Algonquins of Barriere Lake
For more information about the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, measures adopted by the federal government to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and issues that characterize this community, please read the following information capsules:
- Community profile
- Leadership Selection Process
- The 1991 Trilateral Agreement
- The Memorandum of Mutual Intent of 1997
- Appointment of a Third-party Manager
- Rapid Lake Band School
- Health and safety of houses
- Long Term Capital Investment Plan
- Rapid Lake reserve expansion project
- Health and Social Services
Created in 1961 for the use of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the reserve is located 134 km north of Maniwaki, on the shores of the Cabonga Reservoir. On December 31, 2011, the Algonquin band of Barriere Lake numbered 680 members.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is working with the Algonquin Band Council of Barriere Lake to ensure delivery of its programs and services to community members. This collaboration also extends to various initiatives proposed or co-ordinated by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake to improve living conditions in the community.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake face numerous challenges. More than ever, the population wants to carry out forward-looking projects, building for future generations while respecting ancestral customs.
Leadership Selection Process
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have always chosen their leaders according to custom. In 1996, the community's traditional oral rules (Mitchikanibikok Anishinabe Onakinakewin) were codified in writing for the first time. They were approved on April 9, 1997, first of all by the Elders, then by Barriere Lake members gathered in a general assembly.
AANDC does not normally supervise nor intervene in a customary band leadership selection process and does not decide on the validity of the process, which is entirely the Band's prerogative. Therefore, the Department's role is limited to registering the results transmitted by the First Nation and entering them into the national database of the Band Governance Management System.
When a dispute arises concerning the leadership issue, it is up to the community to find a way of settling the dispute and identifying a long-term solution. However, when the parties involved, including the Band Council, formally request it, the Department can suggest, for example, that both parties submit to a mediation/facilitation process. In 2007, Judge Réjean Paul was chosen as mediator to settle a leadership issue that arose as a result of the customary leadership selection of August 2006.
When extraordinary and unusual circumstances occur, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development may invoke the implementation of Section 74 of the Indian Act in order to ensure an election is held in accordance with the election provisions of the Indian Act and the Indian Band Election Regulations and not under the Band customary code.
On October 30, 2009, as a result of the ongoing issues in the community, the Minister gave the Algonquins of Barriere Lake until March 31, 2010, to revise their rules for selecting their leaders and having them ratified by the membership. Since the Council had submitted no such revision by the deadline, on April 1, 2010, the Minister signed an order invoking the electoral provisions of the Indian Act. Subsequently, a returning officer duly mandated by AANDC conducted the process in accordance with the rules established by the Indian Act and the Indian Band Election Regulations.
On August 13, 2010, the returning officer declared elected by acclamation a council consisting of a chief and four councillors. Then, on August 20, 2010, the chief tendered his resignation, leaving the council incomplete, though still functional, since there was still a quorum.
The council’s mandate expires at midnight on August 12, 2012.
The 1991 Trilateral Agreement
Since forest resources are a provincial jurisdiction, this pilot project was negotiated between the Government of Quebec and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.
AANDC wished to support the community in its efforts to develop an integrated renewable resources management plan, the main objective of the project. The integrated renewable resources management plan was to have been completed in May 1995, but was repeatedly delayed. Between 1991 and 2001, the Department invested no less than $5 million to support this initiative.
Faced with escalating costs, a lack of convincing results and detailed schedules, and concerned with upholding the principles of fairness and equity in the allocation of financial resources to First Nations communities, the Department ended funding for development of the integrated resource management plan on September 30, 2001.
The Department has always been prepared to consider any Band Council project proposal eligible for funding according to the criteria and funding authorities of existing programs. These projects may or may not originate from the integrated renewable resources management plan.
The Band Council is solely responsible for submitting projects to the Department.
The Memorandum of Mutual Intent of 1997
A memorandum of mutual intent is a document based on the good will of both parties, the Band Council and the Department, and aimed at meeting the community's essential needs, in accordance with departmental resources and programs, so as to help the community make its vision a reality. The main objectives are to:
- establish a renewed relationship with the community;
- restore essential programs and services (education, health and safety) in the community which were administrated by the Third-party Manager since 1996;
- promote special initiatives that would address social problems;
- enhance educational development and governance capacity;
- establish a level playing field in terms of community infrastructure;
- address the financial situation of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.
From 1997 to today, AANDC has invested over $10 million in pursuit of these objectives and is continuing to work with the population of Barriere Lake.
