On Monday December 13, 2010, New Democrat Charlie Angus (Timmins – James Bay) joined representatives from the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake to call on Stephen Harper’s federal government to respect signed commitments to help rebuild the marginalised Indigenous community and restore its traditional democratic process for selecting leadership.
The federal government’s recent decision to invoke section 74 of its Indian Act and impose a band council on the small reserve in northern Quebec is the latest in a series of moves that have destabilised and undermined the community’s effort at socio-economic development and prosperity.
The Algonquin of Barriere Lake are requesting Canada and Quebec to uphold signed agreements dating back to 1991, when the three governments signed a landmark sustainable development and resource co-management agreement praised by both the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
Instead of entering into land claims negotiations, and extinguishing their Aboriginal title to their traditional territories, the trilaterial agreement addressed mediated processes to alleviate the immediate pressures resulting from intensive resource extraction over a 10,000 square kilometer parcel of Algonquin territory within La Verendrye Park. These trilateral negotiations aimed to develop an integrated and sustainable resource management strategy that would ultimately recognize and affirm Algonquin land use practices without the need for extinguishing Algonquin rights.
In 1998, Quebec signed a further complementary Bilateral Agreement with Barrier Lake, but has since stalled on implementation. The result has been continued disputes between the Algonquin community, loggers and government officials over timber harvesting on Algonquin territory.
More recently, in 2006 two former Quebec Cabinet Ministers, Quebec special representative John Ciaccia and Barriere Lake special representative Clifford Lincoln, recommended to the Quebec government that the 1991 and 1998 agreements be implemented. In their recommendations they included detailed forest plans that would harmonize logging operations with continued Algonquin land use practices. They also recommended a system of revenue sharing that would provide the Barrier Lake community with a $1.5 million dollar share of the annual $100 million dollars in resource revenue that comes out of their territory.
Four years later, both the federal government and the government of Quebec, still refuse to work towards implementing these recommendations. With recent Supreme Court decisions respecting Aboriginal rights and the governments’ “duty to consult”, these continued efforts to undermine the Barrier Lake leaderships are also further undermining the Honor of the Crown.
Published in the West Quebec Post, Friday December 17, 2010