Members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) community invited CPT to be present as human rights observers for two nonviolent blockades of Highway 117 (October and November 2008). They were calling on the federal and provincial governments to honour the trilateral agreement—a resource-sharing agreement signed in 1991—and to respect their customary governance structures. On both occasions the demonstrators were met with excessive use of force by the Quebec provincial police (SQ).
The Trilateral Agreement—considered a model for future treaties by the United Nations—specifies the conditions under which logging and other resource use can occur on traditional Algonquin territory. It has never been fully implemented.
Now the Minister of Indian Affairs has imposed an unwanted electoral system of government on the community. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are one of very few First Nations in Canada who have never been under the Indian Act's electoral system but have instead maintained their own customary governance code.
“The Canadian government claims they are imposing Indian Act elections because our traditional system doesn’t work, but it's in fact the government's interference in our internal affairs that has destabilized our governance,” says Marylynn Poucachiche, “The real reason they are imposing band elections is to sever our connection to the land, which is maintained by our traditional political system. They don’t want to deal with a strong leadership and a community that demands the governments honour signed agreements regarding the exploitation of our lands and resources.”
Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples both affirm the right to customary self-government.
CPT is calling on the federal and provincial governments to honour the trilateral agreement and the Minister of Indian Affairs, John Duncan, to reverse the imposition of band council elections.