Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Some Clarifications Regarding the Current Situation at the Poigan Bay Area

Conflicting information, some of it false, has been circulating regarding the situation on the territory of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. We ask that those who wish to support the community be mindful of this, and be aware that the situation is far from simple. As events unfold, we are keeping in touch with a number of people from the community, including those we have worked with over the last four and a half years.

At this point, after consultation with community members, we would like to make a few comments which seem helpful. 

Beginning on July 4, 2012, the main harvesters of the Poigan Bay area, supported by the community, protested at the logging site against clear-cut logging by Resolute Forest Products. After two weeks of maintaining pressure against the company, they managed to get the government to agree to protect sacred sites, moose habitat, and other significant areas, under a process called “measures to harmonize”.  

A faction of the extended family members of the main harvesters did not want any forestry operation to proceed and decided to block the operations. The forest company, Resolute Forest Products, then filed a legal injunction to prevent the family members from disrupting the clear-cutting. The company was then granted a second request to extend the injunction to include anyone and everyone. This second injunction blocks the whole community from taking any action that might protect the lands from forestry operations over the coming weeks. 

There have been incorrect claims made on Facebook and on the Toronto Media Coop website alleging that community members “sold” land to Resolute and that they did nothing to fight the injunction. The community is taking whatever legal measures possible to fight the injunction, in fact, which is extremely difficult, because they don’t have the financial means to defend themselves and are raising money at the moment to support this cause.

For clarification on the demands of the Barriere Lake community regarding Poigan Lake, please see an update from community member Tony Wawatie here. Tony's father is the main harvester of the lands being logged.

It is important that MNR take further action to stop the damage that is underway. Namely, MNR should release the documents it agreed to provide to community members and implement the measures to harmonize process in a timely fashion, before other sensitive areas are destroyed. It will also be important for there to be continued pressure on Resolute Forest Products in the weeks to come. It is tragic that things have proceeded to this point, though unfortunately not surprising.

We will post further updates as the situation evolves.

Clarification from Barriere Lake Community Member Tony Wawatie

Below is a clarification written by Tony Wawatie on August 2, 2012. Tony is a member of the Barriere Lake community and son of Gabriel Wawatie, one of the main harvesters of the lands (the Poigan Bay area) being logged this July and August.

"I am writing to share and to clear up the confusion that has been created regarding the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.

It had come to the attention of the community members that illegal logging was happening in the Poigan Bay area. The main harvesters of the area were not consulted. We were supposed to be consulted and accommodated. 

The main harvesters, Gabriel Wawatie and Jeannette Wawatie (daughter of the late Customary Chief Harry Wawatie) mobilized themselves to set up camp, along with other family members, to protest against the illegal logging that was happening. It must be duly noted, it was not a blockade. We knew that we would be arrested charged, criminalized and tied up by the courts. We also recognize the fact that it is a costly avenue to go through courts, and we didn’t have the necessary means to pay for this. There was strong police presence to ensure that illegal logging took place.

We had to come up with a strategy to address our concerns. In a letter sent to Ministry of Natural Resources dated July 4, 2012 (and July 9, 2012), we requested the cut plans since 2007 within our community traditional territory, volume of wood harvested in those cut blocks, by species and the name of the logging companies and a copy of their scale slips.

A meeting was set up with the ministry of Natural resources along with Gabriel Wawatie and all to minimize the already damaged area. The map shows that there was 72 cut blocks that were supposed to happen. It was agreed that six cut blocks would be cut under the harmonization measures. The areas that we wanted to be protected were a gigantic moose yard and other scared areas. Resolute have the cutting permits and they cut the birch species, which is what the moose depend on for their subsistence.

Under the customary leadership, the late Chief-Elder Harry Wawatie knew that we could not stop all activities in the traditional territory of ABL. Within the trilateral agreement, we had a decisive voice on how logging practices should happen. Under this agreement, ABL wanted to deal with the immediate problems, such as the over exploitation of logging. As a matter of a fact, ABL was able to change Quebec‘s policies on logging, which is measures to harmonize under the framework of the trilateral agreement.

The long term plan was to have an Integrated resource management plan, which would allow us to have a say on how territory is to be manage, taking in to account all users. The trilateral agreement is considered a treaty by Judge Rejean Paul in one of his reports. Under this agreement there was a short term plan and a long term plan.

The short term plan was to deal with the immediate problems, such as logging activities and for ABL to give input in this process. This is where measures to harmonize come into play, which was agreed by Gabriel Wawatie and Jeannette Wawatie.

The long term process was to implement the INTERGRATED REOURCE MANAGEMNT PLAN (IRMP). We knew we could not deal with the ABORIGINAL TITLE question. And we knew it would take decades and maybe longer.
There were 7 joint recommendations that were tabled by two former Senior Quebec Cabinet
Ministers, Clifford Lincoln (ABL rep) and JohnChiachai (quebec rep). Under the trilateral agreement, the special representatives’ joint recommendations deal with the seven points:

1. Recognition of the Trilateral Agreement Territory,
2. Integrated Resource Management Plan,
3. Participation in management of renewable resources,
4. Revenue sharing and access to resources,
5. Expansion of the land base in Rapid Lake,
6. Electrification of Rapid Lake,
7. Signing of a legally binding document.

This is what we had agreed to when the Late Elder Customary Chief Wawatie was a alive.

As you may all be aware there were arrests made yesterday (August 1, 2012) on the Jacob Wawatie group. It is heartbreaking when your brothers and sisters are being arrested and criminalized. These individuals that were arrested were charged with mischief. Our members have approached them and talked to them but they want ALL activities be stopped. We have an agreement in place and it should be honoured by the governments. If the INAC council wants to help, they should tell quebec to implement the joint recommendations mentioned above.

I do not know what their (Jacob Wawatie) plan is nor will they share it. Actually, I’m not sure if they even have a plan. We have tried to reason with them and to come to a common ground, but they chose to get arrested and criminalized. I do not know what kind of legal advice they are getting but it’s sad to see that there is a great lack of legal advice for this group. Meanwhile we are fighting a “BIG MONSTER”, as my late uncle-elder Customary Chief Wawatie stated to me at one time. We are here, they are here, how do we co-exist!