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



    OTTAWA, Jan. 7 /CNW Telbec/ - 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 their political
representatives.
    The groups will hold a rally on January 7 at noon in front of the
Headquarters of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, at the corner of
Wellington and Montcalm in Gatineau, 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 cutting edge 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 respected our leadership customs and negotiated 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.

    Events:

    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 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, (705) 929-2819;
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

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ALGONQUIN NATION SECRETARIAT

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