Tuesday, October 28, 2008

KINGSTON: Rolling Back a Coup d'Etat on Barriere Lake Algonquin Territory


Where: Watson Rm 217, Queen's University campus

When: 5:30pm on Thursday, December 4th

What: Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake community spokesperson, and Suzanne Decoursay, a volunteer teacher from Barriere Lake, speaking in Kingston in both Algonquin and English.
Film screening: Blockade on the 117 (12 mins, 2008) [http://blip.tv/file/1391794]
* Donations encourgaed. Food and drinks available

For more information click here


KINGSTON: Rolling Back a Coup d'Etat on Barriere Lake Algonquin Territory

Where: Watson Rm 217 on Queen's University campus
When: 5:30pm on Thursday, December 4th
What: Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake community spokesperson, and Suzanne Decoursay, a volunteer teacher from Barriere Lake, speaking in Kingston in both Algonquin and English.
Film screening: Blockade on the 117 (12 mins, 2008) [http://blip.tv/file/1391794]
* Donations encourgaed. Food and drinks available

After exhausting all political avenues, on October 6th and recently on November 19th the Algonquins of Barriere Lake blockaded Highway 117 in northern Quebec. They were demanding the Canadian and Quebec governments honour their signed agreements, for co-management of their traditional territory and resource revenue sharing, and that Canada undo the coup d'etat by sending in an observer to oversee their Customary governance selection process. Both times, the community, including Elders, youth and children, were met with a brutal police responsee -- riot cops kicked, pushed, drew a handgun and used tear gas and pain compliance -- instead of negotiators. [ http://blip.tv/file/1391794 ]

On December 4th a caravan of community members and a few Montreal supporters will be hitting the road to visit First Nations communities facing similar struggles: sovereignty, Aboriginal rights and title, and defending their lands from excessive resource extraction. Kingston will be the first stop. Come join us!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

OTTAWA & MONTREAL RALLIES

*ACTION ALERT*


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

OTTAWA
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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
Click HERE FOR A MAP
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MONTREAL
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THURSDAY, January 8, 2008, NOON
In front of Jean Charest's office
corner of McGill College & Sherbrooke
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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.





BACKGROUND:

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!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Green Party supports Mitchikanibikok Inik

For Immediate Release

November 21, 2008

Montreal/-
The Green Party of Canada is calling for an investigation into the infringement of the rights of the Mitchikanibikok Inik, also known as the Algonquin of Barriere Lake, particularly their right to peaceful assembly. There have been reports this week of tear gas and police violence during a protest at this First Nation, involving a crowd which included Elders and children.

The protest was to draw attention to the failure of government to honour the 1991 Tri-lateral Agreement and the 1998 Bi-lateral agreement signed with Canada and Quebec. The recommendations of these agreements are meant to protect Algonquin land uses, including conservation of forest and wildlife, and also improve these peoples dire economic situation.

"It is not enough to apologize to Canada's First Nation's, they need help in a real way to address the continually deteriorating conditions on reserves and support to realize true self-government," said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

In 1989, Ms. May worked to help set up the office for the Trilateral Commission on behalf of this First Nation along with former MP and former Quebec Environment Minister the Honourable Clifford Lincoln. "The Algonquin of Barriere Lake have shown extraordinary patience in the face of governmental interference and foot-dragging," said Ms. May.


-30-

John Bennett
Director of Communications
Green Party of Canada
Phone: 613 562-4916 ext. 230
Cell: 613 291 6888
Fax: 613 482-4632

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pain Compliance as Indigenous Relations

Inside the Barriere Lake Algonquins' blockade of highway 117

by Dru Oja Jay

Posted originally in The Dominion

I'm perched on an embankment overlooking Highway 117, an obscure but economically important link between Montreal and northern Quebec. To look at most maps, there's nothing here, five hours north of Montreal, well out of the cottage towns and ski resorts of the Laurentians and still two hours short of the cluster of resource extraction economies around Val d'Or. I'm in the middle of a four hour stretch where most travellers could be forgiven for thinking was nothing but a few hunting lodges, logging roads and Hydro Quebec turnouts.

A girl, young enough that I have to bend down to hear what she's saying, climbs up the embankment and points at the highway.

"Look where we're colouring," she says.

