Archive for the Algonquin Nation Category

Barriere Lake Algonquin a ‘Political Prisoner’

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Repression on December 15, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Blockade leader says he’s a ‘political prisoner’

Globe and Mail, December 15, 2008

Speaking from a jail cell, deposed native leader Benjamin Nottaway says he is a political prisoner, targeted for his outspoken opposition to the governments of Canada and Quebec.

He is the latest casualty of a power struggle that has included allegations of a political coup, fire bombings and several interventions by riot police.

It reads like a tale ripped from the headlines of a war-torn dictatorship. Instead, it’s the story of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, a Quebec community of 450 people three hours north of Ottawa.

Mr. Nottaway, imprisoned for 45 days for leading a highway blockade, says that although he misses his children, he is being treated with respect in jail, where fellow inmates refer to him deferentially as the “chief.” But the question of who actually is the chief of Barriere Lake is far from clear.

Mr. Nottaway alleges that he was deposed by an ambitious group of plotters led by Casey Ratt, who launched what Nottaway supporters call an “administrative coup d’état” this year and installed themselves as the band government.

He calls Mr. Ratt a “puppet” and a “government agent,” propped up by officials in Ottawa and Quebec City who see him as a soft touch when it comes to defending aboriginal land title and resource rights.

Mr. Ratt laughs at these suggestions, and says there is no leadership crisis in Barriere Lake, save for the grumblings of those who have lost their grip on power and have enlisted non-native activists to push their case in the news media.

He says he came to power in January after a three-month leadership review, which he launched because he was upset that Mr. Nottaway’s group had closed the band school, a move he perceived as motivated by their own political aims.

“It’s no good for our kids to use them as political pawns,” Mr. Ratt says. “A lot of people didn’t agree with those tactics.”

After Mr. Ratt was declared chief, his opponents said he had hijacked the traditional selection process and tried to push him off the reserve. His house burned down in suspicious circumstances, he says, as did the band office.

“But I’m still in the community,” he says. “It’s a steady struggle.”

Barriere Lake does not elect leaders according to the one-member, one-vote system set out in the Indian Act, but instead uses a selection system led by a council of elders. The federal government says it has no role in adjudicating that system, but has acknowledged the election of Mr. Ratt’s group and says it will conduct business with his council.

After several escalating protests against Mr. Ratt’s government, the Nottaway group blockaded Highway 117 twice in recent months. In October, riot police were sent in by the provincial police force and were accused of using violent tactics to disperse the protesters. In November, Mr. Nottaway and four other prominent political opponents of Mr. Ratt were arrested by riot police for staging another highway blockade, which they called a tactic of last resort. They were asking the federal government to appoint an independent observer to oversee a new leadership selection.

“When I was in court my lawyer told me, ‘The Crown wants you to suffer, they want you to feel the pain.’ They asked for 12 months, but I got 45 days,” Mr. Nottaway says. “I’m a political prisoner, and they know that. It’s all politically motivated.”

The people of Barriere Lake have never signed a treaty with Canada, and they say they have never received a fair share, or had a say, in the resource revenue extracted from their traditional territory, which they estimate at $100-million a year. For its part, the community suffers crippling unemployment and is not connected to the power grid, so it runs on diesel generators.

Mr. Ratt says he wants to put the power struggle behind him and work toward finding both short- and long-term solutions for his community.

Mr. Nottaway says he can’t allow the band to be led by a chief he considers illegitimate. His goal is to see a 1991 trilateral agreement on resource management honoured by the province and the federal government.

“The government imposed a minority faction on our community,” he says. “That’s not what we want and we’re never going to accept it. Even though I’m in here, we’re not going to stop fighting.”


Algonquins Block Highway, Hospitalized After Police Attack

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Repression, Resistance on October 21, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Algonquins Hospitalized After Police Attack

Barriere Lake Solidarity Collective, October 7, 2008

UPDATE: An Algonquin man is hospitalized the morning after Quebec police shot him in the chest with a tear-gas cannister. A disabled teenage girl was also treated with oxygen in the local Health Clinic. Twenty two children under eight and two babies were caught in the tear gas shot by the police.

