The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have scored another victory in their battle against the exploitation of resources on their traditional land.
After weeks of direct action by ABL members protesting Resolute Forest Products' logging activities on Algonquin territory the Quebec government agreed to negotiate with community leaders and implement an aspect of the Trilateral Agreement that calls for consultation and accommodation, according to Barriere Lake Solidarity.
“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,” the group's website reports. “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.”
The 1991 Trialateral Agreement is a resource-use agreement between the First Nation, the Canadian federal government and the Quebec government that was supposed to create a sustainable development plan for the community’s traditional 3,900 square miles including revenue sharing, resource co-management and economic independence for Barriere Lake. The Trilateral Agreement was praised by the United Nations, but both Quebec and Canada have refused to implement it.
This is the second major victory the ABL have had in protecting their land in the past two years. In the summer of 2011, Cartier Resources suspended its Rivière Doré copper mining project on the Algonquin community’s traditional land in northwestern Quebec. The suspension followed months of peaceful direct actions by community members, expressing their overwhelming opposition to Cartier’s exploratory activities and the possibility that a mine would be developed at the site.
After the logging protest in Montreal this year, members of the ABL community camped out at the logging site for two weeks, successfully stopping the logging operations several times. It was after the stoppages that the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources agreed to sit down with ABL leaders and negotiate, according to the website.
Resolute Forest Products began logging activities near Poigon Bay, Quebec, on the ABL territory on July 3 after the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources had issued logging permits to the company to clear cut an unknown quantity of trees. The company, formerly known as Abitibi Bowater, is a multinational wood products corporation with sales of more than $4.75 billion in 2011. The logging area includes sacred grounds and important moose habitat, the group said.
The multinational corporation 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.”
But ABL members say they will continue to monitor the situation.
“What was agreed to is a precarious but important step in the community’s long struggle to pressure the Quebec and Canadian governments honor their landmark Trilateral Agreement.”
They urge supporters to continue to “remain vigilant” to make sure Resolute respects the agreement.