Logging blockades: the Atikamekw give one more chance to negotiation

NITASKINAN, QC, July 10, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - After consulting their members, the Conseil des Atikamekw d'Opitciwan, the Conseil des Atikamekw de Manawan, the Conseil des Atikamekw de Wemotaci and the Atikamekw Nation Council announce, despite the fact that their members have expressed doubts on the matter, that they will give priority to negotiation with the Québec Government, and give one more chance to the process started yesterday (July 9). Negotiation will have to show fast progress though, they warn, and the August 30 deadline will definitely need to be respected. Therefore the blockades that had been suspended last Friday will remain opened while the negotiation takes place.

"The Framework Agreement allows for setting up a negotiation process with a schedule and a deadline. Then this is the path that could lead to the protection of our Nitaskinan and of our rights. But the Government will need to negotiate seriously and respect the August 30 deadline. We will not accept to see the negotiation process drag on", said Manawan Chief Paul-Émile Ottawa.

As scheduled last Friday (July 6), the Atikamekw representatives submitted, Monday morning, an agreement project to the Government of Québec representatives, who accepted to recommend the document as a basis for the rest of the process, provided that there will be a few rewordings and additions, with a need to negotiate them. This Framework Agreement project will lead the way to the negotiation of an agreement in principle to be closed on August 30 at the latest, followed by a Final Agreement bearing on all the issues related to the present logging crisis in the Haute-Mauricie region. The framework agreement project submitted yesterday morning (July 9) includes the setting up of a high level political table comprised of elected officials from the Government and of the Atikamekw Councils, as well as the setting up of an intensive negotiation bearing on: the introduction of a Nation to Nation relationship, the setting up of a formula for co-management of the territory; access to the Natural resources of the Nitaskinan; the implementation of royalties mechanisms for exploitation of the natural resources of the Nitaskinan, and harmonization measures on the Nitaskinan.

Grateful for the support from Non-Aboriginals
The Atikamekw Nation is very grateful to the Haute-Mauricie region residents for their patience and comprehension of the circumstances. Aware of the negative impacts that the blockades brought up until now, they want to recall that they didn't have a choice to adopt such measures, considering the dire situation they're facing. The Atikamekw hope that the Government will negotiate out of good will, convinced that the Agreement that could come out of this would benefit the whole region. "We are really aware that the Blockade bothered, and my community really appreciates the support and understanding the Québécois showed. But it should be recalled to Premier Charest that our blockades are not "barricades", as it was printed in his letter. At all times we have allowed access to the Québécois on our territories, and we still invite them on our territories. My community has excused this tactless side of the Premier, and we invite him to seize this opportunity to establish a new relation based on mutual trust, and to allow the Atikamekw to gain their fair share of the resources of their territory, resources the Québécois have benefited for long", underlined Opitciwan Chief, Christian Awashish.

As for Wemotaci Chief, David Boivin, he announced that his community had finally accepted to give a chance to negotiation, and will lift the blockades that remained in that region of the Nitaskinan. Shaken up by an incident, last week, of a truck driver who attacked one of the blockades, the Wemotaci community has been more reluctant to give their full support to negotiation, and hadn't yet suspended blockades they managed, but this which has been done on Sunday night (July 8) at midnight. "The members of my community want guarantees. They are ready to grant this last chance to the Government to show good will, but we will not accept to see the negotiation linger. Our patience is wearing thin", claimed Wemotaci Chief David Boivin, who calls on the logging companies to pressure the Government, and not the Atikamekw, for things to progress quickly and to avoid to go back to the blockades. The Chiefs of the three Atikamekw communities underline that they are suspending blockades, but will still be demonstrating their belonging to their Nitaskinan.

Since June 25, the Atikamekw were blocking logging activities on the Nitaskinan and keeping trucks carrying wood from exiting the traditional Atikamekw territory. Kruger is one of the logging companies affected. After a first meeting with the Government on Tuesday July 3, the Atikamekw were disappointed the following day to see that the letter received from the hand of Premier Charest said nothing about certain points discussed at the Tuesday meeting. Nevertheless, they had decided to suspend the blockades, except in Wemotaci where they rallied to that decision a few days later.

Atikamekw Nation Grand Chief Eva Ottawa pointed out the courage of the members of the Atikamekw Nation. "Our People have suffered prejudices for a long time. We were forced through a settling process, we went through the Indian residential schools, we have seen exploitation of our lands and resources without our consent; most of all, we have often been deceived by breaches of promises. I am proud of the perseverance of my People and of its determination to undertake sometimes radical actions to have our rights respected. I wish from all my heart that this time the promises will be held", said Grand Chief Ottawa.

About the Manawan, Opitciwan and Wemotaci communities
Located in the North-East part of the Lanaudière region, Manawan has a population of 2,400. The governance is assured by the Conseil des Atikamekw de Manawan. Located at the North of the Gouin Reservoir, some 300 kilometers West of Roberval, the Opitciwan community include 2,592 members, 2,169 of which live on the reservation, and is administered by the Conseil des Atikamekw d'Opitciwan. The Wemotaci community, located on the shores of the Saint-Maurice River, is comprised of 1,700 members, and is administered by the Conseil des Atikamekw de Wemotaci. The Atikamekw people have occupied the Nitaskinan for millennium.

SOURCE Atikamekw Nation

For further information:

Suzanne Bourdon
Relations with the Medias
514 868-0172
suzanne@cardinalcommunication.com

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