KITIGANIK/RAPID LAKE, Algonquin Territory, Oct. 6 /CNW Telbec/ - At 5:30am 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 They rescinded recognition of the Customary Chief and Council and recognized individuals whom the Barriere Lake Elder's Council says were not selected in accordance with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.
(1) http://web.resist.ca/~barrierelakesolidarity/ resources/Rapport_du_Juge_Paul-versionANGLAISEcomplete.doc , pg 26-27
http://web.resist.ca/~barrierelakesolidarity/resources/Riel_Translation_Letter_2.doc , pg 2
SOURCE ALGONQUINS OF BARRIERE LAKE
For further information: For further information: 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