of Quebec's natural resources. The reserve used to have its own police force, but Barriere Lake was recently placed under third-party management because of long-standing federal concerns about the way it was run.

[Long-standing federal concerns about the way the community is run is a by-word for: the government is upset that the Algonquins of Barriere Lake will not take an assault on their rights sitting down]

The old chief and council accuse the Quebec and federal governments of using the provincial police to impose a less confrontational chief, claiming that only 30 or 40 people attended the meeting at which the new chief and council were selected, and most of those were band members who don't live on the reserve.

[This happens to be the key to the issue – naturally, the G & M relegates it to the bottom of the article. The number of 30 or 40 is probably accurate, but the only reason we don't know for sure is because the federal government refuses to reveal the report filed by a Maniwaki social worker who observed the process, and which provided the information that the government claims justified the leadership change.]

Monday, June 2, 2008

Media Coverage of May 23rd DEMO

Video, APTN, National News Prime Time (Friday, 23 May 2008):


Canadian Press, "Algonquins at Barriere Lake, Que., suspend logging operations" (Friday, 23 May 2008)

Algonquins at Barriere Lake, Que., suspend logging operations
Written by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Friday, 23 May 2008


MONTREAL - As aboriginals across Canada prepare for a so-called "National Day of Action" next week, Algonquins from Barriere Lake have taken their own protest to Montreal.

About a dozen members of the community located five hours north of Montreal staged a noon-hour protest in front of Quebec Premier Jean Charest's downtown office.

The Barriere Lake caravan was passing through the city on its way to Toronto and Ottawa where the natives plan to join a huge demonstration next Thursday.

Under the watchful eye of officers in two police cruisers, the protesters told supporters they were unhappy with the attitude of both governments.

Spokesman Michel Thusky says Canada walked away from a trilateral natural resources management agreement in 2001 and Quebec has been sitting on it for 22 months.

Thusky says until the agreement is settled, forestry operations on the territory by logging companies will not be tolerated.

He also complains that Ottawa has ousted the customary chief and council and illegally appointed a small faction as the leadership.

Thusky says he was arrested twice by provincial police in 1995 and again last March during protests in the native community.


Brantford Expositor, “Algonquins take protest to Montreal (Friday, 23 May, 2008):

Algonquins take protest to Montreal
Updated 9 days ago


As aboriginals across Canada prepare for a so-called "National Day of Action'' next week, Algonquins from Barriere Lake have taken their own protest to Montreal.

About a dozen members of the community located five hours north of Montreal staged a noon-hour protest in front of Quebec Premier Jean Charest's downtown office.

The Barriere Lake caravan was passing through the city on its way to Toronto and Ottawa where the natives plan to join a huge demonstration next Thursday.

Under the watchful eye of officers in two police cruisers, the protesters told supporters they were unhappy with the attitude of both governments.

Spokesman Michel Thusky says Canada walked away from a trilateral natural resources management agreement in 2001 and Quebec has been sitting on it for 22 months.

Thusky says until the agreement is settled, forestry operations on the territory by logging companies will not be tolerated.

He also complains that Ottawa has ousted the customary chief and council and illegally appointed a small faction as the leadership.

Thusky says he was arrested twice by provincial police in 1995 and again last March during protests in the native community.

Montreal Hour, “Broken Promises lead to Montreal Promise” (May 22, 2008):



May 22nd, 2008
Broken promises lead to Montreal protest


Algonquin action in Montreal
Stefan Christoff


Algonquin protest broken promises

In Quebec, the Algonquin community of Barrière Lake, located about five hours north of Montreal, is currently engaged in a protracted struggle with both the provincial and federal governments. In 1991, a trilateral agreement was signed between Canada, Quebec and the Barrière Lake local council, a co-management and sustainable development agreement that included protections for Algonquin land use, as well as a plan to conserve the local forest and wildlife.

"This agreement sets a precedent for relations between First Nations communities and the government in that the community would have a decisive say on the way that their territories were used," explains Martin Lukacs from the Barrière Lake Solidarity committee in Montreal. "Also, this agreement would mean that the community would be given their share of the revenue from the logging industry and resource extraction done on their land."

Canada, as represented by the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, unilaterally walked away from this agreement in 2001. The Quebec government has also reneged. The dispute surrounding the groundbreaking 1991 agreement stems from the share of profit revenues from natural resources harvested within the 10,000 square kilometres that the agreement spells out. Today, industrial logging continues within the territory as the small community is stepping up both a grassroots protest campaign
with allies across Canada and legal efforts to address Canada's failure to recognize the binding contract.

Representatives from Barrière Lake will be travelling to Montreal to stage a protest with supporters outside the offices of Jean Charest on Friday, May 23, at noon at the corner of McGill College and Sherbrooke Street.

--

Montreal Mirror, “Algonquins Roll In” (May 22, 2008):

Algonquins roll in

Back in 1991, the small Algonquin community of Barriere Lake, five hours north of Montreal, signed a pioneering resource co-management and sustainable development agreement with Canada and Quebec. The agreement was designed to protect Algonquin land uses, conserve the forest and wildlife, and give the indigenous community a share in resource revenue from the logging and hydro projects on their territories.

“It was a precedent-setting agreement,” says Martin Lukacs of the Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective, “and because of that, the government is afraid to honour it. In 2001 the Canadian government walked away from the agreement while Quebec has been delaying its implementation for years. In the meantime, the Department of Indian Affairs has ousted the Customary Chief and Council and, in its place, illegally appointed a small faction that lacks legitimacy in the community. It’s outrageous, and it’s all because they don’t want to share resource revenue with the impoverished Algonquins, revenue that represents $100-million a year.”

The Barriere Lake Caravan will protest outside of Jean Charest’s office (McGill College at Sherbrooke) at noon, Friday, May 23.

For more information, go to barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com.

by CHRIS BARRY



CKUT 90.3FM, Solidarity with Barriere Lake (May 20, 2008):

An Interview with Martin Lukacs of Barriere Lake Solidarity and Russell
Diabo, Policy Advisor to Barriere Lake

For twenty difficult years, the small Algonquin community of Barriere
Lake, 5 hours north of Montreal, has been struggling to hold the
government to their word. In 1991, they signed a pioneering resource
co-management and sustainable development agreement with Canada and Quebec
to protect Algonquin land uses, to conserve the forest and wildlife, and
to give them a share in the resource revenue from the logging and hydro
projects on their traditional territories.

The Canadian government walked away from the agreement in 2001. And the
Quebec government has sat on recommendations for implementing its side of
the agreement since 2006. Instead of fulfilling their obligations, the
Federal Department of Indian Affairs, with the support of the Quebec
government, has been playing divide and rule in Barriere Lake, wreaking
havoc in the community by ousting the Customary Chief and Council and
illegally appointing a small faction as the leadership.

For more information contact:
http://barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com
For more information about the tuesday morning after contact: news@ckut.ca
http://mostafah.wordpress.com