To view photos:


Tuesday, October, 7, 2008

Canada and Quebec use riot police, tear gas, and “pain compliance” on peaceful Algonquin families to avoid negotiations: ‘pain compliance’ perfect description of Conservative’s aboriginal policy, say community spokespeople

Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / – Yesterday afternoon, the Conservative government and Quebec used riot police, tear gas, and “pain compliance” techniques to end a peaceful blockade erected by Algonquin families from Barriere Lake, rather than negotiate, as requested by the community. The blockade on Highway 117 in Northern Quebec began at 6:00am Monday, with nearly a hundred community members of all ages and their supporters promising to remain until Canada’s Conservative government and Quebec honoured signed agreements and Barriere Lake’s leadership customs. Around 4pm, nearly sixty Quebec officers and riot police encircled families after a meal and without warning launched tear gas canisters, one of which hit a child in the chest.

“Our demands are reasonable,” said Norman Matchewan, a spokesperson who was racially slurred by Minister Lawrence Cannon’s assistant earlier in the election. “We’re only asking for the government to uphold the agreements they’ve signed and to stop illegally interfering in our customary governance. The message we’ve received today is that Stephen Harper and Jean Charest are unwilling to even play by their rules.”

“We will not tolerate these brutal violations of our rights,” added Matchewan. “Forestry operations will not be allowed on our Trilateral agreement territory, and we will be doing more non-violent direct action.”

Nine people, including an elderly women, a pregnant woman, and two minors, were roughly arrested. While a line of police obscured the view of human rights observers from Christian Peacemaker Teams, officers used severe “pain compliance” techniques on protestors who had secured themselves to concrete-filled barrels, twisting arms, dislocating jaws, leaving them with bruised faces and trouble swallowing.

“In this election alone, the Conservatives have labelled us alcoholics and vilified our community’s majority as “dissidents,” said Michel Thusky, another community spokesperson, referring to an op-ed published by Minister Lawrence Cannon in regional newspapers. “Now they and Quebec have chosen violence over meeting their most basic obligations to our community. ‘Pain compliance’ is the perfect description of the Conservative government’s aboriginal policies.”

Barriere Lake community members had promised to maintain the blockade until the Government of Canada honoured the 1991 Trilateral agreement, a landmark sustainable development and resource co-management agreement praised by the United Nations and the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. To end federal interference in their leadership customs, they wanted the Government of Canada to appoint observers to witness a leadership reselection according to their codified customary selection code, respect its outcome, and then cease interfering in their internal governance.

– 30 –

Media Contacts:

Michel Thusky, Barriere Lake spokesperson: 819 – 435 – 2171

Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake spokesperson : 514 – 831 – 6902

Marylynn Poucachiche, Barriere Lake spokesperson : 819 – 435 – 2171

Collectif de Solidarité Lac Barrière

Lessons Learned from the KI6 Trial

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Anishinabe Nation, Cree Nation, Repression on June 6, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Lessons Learned from the KI6 Trial

June 4, 2008 – By Chris Webb

Seven indigenous leaders from North West Ontario who were jailed for protecting their land were released on May 28. Their case caused national embarrassment for the Ontario provincial government and revealed just how easy it is for companies to mine on First Nation’s land without their permission.

The six from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation -plus Bob Lovelace from Ardoch Algonquin First Nation-were charged with disobeying court orders in an ongoing dispute with mining companies Platinex Inc and Frontenac Ventures. Companies that they say did not consult with their communities before beginning invasive mining. Despite Canada’s highest court insisting that consultation must taker place, many mining companies fail to do so. The KI6 and Lovelace were released after two months of their sentence and all charges have been stayed, including fines.

Frontenac Ventures announced on Monday that they would be dropping all charges against Lovelace and six other protestors who disobeyed a court order to stay away from a prospective uranium mining site.

All of the imprisoned received immense public support from both indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians. The Tragically Hip even dedicated a song to Lovelace during a February concert. A huge public rally in Queen’s Park coincided with their trial, and letters of support for the accused poured in. They received support from such high-profile Canadians as Margaret Atwood, Stephen Lewis and Sarah Harmer, who signed a letter-along with 20 other prominent Canadians-to Premier Dalton McGuinty calling for their release and an end to mining on their land.

