Algonquins of Barriere Lake
Algonquins of Barriere Lake are making progress
Crisis Escalates in Northern Quebec
July 23, 2002 - First Nation moves to set up checkpoint to monitor escalating crisis as riot police were reported to have been dispatched to deal with the growing crisis involving loggers and Algonquins in northern Quebec. Algonquin leaders in Barriere Lake are calling on Premier Bernard Landry to step in and prevent the logging crisis in the region from spiraling out of control. The call comes as angry forest truckers and heavy equipment operators from the mill in Grand Remous threaten to blockade access to the Algonquin reserve at Rapid Lake. Hector Jerome, a spokesman for the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, says the Premierıs involvement would go along way to settling issues.
"Leadership and goodwill are needed at this time. We need clear signals from government in order to end this crisis. For our part, we have been in contact with representatives of the forest truckers to let them know that we want to work with them. The real fight isnıt between forestry workers and the Algonquins, the problem has been caused by the federal and provincial officials who are collaborating in order to try and undermine the Trilateral Agreement process."
Logging on the territory has been suspended since the Federal government walked away from the final stages of the Trilateral Agreement -- a groundbreaking Integrated Resource Management Plan IRMP for the territory. Without an IRMP, the Algonquin traditional way of life, which is dependent on hunting and gathering, faces threat from industrial forestry operations. The Algonquins are worried that the presence of riot police poses a dangerous escalation in tension in the region. As a result, Jerome says, checkpoints will be set up on the road leading into the Rapid Lake reserve.
"The decision to set up checkpoints on the road was not taken lightly. We are very worried about being seen to do anything that would escalate this situation. But we have some very serious safety concerns and had to take action. We have many elders and young people living in our isolated reserve. We cannot expose them to the threat of angry forestry workers driving through with large trucks and skidders."
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake, Rapid Lake Reserve is on Highway 117, 280 kms north of Ottawa and 150 kms south of Val dıOr.
Logging conflict with Algonquins cited
For Immediate Release
Barriere Lake Battle Heads to U.N.
New York City -- May 22, 2002 -- The opening session of the United Nations' Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has focused international attention on the looming land battle in the territory of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. Nearly 600 delegates heard how the governments of Canada and Quebec have walked away from the Trilateral Agreement a historic land management process for the traditional territory. As a result, the region is facing a return to the logging battles that caused an international outcry in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"The actions of the governments of Canada and Quebec constitute a serious violation of domestic and international obligations respecting Indigenous peoples," community representative Russell Diabo told the forum. "In unilaterally terminating their obligations under the Trilateral Agreement, Canada and Quebec are in breach of a solemn agreement."
It is not the first time the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have come to the attention of the United Nations. In the mid 1990s, the community was lauded for its 'trailblazing' efforts. The Trilateral Agreement was held up as a model for sustainable development, not just on Indigenous territory but applicable throughout the world. Last summer, however, the Federal government walked away from the final stages of the process. Since then, the Algonquins have been struggling to keep Quebec and industry onside with the accord. This past week it became known that Quebec had walked away from the process by unilaterally issuing cutting permits to logging giant Domtar.
"Obviously Quebec and Domtar have come to the conclusion that complying with the agreement will result in the loss of wood volume and revenue, so it is an example of entrenched economic interests taking presence over the interests of the Algonquins," stated Diabo. "The First Nation has vowed to stop operations which are not undertaken according to the terms of the Trilateral Agreement."
Diabo, who also met with Mary Robinson, U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, told the forum that the Trilateral Agreement could still serve as a model for the Permanent Forum. Diabo also recommended that the U.N. forum look at the Trilateral Agreement as a model for co-management and co-existence.
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May 20, 2002 - Quebec is being accused by the Algonquins of creating an atmosphere of conflict and confrontation. The forest conflict is heating up between Algonquins of Barriere Lake and the Quebec government over new provincial logging permits for cutting on traditional lands. Chief Harry Wawatie warns that "Quebecıs decision to unilaterally move ahead with cutting permits in the territory of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake will plunge the region into a logging crisis." Domtar was given permission to cut on the Algonquin territory without consulting the Barriere Lake people. Chief Wawatie pointed out that "the cutting permits were in clear violation of the terms of the Trilateral Agreement - a historic land planning accord signed by Quebec, the Federal government and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake."
