Braving yesterday’s frigid temperatures in Ottawa, over 200 people marched through the streets — from Parliament Hill to the PMO’s office to the Office of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs – to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. You can view some amazing pictures of the action here. (Migwetch to Mike Barber).
The group, a mix of residents of Barriere Lake and its supporters, demand:
- Canada and Quebec must honor the Trilateral Agreement they signed with Barriere Lake in 1991
- Canada must respect Barriere Lake’s traditional government
- Canada must reverse the forcible assimilation by rolling back section 74 of the Indian Act. A full list of community demands can be found here.
Put more simply, the community asks: “What if a foreign regime was destroying your system of government, so it could then steal your resources and prevent you from environmentally protecting your homeland? This is what the Harper Government and federal bureaucrats are doing to the First Nation of Barriere Lake” … //
… “The Trilateral Agreement is a contract between the Federal Government (Canada), the Provincial Government (Quebec) and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) that deals with land use of 10 000 km2 of land traditionally inhabited and used by the ABL. It is an alternative to Canada’s preferred negotiation policy, called the “Comprehensive Land Claims.” This negotiating process forces First Nations to extinguish their Aboriginal rights and title upon settlement, to give up communal land rights for private property ownership, and to shoulder expensive legal and land use mapping costs that eventually get docked from meagre settlements.
The ABL rejected this Comprehensive land claims approach, and chose instead to sign a conservation plan called the Trilateral Agreement. In summary, the Trilateral agreement would see the ABL included in decision making about the land, and gain a financial return from any resource extraction or commerce on their land (logging, hydro-electric, tourism). It would see traditional Algonquin knowledge of the land integrated into how the territory might be used and conserved.”
The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Shawn Atleo, has already warned the government to reconsider its actions: “Trying to force the community into the Indian Act election system, when they seem to be overwhelming opposed, will only increase tensions and the risk of confrontation with your ministry,” he said.
Unfortunately, the actions of the Federal government in regards to Barriere Lake is nothing new in the history of Canada, and its actions reflect not only the government’s paternal stance concerning First Nations people but also a fundamental lack of understanding of First National traditions (which are neither homogenous nor infantile).
Corvin Russel, of Barriere Lake Solidarity, writes, “at Barriere Lake, Canada and Quebec are doing exactly what they have been doing for more than 150 years: ruthlessly pursuing a policy of assimilation and cultural genocide, in order to secure access to profitable resources without sharing the benefits with the Indigenous people they belong to. Meanwhile, the Algonquins are upholding the lands for all of us, native and non-native.”
So let me pose the question again: “What if a foreign regime was destroying your system of government, so it could then steal your resources and prevent you from environmentally protecting your homeland?”
What would your community do? (full text).