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KITIGANIK, QC, – Sept. 1 – Barriere Lake First Nation members in favor of change have been diligently working towards achieving health, self-sufficiency and unity despite challenges and obstacles linked to a small group of members led by Jean Maurice Matchewan. The latest in a series of media attacks and pressure tactics to regain control comes in the form of a blockade of the Esden Lake logging road by Jean Maurice Matchewan and his supporters.It has been over a year since Jean Maurice Matchewan and his Council members were removed from Barriere Lake Council; Matchewan, however, has refused to respect the decision made by a majority of the People. Various charges for assault, drugs and weapons possession, unilateral decision-making, and a lack of consultation caused serious doubt in Jean Maurice Matchewan’s ability to represent the People. Barriere Lake members claim it was time to stand up against a regime that deliberately left their People in third-world living conditions, dependant on social assistance and hostages for the advancement of political agendas. The Elders agreed that it was time for change.
Today’s blockade of the Esden Lake logging road is another example of the pressure tactics used by Jean Maurice Matchewan to regain control of the Barriere Lake First Nation. “Our Council believes that we need to find other alternatives to gain recognition of our rights. We will not support tactics which place women and children in danger at these blockades. We will not support tactics such as school closures that jeopardize the future of our Children,” says Chief Ratt. The Customary Council has worked very hard to eliminate and reduce the recurrence of the violence that plagued the community.
Since the selection of the new Customary Council, there has been a renewed hope for the members of Barriere Lake First Nation. “Sometime back, we invited these individuals to work with our Council to foster harmony, unity and healing within our community,” says Chief Ratt. The framework of the community plan entitled “TRANSITION TO HEALTH, SELF-SUFFICIENCY & UNITY”, and other short term action plans entitled Ijitcigewin! Nigictonanan! Kictonanan! (“Let’s do it! Yes We can! Let’s Finish It”) are aimed at improving the lives of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. We are already working with other governments to get much needed funding to implement these improvements” says Wanda Thusky, a member of Barriere Lake that is acting as the project manager for the transition plan. As a subset of the Transition to Health, Self-Sufficiency and Unity community project, Barriere Lake continues to work within the framework of the Trilateral Agreement. “We hope they will work with our Council so together we can ensure that our Aboriginal rights are respected. At the moment, it has been a challenge for our Council as all our Trilateral Agreement documents, land studies, financial statements, and equipment are being held by David Nahwegahbow at his office in Rama, ON. He is basically holding our property hostage when they are needed by our People,” states Chief Ratt. Regardless, the Council maintains that progressive, positive and concrete steps will be taken to confront the issues facing the Barriere Lake First Nation.
For further information: Christal Ratt, cell: (819) 860-8129
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