Appointment of a Third-party Manager
In 2004, given the deterioration in the financial situation of Barriere Lake and the problems encountered in managing programs and services, the Department asked the Band Council to submit a self-managed recovery plan.
On January 31, 2005, the Band Council hired a co-manager to help the Band Council develop and implement a recovery plan. On April 18, 2006, the Department approved the recovery plan submitted by the Band Council. However, on June 2, 2006, the Barriere Lake Band Council terminated the co-manager’s contract, thereby impacting delivery of essential programs and services to the community, implementation of the recovery plan and the agreements negotiated with creditors.
On July 12, 2006, the Department appointed a third-party manager to ensure the delivery of essential programs and services to the community. The third-party manager is mandated to manage only those programs and services stipulated in the funding agreement signed by the Band Council and the Department.
In August 2006, a group from Barriere Lake filed an application for judicial review in Federal Court, contesting the Department’s appointment of the third-party manager. On April 15, 2009, the Federal Court rendered a decision in favour of Canada with costs. The ruling was challenged in the Federal Court of Appeal; however, the applicants subsequently filed a notice of discontinuance in March 2010.
Since July 2011, a new Default Prevention and Management Policy has been in force. This requires the Department to step in when there is a high level of accrued debt or when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the health, safety or wellbeing of community members is at risk. The policy provides for a graduated response, ranging from establishment of a self-managed recovery plan to appointment of a third-party manager.
Rapid Lake Band School
The Rapid Lake School serves students at the preschool and elementary levels. In 1995, management of the school was transferred to the Band Council. The band’s school must ensure that it offers programs of study comparable to recognized provincial programs and that its teachers are certified by the province.
Health and safety of houses
In September 2006, AANDC and Health Canada established an action plan to solve problems relating to the health and safety of homes in the Barriere Lake community.
Phase I of the action plan focused on the urgent repairs needed to ensure the safety of occupants. It was undertaken in collaboration with the Third-party Manager in December 2006.
In July 2007, experts from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Health Canada held a practical training session on mould problems for a group of community members. If required, this initiative could be extended to all residents. The co-operation of community members is crucial if the mould problems are to be effectively eradicated.
Begun in the summer of 2008, phase II of the plan will extend over a period of two years. The objective is to resolve the problems stemming from the presence of mould. An evaluation of the homes combined with a Health Canada inspection report determined the scope of the work needed. The Department has set aside $500,000 for this project. More than 50 homes were renovated at a cost of between $3,000 and $15,000 per home.
In 2011-2012, the Barriere Lake Band Council devoted over $250,000 from its base capital budget to housing renovation.
Long Term Capital Investment Plan
In 2005, the Department offered the Band Council in office at the time a new long-term capital spending plan (2000 version, amended) calling for investment of several million dollars. This plan, which includes housing as well as municipal and education facilities, is still being discussed between the Band Council and the Department.
The Government of Canada is ready to work with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake on this plan, which through tangible improvements, would improve living conditions of community members and generate jobs.
Rapid Lake reserve expansion project
With an eye to improving living conditions in the community of Barriere Lake, the Department, jointly with its partners, initiated a reserve expansion process in 2009. The territory earmarked for this addition measures about 6 km2. Several stages have already been completed, notably a survey of the land to be added and an environmental assessment of the site. The Department is actively proceeding with the initiative so that the project can be seen through.
Health and Social Services
Health Canada administers the services provided by community nurses as well as medical transport, which are located at the Barriere Lake Health Centre and are used by many people. Community nurses have developed a project to create a day centre where workshops, health promotion activities and all activities related to the various health programs available in the community can be held.
Social services are offered by the Outaouais Youth Centre in collaboration with community bodies. Initiated by community members, the Ijitcigewin! Nigictonanan! Kictonanan! Project (Let’s do it! We can! Let’s finish the job!) is a collective approach in pursuit of the following objectives:
- drop back in and stay in shape/shake off dependency;
- make school success a community priority;
- offer healthy lifestyle alternatives;
- address and prevent violence;
- provide the community with relevant and effective services.
This community engagement project is financed by AANDC, Health Canada, Quebec’s Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat and the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services.
Created in 1961 for the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the Rapid Lake Indian Reserve is located 134 kilometers North of Maniwaki, on the bank of the Cabonga Reservoir. On December 31, 2011, the community numbered 680 members.
A Trilateral Agreement with the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the Government of Québec, and the Government of Canada is signed. The main objective of the Agreement is to implement a pilot project in order to develop an Integrated Resources Management Plan for renewable resources (wildlife and forest). The Agreement covers 10,000 km2 in the Parc de La Verendrye.
