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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
*Barriere Lake Algonquins peacefully blockade highway 117 in Northern Quebec a second time: despite fears of more police violence, community wants Quebec and Canada to respect agreements and Canada to end interference in leadership selection*
Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / – This morning at 7:30am, Barriere Lake community members of all ages and their supporters once again peacefully blockaded highway 117 outside their reserve, demanding that Quebec and Canada send in negotiators rather than resort to police violence. During the Algonquin’s first blockade on October 6th, 2008, Quebec police used tear gas and “pain compliance” techniques against a peaceful crowd that included Elders, youth, and children, arrested nine people, and hospitalized a Customary Councillor after hitting him in the chest with a tear-gas canister, drawing criticism from international human rights groups, the Chiefs of Ontario, and the Christian Peacemakers Team. [http://blip.tv/file/1391794 ]
The Algonquins promise 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.
“Instead of doing the dirty work of the federal government, Quebec should implement its agreements and immediately lobby the federal government to deal fairly with our community,” said Norman Matchewan, a community spokesperson on-site at the blockade. “Charest’s brutal treatment of our community shows his government has absolutely no respect for the rights of Indigenous peoples, which should be an urgent matter of debate during the provincial election.”
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,” said Matchewan. “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 because they are using the leadership issue as an excuse to bury the 1991 and 1998 Agreements they signed with our First Nation.”
In November 2007 the legitimate leadership of Barriere Lake had issued a ban on new forestry operations in the Trilateral Territory until Quebec implemented their agreements, but the province and forestry companies have used the leadership change as an opportunity to cut new logging roads [in preparation for logging operations] without permission from the legitimate Barriere Lake representatives.
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. “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 . 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 .
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.
In Montreal at noon, supporters of Barriere Lake will rally in front of the office of Premier Jean Charest at the southeast corner of McGill College and Sherbrooke.
*Norman Matchewan*, Barriere Lake spokesperson: (819) 435–2171; (514) 831-6902
*Marylynn Poucachiche*, Barriere Lake spokesperson: (514) 893-8283, (819) 860 – 3860
*Norman Young*, Grand Chief of the Algonquin Nation Secretariat: (819) 627 – 6869
Collectif de Solidarité Lac Barrière
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