ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: To protect and serve

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CPTnet
14 July 2012
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: To protect and serve

photos by Indigenous Peoples
Solidarity Movement of Ottawa
(IPSMO).

To protect and
serve. That is the motto of the provincial police force Sureté du Quebec, and
perhaps the majority of police departments world-wide. To protect and serve
whom? The Algonquins of Barriere Lake continue
to ask this question
.

On 3 July 2012, Montreal-based Resolute
Forestry Products (formerly Abitibi Consolidated) arrived and began logging
operations on Barriere
Lake’s traditional
territory. The community learned of the planned cut only about a week before – not
from the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) but by another source. MNR denied
a community representative’s request for a meeting, saying it would only meet
with elected tribal officials. MNR also refused to divulge the areas designated
for cutting.

 

MNR of Quebec
issued Resolute a logging permit even though neither party consulted with the
community, including elected officials, prior to planning and executing the
operation. This violates the 1991
“Trilateral Agreement” between the Canadian federal
government, Quebec’s
provincial government and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, which gives the
community decisive say over 10,000 square km of their traditional territory.

The community
began a public witness in the area on Wednesday, 4 July. Resolute ceased
operation Thursday. Anticipating a police response, Barriere Lake
requested CPT’s presence, and CPTers arrived Sunday.

Several
logging contractors arrived early Monday, 9 July. Community members hand delivered
a letter asking Resolute to cease all operations. A Sureté du Quebec (SQ) intelligence
officer who arrived during this exchange harshly advised the community to stop
pressuring the loggers and let them work.

 

SQ Sgt. Yves
Martineau arrived mid-morning. He and the community held several conversations during
the day. In the last one, Martineau told the community that logging would
commence in the morning and anyone attempting to block the loggers’ entrance or
impede their work would be arrested immediately. He advised them to
expect a heavy police presence.

Early Tuesday about
nine police vehicles and six company cars entered the territory. An SQ
helicopter hovered and swooped overhead. No one attempted to block the caravan.
The community proceeded to the site that afternoon, armed with signs, children
and determination. SQ allowed people to stand at the roadside, holding signs
for loggers and police to see.

 

“Deep down I’m
crying inside,” said Maggie Wawatie, looking across a barren wasteland. “Who
protects the trees? Who protects the animals?”

“Shame on you!”
shouted Norman Matchewan to the armed SQ officers lining the road. “The other
day, a baby bear was seen in there! Who do you protect?”

Though
dejection and depletion were widespread Tuesday evening, by Wednesday evening a
sense of joy, satisfaction and pride swept the camp.

Early Wednesday
afternoon, a small group set out into the bush to approach the site from the
remaining tree line. As they entered the cut area, they divided and approached
each of the two earthmovers. The earthmovers immediately reversed course and
headed for the road. Jubilant shouts swept across the group. As they followed
the machines, children and adults, many carrying signs, joined the procession. Others
cheered and shouted from the road. APTN news captured the moment on camera. SQ
did not intervene and there were no arrests.

The Algonquins
of Barriere Lake had defied the threat of arrest and successfully – if
temporarily – shut down logging operations.

As camp fires
began to crackle, CPT observed many SQ vehicles leaving and entering the
territory. Campsite visitors reported an increased SQ presence on the
roads. “Tomorrow is going to be a scary day,” remarked a woman. Perhaps. But
they remain, to serve and protect their land, the trees, the animals: their way
of life.

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