Algonquins of Barriere Lake

For more information about the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, the measures adopted by the federal government to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and the issues that touch this community, please read the following information capsules:

Table of contents

Community Profile

The Rapid Lake reserve was established for the use of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in 1961. With a surface area of 29,7 hectares (73,4 acres), the reserve is located 134 km north of Maniwaki, on the shore of the Cabonga Reservoir. As of December 31, 2015 the community had 764 members, with 582 living on reserve.

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.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) 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.

When extraordinary and unusual circumstances occur, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affaires 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, because of outstanding issues in the community, the Department gave the Algonquins of Barriere Lake until March 31, 2010 to review their rules for selecting their leaders and have them ratified by the community members. Because the Band Council failed to submit this document by the deadline, the Minister signed a ministerial order on April 1, 2010 that brought into force the electoral provisions of the Indian Act. Since then, an electoral officer, duly authorized by INAC, has conducted four electoral processes in accordance with the rules set out in the Indian Act and the Indian Band Election Regulations.

The 1991 Trilateral Agreement

Since forest resources are a provincial jurisdiction, this pilot project about the management of renewable resources (wildlife and forest) was negotiated between the Government of Quebec and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.

Between 1991 and 2001, the Department invested no less than $5 million to support the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in this initiative.

The main objective of the project was to help the community draw up an integrated renewable resources management plan. The implementation of the integrated resource management plan was supposed to be completed in May 1995, but its completion was continually postponed.

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:

From 1997 to today, INAC has invested over $10 million in pursuit of these objectives.

Appointment of a Third-Party Manager for the Federal Funding Agreement

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 for the federal funding agreement 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 theThird-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 management plan to appointment of a Third-Party Manager.

It is important to note that the appointment of a Third Party Funding Agreement Manager for this First Nation is a measure used as a last resort only. It is applied to ensure the continued delivery of programs and services to community members.

The Third Party Manager prepares financial statements with respect to the Federal funding it administers. The First Nation needs to complement this information with the financial statements related to other sources of funding it continues to administer.

All essential INAC-funded programs and services in Barriere Lake continue to be delivered to community members.

Health and safety of houses

In September 2006, INAC 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 extended over a period of two years. The objective was 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 took $300,000 from its base budget allocated by the Department to invest in capital assets, which consisted of home renovation projects. Subsequently, $212,000 was allocated to home renovation in 2012-2013; $286,000 was allocated to home renovations in 2013-2014; $50,000 allocated in 2014-2015; and $270 000 in 2015-2016.

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 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.

In July 2012, INAC and the Quebec government signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the purpose of adding lands to the reserve and establishing a hookup to the Hydro-Québec electricity grid. The Memorandum of Understanding also provides for investment in infrastructure, based on a long-term capital investment plan, once the hookup is established and the drafting of a housing plan is completed.

In 2013, the Department transferred $500,000 to Hydro-Québec so that the electrical hookup work could begin as soon as possible.

INAC has since pursued discussions regarding the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Quebec.

Rapid Lake reserve expansion project

The Department, with the collaboration of its partners, launched a Reserve expansion process. The total area to be added to the Reserve is about 6 km2. In July 2012, INAC and the Quebec government signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the purpose of adding lands to the reserve and establishing a hookup to the Hydro-Québec electricity grid. Several stages have been completed, particularly the surveying of the lands to be added and environmental and technical assessments of the site. The next step of the process consists in transferring the land from the Government of Quebec to the Government of Canada.

Health Services

The Barriere Lake health care team working at the nursing station is made up of nurses under the direct management of Health Canada as well as of employees reporting to the Band Council.

Health Canada's nurses provide primary health care including the following clinical activities: triage, emergency first aid (resuscitation, stabilization and emergency ambulatory care). They also provide non-emergency clinical services (ambulatory). Furthermore, they provide access to health promotion and illness prevention activities.

As an interdisciplinary team, the nurses ensure the coordination and continuity of safe and quality health care for patients and their families and refer them to available provincial health care resources. They also facilitate community members' access to a wide range of health care providers (physicians, optometrists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, psychologists, etc.), and critical services including assessments, diagnostics and treatments for emerging health issues, both emergency and non-emergency.

Health Canada is also responsible for deploying the nursing care component of the mandatory home and community care program.  Barriere Lake members have access to medical services outside of their community through the medical transport service, or by ambulance when the situation requires.

Chronology

The Rapid Lake Indian Reserve was established for the use of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in 1961 and is located 134 km north of Maniwaki, on the shore of the Cabonga Reservoir. The community had 764 members on December 31, 2015.

1991

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.

1994

Financial problems begin to surface in the community. Support from INAC is provided as well as assistance from Canadian Executive Services Organization to prepare a recovery plan.

1995

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.

1996

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, INAC appoints two facilitators to develop a leadership selection process.

Following a request from the Interim Band Council, INAC appoints a Third Party Manager to ensure the delivery of essential services and to develop and implement a remedial management plan.