Under the terms of the accord, all industrial logging in the territory must be -harmonized- with traditional Algonquin land uses. It is feared that Quebecıs decision to ignore the Trilateral Agreement process may signal a return to the logging conflicts which plagued the region in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Blockades were lifted when the Algonquins managed to bring the Federal and Quebec governments to work towards a comprehensive land management plan for the region. Last summer, Indian Affairs walked away from the final stages of the Trilateral process. Since then, the Algonquins have been struggling to keep Quebec at the table and find ways of finishing the land planning process. But under Quebecıs new Native Affairs minister the province's position has hardened.
SUBMISSION BY THE ALGONQUINS OF BARRIERE LAKE
Chairperson, Members of the Permanent Forum:
On behalf of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, I would like to congratulate you all on your appointment to this Permanent Forum; and on behalf of the First Nation, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at this 1st session. Since this will be our only intervention during this session, we ask the Chair's indulgence if we are a minute longer in our presentation.
THE ALGONQUINS OF BARRIERE LAKE The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (also known by their Algonquin name, "Mitchikanibikok Inik") is a First Nation community of approximately 450 people, situated in the province of Quebec, 3 hours drive north of Ottawa, Canada. The socio-economic conditions of the community are extremely poor:
* They have been marginalized onto a tiny 59-acre reserve at Rapid Lake, which is overcrowded, dusty and badly eroding.
* Unemployment rates are in the range of 80-90%.
* There is a housing crisis in the community - on the average, there are 7 persons per home, but the actual numbers go as high as 18 per house.
* Education levels are low and the incidence of diabetes is high.
On the positive side, the community has managed to maintain its language, customs and traditional way of life. The Algonquins welcome the establishment of this Permanent Forum as a venue within which Indigenous issues can be addressed on an international level.
As we have heard from other Indigenous delegations, working within domestic fora is often frustrating and has serious limitations, because of the imperatives of state governments to protect their own political sovereignty and territorial integrity, and their tendency to maintain entrenched economic interests, which usually implies denying the interests of Indigenous peoples.
The Algonquins have been the subject of numerous impacts, including flooding, clear-cutting and sports hunting and fishing. By the mid-1980's, the Algonquins felt under siege from increasing encroachments and developments on their traditional lands, primarily from forestry activities. They reacted to the perceived threat to their way of life with blockades and a public information campaign. The relationship with governments and the forest industry and forestry workers became highly conflictual.
The Algonquins did not want to stop outsiders from using their lands. They just wanted to make sure other users did not jeopardize their traditional way of life; and they wanted to make sure they received a fair share of resources developed on their lands. Thus, instead of taking a land claims approach, and being familiar with the Brundtland Report, which had just been issued, the Algonquins urged governments to implement the principles from that Report which included sustainable development and a decisive voice for Indigenous peoples in decisions regarding resource management within their traditional territories.
The governments of Canada and Quebec, which had publicly endorsed the Brundtland Report, were embarrassed into signing a Trilateral Agreement with the Algonquins in 1991. The signing involved much fanfare, with four Ministers signing on behalf of Quebec and one Minister signing on behalf of Canada.
The Trilateral Agreement is modeled on the notions of coexistence and co-management. It mandates the preparation of an Integrated Resource Management Plan (IRMP) for the traditional territory of the Algonquins, based on the principles of sustainable development and protection of the traditional way of life, while at the same time allowing for versatile uses such as forestry. After an initial period of distrust and acrimony with forest companies, ways were found to reconcile First Nation and industry interests under the Trilateral Agreement.
An interim process was implemented, in accordance with the agreement, to "harmonize forestry operations with Algonquin traditional activities".
Under this process, companies would develop their cutting plans in draft and submit them to the Algonquins, for review and approval, based on importance to their traditional economy. Often, measures to harmonize negotiations became quite protracted but in the end, usually resulted in a compromise. Once an agreement was reached between the Algonquins and the companies, the plans would be submitted to the Quebec government for its review and the issuance of requisite cutting permits. As a basis for the development of the IRMP, a program of research and data collection was undertaken to document the state of the resource base the nature and extent of uses, by both Algonquin and non-Algonquin users. This was mounted on a Geographic Information System. Innovative research was undertaken to collect traditional ecological knowledge and integrate it with scientific knowledge into forest management practices. Companies played a key role in this research: joint research was undertaken to calculate and distribute the annual allowable cut (AAC) of companies in a way that minimized and spread out the impact of forestry operations across Algonquin families who were harvesting wildlife in various traditional management units.