Debate in the provincial legislature on the National Aboriginal Day of Action-one day after the KI6 appeal trial-highlighted how serious the case was and what it could mean for future indigenous relations with the McGuinty government. Provincial NDP leader Howard Hampton claimed the McGunity liberals brought on the day of action early by not consulting and accommodating first nations. “Two months after requesting that the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug leadership be hit with penalties that hurt, suddenly, the McGuinty government reversed their position,” he said. “Instead of forcing grandmothers and respected First Nation leaders to spend two months in jail, why didn’t the McGuinty government use the tools at your disposal, use section 35 of the Mining Act to declare that the disputed lands were not subject to mining exploration, and save everybody the embarrassment?”

The Ontario Mining Act is fraught with problems for indigenous communities. It operates under a free-entry system that allows mining companies free access to Crown Land-like those surrounding KI-without prior consultation.

The government constantly misreads public opinion says Joan Kuyek, National Coordinator for Miningwatch Canada. “We’re absolutely thrilled the KI6 and Lovelace have been released, but what needs to change is the Mining Act.” Kuyek proposes a permit system that forces companies and government to consult and accommodate indigenous communities and give them the right to say no. “This isn’t just an issue of changing the act,” she says, “It’s changing how laws work in this country.”

As protestors gathered on the lawn in front of the legislature last Thursday calling for indigenous land rights and treaties to be respected, Premier McGuinty acknowledged their presence but never said why he hadn’t done more to protect their land from mining and their leaders from jail. His minister of Aboriginal Affairs Michael Bryant said the jailing ought never to have happened, “and it is fortunate that now it is over for chief and council. The member is absolutely right: They never should have gone to jail.”

But words that echo through provincial council chambers have done little to change the way business is done on indigenous lands.

Chris Reid, lawyer for Lovelace and the KI6, reported after the trial that the root cause of the trial is “the Mining Act and the province’s almost obsessive attachment to the mining industry and the free entry system.” He added that although the appeal trial judges did not give reasons for their judgment, they seemed troubled by “Ontario’s rigid refusal to negotiate or to consider the possibility of FNs having a right to say no to mining.”

The case of the KI6 will be a lesson to future Ontario provincial governments in their dealings with indigenous communities. Any move to reform the Mining Act or improvement in the consultation process should be encouraged, but it should not be the only step. Dialogue needs to happen federally and locally within the affected communities. But in order for this to happen, treaties need to be respected, land claims need to be negotiated, and the sovereignty and interests of indigenous communities must be upheld.

Chiefs and band councillors jailed

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Anishinabe Nation, Cree Nation, Repression on March 27, 2008 by wiinimkiikaa

Aboriginal umbrella group breaks off talks with provincial government over decision

With a report from Karen Howlett in Toronto
Globe and Mail
March 18, 2008

OTTAWA — Native leaders from a remote Northwestern Ontario reserve were sent to jail in handcuffs yesterday for opposing mining on their traditional lands, as an opposition leader blamed the Ontario government for failing to resolve the conflict.

Chief Donny Morris, deputy chief Jack McKay and four band councillors each received six-month sentences for contempt of court from the Ontario Superior Court in Thunder Bay.

It was the second time this year that aboriginal leaders have been jailed in Ontario over mining blockades.

The incarcerated leaders are gaining support from a wide spectrum of activists, including human-rights groups, American environmentalists and even the Kingston-based rock group the Tragically Hip.

Moreover, the umbrella group representing native reserves across Ontario’s North said that it is severing all talks with the province in light of yesterday’s development.

The six people sentenced yesterday are from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (also known as KI or Big Trout Lake) First Nation, about 600 km north of Thunder Bay.

The natives are in a dispute with Platinex Inc., an exploratory drilling company, which holds more than 220 mining claims in the area to look for platinum deposits.

The court issued an order last fall allowing Platinex to begin drilling, but when company representatives landed in Big Trout Lake on Nov. 6, natives and an aboriginal OPP officer threatened to arrest them if they proceeded, Mr. Justice George Smith said yesterday.