I look. In the middle of the highway... read more

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ontario Chiefs to Harper, Charest

Ontario chiefs criticize Quebec police action in blockade

Jorge Barrera , Canwest News Service

http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=b85c4323-7f28-4506-985f-7e2e3fa2dd79

Published: Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Ontario chiefs organization has sent letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest condemning the actions of the Surete du Quebec for using force to clear an Algonquin blockade Monday in northern Quebec.

The letters, dated Oct. 10, calls on Ottawa and Quebec City to follow the advice of the Ipperwash Inquiry, which probed the events of a First Nations occupation in Ontario that led to the shooting death of Dudley George, a native protester shot dead by an OPP officer.

"The leadership of the First Nations of Ontario are very concerned regarding the approach taken by the Surete du Quebec against the Algonquins of Barriere Lake," said the letter, signed by Angus Toulouse, Ontario regional chief with the Chiefs of Ontario. "Resorting to aggressive police action is clearly regrettable and further does not address the root causes of this situation."

Toulouse said Ottawa and Quebec City should open talks with the poverty-stricken community of about 650, which is currently embroiled in a leadership dispute.

The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, an umbrella group that represents the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, also criticized police action in a letter to Charest dated Oct. 8.

The Algonquins said a three-year-old girl was hit by a tear-gas canister fired by police during the blockade. They also accused the police of attacking elderly demonstrators.

The SQ said police fired canisters containing a chemical irritant, not tear gas, at the crowd and that paramedics said that no one was injured.

Nine people were arrested and charged with mischief.

The blockade, set up about 300 kilometres north of Ottawa, was organized by a portion of the community in an attempt to pressure the Department of Indian Affairs into backing a new leadership selection process. The group, led by former acting chief Benjamin Nottaway, says current Chief Casey Ratt took power through a flawed process.

The community follows a traditional leadership code.

Nottaway's supporters also want Indian Affairs to honour a signed deal giving the community a say over the development of 10,000 square kilometres of their claimed territory.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Upcoming Events!

MONTREAL

Canada: A Pariah State?
Indigenous Rights in Domestic and International Law: A Lecture by Arthur Manuel


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MONDAY, November 3rd, 6:30pm
McGill Faculty of Law, Moot Court
1st floor of New Chancellor Day Hall
3644 Peel Street
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Defenders of the Land:
The Barriere Lake Struggle Continues


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TUESDAY, November 4th, 6:00pm
Native Friendship Centre
2001 St. Laurent (northeast corner of Ontario Street)
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Barriere Lake is taking back the airwaves...


The Barriere Lake Algonquin community, with support from the Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective, is in the process of starting up a 15 watt FM radio station: Mitchikinabiko’inik Nodaktcigen (Radio Barriere Lake) on the Rapid Lake Reserve. The primary aim of the project is to serve the Barriere Lake community, with the intention of strengthening autonomy, culture and traditions.

Broadcasts will be educational, cultural and primarily in the Algonquin language, which is still widely spoken in the community. Broadcasters will combine the oral tradition with radio and computer technologies to engage both elders and youth, while connecting with other Native communities from coast-to-coast.

Support Community Radio!

The community and the Barriere Lake Solidarity collective are working to raise the $3,000 needed to get the project off the ground. We are looking for donations, radios and radio station equipment. If you can give any of the aforementioned items, please email barrierelakesolidarity@gmail.com or call 514.893.8283 -- we'd love to hear from you.

Come out to our radio fundraisers.

Cinema Politica, RIDM and Barriere Lake Solidarity present:

A free film screening of NO MORE SMOKE SIGNALS (90 minutes, 2008)

* WHEN: Monday November 17 @ 7:30pm
* WHERE: Room H-110, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve
* COST: Free or by donation at the door
Click HERE for more information!

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Taking Back the Airwaves: Support Community Radio!

*WHEN: Saturday, November 29th
*WHERE: Centre for Media Alternatives - 2033 St. Laurent
*COST: $5-10 or bring a RADIO

7pm - Film Screening: A Little Bit of So Much Truth (93 minutes, 2006)

9pm - Dance Party: featuring DJ Aaron Maiden & DJ Medja


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Montreal Gazette Op-Ed

Barrière Lake Indians set up blockage as last resort
It was the only way to get governments to listen to us, Algonquins say

NORMAN MATCHEWAN, Freelance
Published: Thursday, October 09

The Barrière Lake Algonquins' decision to peacefully blockade Highway 117 was not easily made. We have always preferred co-operation to confrontation. We do not wish to disrupt the lives of Canadians. Unfortunately, it seems their governments otherwise ignore or dismiss us - or worse, treat us with contempt.

