On December 3, 2013 the Algonquins of Barriere Lake non-violently stopped forestry operations that are devastating their lands in Western Quebec.
After community members of the Barriere Lake First Nation established a land protection camp to protest clear-cut logging on sensitive areas of their land, Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources has agreed to respect a previously negotiated process to harmonize forestry operations with the community’s traditional activities. Called the “measures to harmonize” process it involves field visits by Barriere Lake Algonquins to the proposed cut block areas and identification of buffer zones of various sizes to protect cultural sites and ecological areas.
The Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources had—without meaningfully consulting the Algonquins of Barriere Lake—issued permits for the 2013-14 operating year to Resolute Forest Products and other large logging companies who have subsequently clear-cut vast tracts of the forest this past summer and fall, up to the end of November, when the Algonquins stopped the unauthorized logging, which has been taking place in violation of signed Agreements with the First Nation.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake in western Quebec have been at the forefront of First Nation communities’ efforts in Canada to ensure that forest decision-making processes respect and accommodate Aboriginal values, uses and knowledge systems. The Barriere Lake Algonquins, who live in the Ottawa River watershed of western Quebec, have experienced the effects of industrial logging and other resource extraction since the 1870s.
By the late 1980s, the Algonquins’ land-base economy had deteriorated to such an extent that, when the Quebec government started to negotiate the allocation of 25 years forest tenures in their territory, the leadership decided to act decisively to protect the community’s landbase. After years of protests and blockades, and unsuccessful efforts to delay the forest tenure allocation process, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake finally negotiated a tripartite agreement with the governments of Canada and Quebec.
In 1991, Barriere Lake signed a historic Trilateral agreement with Quebec and Canada. Its aim was to establish an unprecedented system of sustainable development and eco-management over 10,000 square kilometres of their unceded traditional territory. The Trilateral agreement if implemented, would see the ABL included in decision making about the land, and gain a financial return from any resource extraction or commerce on their land (logging, hydro-electric, tourism). It would see traditional Algonquin knowledge of the land integrated into how the territory might be used and conserved In 1998, Barriere Lake and Quebec signed a related Agreement to negotiate co-management of the territory and resource revenue sharing among other issues.
The Quebec and Canadian governments have refused to honour the 1991 and 1998 Agreements, allowing Eacom (formally Domtar,) Louisiana Pacific, and Resolute Forest Products (formerly AbitbiBowater) to clear-cut huge areas without consultation of the community.
In November 2008, Chief Ben Nottaway was jailed for participating in a peaceful highway blockade urging the government to honour the agreement, while a month earlier riot police used teargas and pepper-spray against members of the blockade, including women, children and elders.  The Algonquins of Barriere Lake (ABL) are a First Nation who hunt, fish, trap, and harvest on more than 10,000 square kilometers of territory north of Ottawa in what is now called Quebec. They are one of the few First Nations in Canada who still speak their traditional language and have a traditional government that is tied to their land-based existence (Most First Nations in Canada had their traditional government replaced by the Government of Canada’s “band council” system). The community attributes the strength of their Algonquin language, their culture, and their protection of the land to the endurance of their own governance system, the Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin.
The ABL is also currently running a campaign against Section 74 of the Indian Act, because they claim the most recent tactic of the Canadian Government to take control has been to impose band council elections on the community. Section 74 of the Indian Act states that the Minister of Indian Affairs can impose an electoral system on First Nations with customary leadership selection processes. This hasn´t been imposed since 1924. The ABL have always had their customary government. (http://www.barrierelakesolidarity.org/)