1997

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 INAC the "Global Proposal for Rebuilding the Community".

Signing of a Memorandum of Mutual Intent (MMI). The main objective of the MMI is to strengthen relationships based on trust, partnership, mutual respect and achievement of the vision for the future outlined in the "Global Proposal for Rebuilding the Community."

1998

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 INAC and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake to complete the Integrated Resources Management Plan initiative.

2000

INAC 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. Discussions about connection to the Hydro-Québec power network are also undertaken.

2001

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake submit a proposal to INAC and the Government of Québec for an additional 16 month extension to complete the Integrated Resources Management Plan. The proposal also requests an additional $750,000 in federal funding.

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake are informed that INAC will not provide additional funding in the Integrated Resources Management Plan initiative, which had lasted for 10 years.

2002

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. INAC 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.

2004

Due to the deterioration of the financial situation and difficulties in the management of programs and services, INAC requests the Algonquins of Barriere Lake to submit a Remedial Management Plan (RMP).

2005

The Algonquins of Barriere Lake hire a co-manager to develop and implement a RMP.

As part of the Long-Term Capital Plan, several million dollars are to be dedicated for major and minor projects including housing, hook-up to the Hydro network, and a new school.

2006

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, INAC appoints a Third Party Manager, in accordance with INAC's Intervention Policy. Health Canada and Public Safety 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.

The appointment of the Third Party Manager is contested in the Federal Court by the Council of Elders, claiming Jean-Maurice Matchewan as chief.

INAC writes to the representatives of the two Band Councils and to their members to indicate that:

2007

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.

INAC 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.

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.

On September 10, 2007, Minister Chuck Strahl, then Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs 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.

2008

On January 29, 2008, INAC 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.

On March 10, 2008, INAC 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 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.

2009

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 Kitiganik 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, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada informed all groups claiming leadership of Barriere Lake of the following measures:

Representatives of the Quebec Regional office of INAC held public meetings, starting on December 15, to inform the community of future investments to improve socio economic conditions and explain the technical and financial support available to help community residents resolve the governance debate among the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.

2010

On February 17, Judge Mainville of the Federal Court rendered his decision on the challenge to the results of the electoral process of June 24, 2009. In his decision, Judge Mainville overturned this process. A motion for reconsideration was lodged with the Court, but this was dismissed with costs on April 21, 2010.

A 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.

In early May 2010, the Department appointed an electoral officer.

On August 13, 2010, the electoral 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, a number of meetings have been held between the council and representatives of INAC 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.

2011

Several houses in the community were renovated, and major renovations were done on the school. 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 INAC on plans to expand the reserve and hook up the community to the Hydro-Quebec grid. 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.

2012

In July 2012, INAC and the Quebec government signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the purpose of adding lands to the reserve and establishing a hookup to the Hydro-Québec electricity grid. The Memorandum of Understanding also provides for investment in infrastructure, based on a long term capital investment plan, once the hookup is established and the drafting of a housing plan is completed.

The Department continues to help the Band Council to optimize the development of skills by providing funding for the completion of an operations manual and for training for elected officials.

2013

In 2013, the Department transferred $500,000 to Hydro-Québec so that the electrical hookup work could begin as soon as possible. The hookup to the electricity grid is a key step in improving socio economic conditions in the community.

2014

Environmental and technical studies as well as surveying work funded by INAC for the land addition project were completed.

Starting in the spring and several times thereafter following the adoption of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, the Department informed the Band Council of the importance of submitting consolidated financial statements because this was now a legal obligation. Many letters in that regard were also sent to the Band Council.

Although the Third-Party Manager has been producing audited financial statements since 2006, the Band Council has still not provided its audited consolidated financial statements. To help the Band Council comply with the Act's requirements, the Department implemented measures, including holding several meetings and telephone calls between INAC Quebec Regional Office representatives and Band Council members to discuss the support that could be provided and the conditions that would make it possible to terminate the Third-Party Manager's involvement. More specifically, INAC asked the Third-Party Manager to draw up an action plan for the issuing of a call for tenders to select an audit firm to prepare the consolidated financial statements. The Department also agreed to cover the firm's expenses.

2015

On April 8, 2015, INAC filed a motion in Federal Court against the Barriere Lake Band Council, as a failure by the latter to submit its consolidated financial statements put it in breach of the First Nations Financial Transparency Act.  Later, on September 24, 2015, the Barriere Lake Band Council sued the Government of Canada for $25 million for breach of fiduciary duty, among other things. 

2016

A mediation process was initiated in February 2016 between the Barriere Lake Band Council and the Department to attempt to settle their disputes, including the issue of third-party management.  On March 1, 2016, the Federal Court suspended the proceeding under the First Nations Financial Transparency Act at the parties' request.

In the meantime, federal employees continue to work on short-term and long-term investments benefitting the community. The Department's priority is to ensure that Barriere Lake residents benefit from essential programs and services and that living conditions in the community improve.

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