During a protest at federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon's campaign launch last month, his assistant insinuated that I was drinking. After the media scandal forced Cannon to hold a meeting we had been requesting for two years, he vilified our community's majority as "dissidents" in an op-ed in regional papers.

The government has now tried to add "criminals" to the charge. To avoid negotiations, the government allowed Monday's peaceful blockade to be dismantled by the Sûreté du Québec, which without provocation shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of youth and elders and used severe "pain compliance" to remove people clipped into lockbox barrels.

But the governments of Canada and Quebec have never been overly concerned with the rule of law in their dealings with Barrière Lake:

In 1991, Barrière Lake signed a historic trilateral agreement with Canada and Quebec to sustainably develop our traditional territories - a United Nations report called the plan an environmental "trailblazer." Yet in 1996, the federal government tried to hijack the agreement by replacing our legitimate chief and council with a minority faction who let the agreement fall aside.

We have always ruled ourselves according to custom, outside the electoral provisions of the Indian Act: Elders nominate eligible leaders who are then approved, by consensus if possible, in assemblies. Participation is open only to those who live in the community, speak our language, and have knowledge of and connection to the land. But in 1996, the Department of Indian Affairs encouraged this faction, located mainly off-reserve, to collect signatures for a petition; Indian Affairs then imposed this group on us, claiming our leadership customs had evolved into "selection by petition."

The was not the truth. In The Gazette, former provincial Liberal cabinet minister Michel Gratton issued a devastating rebuke: "This unilateral and sudden decision to dismiss and replace the existing chief and council goes against the grain of every democratic principle."

We suffered grievously for a year and a half. Although we barred the minority group from our community, they colluded with the government from Maniwaki. On the reserve, we were deprived of federal transfers for employment, education, social assistance, and electricity. We lived in the dark, educated our children as we could, and barely subsisted off bush food.

A resolution was finally achieved in 1997 by Quebec Superior Court Judge Réjean Paul and two federal facilitators, who restored our legitimate chief and council and renewed the trilateral agreement. To prevent future interference, they helped codify our leadership customs into a Customary Governance Code that the government promised to respect. This is our aboriginal right protected by the Canadian Constitution - the highest law in the land.

Even this proved little deterrent to further meddling. In 2001, the federal government pulled out of the trilateral agreement and started favouring certain community members opposed to our legitimate leadership. Paul mediated again in 2007, concluding that the opposition to our chief and council was "a small minority" whose leadership challenge "did not respect the Customary Governance Code."

But when this same minority group conducted another supposed leadership selection in January 2008, the federal government quickly recognized them. In court, we forced the government to release an observer's report they relied on: not surprisingly, the report stated there was no "guarantee" that the Customary Governance Code was respected during this selection.

Yet again, the government is throwing democratic principles to the wind by ignoring our customs and the wishes of our people. And Cannon has the audacity to call the overwhelming majority of our community members "dissidents"!

To resolve the crisis, we are prepared to participate in a new leadership selection according to our Customary Governance Code. We ask only that the federal government appoint an observer and promise to recognize the result, and that they and the province honour our agreements.

We set up the blockades Monday morning as a last resort, to inspire in the government a changed attitude. Our good faith and patience and reasonable demands have so far been rewarded by broken promises, deceit, and deplorable interventions. Is this all we can expect?

Norman Matchewan is youth spokesperson for the Algonquins in Barrière Lake, which is 130 kilometres north of Maniwaki.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Canada and Quebec use riot police, tear gas, and "pain compliance" on peaceful Algonquin families to avoid negotiations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, October, 7, 2008

Canada and Quebec use riot police, tear gas, and "pain compliance" on peaceful Algonquin families to avoid negotiations: 'pain compliance' perfect description of Conservative's aboriginal policy, say community spokespeople


*Click HERE for photos

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / - Yesterday afternoon, the Conservative government and Quebec used riot police, tear gas, and "pain compliance" techniques to end a peaceful blockade erected by Algonquin families from Barriere Lake, rather than negotiate, as requested by the community. The blockade on Highway 117 in Northern Quebec began at 6:00am Monday, with nearly a hundred community members of all ages and their supporters promising to remain until Canada's Conservative government and Quebec honoured signed agreements and Barriere Lake's leadership customs. Around 4pm, nearly sixty Quebec officers and riot police encircled families after a meal and without warning launched tear gas canisters, one of which hit a child in the chest.

