Barricades thrown up by members of the Algonquin Nation at Lac Simon are being blamed for the closure of two nearby sawmills.

Domtar has said that as a result of the barricades, they will be closing one sawmill in Malartic and another in Val d’Or because of a lack of trees to supply them.

The Algonquins say they want the province to negotiate an agreement on forestry in their territory that is similar to the Cree-Quebec Paix des Braves deal.

Ministry of Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Mathieu St. Amant said the Quebec government is open to negotiations with the Algonquin Nation but wants the barricades taken down before any talks begin.

But the Algonquins say Quebec is putting the cart before the horse. “They want us to negotiate a longterm agreement before the resumption of the forestry operations,” said St. Amant.

He said Wildlife and Parks Minister Pierre Corbeil is aware of the situation. “Minister Corbeil went to the community of Lac Simon on September 6, when they had the barricades up and had a talk with Chief Daniel Pien. Then a series of meetings took place between Minister Corbeil and Minister of Indian affairs in Quebec City. So they went to Val d’Or to meet with the Chief along with the forestry workers. It was to try to have a short-term agreement on forestry and to take down the barricades,” said St. Amant.

But the barricades are still there. “We’re still working to have end this affair on the basis they want a bigger agreement with the Algonquin nation,” said St. Amant. “Then we’ll be able to sign a forestry agreement. But what we’re asking them is that what about talking forestry now, allow the workers in, and then we’ll be able to talk about a bigger agreement with the Algonquin Nation.”

The dispute erupted after a dispute over logging on one of the community’s traplines. The head of a family with rights to the trapline signed an agreement to allow logging, but has since died. The family now wants to renegotiate the agreement.