NITASKINAN, QC, July 3, 2012 /CNW Telbec/ - The Atikamekw envoy appointed last Friday by Grand Chief and Atikamekw Chiefs with a mandate to find a path towards a solution to the ongoing crisis in Haute-Mauricie will meet this morning (July 3) with Québec Government representatives in Québec City. Envoy Jimmy Neashit will be backed by two Atikamekw representatives who support him in trying to explore ways to set up an acceptable negotiation framework.
Atikamekw Grand Chief Eva Ottawa and the Chiefs of the three communities, Christian Awashish (Opitciwan), David Boivin (Wemotaci) and Paul-Émile Ottawa (Manawan), are also part of the delegation that traveled to Québec City from the Nitaskinan. In a letter sent last Friday (June 29), they requested a meeting with Premier Jean Charest. The answer, that came in a letter from Aboriginal Affairs Geoffrey Kelley rather than from the Premier, did mention a meeting, but in the absence of Jean Charest. "It's insulting. It's a lack of consideration for our Nation, and it's certainly not the way to establish a Nation to Nation relationship", said Chief Paul-Émile Ottawa.
The Atikamekw Grand Chief and Chiefs remain firm on the conditions set to accept a lift of the logging blockade. "We always maintained that we need clear and concrete commitments from the Government of Québec on establishing a genuine Nation to Nation relationship. This change in relationships starts with a signal from the highest level; it starts by a meeting with the Premier", explained Chief Awashish.
"Lifting the blockade before being convinced of the good faith of the Government is out of the question. We're fed up with remaining on the sidelines, watching the parade go by. Enough is enough!", asserted Chief David Boivin. "When all the leaders of a Nation travel to meet the leaders of another Nation, how shall one read the silence of the Premier? Is it indifference or contempt?", asked Grand Chief Eva Ottawa.
The Atikamekw demand that a special negotiation be set up with the Government of Québec bearing on:
- Introducing a Nation to Nation relationship;
- Setting up a formula for co-management of the territory;
- Access to the natural resources of the Nitaskinan;
- Implementing royalties mechanisms on exploitation of the natural resources of the Nitaskinan;
- Harmonization measures.
Since June 25 at midnight, the Atikamekw from Opitciwan and Wemotaci have been blocking activities on the Nitaskinan and trucks carrying wood out of the traditional Atikamekw territory. Kruger is one of the logging companies affected. Supported by the Manawan community, as well as by many other aboriginal communities from other Nations, these actions are seen as a last resort move to protect the rights of the Atikamekw Nation, which have been the subject of fruitless negotiations for more than 33 years.
The Atikamekw have on the other hand accepted last week to lift the blockade on the CN railway track, in exchange for recognition by the railway company of the legitimacy of the requests expressed to the Government and logging companies. As a tradeoff, the CN decided that all their trains shall run at very low speed within the Nitaskinan territorial limits. "That shows our good faith, and it's a proof to the Government that it is possible to negotiate with the Atikamekw", concluded Chief Boivin.
But unless we see a rapid change in attitude on the Government side, it appears the logging blockades will be maintained still for many days.
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, the Wemotaci community comprises 1,700 members, and is administered by the Conseil des Atikamekw de Wemotaci. The Atikamekw people have occupied the Nitaskinan for millennium.
NOTICE TO MEDIAS: The Atikamekw delegation will meet the Medias in Québec City at the end of the day Tuesday July 3 to sum up on these meetings, as well as to announce the next actions scheduled. This press briefing will be held:
- Tuesday, July 3, 2012
Hôtel Château Laurier - Salle de la Colline
1220, place George-V Ouest
For further information:
Relations with the Medias