“If two systems of law are allowed to exist – one for the aboriginals and one for the non-aboriginals – the rule of law will disappear and be replaced by chaos,” he said.

A few hours later in the Ontario Legislature, New Democratic Party Leader Howard Hampton blamed the court decision on the McGuinty government’s “complete and utter failure” to consult aboriginal communities about mineral exploration.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant said he has visited KI every month this year in an effort to negotiate a resolution.

“The finding [yesterday] obviously is extremely disappointing,” Mr. Bryant said.

The Platinex mining claims are not on reserve land, but rather the larger traditional native lands. The company has said it tried to involve KI in the process and offered financial compensation.

Chris Reid, who represents both aboriginal communities that were found in contempt, said natives in Big Trout Lake are vowing to maintain their opposition even though the court case has brought them close to bankruptcy.

“No way are they backing down,” Mr. Reid said. “What they’ve been saying is they’ll have to put the whole community in jail – 1,300 people.”

Last month, Paula Sherman and Robert Lovelace, co-chiefs of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, were sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court in similar circumstances. Chief Lovelace was also fined $25,000 and Chief Sherman $15,000. Chief Sherman avoided jail time by promising to stop protesting against uranium prospecting north of Kingston.

The incarceration of Chief Lovelace, a professor at Queen’s University, was noted by Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie during a recent concert in their hometown of Kingston.

“Here’s one for Bob Lovelace,” he told the crowd, before playing the song It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken.

Native Cops at Algonquin Land Re-Occupation

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Repression on August 5, 2007 by wiinimkiikaa

Native Cops at Algonquin Land Re-Occupation

by Wii’nimkiikaa, August 2007

“Indian Police physically enforce the will and laws of the oppressors on their own people with billy clubs, mace and guns. Indian Police are people destroyed as Indians, casualties of the psychological warfare waged on the Indian people. Indian Police are used by dominant society to harass the Indian people, especially those fighting for national and racial survival. Many Indian leaders were murdered by Indian Police, notably Sitting Bull and others.”
– Karoniaktajeh (Louis Hall), Mohawk Nation, The Warriors Hand Book

“Are Indigenous people being deceptively taken over by the police?”
– Mohawk Nation News (MNN), July 30, 2007

In a recent Globe and Mail article, the president of Frontenac Ventures, George White “pointed out that one of the Algonquin leaders, Ardoch Lake co-chief Randy Cota, is an OPP [Ontario Provincial Police] constable at the local detachment.” But according to the Globe and Mail, “Mr. Cota and the OPP both insist that Mr. Cota’s work as co-chief is separate from his police work and is done in his private time.”

So the same police force that killed Anishinabe warrior Dudley George at Ipperwash (Aazhoodena) and attacked Six Nations people at Caledonia is now supposedly on the side of Native sovereignty? Not possible. Conflict of interest.

More information on OPP involvement in the ongoing Alqonquin actions against uranium mining in Ontario can be found in a recent Mohawk Nation News article linked to below.



Aazhoodena (Ipperwash) re-occupied in defiance of the OPP, 1995

Sharbot Lake Rejects Offer

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Resistance on July 21, 2007 by wiinimkiikaa

Sharbot Lake Rejects Offer

In Sharbot Lake within the past couple of months a small number of the Algonquins from the Ardoch First Nation repatriated their unceded traditional lands, still currently used by Natives and Non-Natives for hunting and fishing. In the same area in Northern Ontario, a corporation called FRONTENAC VENTURES has been “testing” the area for “possible” uranium mining for a few years. The area they repatriated is currently under negotiations with CANADA. However these negotiations are “on hold” by CANADA. Yet FRONTENAC still has a license to carry on with their “testing”.

Yesterday Frontenac Ventures made a financial offer to the Algonquins of Ardoch First Nation. This financial offer was flat out rejected by the Algonquins. No amount of money can ever compensate them for the likelihood of death, cancer, mutated births, still births, sterilization and other health risks that will arise as a direct result of uranium mining.

The health risks are too great for our future generations. The enviromental damage will be substantial and unstoppable. Why take the risk with any of our children? The responsibility of our people is to maintain life for our future generations. That’s all aspects of life. The plant life, animal life and human life.

