Thursday, November 5, 2009

Barriere Lake Solidarity: Emergency Teach-In & Open Meeting

Canada to unconstitutionally abolish Algonquin's customary government to avoid honouring agreements and recognizing legitimate leadership

On Friday, October 30, 2009, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl sent notice to the Algonquins of Barriere Lake that he will not recognize their legitimate leadership, but instead impose elections on the community in April, 2010 by invoking a section of the Indian Act that would abolish the customary method they use to select their leaders.

The attempt at assimilation would be a violation of Barriere Lake's constitutionally-protected Aboriginal right to their customary system of government.

Join us at Concordia's School of Community and Public Affairs this WEDNESDAY, November 11th at 6:30pm for an Emergency Teach-In about Section 74 and Open Meeting.

Snacks provided. For more info:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Medias release : Algonquins place bodies in front of logging machines: prevent logging until Quebec and Canada respect agreements and leadership

For Immediate Release

September 1, 2009

Algonquins place bodies in front of logging machines: prevent logging until Quebec and Canada respect agreements and leadership

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory /– This afternoon members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake will peacefully block the machines of Abitibi-Bowater forestry workers, preventing logging in their territory until Quebec implements agreements covering forestry on Barriere Lake's lands, and the Quebec and Canadian government’s recognize the First Nation’s legitimate leadership.

“Our community has decided there will be no forestry activities or any new developments in our Trilateral Agreement Territory until the status of our leadership and the agreements we signed are resolved to our community's satisfaction,” says Jean Maurice Matchewan, Customary Chief of Barriere Lake. “The Quebec government has acted in bad faith, giving companies the go-ahead to log while they ignore their legal obligations, leaving us with no choice but to stop forestry operations until Quebec complies with the agreement. We have waited more than 3 years for Quebec to implement it."

Matchewan received no response to a letter he sent to Manager Paul Grondin of Abitibi-Bowater's Maniwaki mill on August 25, requesting that the company suspend logging operations until the governments follow through on their obligations.

“Our plan is to peacefully put our bodies in front of their machines until we get some results. We expect they may use the police, because we are used to such tactics. This is our territory and they can't push us off our lands," says Matchewan.

Canada and Quebec have refused to acknowledge the results of a June 24, 2009 leadership selection process that reselected Jean Maurice Matchewan as the legitimate Customary Chief of Barriere Lake. National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations, however, met with Chief Matchewan on August 19, to discuss the Trilateral agreement and other community concerns. The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, a Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, also recently reiterated their support for Chief Matchewan.

“Instead of acting honourably and cooperating with our Customary Council to implement these signed agreements, the federal and provincial governments have been working in unison to try and install a minority faction whom they can use to sign off on the cutting of our forest,” says Matchewan.

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. The agreement is intended to allow logging to continue while protecting the Algonquin’s’ traditional way of life and giving them a $1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out of their territory every year.

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Media contacts:

Chief Jean Maurice Matchewan - 819-435- 2136

To arrange interviews in case the line is busy : 514-398-7432

Collectif de Solidarité Lac Barrière

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Beats for Barriere Lake
rhythms for Algonquin resistance


THURSDAY JUNE 11th 20h00
tickets: $10-12, sliding scale
Petit Café Campus
57, rue Prince-Arthur est
Montréal, Québec

A night of solidarity for the ongoing struggle of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, featuring groundbreaking native artists from Quebec.
The concert takes place on June 11th, the one-year anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's apology for the residential schools system – an apology that many survivors in Barriere Lake believe will take on real meaning only when the government ensures just relations with Indigenous peoples.

((performances from))

* Samian: celebrated Algonquin hip-hop artist with members of Nomadic Massive and Sola y las Lolas

Samian is a celebrated Algonquin hip-hop artist who is the first to perform in French and Algonquin within the Quebec musical universe.

Born in the community of Pikogan in Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Samian Samuel Tremblay, speaks of youth tales, particularly that of the plight and struggle of First Nations.