Most importantly, a first draft of an IRMP for one of the traditional management units within the Trilateral Agreement territory, has actually been completed and agreed upon in principle between the Algonquins, industry representatives and officials from the provincial government. This proved that sustainable forest management, which balances forestry industry and First Nation interests, is a possibility.
Sadly, despite its successes and though the Algonquin IRMP was on the verge of completion, which would have established the Trilateral Agreement is a very promising model of sustainable development and reconciliation, last year the federal government unilaterally withdrew it's support for the Agreement. The government terminated funding for the project even though it had signed a commitment to fund Algonquin participation in the Agreement, which was effectively renewed through its conduct and undertakings. Ironically, representatives from industry initially complained very loudly about the federal decision, as did the government of Quebec.
Unfortunately, the federal government has still not relented and the community faces the prospect of a return to hostilities as the provincial government has now issued cutting permits to forestry companies. One of the companies, Domtar Inc., in which, a controlling interest is held by the government of Quebec, has insisted that it will resume cutting operations shortly, notwithstanding the Trilateral Agreement. Obviously, Quebec and Domtar have come to the conclusion that complying with the Agreement will result in a loss of wood volume and revenue, so it is an example of entrenched economic interests taking precedence over the interests of the Algonquins. The First Nation has vowed to stop forestry operations, which are not undertaken according to the terms of the Trilateral Agreement.
These actions on the part of the governments of Canada and Quebec, constitute a serious violation of domestic and international obligations respecting Indigenous peoples:
* In unilaterally terminating their obligations under the Trilateral Agreement, Canada and Quebec are in breach of a solemn agreement, which has the status of a treaty, according to the opinion of a Quebec Superior Court
Judge Rejean Paul.
* By issuing cutting permits, Quebec is violating Barriere Lake's constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights. Canada is in breach of its fiduciary obligations to the Algonquins, which are explicitly acknowledged in the Agreement and also have constitutional force.
* By conducting themselves in away which promotes third parties to violate the land rights of Barriere Lake, Canada and Quebec are in breach of these land rights, as recognized in the Canadian Constitution and interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw decision. This is also in violation of land rights provisions of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which at this stage may not be binding international law but constitute emerging international standards on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
* By effectively terminating the trilateral project, Canada has reduced the role of Barriere Lake in sustainable development, contrary to Agenda 21, chapter 26, clause 26.1, which says: "In view of the interrelationship between the natural environment and its sustainable development and the cultural, economic and physical well-being of Indigenous people, national and international efforts to implement environmentally sound and sustainable development should recognize, accommodate and promote and strengthen the role of Indigenous peoples and their communities".
* Canada is acting contrary to the commitments it made under the Proposal> for Action (PFA) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (now succeeded by the UN Forum on Forests). For example, proposals 40 k, l and m, obligate Canada to promote research into traditional forest related knowledge and to incorporate it into forest management training. Proposal 17 f encourages states to elaborate systems for planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating national forest programs that involve participation of Indigenous people in management decisions respecting "state forest lands". The Trilateral Agreement satisfied these commitments made by Canada in international forestry fora.
In conclusion, we recognize that the mandate of the Permanent Forum does not extend to mediating complaints. However, it is our submission the Permanent Forum can examine cases where substantial cultural and scientific studies have been done, such as those the Barriere Lake community has undertaken. In order to develop international norms or standards to recognize and accommodate Indigenous peoples, we believe that "on the ground" situations, representing different circumstances have to be examined by the members of the Permanent Forum, along with representatives from the various United Nations agencies. In fact, I raised this idea with Mrs. Robinson a couple of days ago and she agreed that this is one type of activity the Permanent Forum should be doing. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are ready to share their experience with this forum if that is its wish.
The Forestry Battle of Barriere Lake
Barriere Lake Resource Agreement
Chiefs Condemn Indian Affairs'
Against All Odds
Barriere Lake - battle for sustainability
Algonquins Logging Crisis Worsens