Financial problems begin to surface in the community. Support from AANDC is provided as well as assistance from Canadian Executive Services Organization to prepare a recovery plan.
A leadership crisis within the community leads some dissident members of Barriere Lake to leave the community and to settle at Lac Jean Perré in the Parc de La Verendrye. They call themselves the Maïgan Agik Anishnabe.
As a result of the division within the community, the members of Barriere Lake appoint an Interim Band Council, whose mandate is to develop a Customary Code for the selection of Band Council leaders. Judge Réjean Paul from the Quebec Superior Court is appointed as mediator in this leadership issue. In response to Judge Réjean Paul, AANDC appoints two facilitators to develop a leadership selection process.
Following a request from the Interim Band Council, AANDC appoints a Third Party Manager to ensure the delivery of essential services and to develop and implement a remedial management plan.
The Barriere Lake First Nation's Customary Selection Code for the selection of Band Councils leaders is written and leads to the nomination of Chief Harry Wawatie.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake leadership submits to AANDC the "Global Proposal for Rebuilding the Community".
A Memorandum of Mutual Intent (MOMI) is signed. The main objectives of the MOMI are to strengthen the relationship based on the principles of trust, partnership, mutual respect and to work towards the community's vision for the future as expressed in the "Global Proposal for Rebuilding the Community".
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake and the Government of Québec sign a bilateral agreement on an approach and process to complete the Integrated Resources Management Plan initiative.
A final financial arrangement is concluded between AANDC and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake to complete the Integrated Resources Management Plan initiative.
AANDC submits a Long-Term Capital Plan to the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. It includes housing, infrastructure, and education facilities. The plan provides for an investment of several million dollars in the community over a seven-year period. Discussions about connection to the Hydro-Québec power network are also undertaken.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake submit a proposal to AANDC and the Government of Québec for an additional 16 month extension to complete the Integrated Resources Management Plan ($1.2M). The proposal also requests an additional $750,000 in federal funding.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are informed that AANDC will not provide additional funding in the Integrated Resources Management Plan initiative, which had lasted for 10 years.
A Global Forestry Scenario for Joint Consideration between the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and the Government of Québec is signed. It allows for the completion of the Integrated Resources Management Plan for a total budget of $1.78M.
Since it was signed, an amount of $11.4M has been invested in the community in response to the "Global Proposal for Rebuilding the Community".
A letter is sent to the Maïgan Agik Anishnabe's group in response to their request to be recognized as a separate band. AANDC informs the group, that according to federal policy, they will not be recognized as a separate band.
However, steps are taken to ensure essential services are provided. The Maïgan Agik Anishnabe benefit from all the services offered to the members of Barriere Lake such as elementary/secondary and post-secondary education, school and medical transportation, income assistance, social services, and health services.
Due to the deterioration of their financial situation and difficulties in the management of programs and services, AANDC requests the Algonquins of Barriere Lake to submit a Remedial Management Plan (RMP).
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake hire a co-manager to develop and implement a RMP.
A Long-Term Capital Plan in 2005 identifies several million dollars are to be dedicated over 7 years for major and minor projects including housing, hook-up to the Hydro network, and a new school.
The Barriere Lake Band Council adopts a resolution that ends the co-management contract.
In order to secure federal funds and the delivery of essential services, AANDC appoints a Third Party Manager, in accordance with AANDC's Intervention Policy. Health Canada, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada also appoint the same Third Party Manager.
Chief Harry Wawatie resigns. Following a process to select a new band council, a divergence emerges on the issue of leadership. Each of two councils of elders announces its band council selection after two parallel selection processes.
Chief Harry Wawatie resigns and leadership issues arise, as the result of the selection process to replace him. Two separate Band Councils are selected by separate Elder Councils as a result of 2 parallel selection processes.
The appointment of the Third Party Manager is contested in the Federal Court by the Council of Elders, claiming Jean-Maurice Matchewan as chief.
AANDC writes to the representatives of the two Band Councils and to their members to indicate that:
- the Department is not in a position to work with either one of the councils;
- the community is responsible for resolving this dispute;
- the Department will not reimburse legal costs incurred in the course of this dispute;
- the Department will ensure the delivery of essential services to the population by way of the Third Party Manager who has been appointed; and
- the Department offers both parties financial support for a mediation process.
