ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Algonquins of Barriere Lake demand their rights on Parliament Hill


28 January 2011
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Algonquins of Barriere Lake demand their
rights on Parliament Hill
by Peter Haresnape

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.
 Barriere Lake Solidarity

On Monday 13 December 2010, several dozen people from the Algonquins
of Barriere Lake (ABL) community travelled the three-and-a-half-hour journey to
Canada’s federal Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  Allies from Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa joined them to
demand that the government reverse its use of the Indian Act to impose a
council on Barriere Lake, and respect its existing obligations to ABL.

 This summer, the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs has
again interfered in and disrupted community’s traditional governance system
(Mitchikanbikok Anishnabe Onakinakewin). 
The government used Section 74 of the Indian Act to force the community
into a leadership election even though over half the community—more than 200
people—signed a statement that rejected the use of Section 74.  The nomination meeting was blocked by
the majority of the community, but still produced a band council and chief
through about a dozen mail-in nominations.  The chief-by-acclamation resigned in protest at the
government’s intervention, but the council, mostly comprised of people who do
not live on the reservation, are still recognised by the Canadian State as the
legitimate government.

As part of the 13 December 2010 action, the community delivered
a large printed copy of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the document recently signed by Canada, now
awaiting implementation.  Article
18 of the Declaration states “Indigenous peoples have the right […] to
maintain and develop their own indigenous decision-making institutions.”  This is just one of the many rights
recognised in the UNDRIP which the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have been
exercising since time immemorial.

 In keeping with the attitude of the government towards the
Declaration, no one from either the Prime Minister’s office or the Ministry of
Indian and Northern Affairs came out to accept the large facsimile, and in the
end, the community left it propped against the doors of the Ministry.

 Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams attended the march to
show their support for ABL and their condemnation of the tactics being used to
destabilise a strong community.  The
Trilateral Agreement signed between ABL, Quebec, and Canada in 1991 was an
opportunity to promote sustainable development in the territory in a way that
respected Indigenous knowledge and land use.  According to community spokesperson Marylynn Poucachiche,
there is a connection between Canada and Quebec’s refusal to honour the
Trilateral Agreement and the disruption of traditional government: “They don’t
want to deal with a strong leadership and a community that demands the
government honour its signed agreements regarding the exploitation of our lands
and resources.”  Barriere Lake is
holding them to their word.

For more information on the struggles of the Barriere Lake
community, see https://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/

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