"Our demands are reasonable," said Norman Matchewan, a spokesperson who was racially slurred by Minister Lawrence Cannon's assistant earlier in the election. "We're only asking for the government to uphold the agreements they've signed and to stop illegally interfering in our customary governance. The message we've received today is that Stephen Harper and Jean Charest are unwilling to even play by their rules."

"We will not tolerate these brutal violations of our rights," added Matchewan. "Forestry operations will not be allowed on our Trilateral agreement territory, and we will be doing more non-violent direct action."

Nine people, including an elderly women, a pregnant woman, and two minors, were roughly arrested. While a line of police obscured the view of human rights observers from Christian Peacemaker Teams, officers used severe "pain compliance" techniques on protestors who had secured themselves to concrete-filled barrels, twisting arms, dislocating jaws, leaving them with bruised faces and trouble swallowing.

"In this election alone, the Conservatives have labelled us alcoholics and vilified our community's majority as "dissidents," said Michel Thusky, another community spokesperson, referring to an op-ed published by Minister Lawrence Cannon in regional newspapers. "Now they and Quebec have chosen violence over meeting their most basic obligations to our community. 'Pain compliance' is the perfect description of the Conservative government's aboriginal policies."

Barriere Lake community members had promised to maintain the blockade until the Government of Canada honoured 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. To end federal interference in their leadership customs, they wanted the Government of Canada to appoint observers to witness a leadership reselection according to their codified customary selection code, respect its outcome, and then cease interfering in their internal governance.

- 30 -
Media Contacts:

Michel Thusky, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819 - 435 - 2171

Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake spokesperson : 514 - 831 - 6902

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quebec police threaten to mass arrest peaceful Algonquin road blockaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, October 6, 2008

Quebec police threaten to mass arrest peaceful Algonquin road blockaders: Community determined to maintain blockade until Canada and Quebec honour their agreements and respect leadership customs

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / - Families from the Barriere Lake First Nation in Northern Quebec set up a peaceful blockade at 6:00 am this morning, promising to maintain it until Canada and Quebec respect and implement widely praised agreements, and Canada appoints an observer to witness a leadership reselection in the community, and respects its outcome.

"We maintained a peaceful presence all day, but Canada and Quebec would now rather have the Quebec police arrest youth, elders and mothers, than deal in good faith with our community," said Norman Matchewan, a youth spokesperson, from the site of the blockade, as riot police from Montreal prepared to make arrests.

- 30 -

Media Contacts:

Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake spokesperson : 647 - 227 - 6696, 514 - 831 - 6902

Michel Thusky, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819 - 435 - 2171

For more information: www.barrierelakesolidarity.blogspot.com

Barriere Lake Algonquins peacefully blockade highway 117: Community loses patience with broken agreements and coup d'etat on Algonquin territory

Brief description: After exhausting all political avenues, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and many non-native supporters have just blockaded highway 117. They will maintain the peaceful blockade until both the Canadian and Quebec governments honour their signed agreements that would allow co-management of their traditional territory and resource revenue sharing, and until Canada respects their leadership customs by appointing an observer to witness a leadership selection in accordance with their Customary Governance, and in good faith recognize the outcome.

MEDIA ADVISORY: Christian Peacemaker Teams sends human rights observer team to Barriere Lake Algonquin Territory

*On this page you will find: a link to photos of the action, quotes, media contacts, background resources, and the press release


Up-to-date photos of the blockade are available HERE


Quotes from Barriere Lake Algonquin Spokespeople:


Michel Thusky, community spokesperson: "To avoid their obligations, the federal government has deliberately violated our leadership customs by ousting our Customary Chief and Council. In what amounts to a coup d'etat, they are recognizing a Chief and Council rejected by a community majority. The Quebec government is cooperating with the federal government too because they are using the leadership issue as an excuse to bury the 1991 and 1998 Agreements they signed with our First Nation."

Norman Matchewan, community youth spokesperson:
"The Conservative government, like the Liberal government before it, has treated us with contempt, refusing to respect the agreements they've signed with us. We've exhausted all our political options, but they've ignored or dismissed our community, leaving us with no choice but to peacefully blockade the highway to force the government to deal fairly with us."

Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: "The federal government pretends this is simply an internal issue. But we can only resolve the situation if the federal government appoints an observer to witness a new leadership selection that is truly in accordance with our Customary Governance Code, promises to respect the outcome, and then stops interfering in our internal affairs."

