ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Barriere Lake threatens blockade

18 July 2012
ABORIGINAL JUSTICE: Barriere Lake threatens blockade

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

Tensions rose on the fourteenth day of the standoff between the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake, the province of Quebec and Resolute Forest Products. The community threatened a blockade to prevent further cutting.

Algonquin elder Gabriel Wawatie, whose family territory is being clear-cut, had received no official, written response to a letter he wrote last week to Quebec Premier Jean Charest and the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources.

But he did receive another response, and the message was clear. On Monday, 16 July, he and his wife were travelling in their pickup truck through Poigan Lake, returning to the community’s encampment near where Resolute started its cut on 3 July. They reported that while a white pickup was travelling very slowly in front of them, a dark pickup approached from behind. The white pickup came to a complete stop. The driver of the dark truck then jumped out of his vehicle, ran to Wawatie’s vehicle, pounded on its sides and hood, and shouted that he wanted to talk to him.

Wawatie recognized the man, thought to be an officer of Quebec’s national police (SQ – Sûreté du Québec). The community and Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Aboriginal Justice Team have had numerous encounters with him since the standoff began. He was not in uniform, as has been the case throughout. He approached Wawatie, at one point telling him, “You’re old enough to speak for yourself.” The man then let Wawatie pass.

Upon returning to the camp, the Wawaties shared how the loggers and SQ were escalating the standoff. 

 Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources gave Resolute Forest
Products a license to clear-cut on Algonquin territory
without the permission of those who live on the land.

Three loggers’ pickup trucks later approached the camp on their way to the cut area. The community sprang into action, moving a pickup onto the road to block their path.

As expected, SQ responded (from the opposite direction, the cut area). The community allowed SQ Sgt. Yves Martineau to proceed within the camp and on the road.

In a conversation with some tense moments, the community voiced their disgust at the harassment and intimidation of one of their elders. Sgt. Martineau affirmed their position and even promised an arrest should the facts so warrant. He wrote down the license plate number of the front truck and promised to follow up.

No arrests have been made as the loggers only “happened” to be in front of the Wawaties when stopped by SQ.

This comes on a day where the community successfully temporarily shut down logging operations twice, once in the afternoon and again later that night. Positioning themselves to mount a more effective blockade, they moved their camp closer to Resolute's operations.

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are a First Nation whose members hunt, fish, trap and harvest on more than 10,000 square kilometres of territory north of Ottawa. They are one of the few First Nations in Canada who still speak their traditional language and have a traditional government that is tied to their land-based existence.

A sign-on letter posted on 13 July by Barriere Lake Solidarity and linked in a 17 July CPT Action alert had received over 780 signatures by midday 18 July.