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Lots can be done now to claw back at colonialism’s ugly consequences in Barriere Lake

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Human rights delegation touring Kitiganik reserve of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake

On March 22nd, World Water Day, I had the privilege of being part of a human rights delegation to Kitiganik, Rapid Lake reserve, at the invitation of members of Mitchikanibikok Inik, the Algonquins of Barrière Lake. It was just over a 3 hour drive up to the community carpooling alongside 3 people also on the delegation hailing from NYC stands with Standing Rock.

The Algonquins of Barrière Lake are a community of about 500 people living on the 59 acre reserve, but 100-200 others live on the territory off reserve. Their traditional territory covers much of La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve and large sections to the east and North East of there.

Just over 30 people were part of the delegation that gathered in the community’s health centre to share a meal and to listen to community members sharing stories about the history of their community and the struggles they have faced and are facing related to logging, mining, governance and basic community needs, such as housing and medical care for example.

As this time of year would have it, the roads to the land protection camp were too bad to bring a large group there, but we were able to do a walking tour of the community to see first hand the elementary school, the water treatment plant, the diesel generators, stories of long ago promises for community buildings, and the housing problems.

They showed us a house that had fallen prey to an electric fire rendering the main floor of the house uninhabitable, forcing the family, including children, to live in the basement of the house knowing full well that come spring time, the basement, as is the case with many other houses in the area, would be flooded. Yet the third party managers, Quebec City based accounting firm Lemieux Nolet, have yet to respond adequately to this critical situation.

Indeed it seems no new housing has been provided to the community members in the 11 years of government imposed third party management despite the dire need. And critical requests for housing renovations often go without follow through.

At the conclusion of this day, the delegation collectively signed on to a solidarity statement denouncing the current situation that has been exacerbated by third party managers over the last 11 years.

You can also view a series of tweets by Carleton University Professor Hayden King who was also part of the delegation that describes parts of our visit.

The day after the delegation, community members held a press conference on parliament hill to highlight many of the critical issues related to third party management. You can watch a video recording of the Press conference, or read coverage in the Globe and Mail.

In 2010, the government of Canada imposed a section 74 Indian Act band council election process on the community, ignoring their commitment to their traditional governance model, and causing a rift in the community. The community went through a healing process to get through this several years ago, but the government to this day does not recognize their traditional model of government that was codified by declaration in 1996 (see picture below).

This continues to be a blatant violation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Needless to say that colonialism is well and in Barriere Lake.

Share their story!

  1. Watch the Honor Your Word documentary (Vimeo on demand, 2013, 59 mins, $4.99 for 48h), “Algonquins of Barriere Lake vs Section 74 of the Indian Act” short video (3:47 mins) or the 1990 NFB film titled “Blockade: Algonquins Defend the Forest” about late 80’s logging struggle.

  2. Read and share these factsheets:

    1. Barrière Lake backgrounder & Information on agreements with governments

    2. Governance Brief

    3. Third Party Management Brief

    4. Mining Brief

  3. Organize a film screening of Honor your Word

  4. Organize a fundraiser for Barrière Lake Solidarity and the Algonquins legal struggles.

More info:

Photos: left – the community’s diesel generators; right – 1996 declaration to codify customary governance practices


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