We are born with a responsibility to protect life, no matter what the cost is to us.

The Algonquins need our support as they are undertaking a HUGE responsibility. They are fighting to protect practically the whole watershed of Northeastern Ontario. Everyone connected to that watershed will benefit, when the Algonquins are successful.

When asked about the financial offer one Algonquin stated, “…we can not be bought. (the land repatriation is) Not about money…”

Janie Jamieson


“Protesters, mining company meet face to face”
Kingston Whig-Standard (July 19, 2007)

Residents, natives protest uranium mine; 300 participate in Sharbot Lake march

Posted in Algonquin Nation, Resistance on July 10, 2007 by wiinimkiikaa

Residents, natives protest uranium mine; 300 participate in Sharbot Lake march

Jordan Press
The Kingston Whig-Standard (Ontario, Canada)
Monday, July 09, 2007

A retired minister, John Hudson moved from Kingston to the Sharbot Lake area15 years ago.

He moved for the scenery, the environment and the quiet, but all that could change and yesterday, he was preaching against a plan that would see uranium mined near his home.

Marching along Highway 7, Hudson said he’s worried about the environmental impacts from the proposed operation.

“I’m right down the river and I see enough crap coming down our river,” said Hudson, 70. “The bottom line is I don’t want a uranium mine at my back door.”

And neither did the estimated 300 people who marched along with Hudson, area residents and Sharbot Lake and Ardoch Algonquin First Nations members.

“We were hoping for 100,” said Doreen Davis, chief of the Sharbot Lake Algonquin First Nation. “I am just honoured and humbled that the people are here to support us.

Davis said everyone wants to see a full moratorium on mining the substance and the demonstration was designed to get the attention of upper levels of government.

“And if not, we’ll do this again,” she said. “We’ll continue until somebody listens.”

Yesterday’s march went from the intersection of highways 7 and 509 west to Highway 38. Along the way, the band of demonstrators grew as more people appeared on the road and joined the march.

Waving flags, chanting, singing, drumming and holding signs, the march had a simple message summed up on many of the homemade signs they carried and the T-shirts they wore: “No uranium mining.”

Provincial police closed off that section of the highway and re-routed traffic through the area for the one-hour march that police described as “extremely peaceful.”

Harold Perry, honorary chief of the Sharbot Lake Algonquin First Nation, said there is an obligation to fight the proposed mining operation.

“We can’t afford to have this kind of stuff going on,” he said. “I don’t want my daughter and the next generations to grow up with a thing like that.”

Mining uranium causes long-term environmental and health effects because of its radioactivity, said Joan Kuyek, national co-ordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

“In this case, the local communities are saying they don’t want it, the Algonquins are saying they want it and we support that,” Kuyek said.

A group of Algonquins have been at the entrance to the proposed mining site. The occupation is now into its second week.

Along with Algonquins have come area residents who oppose the project. Some have brought themselves, others food and supplies.

Frontenac Ventures Corporation has staked 400 claims over about 8,000 hectares in North and Central Frontenac. The land is a mix of private and Crown land, the latter being the subject of negotiations between the Algonquins and provincial government.

Frank Morrison is one of those people who found out the company has a stake on his property. He marched yesterday and said residents needed to back the Algonquins because it was the area’s lone hope.

Under provincial law, the land on native reserves isn’t available for mineral collection.

“The land claim is going to save us and if it wasn’t for that, we might as well pack up and go home,” he said.

Just like the march, the number of people taking up the cause is increasing, Morrison said.

“It’s just growing exponentially,” he said. “That’s what happens when people finally find out what’s going on here.”

“This,” he said looking up and down the mass of marchers, “is more symbolic than anything else.”

Hudson said he was concerned about the way the proposal was being handled with people such as Morrison simply being told the company had a right to mine their property.

“It will be interesting to see what the position of our provincial government will be,” he said.

Any hint of problems from mining uranium could cause damage to the area’s economy, said Norman Guntensperger, a councillor from Central Frontenac. Mining uranium could damage the area’s hope to attract more tourists and needed to be stopped, he said.

“We want to get the word out. I see this as the beginning of a long fight,” he said.