((opening acts))

* CerAmony: Cree eclectic musical duo

CerAmony hail from the James Bay Region, have played live from
the CBC's True North Concert series, and the Canadian Aboriginal Awards

in both 2003 and 2004. They have strong roots in their indigenous spiritual beliefs,
and the band is socially and politically driven.

* Cheri Maracle, Mohawk singer/songwriter from Six Nations

with Marc Nadjiwan, Ojibway singer/songwriter

Cheri Maracle has been performing across Canada and abroad for over a decade. Maracle is inspired by her Mohawk/Irish culture and nomadic upbringing across Canada. Her debut cd, Closer to Home, was nominated for Best New Artist & Best Songwriter at the Aboriginal People's Choice Music

Awards, in Winnipeg Manitoba in 2007, and for Best Female Artist at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.

Ojibway singer/songwriter, Marc Nadjiwan, has released multiple albums, including Brother(1995),nominated for a Native American Music Award, and Awake (2002) which was nominated for a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award as well as a Native American Music Award.

* screening of Blockade on the 117, by filmmaker Martha Stiegman

co-presented by: Barriere Lake Solidarity, CKUT radio, Production
Multi-Monde, Tadamon! Montreal and the National Campus and Community

Radio Conference (NCRC)

* information:

phone: 514.398.7432

Friday, April 3, 2009

Minister's Memo Exposes Motives for Removing Algonquin Chief

Minister's Memo Exposes Motives for Removing Algonquin Chief
INAC expected collaboration with new Chief but feared legal repercussions and perception of government sponsorship

by Martin Lukacs

The Dominion -

MONTREAL–A secret document obtained by The Dominion reveals Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) decided to replace the leadership of Barriere Lake First Nation, which officials considered "dogmatized," with a chief and council offering “improved collaboration."

The memo sent to Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl recommends recognizing leadership claimant Casey Ratt in place of Chief Benjamin Nottaway, but predicts such a move will lead to community violence, erection of barricades, legal challenges and "media pressure" based on the "perception of a council sponsored by INAC.”

Strahl signed off on the memo on March 3, 2008. In an April letter to the Ottawa Citizen he maintains that INAC was following the wishes of the community and was not "backing one group over another."

Ratt's ascent to power in the northern Quebec Algonquin community of 450 has been fiercely contested by Nottaway's supporters, who allege INAC ousted an assertive leadership and empowered a group that violated customary leadership protocols.

The Barriere Lake Algonquins select their leadership not by ballot, but by a strict Customary Governance Code that involves the nomination of candidates by elders and their approval in community assemblies. As Strahl states in his public letter, INAC's "role is to simply acknowledge the outcome and register the results."

But the Elder's Council in Barriere Lake quickly launched a judicial review of Strahl's move, arguing INAC went beyond their legal bounds in deciding who should be in power. In April, INAC motioned to dismiss the Elder's case, maintaining INAC did not make a “decision” reviewable by the courts.
A minor is arrested in early March 2008, for refusing to allow INAC-recognized Chief Casey Ratt into the reserve. Photo: Marylynn Poucachiche

The February 18 memo demonstrates that decisions were in fact made. Instead of carefully assessing whether a leadership selection conducted by Ratt's supporters in late January 2008 accorded with the Customary Governance Code, it focuses on the benefits and drawbacks of three possible INAC responses: recognizing Ratt, maintaining relations with Nottaway, or withdrawing recognition for Nottaway and mediating or imposing an electoral system on the community.

According to the memo, keeping ties with Nottaway would entail "continuity of tensed [sic] relations between INAC and the Band Council, considering its claims." For nearly two decades, Nottaway's supporters have been locked in a battle with INAC and Quebec over the implementation of a landmark Trilateral agreement that would give the First Nation say over resource use on 10,000 square kilometres of their traditional territory.

Despite Nottaway's council's "claim to its legitimacy," the memo expresses preference for a band council headed by Casey Ratt, detailing "positive impacts" that include “improved collaboration of the new council with INAC,” a “new council less dogmatized," and a "new environment more favourable to the development of the community" and a "healing process."