Media Contacts:

Norman Matchewan, a community teacher and part-time police officer who was racially slurred two weeks ago by the assistant of Conservative Minister Lawrence Cannon, the representative in Barriere Lake's riding of Pontiac: 647 - 227 - 6699

Marylynn Poucaciche, community educator and youth representative for Barriere Lake on the Algonquin Tribal Council: 438 - 868 - 3957

Michel Thusky, residential school survivor and elder: 819 - 435-2171

Barriere Lake Algonquins' Demands

Resources:

Laurier Riel Report, part I - Riel witnessed the alleged leadership selection, whose result was recognized by Indian Affairs on March 10, 2008

Laurier Riel Report, part II

Federal MP, Lawrence Cannon's Message to the Community in Le Droit (22 September 2008)

Norman Matchewan's Response to Lawrence Cannon in Le Droit (26 September 2008)

Trilateral Agreement - discussed in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP)

2007 leadership report by Quebec Superior Court Rhejean Paul

Legal challenge of Federal Government's deposition of Barriere Lake's Customary Chief and Council

Assembly of First Nations briefing note - January 2008



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Monday, October 6, 2008


Barriere Lake Algonquins peacefully blockade highway 117 in Northern Quebec: Community loses patience with broken agreements and federal interference in leadership selection

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / - At 6:00am today, Barriere Lake community members of all ages peacefully blockaded highway 117 outside their reserve, promising to maintain the blockade until Canada and Quebec commit in writing to honour their agreements and Canada appoints an observer to witness and respect the outcome of a new leadership selection in Barriere Lake in accordance with their Customary Governance Code.

"The Conservative government, like the Liberal government before it, has treated us with contempt, refusing to respect the agreements they've signed with us," says Norman Matchewan, a community teacher and part-time police officer who was racially slurred two weeks ago by the assistant of Conservative Minister Lawrence Cannon, the representative in Barriere Lake's riding of Pontiac. "We've exhausted all our political options, but they've ignored or dismissed our community, leaving us with no choice but to peacefully blockade the highway to force the government to deal fairly with us."

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 since two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln, made recommendations for the agreement's implementation in 2006.

"To avoid their obligations, the federal government has deliberately violated our leadership customs by ousting our Customary Chief and Council," says Michel Thusky, a Barriere Lake spokesperson. "In what amounts to a coup d'etat, they are recognizing a Chief and Council rejected by a community majority. The Quebec government is cooperating with the federal government too because they are using the leadership issue as an excuse to bury the 1991 and 1998 Agreements they signed with our First Nation."

On March 10th, 2008, for the third time in 12 years, the Government of Canada interfered in Barriere Lake's internal customary governance. They rescinded recognition of the Customary Chief and Council and recognized individuals whom the Barriere Lake Elder's Council says were not selected in accordance with their Customary Governance Code.

"The federal government pretends this is simply an internal issue," says Marylynn Poucachiche, another Barriere Lake spokesperson, on-site at the peaceful blockade. "But we can only resolve the situation if the federal government appoints an observer to witness a new leadership selection that is truly in accordance with our Customary Governance Code, promises to respect the outcome, and then stops interfering in our internal affairs."

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.

- 30 -

Media Contacts:

Michel Thusky, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819 - 435-217

Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 647 - 227 - 6699

Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 438 - 868 - 3957

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Coup in Context

*Reprinted from the Dominion


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Where is Barriere Lake?


The Algonquins of Barriere Lake live just under 5 hours from Montreal, traveling north west. Once you leave the city limits you follow a two lane highway, the 115, that eventually narrows to one, past vacation spots like Mount Tremblant and a number of road-side stands selling poutines and cheeseburgers.

The distance between towns widens, and logging roads start trailing off the highway. Large trucks, perhaps belonging to the American multinational Domtar, stacked high with freshly shaved trees, drive towards one of the local paper mills. In the heart of one of their prime cutting zones sits the Barriere Lake reserve; created in 1961 without consultation with the small Algonquin community's customary chief and council.

Housing conditions


The nomadic community, only a few hundred people strong, was squeezed onto 59 acres in 1961, despite having a traditional territory roughly 17,000 square kilometers large. Some houses on the reservation hold up to 18 people. The land-base is too small to accommodate new houses, and the diesel generators that currently power the community have hit maximum capacity.

