My old friends, the Barrière Lake Algonquins, take their heroic struggle to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 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 Barrière 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 Barrière 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 comanagement and co-existence.
note: Boyce Richardson’s website is at: www.magma.ca/~brich/index.html