The Media Co-op

Local Independent News

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!
Not reviewed by Media Co-op editors. copyeditedfact checked [?]

Barriere Lake Algonquins Face Assault by Mining Company Copper One at Annual General Meeting

by Shiri Pasternak

Outside the AGM, June 1, 2017 in Toronto. Photo: Michael Toledano
Outside the AGM, June 1, 2017 in Toronto. Photo: Michael Toledano
Photo: Michael Toledano
Photo: Michael Toledano

If Canadians want to understand why some First Nations are sitting out the Canada 150 celebrations, they need look no further than to 15 community members who took an eight-hour drive from Barriere Lake in Quebec to Toronto on Thursday.

 

The Algonquins attended the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Copper One mining company to let them know there will be no mining on their territory. They have repeatedly, unequivocally, over the course of six years, notified Copper One that they intend to protect the headwaters of the powerful Ottawa and Gatineau Rivers and the effected lifeworlds of ecosystems and communities downstream.

 

SEE VIDEO SUMMARY OF THE ALGONQUINS AT COPPER ONE'S AGM

 

They were not even permitted to read a statement at the AGM: instead they were bullied, assaulted, threatened with arrest by police, accused of trespassing, and met with a thick line of “legal counsel” and security blocking their entrance into the meeting. The wonder of it all was the spirit of determination that remained undiminished and even galvanized by Barriere Lake in the face of the junior mining company’s obviously threatened response.

 

SEE RAW VIDEO "BARRIERE LAKE COUNCILLOR NORMAN MATCHEWAN ACCOSTED DURING STATEMENT TO COPPER ONE"

 

Barriere Lake have witnessed the anguish of other communities whose lands have been effected by mining, including the Secwepemc since the Mount Polley disaster who witnessed the largest tailing pond spill in Canadian history poison hundreds of river systems in their interior BC territory a few years ago.

 

Prime Minister Trudeau rode a wave of Indigenous support into power, promising for one thing, to implement the United Nation Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights (UNDRIP), to which Canada is a signatory. UNDRIP protects Indigenous peoples’ right to free, prior, and informed consent. But these promises have unspooled in a familiar way.

 

Confederation was a non-event for Indigenous people. They were not in the room when it was signed and they were not invited into the discussion. They are only included in brief mention under the federal head of power in the jurisdictional divisions of power between the federal and provincial governments.

 

But Canada’s assertion of sovereignty did not extinguish Indigenous peoples’ responsibility to the lands they had been occupying for thousands of years, nor their structures of governance, or their decision making authority that did not derive from a foreign power, but from the responsibilities passed down for generations from their ancestors.

 

The Algonquins have an encyclopedic knowledge of their territory. Their forest management includes food, beverage, medicine, utility, craftwork, ritual, ceremony and commercial uses, and involves the use of mammals, birds, insects, inanimate objects, fish, flora, and fauna. For example, they know which trees are good for snowshoes and baskets, which fish make the best glue, which insects indicate the best time to hunt sturgeon along the lakeshore. At least 104 plants have been used by the Algonquins for medicine that treats everything from kidney and urinary ailments, including medicines specifically for women to deal with menstruation and childbirth, as well as for treating cancer and diabetes. It is this knowledge, the Algonquins maintain, and their protection of it, that is the source of their jurisdiction.

 

In 1991, Barriere Lake signed an agreement with Canada and Quebec to co-manage resource use on their lands. Despite being lauded by the United Nations as a trailblazing achievement, both colonial governments failed to honour it. Modeled after a three-figure wampum exchanged between the Algonquins, the French, and the English around 1760, the Trilateral Agreement turned out to be another link in a chain of dishonoured agreements.

 

Barriere Lake’s vision of co-existence offers a solution to the problem of conflicting Indigenous and Canadian laws. But instead, the governments used every trick in the book to malign the community and squirm out of their obligations. The worst of this treatment involved the destruction of Barriere Lake’s customary governance system in 2010 by ministerial authority of an archaic clause of the Indian Act that had rarely been exercised in almost one hundred years.

 

On July 1, what will Canadians be celebrating? To live here proudly, we need to respect the Indigenous governance structures that are tied profoudly to the future viability of these lands.

 

Shiri Pasternak is assistant professor in the School for the Study of Canada at Trent University, and the author of Grounded Authority: The Algonquins of Barriere Lake against the State.


Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.

Creative Commons license icon Creative Commons license icon

About the poster

Trusted by 3 other users.
Has posted 76 times.
View David Gray-Donald's profile »

Recent Posts:


David Gray-Donald (David Gray-Donald)
montreal and toronto
Member since September 2014

About:


719 words

Join the media co-op today
Things the Media Co-op does: Support
Things the Media Co-op does: Report
Things the Media Co-op does: Network
Things the Media Co-op does: Educate
Things the Media Co-op does: Discover
Things the Media Co-op does: Cooperate
Things the Media Co-op does: Build
Things the Media Co-op does: Amplify

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!