Judge Réjean Paul is appointed to act as mediator in the leadership issue in the Barriere Lake community.
Judge Réjean Paul submits his report and recommendations on the leadership issue. After reviewing the selection process as per the Customary Selection Code, Judge Paul determines that only one group of Elders has followed the Customary Selection Code and that only the Council led by Jean-Maurice Matchewan can be recognized as the legitimate Band Council.
AANDC acknowledges the main conclusion of Judge Paul in a formal letter to Chief Jean-Maurice Matchewan.
Some members of the community ask the Quebec Superior Court to issue an injunction to void the results of the last leadership selection process and to request a new one based on the Customary Selection Code.
During the 2006-2007 school year, the Rapid Lake School was evaluated on the basis of the Regional Guide for the Evaluation of First Nations Schools.
On May 22, 2007, Departmental representatives accompanied the evaluator from McGill University, who had been selected by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake to conduct the evaluation, for the presentation of his evaluation report to the administration and teachers of the Rapid Lake School. This was a public meeting to which all community members had been invited.
On June 26, 2007, Deputy Minister Michael Wernick held a meeting with Jean-Maurice Matchewan. As requested by the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the Deputy Minister made the recommendation that the Minister appoint a special representative to find solutions to problems regarding housing, electrification, reserve expansion, economic development, and governance, particularly concerning the transition to co-management.
In August 2007, the third-party manager, with the agreement of the Barriere Lake representatives, began the restructuring of education services with the hiring of a new school principal and qualified teaching staff. The mandate of the principal includes developing an action plan to implement the recommendations stemming from the evaluation report.
On September 10, 2007, Minister Chuck Strahl Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, appointed Marc Perron to serve as a special representative of the Minister. Through this appointment, the Minister wishes to establish a working relationship that will promote the exchange of constructive ideas concerning the development of the community of Barriere Lake. At the end of his mandate in December 2007, the Minister's special representative submitted a report.
On November 20, 2007, the Band Council ordered the school closed. The Department asked the Band Council several times to reopen the school and at the same time strove to find alternatives so that the students could have access to educational services.
On January 29, 2008, AANDC confirmed to the Barriere Lake Band Council that the legal proceedings that the Algonquins of Barriere Lake had brought to court concerning the appointment of a third-party manager in July 2006 would be re-activated.
On January 30, 2008, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake selected, according to their Customary Selection Code, the members of the new Band Council.
Thus, on March 10, 2008, AANDC informed the Algonquins of Barriere Lake that it would conduct business henceforth with the band council consisting of Chief Casey Ratt and councillors Ricky Decoursay, Donat Thusky, Roger Jerome and Wayne Papatie. A few days later, a group of community elders launched an action against the Department in Federal Court for having the results of the selection process of January 2008 recorded.
On March 31, 2008, the children went back to Rapid Lake School.
On August 28, 2008, the Federal Court, in addressing the action launched by the adherents of the former band council, ruled that the administrative measure by which the Department had acknowledged the results of the selection process was not an administrative decision and thus could not be reviewed by the Court. In the same decision, it allowed the adherents of the old council to launch a new action against the new council to resolve the issue of the validity of the process. This Federal Court decision was appealed, and the appeal was heard on November 24, 2008. The applicants subsequently filed notice of discontinuance in March 2010.
On January 6, 2009, the Federal Court ruled that the Department’s decision to recognize the results of the selection should indeed be reviewed by the Court. This decision overturned Prothonotary Aalto’s decision of August 28, 2008, which had allowed Canada’s motion to strike the application for judicial review lodged by the champions of the old band council. The applicants subsequently filed notice of discontinuance in March 2010.
On April 15, 2009, the Federal Court ruled in Canada’s favour on the challenge by a group from Barriere Lake of the Department’s decision to appoint a third party manager. This ruling was appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal. The applicants subsequently filed notice of discontinuance in March 2010.
On April 30, 2009, the construction of a six-unit building, for Rapid Lake School teachers, was completed.
On June 24, 2009, a new leadership selection process is held by the Jean-Maurice Matchewan Group. The outcomes of this process are challenged at the Federal Court by the Band Council Chief, Mr. Casey Ratt. The Department conveyed several times to the leaders of the Barriere Lake community its wish to see their governance conflicts settled internally.
