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Algonquins of Barriere Lake prevent elections officer from entering reserve

by Tim McSorleyShiri Pasternak

This morning, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake prevented elections officer Bob Norton from entering the community and holding a nominations meeting for a band council system that the entire community rejects.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake govern themselves under their customary code, the Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin, and are being coerced into band council elections by a retrograde section of the Indian Act (74).
The three-figure wampum belt that depicts the relationship the Algonquins entered into with the French and British governments over 200 years ago.
Highway 117
Section 74 of the Indian Act violates the community's constitutional aboriginal rights to govern themselves according to their customs.
Algonquins of Barriere Lake prevent elections officer from entering reserve
The community does not plan to back down and see their customary government destroyed.
Algonquins of Barriere Lake prevent elections officer from entering reserve
Algonquins of Barriere Lake prevent elections officer from entering reserve

Photos & captions by Shiri Pasternak; text by Tim McSorley

Early this morning, members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake (Mitchikanibikok Inik) blockaded the access road leading to their community in northeastern Quebec, about five hours north of Montreal. Primarily using their cars, they successfully stopped a federal elections officer from entering their territory.

The elections officer was sent by the federal government to hold a nominating meeting for band council elections. This meeting would have been a step forward in the federal government's attempt to replace the community's current customary leadership selection process with the federally defined band council process.

On paper, Section 74 of the Indian Act allows the Canadian government to impose an election process on First Nations, but it has been decades since Indian and Northern Affairs last used the provision. Members of the commuinty have denounced the measure, saying it is a politically motivated attempt to remove the their link to the land and to find a way for the federal government to avoid its obligations to the community under signed agreements to do with co-management of resource development on their land.

“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,” Marylynn Poucachiche, a community spokesperson, said via a news release this morning. “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.”

Yesterday, community member Tony Wawatie also spoke to the Assembly of First Nations and gained their unanimous support in opposing the implementation of Section 74 rules on the community and calling on the federal government to rescind it's decision.

According to a release from the community, the federal government plans to hold the elections on September 8. It is unclear whether today's action will delay the vote.

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Tim McSorley (Tim McSorley)
Member since Octobre 2008


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Federal gov't justification?

Hi Shiri and Tim,

Thanks for a great story. What is the reason being given for why the band election is being forced on Barriere Lake at this time? If it's been decades since Section 74 has been used, why now, and why Barriere Lake?


The background goes way back, but the basics are this. The provincial and federal government were forced to sign a treaty with Barriere Lake that provided them with co-management rights over their traditional territory (10,000 km2). Because that undermines the existing policy under the comprehensive claims process (which seeks extinguishment of land rights), Barriere Lake has been under attack.

Communities (BL is one of the few remaining) that keep their traditional governance system in place tend to be a lot stronger in terms of defending their land rights. One of the key differences of a post-section 74 government would have been that off-territory band members would vote in elections. Under the traditional governance code, all participants must have a relationship to the land.

Check out the Barriere Lake Solidarity site and the Dominion's coverage for more info.

Indian Act

Thumbs up don't allow Indian ACTors to rain on parade!!!! This action represents a NEW Beginning and now all across Turtle Island,Our Peoples must go back to the FUTURE,WE ARE THE NEW BEGINNING AND AS SOON AS THOSE Indian Actors Lead the sheep home we can start being responsable and ACCOUNTABLE!!!!

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