About 50 or so of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have occupied Victoria Island, near Canada’s Parliament buildings. A village has been erected and can easily be seen, a fact that the Algonquins are hoping will embarrass Ottawa into meeting with them to discuss their concerns. The Algonquins, from Northern Quebec, are upset because they say the Federal Government has walked away without giving the necessary funds to complete a Trilateral Agreement on land management called the Integrated Resource Management Plan (IRMP).
“We were told to use our Capital Dollars to complete the Agreement,” said Chief Carol McBride. This is something that they find unacceptable. “Our Capital Dollars go to housing and repairs. We have 8-17 people living in a two bedroom house and the conditions are deplorable.” McBride said this shows how little Ottawa is concerned about Barriere Lake and this is why they have come to Ottawa to meet with Deputy Minister Marc LaFreniere.
The situation doesn’t look to be resolved anytime soon. LaFreniere wrote a letter to Chief Harry Wawatie saying that they should talk to Quebec and the DIAND Quebec Regional Office. LaFreniere’s letter also said financial resources dedicated to completing the IRMP are difficult to justify based on the progress made so far.
Chief Wawatie said the letter was discussed by community residents and they were “dissatisfied and quite frankly insulted by” the DIAND’s response. Wawatie’s letter said the community blames Indian Affairs meddling in the internal affairs of the Band for losing two years of work. The letter goes on to say they will not meet with the Quebec Regional Offices of DIAND as that office is violating a Memorandum of Mutual Intent signed in 1997. The Barriere Lake letter goes on to suggest that given the insulting tone of the letter there may be a need for mediation by a third party.
In the continuing war of letters Domtar, a forestry company and the World Wildlife Fund, an environmental organization, have both expressed support for the Barriere Lake First Nation. While WWF support is understandable, Domtar’s is not as expected given the past. In the 1980’s Barriere Lake residents had blockaded roads. Domtar isn’t looking for another confrontation though and Chief McBribe said their support is strong and welcomed by her community. “I am advised that forestry companies will soon be out of areas over which they are authorized to cut under the trilateral Agreement,” said McBride adding that her community is “very anxious to avert unnecessary conflict.”
In any case Chief Carol McBride said that the people of Barriere Lake would not be going home without meeting Deputy Minister LaFreniere. “We have plans to go to their headquarters (DIAND) every day. We won’t be disruptive but we’ll express our concerns,” said McBride.