Barriere Lake Solidarity
July 31, 2012
Thanks to the resistance and determination of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the thousand people who sent online letters and the 200 who joined last week’s powerful Montreal demonstration outside the offices of Resolute Forest Products and Premier Jean Charest, the Quebec government and forestry company have been forced to make a significant concession.
They have agreed to respect an aspect of the Trilateral agreement by harmonizing logging with Barriere Lake’s use of their lands, which is an important step forward in the community’s struggle to protect their land rights and the environment.
After the protest in Montreal a week and a half ago, and after a number of successful stoppages of the forestry operations by Algonquins camped out for two weeks, the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources sat down for negotiations with community representatives.
What was agreed to is a precarious but important step in the community’s long struggle to pressure the Quebec and Canadian governments to honour their landmark Trilateral Agreement.
The logging that had been happening on Barriere Lake’s land was illegal because Quebec has refused to implement the Trilateral Agreement, without which no forestry operations should be happening. The agreement is intended to create a sustainable model of forestry in which Barriere Lake jointly manages 10,000 square kilometres of their traditional territory with the province. The agreement is a model for First Nations fighting to protect their land rights.
Forest Resolute Products had refused to respect a process of consultation and accommodation that is part of the Trilateral Agreement – called “measures to harmonize.” Forestry companies who want to operate on Barriere Lake’s land must not compromise the way that the Algonquins’ use the land – meaning logging is not allowed to happen where the community has hunting cabins, in areas of moose and bear habitat, sacred areas, medicinal sites and many other areas of concern to the community.
Because of community’s direct action and public pressure, the Quebec government and Resolute Forest Products have now agreed to comply by the “measures to harmonize”!
Barriere Lake needs its supporters to remain vigilant to ensure Resolute Forest Products respects the “measures to harmonize.”
Even more importantly, we need to continue building pressure on the Quebec and Canadian governments to finally implement the Trilateral and Bilateral Agreements.
The Charest government has been so brazen in its disregard for the law and its contempt for Barriere Lake that it has refused to honour the binding outcomes of negotiations conducted by two former Liberal Cabinet Ministers! In 2006, a negotiator for the Quebec, John Ciaccia, and a negotiator for Barriere Lake, Clifford Lincoln, issued the recommendation that the agreement be implemented.
Quebec does not want to implement this agreement because it sets precedents in giving Indigenous peoples control over developments on their territories.