Hydroelectric dams


The community is still waiting to be hooked up to the grid-another unfulfilled promised. Ironic-considering the millions of revenue dollars extracted from the area from the numerous hydroelectric dams.

Resource extraction


Hydroelectricity is not the only resource extracted from the traditional territory. When logging and tourism are added to the equation, it is estimated annual revenues add up to roughly $100 million. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake do not see a cent of it. Over time a number of private companies and Crown corporations have increased the extraction of resources from the territory.

A history of protest and government repression


Over twenty years ago the unrestrained clear cut logging practices and sport hunting became too much for the community to quietly bear witness to. Protests, and later the blockading of logging roads, finally led to negotiations with the Canadian and Quebec governments.

A landmark agreement


The outcome of those negotiations was the Trilateral Agreement; an agreement based on the United Nations Brundtland Commission, with conservation and sustainable development as the main pillars. The landmark agreement promised co-management of resources and revenue sharing in the traditional territory in order to protect the Algonquin way of life while co-existing with non-native land users.


Indian Affairs attempts to scrap Trilateral Agreement


The government had other plans.

Just before the Trilateral's implementation in 2001 Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault pulled out, leaving the community with a large bill to pay for remaining research on traditional land use.

Cutting funds hasn't been the only method employed by the federal government in attempts to scrap the trilateral agreement. Since 1996, there have been three interventions in the community's leadership selection.

Round one: leadership interference


Indian Affairs imposed Third Party Management on the community, the third and most severe level of financial intervention in an Aboriginal community. Third Party Managers gain complete control of community finances.

During the 15 month period that Indian Affairs refused to recognize the Customary Chief and Council, both the minority faction Council and Third Party Management were unable to establish themselves on the Rapid Lake reserve, and instead ruled from exile in Maniwaki (150km south). Two million dollars in funding never reached Rapid Lake, programs and services were suspended, and the only school was closed.

Third Party mis-Management


For a second time Indian Affairs appointed Third Party Management. Once again, the school was shut down after parents discovered the teachers hired by Third Party Management refused to allow children to speak their Algonquin language -- a grim throw back to residential schools.

”[Cannon’s] inaction confirms that his Conservative Government's residential school apology was meaningless, because they continue violating our customs." - Michel Thusky, community spokesperson.

Ousted Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway


This past March, Indian Affairs Minister, Chuck Strahl, ousted Acting Chief Benjamin Nottaway and empowered a minority faction as the new leadership. This brings the count up to three: three times now Indian Affairs has meddled in the internal governance of Barriere Lake.

The Algonquin Nation Secretariat and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs called the move a coup d'etat.

The Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, continues to recognize and work with deposed Acting Chief Nottaway and his Council.


Cannon speaks with a forked tongue




Lawrence Cannon speaking about First Nations and the Canadian government (August, Maniwaki):

“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 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.”

Occupying Cannon's office


Thursday, June 26th Algonquins of Barriere Lake and some of their supporters from the Montreal-based Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective, peacefully occupied Lawrence Cannon's office.

Lawrence Cannon, is a cabinet minister, Harper's Quebec lieutenant and MP in Barriere Lake's riding of Pontiac. Protesters were calling on Cannon to use his power to ensure Indian Affairs upholds the law and oversees a leadership re-selection.

Algonquins of Barriere Lake demands


“It has been about 20 years now [since the signing of the Trilateral Agreement] -- I was eight years old when we first signed the agreement. I’m 26 years old now. I’ve been waiting; we’ve been waiting a pretty long time now for the government to honour its agreement to the Barriere Lake people.” – Jessica Thusky, one of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake arrested in the action.

See, hear, speak...




Arrested while waiting for Cannon to obey the law


Two Algonquins, one of which was a minor, and four supporters spent the evening in jail and now face three charges: obstruction of a police officer, trespassing, mischief.

"We told them we would stop disobeying the law if Cannon did so as well. It's a small act of civil disobedience to draw attention to a far greater crime." – Martin Lukacs, member of Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective.

Keeping up the pressure


"The community will pursue Cannon wherever he is publicly, and we will only stop when Cannon honours his word, and ensures his Conservative government oversees a leadership re-selection, then stops meddling in our affairs for good." – Michel Thusky.

As the community works to get Indian Affairs and the Canadian government to uphold the law and recognize the Algonquins of Barriere Lake's customary governance code, more and more of the land continues to be irreparably damaged by logging and hydroelectric companies, and unemployment rates that run around 80-90 per cent persist.