Thursday, June 10, 2010

Minister Strahl attempts to forcibly assimilate the Barriere Lake Algonquin’s Customary Government in order to quash historic resource agreements

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kitiganik, Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / - Barriere Lake community
members are uniting to oppose Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl’s
attempt to unilaterally abolish Barriere Lake’s customary governance
system. A large number of Barriere Lake youth and other community members
will hold demonstrations in Ottawa on June 15.

Barriere Lake is one of the few First Nations in the country who have
never been under the Indian Act’s electoral system, continuing instead to
operate under a Customary Governance Code.

Indian Affairs has announced they will try to convene Indian Act band
elections in the community on August 19, 2010.

“The Minister’s attempt to forcibly assimilate our customs using section
74 of the Indian Act is a violation of our Inherent, Aboriginal and Treaty
rights, which are protected by the Canadian constitution, and is a
violation of numerous articles of the United Nations Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Prime Minister Harper claims the
Canadian government will endorse,” says Norman Matchewan, a Barriere Lake
community spokesperson.

The Minister’s decision also contradicts a recent Federal Court decision
concerning Barriere Lake’s leadership. On February 17, 2010, Federal Court
Judge Robert Mainville concluded in the case of Ratt v. Matchewan that
Barriere Lake can “select their leadership in accordance with their
customs unimpeded by any conditions or requirements which the Minister may
deem appropriate.” In line with the Judge’s recommendations, the
community members of Barriere Lake are creating an internal working group
to reconcile differences, and to review their Customary Governance Code.

“The Canadian government is trying to forcibly assimilate our customs so
they can sever our connection to the land, which is at the heart of our
governance system,” says Tony Wawatie, a Barriere Lake community
spokesperson. “They don’t want to deal with a strong leadership, selected
by community members who live on the land, that demands that the federal
and Quebec governments implement agreements regarding the exploitation of
our lands and resources.”

Canada and Quebec are refusing to implement binding agreements dating back
to the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, a landmark sustainable development
agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on
Aboriginal Peoples. Canada has been in breach of the Agreement since 2001.
Quebec is violating the agreement by refusing to implement the 2006 joint
recommendations of two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special
representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative
Clifford Lincoln. The 2006 recommendations include giving Barriere Lake a
$1.5 million share of the $100 million in resource revenue that comes out
of their territory annually, and forest plans to harmonize logging
operations with the Algonquin's land use.

Quebec has just issued cutting permits to logging companies in Barriere
Lake's traditional territory, while refusing to respect the terms of the
Trilateral Agreement.

" Quebec is taking advantage of the leadership situation to break signed
agreements and illegally allow forestry companies to log on our
territory,” said Tony Wawatie. “But community members and youth plan to
defend our rights forthe sake of our generation and the generations to

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Media contacts:

Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson : 819-860-4121