A 2006 attempt by Ratt’s supporters to select a chief and council was dismissed after mediation in 2007 by Quebec Superior Court Judge Réjean Paul, who called the group a “small minority” whose selection process “did not follow the Customary Governance Code." Over that year INAC withdrew recognition from Nottaway's customary predecessor, Chief Jean-Maurice Matchewan, until Judge Paul issued the report affirming his legitimacy.

The secret memo acknowledges Judge Paul’s "approach" and admits INAC "does not have all the information" regarding Ratt's recent selection, but states an independent observer "partly related the process' compliance with custom requirements."

When INAC cited this local court worker's report in a March 10 letter notifying Nottaway he was no longer Chief, officials refused to release it to the community. The Elder Council's lawyers obtained it through court months later and discovered that the observer had in fact stated he "couldn’t guarantee” Ratt had followed the Customary Governance Code.

The memo also dismisses taking advantage of the "shaky situation" in the community to impose an Indian Act election system, because its "major impacts" would require further analysis. Inside observers say such a move, which would unilaterally discard the community's customary selection by a Minister's order, could risk being deemed unconstitutional.

Strahl has come under fire recently after documents leaked to the Globe & Mail revealed that INAC secretly plans to revive the Liberals' First Nations Governance Act, which includes challenging "flawed" or "outdated" customary selections of First Nation leaders.

The memo mentions the possibility of “barricades” and suggests informing the Quebec police to "ensure the supervision of the community in the days following the announcement of the new Council." Community members tried to bar Ratt from returning to the reserve in March, dragging trees along the reserve's access road. Ratt required escort by police, who arrested a dozen people and maintained a heavy presence in the community for two weeks, preventing Nottaway's council from accessing any administrative buildings.

While these earlier incidents received little attention, Barriere Lake acquired a higher profile after Nottaway's supporters blockaded a major Quebec highway in October and November 2008, rallying to the demand that INAC implement the Trilateral Agreement and appoint an observer to witness and respect the outcome of a new leadership selection. Nottaway was arrested and jailed for two months in the winter for his participation, arousing condemnation of the Conservative government from Green Party leader Elizabeth May, the NDP, and major unions.

Ratt issued a press release after the blockades stating the former council "focused too much of their attention on the trilateral agreement" and that it was time the "First Nation moves forward." INAC pulled out of the agreement in 2001.

The secret memo was released by the Ministry of Justice on March 13, almost a year after a request filed by lawyers for the Elder's Council was initially denied because INAC maintained they had not made a “decision” about leadership.

Withholding the document, INAC won a dismissal of the Elder's Council judicial review in August but then lost an appeal before a federal court in January. The Judge concluded that a reviewable "decision" had been made and emphasized that the legal status of the Ratt Council remained uncertain, despite recognition from Strahl. After another request for documents, a privacy commissioner green-lighted the memo's release. The court case over leadership will proceed this summer.

Martin Lukacs is a writer and activist, and a member of the Barriere Lake solidarity collective in Montreal.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Native Rights Under Lock & Key

Demonstrators rallied in Ottawa at Indian Affairs and in Montreal at Premier Jean Charest's office to denounce the jailing of Barriere Lake's Customary Chief, Benjamin Nottaway and Quebec and Canada's refusal to honour signed agreements with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.

In Ottawa (Jan 7, 2009)

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party

In Montreal, audio from speeches
(Jan 8, 2009)

Luc Tailleur, Public Service Alliance of Canada (7 mins)

Sonny Papatie, youth community member jailed for peaceful protest alongside Chief Nottaway (2 mins)

Martin Lukacs, Barriere Lake Solidarity member (2 mins)

For media coverage of the event, click here!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rally for Algonquin Chief Jailed for Asserting Land Rights: Elizabeth May, NDP, Major Unions, Chiefs Call on Canadian government to Honour Landmark Ag

Ottawa, January 7, 2009/ - A broad network of political parties, unions, human rights and Indigenous groups will rally today to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, demanding that the Government of Canada respect a landmark agreement and Barriere Lake's right to decide who serves as their Customary Chief and Council.

