Barriere Lake sets up peaceful blockade to stop unconstitutional attack on their customary government


Barriere Lake Algonquin Press Release

Date of publication: 
22 July 2010

22 July 2010

Barriere Lake Algonquins set up peaceful blockade to stop unconstitutional attack on their customary government; AFN passes emergency resolution condemning Minister Strahl

Kitiganik, Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory – This morning Barriere Lake community members set up a peaceful blockade on the access road to their reserve to prevent an electoral officer from conducting a nomination meeting for Indian Act band elections.

The electoral officer aims to implement the federal government’s plan to abolish Barriere Lake’s traditional leadership selection system by holding nomination meetings for a band election imposed through section 74 of the Indian Act. Barriere Lake is one of the few First Nations in the country who have never been under the Indian Act’s electoral system, continuing instead to operate under a Customary Governance Code that they have used since time immemorial.

At its General Assembly in Winnipeg on Wednesday, the Assembly of First Nations passed an emergency resolution condemning Minister of Indian Affairs Chuck Strahl and demanding that he rescind the section 74 order to impose Indian Act band elections.[1]

“We reject the Minister’s unconstitutional attempt to assimilate our leadership selection customs by imposing a foreign regime on us. The community is unanimously in favour of continuing to be governed by our customs,” says Marylynn Poucachiche, a community spokesperson. “Because the government has not heeded its constitutional obligations or our community’s wishes, we are turning to peaceful direct action. We will be preventing the nomination meeting from proceeding and are demanding the federal government immediately cease and desist in their attempt to abolish our customs. The government is breaking the law, but through our actions we are protecting it.”

Barriere Lake’s inherent right to customary self-government is protected by section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. A May, 2010 report by the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples affirmed that First Nations have the right to maintain control over their internal affairs and be free to pursue their vision of customary government.

“The Canadian government is trying to forcibly assimilate our customs so they can sever our connection to the land, which is at the heart of our governance system,” says Tony Wawatie, another community spokesperson. “They don’t want to deal with a strong leadership, selected by community members who live on the land that demands that the federal and Quebec governments implement the outstanding agreements regarding the exploitation of our lands and resources.”

Under Barriere Lake’s customary governance code, participation in leadership selections is open only to those band members who live in the traditional territory and have knowledge of and connection to the land. This ensures that people who have a stake in the land and its health select leaders. But Indian Act band elections would open voting to individuals on the band registry list who do not live in the community’s territory.

The federal government has slightly delayed the date for the Indian Act band elections, announcing they will try to hold them on September 8, 2010.


Media contacts: Tony Wawatie, community spokesperson: 819 – 860-4121 Marylynn Poucachiche, community spokesperson: 819-441-4923

Collectif de Solidarité Lac Barrière
barrierelakesolidarity [at] gmail [dot] com


AFN Annual General Assembly, July 20 – 22, 2010, Winnipeg, Manitoba

TITLE:Support for Algonquins of Barriere Lake and Development of a National Framework on First Nation-Driven Elections Subject: Elections Moved by:Tony Wawatie, Proxy for the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, QC Seconded by:Arthur Manuel, Proxy for Neskonlith Indian Band, BC WHEREAS:

A. The Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation have Aboriginal Title & Rights and have operated under a customary system of governance for generations and have never been under the Indian Act Section 74 Elective System.

B. The Barriere Lake Customary Chief and Council entered into a 1991 Trilateral Agreement and other related agreements with the governments of Canada and Quebec. However, after signing of these significant agreements with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, relating to co-management, revenue-sharing and community development, the governments of Canada and Quebec have resisted their implementation and used divide-and-conquer tactics and community divisions to try and avoid their obligations under the 1991 Trilateral Agreement and related agreements.

C. The government of Canada through the Minister of Indian Affairs, as well as, the bureaucracy from the Department of Indian Affairs (INAC) have for over the past 15 years, interfered into the internal affairs of the First Nation, while trying to avoid implementing the significant agreements they have signed with the First Nation. On April 1, 2010, Minister Chuck Strahl issued an order under section 74 of the Indian Act, putting Barriere Lake under Indian Act election system. Efforts have been made to get the Minister to cancel the section 74 order, but so far INAC officials have refused to do so and have scheduled Indian Act election nominations for July 22nd, 2010.

D. While divisions have existed in the First Nation as a result of federal DIA interference, a community reconciliation process has been underway and the result is an overwhelming majority of community members resident in the traditional territory have confirmed they want to continue to operate under their customary governance code and make amendments to the code if necessary and agreed upon by the First Nation. There is broad consensus within the First Nation in opposition to the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl’s attempts to impose an Indian Act Section 74 elective system over the First Nation.

E. On July 18, 2010, Elders representing the two sides within the First Nation and supported by the two First Nation Leaders who have both been recognized by the federal government in recent years, sent a joint letter to Minister Strahl, which was copied to the National Chief and Regional Chiefs: 1) Informing the Minister that community meetings have been held July 15-18, 2010, and that the First Nation has reconciled and is united in their opposition to Minister Strahl’s Section 74 Election Process; and 2) The First Nation has set up an Interim Task Force representing a broad consensus in the First Nation to oppose the Section 74 process until a Customary Chief and Council is named; and 3) denounced Minister Strahl and demanded that he cancel the Section 74 elections in the First Nation, including the nomination meeting scheduled for July 22, 2010.

F. In 2000, the AFN Confederacy in Resolution #66, supported the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and urged the Quebec government to negotiate in good faith with the First Nation and in 2001, the AFN Confederacy in Resolution #34 (D), again supported the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and urged Canada to honour its obligations under the 1991 Trilateral Agreement, the AFN National Office was also directed to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in a national and international campaign to highlight the federal government’s dishonourable conduct.

G. The imposition of the section 74 Order on the Algonquins of Barriere Lake is a violation of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights; a draconian abuse of power by the Minister and is inconsistent with the recent Report of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, entitled First Nation Elections: The Choice is Inherently Theirs, which noted: “Ever since the arrival of the colonizers and the imposition of their governance systems throughout Canada, the Aboriginal peoples have resisted and struggled to reconstitute their traditional forms of political representation and governance practices, to maintain control of their own affairs, and to have governments be accountable to them.”

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Chiefs-in-Assembly:

1. Condemn the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl for his disregard for the customary leadership selection code and reconciliation process within the Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation by trying to impose the Indian Act Section 74 Election System over the Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation.

2. Demand that the federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Chuck Strahl, immediately rescind the Section 74 Order imposing the Section 74 elective system over the Algonquins of Barriere Lake First Nation.

3. Demand that the governments of Canada and Quebec implement the 1991 Trilateral Agreement and related agreements with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.

4. Mandate the AFN to work with First Nations, Tribal Councils, PTOs and AFN regional offices on a national framework to support and facilitate First Nations-driven elections and leadership selection processes, including the resolution of community disputes, consistent with the internal sovereignty and customs and traditions of First Nations.