On October 30, 2009, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada informed all groups claiming leadership of Barriere Lake of the following measures:
- The Department will cease, as of October 30, 2009, its business relation with any of the current groups claiming to be the Band Council;
- Essential programs and services will continue to be delivered through the third party manager;
- All band members will be provided with an opportunity to develop and ratify a leadership selection process that respects the principles set out in the Department's Conversion to Community Election System Policy;
- If the community does not develop and ratify a leadership selection process by March 31, 2010, the Minister will exercise the powers conferred upon him by Section 74 of the Indian Act to ensure an election is held in accordance with the election provisions of the Indian Act and the Indian Band Election Regulations.
Department representatives continue to work with community leaders and residents to resolve the governance issue, to create greater stability in the community and to significantly improve living conditions.
Representatives of the Quebec regional office of Aboriginal Affairs have been holding public meetings since December 15, 2009, to inform the community about future investment to improve socio-economic conditions and to explain the technical and financial assistance available to help the Algonquins of Barriere Lake to resolve their dispute over governance.
On February 17, Mr Judge Mainville of the Federal Court rendered his decision on the challenge to the results of the electoral process of June 24, 2009 (T-654-09). In his decision, Mr Judge Mainville overturned this process. A motion for reconsideration was lodged with the Court, but this was dismissed with costs on April 21, 2010.
The Algonquins of Barriere Lake have made clear their opposition to the application of election procedures under the Indian Act. At a meeting on March 31, 2010, community leaders asked the Minister for more time to find a shared solution for amending the code. A fourth meeting took place on April 12, 2010, to convey the Minister’s decision to submit the community to the electoral provisions of the Indian Act. At this meeting, community members voiced their opposition to this decision. One leader told AANDC representatives that he intended to conduct an internal consultation process on customary law.
In early May 2010, the Department appointed Bob Norton as returning officer. On June 7, Mr Norton told the Barriere Lake band that the nomination meeting would be held on July 8, 2010, and that polling would take place on August 19, 2010.
The electoral process was suspended following the death of a community elder. The returning officer had to set new dates for the nomination meeting and election, respectively July 22 and September 8, 2010.
On July 22, community members erected a barricade on the road into the reserve, preventing the returning officer from holding the nomination meeting. A new notice for a nomination meeting and election was issued on July 30, 2010. The new date for the nomination meeting was August 12, 2010 and for polling September 23.
On August 12, 2010, there was a third attempt to hold a nomination meeting at Barriere Lake. The meeting was to have been held outside the community. However, it was cancelled because a number of community members prevented the returning officer from proceeding with the meeting, strongly voicing their opposition.
On August 13, 2010, the returning officer acclaimed a band council. Members of the Barriere Lake band had already managed to submit duly constituted nominations by mail. Since the number of nominees did not exceed the number of seats up for election, all candidates were elected by acclamation, and a poll was not needed.
On August 20, 2010, the Chief by acclamation, Casey Ratt, resigned. However, the quorum was maintained, and a band council of four members was able to exercise its decision-making authority. The new band council consisted of councillors Anida Decoursay, Steve Wawatie, Chad Thusky and Hector Jérôme. Their mandate runs for two years. Since the band council’s mandate began, on August 13, 2010, a number of meetings have been held between the council and representatives of AANDC and of other federal and provincial partner to discuss the community’s future and advance various projects for improving living conditions. For example, a multi-purpose community centre, which is a unifying project, has been built.
On April 1, 2011, a new firm, BDO Dunwoody LLP, was appointed as third party manager. The transition was smooth, and relations between BDO Dunwoody LLP and the band council were good. The new third party manager was able to maintain essential services.
Several houses in the community were renovated, and major renovations were done on the school. Other renovations are pending. In the same vein, the band council acquired a trailer to serve as a temporary council office pending construction of permanent infrastructure.
Several meetings have been held between Quebec government bodies and AANDC on plans to expand the reserve and hook up the community to the Hydro-Quebec grid. Significant progress has been made on these issues. The two governments are in the final phase of initialing a memorandum of understanding on these matters. The band council has been kept regularly updated on developments.
Following long discussions between the band council, Quebec government entities, logging companies and other interests at Barriere Lake, in July 2011 the band council signed harmonization agreements on forestry measures in sensitive areas. This enables various logging companies to cut timber and perform silvicultural work.
In 2011-2012, the Department invested in the development of governance skills among the Algonquins of Barriere Lake by financing two projects. One is for acquisition of a financial management system and the attendant training. The other consists in developing an operations manual and revising administrative policies.
Concurrently, officials are still working on short and long-term investment for the community’s benefit. The Department’s priority is to see that the population of Barriere Lake receives essential programs and services and that living conditions in the community improve.
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