The groups will hold a rally on January 7 at noon in front of the Headquarters of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, in support of Customary Chief Benjamin Nottaway, jailed for two months for joining community members while they peacefully asserted land rights to Barriere Lake's traditional territories in Western Quebec. Community spokespeople will then travel to Montreal for a demonstration on Thursday in front of Premier Jean Charest's office.

"The Algonquin of Barriere Lake have shown extraordinary patience in the face of governmental interference and foot-dragging," said Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party. "It is a scandal that Chief Nottaway spent Christmas in jail for peaceful civil disobedience to demand governments live up to their responsibilities, with barely a murmur of notice from the media and with stony silence from our government."

Barriere Lake wants Canada to uphold signed agreements, dating back to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a groundbreaking sustainable development and resource co-management agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Canada pulled out of the binding agreement in 2001.

"Barriere Lake is one of the most impoverished communities in Canada. Indian Affairs has meddled in this community, undermined land negotiations and walked away on signed agreements," said NDP Parliamentarian Charlie Angus. "It's time the government showed some leadership and helped this community on the path to healing."

The Government of Canada stopped recognizing Acting Customary Chief Benjamin Nottaway on March 10, 2008, and caused great leadership uncertainty by recognizing individuals whom Barriere Lake's Elder's Council says did not follow their Customary Governance Code, which the community uses to select their leadership. Community members have demanded that the federal government appoint an observer to witness and abide by the results of a new leadership selection, but the government of Canada has to date refused. When families from the community peacefully protested on a highway outside their reserve in October and November, the government of Canada remained silent while the Quebec government sent in riot police, which tear-gassed people of all ages and made numerous arrests.

"This is another example of the federal and provincial governments collaborating with each other to criminalize a Chief who has demanded that both orders of government honour signed agreements regarding co-management of land and resource revenue sharing," said Grand Chief Norman Young of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat, Barriere Lake's Tribal Council, which continues to recognize and work with Benjamin Nottaway and his Council.

On Tuesday, the Federal Court of Appeal contradicted the arguments of lawyers for the Department Indian Affairs, ruling in favour of the Barriere Lake's Elder's Council, who will now proceed with their motion to review Indian Affairs' decision to stop recognizing Acting Chief Nottaway. The Court decision casts doubt on the legitimacy of Canada's recognition of the "Ratt Council" and gives weight to the Elder's Council position that Indian Affairs violated their Customary Governance Code.

"The federal government has caused enough suffering in our community. It is time that they respect our leadership customs and negotiate the implementation of agreements that will secure our future," said Marlynn Poucachiche, a community spokesperson and mother of five who was targeted for arrest by the Quebec police after participating in the peaceful blockade.

"We believe the roadblocks erected on highways that pass through First Nations' traditional territories will come down when government roadblocks to self-determination, self-government and land entitlements are eliminated," said National Vice-President Patty Ducharme of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

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Rally at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, GATINEAU
WEDNESDAY, January 7th, 2008, NOON
Corner of Wellington & Montcalm

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

For further information:

For interviews contact: Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 613 - 265-6739; Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader:(c) 613-614-4916; Charlie Angus, NDP parliamentarian; Algonquin Nation Secretariat Grand Chief Norman Young, (819) 627-6869; PSAC National Vice-President Patty Ducharme: (613) 329-3706; CUPW National President Denis Lemelin, 613-236-7230 ex 7900;
Contact for Montreal rally: Courtney Kirkby: 514-893-8283; Luc Tailleur, National aboriginal equal opportunities committee representative for PSAC, 514-917-8946

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Video: Blockade on the 117 (2008, 12 mins)

Oct 6 2008: The community peacefully blockades highway 117, three hours north of Ottawa. Their demands: that Canada and Quebec honour signed agreements and respect their traditional government.