Idle No More: Algonquins of Barriere Lake

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Thanks to West Coast Native News for republishing
this article on their website.

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For the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (130 km north of Maniwaki, PQ), fighting the Federal government is something that’s gone on for far too long … decades too long. They would have preferred to work collaboratively and cooperatively with the Federal government, but this didn’t appear to appeal to representatives of the Federal government. Finally, in the Fall of 2008, after great consideration, the decision was made to set up a peaceful blockade on Highway 117 for one day. This was intended to bring attention to the fact that the Trilateral Agreement made between the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the government of Quebec and the government of Canada back in 1991 was not being honored the commitments made by the federal and provincial governments.

Instead of negotiating with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the Sûreté du Québec, without provocation,  shot tear gas canisters into a crowd of youth and elders. Confrontation, as decided on by the provincial government, instead of negotiation, as requested by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. Armed and trained officers were sent in against unarmed residents of Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation. But what came of this peaceful demonstration?

A year later, the fight continued, which lead to a number of charges being laid against Norman Matchewan after a peaceful blockade took place in 2009.

A year after that, the fight to have the signed Trilateral Agreement honored was still very much alive.

Fast forward two more years to 2012, and the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources office in Maniwaki, Quebec, issued permits to Resolute Forest Products (formerly known as Abitibi Bowater) for logging near Poigan Bay. The Ministry failed to follow protocol. They failed to follow the Measures To Harmonize Process and they failed to engage in proper consultation with land stakeholders.

But the Algonquin of Barriere Lake weren’t prepared to back down from the ongoing fight. Instead, they, along with a number of non-Native people, made their position clear to the Quebec government and to Resolute Forest Products, and finally the Quebec government and Resolute Forest Products agreed to negotiate with representatives of Mitchikanibikok Inik First Nation.

Then something good did come of all this fighting. For one thing, Norman Matchewan was acquitted of all charges against him when Yves Paquette of Abitibi Bowater (now Resolute Forest Products) lied during cross-examination at trial. Then Vincent Larin of the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources gave two conflicting accounts with regards to the cutting permits that were given to the company.

And just as they opposed the way business was being done on their lands by Resolute Forest Products (formerly known as Abitibi Bowater) with the permission of the provincial government, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake oppose the proposed exploration activities of Copper One in 2013.

How many times do the federal and provincial governments need to be reminded that the agreements they sign with First Nations people are to be respected as the legal and binding contracts they are? If these agreements had been reached with other nations, would the federal and provincial governments act in this same disrespectful and unlawful manner?

Elyse Bruce

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One Response to “Idle No More: Algonquins of Barriere Lake”


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