Though forestry issues are outside MiningWatch's mandate, our ongoing work with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake related to junior mining company Copper One's Rivière Doré project has made us acutely aware of the complexity of issues the community is facing. As supporters of their fight for respect of their lands and culture against unwanted mining we find ourselves compelled to engage on other non-mining issues that have a similar root. Whether it be trees or copper, Quebec and Canada continue to neglect their legal obligations to Barriere Lake under treaty, the Constitution, established Canadian case law, international law and legal agreements with the community.
In the days and weeks ahead, Barriere Lake is going to be standing up to the Quebec government over the Ministry of Natural Resource's intransigent refusal to respect past commitments to cooperate with the community in the management of the forests within the community's traditional territory. These commitments were codified into a trilateral agreement between the provincial, federal and Barriere Lake governments in 1991. Getting the province and feds to honour their word has been an ongoing battle for the Algonquins who have had to resort to blockades and demos in Montreal and Ottawa. For their efforts they have been subjected to severe police repression and trumped up criminal charges.
Indicative of the state of affairs, Chief Casey Ratt's first meeting on plans for expanded cutting in the territory was not with the MNR through the consultation protocol established by the trilateral agreement (termed "measures to harmonize" under the agreement) but with the Quebec police who paid a visit to his home one Saturday morning.
In a recent letter to the MNR (see below), Chief Ratt notes that areas slated for cutting this winter have been formally flagged by the community as inappropriate for cutting since 2006. These community demands are being ignored not only be the province but by forestry companies Eacom, Louisiana Pacific and Resolute -- all of which make claims of corporate social responsibility and sustainability including flying the banners of independent certification by the Forest Stewardship Council, Canadian Standards Association and Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
The letter succinctly describes the community's philosophy: "Consultation in our view is much more than an exchange of documents, essential as these may be. It implies above all a genuine spirit of cooperation, of mutual respect and understanding, which we find sadly lacking in our dealings with you."
Chief Ratt describes his community as "a very determined people, that are fiercely resolved to protect the waters, lands and resources for our future generations." I've witnessed this resolve and it is indeed strong runs through the entire community. Quebec and the forestry companies have picked a fight with a community that has resisted and sustained themselves for hundreds of years. While I have no doubt they will persevere Canadians and Quebeckers that believe in justice, reconciliation and conservation of our forests ought to be getting behind the community to ensure a successful outcome and to tame the repressive reaction anticipated from Quebec.
MiningWatch encourages you to support Barriere Lake by: reading Chief Ratt's letter below and sharing with your friends; signing this petition; writing your MP; if you are in Quebec writing your MNA, signing up for updates and join events being organized in Montreal and Ottawa; writing to the companies involved; and posting your concerns about corporate and government actions on social media.
One final note... undeniably Barriere Lake has a history of internal conflict that you may be aware of and that has prevented potential supporters from getting involved. While no community is entirely of one mind, Barriere Lake has put a lot of time and energy into overcoming these divisions. While differences in opinion remain and the willingness to accept some, carefully managed, logging in the territory is not unanimous there is a strong consensus around rejecting current plans. Tactics of division have been part of the tools used by Canada and Quebec and we ought not let them succeed at dissuading our support.