FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Conservative MP Lawrence Cannon's assistant makes racist remarks to Barriere Lake Algonquin youth spokesperson: another example of the Conservative government's mistreatment of Barriere Lake, say community representatives
Kitiganik/Rapid Lake, Algonquin Territory / – At Conservative MP
Lawrence Cannon's official campaign launch in Maniwaki, Quebec on Tuesday, September 16, Cannon's personal assistant said a racial slur to a Barriere Lake youth spokesperson who asked that Cannon respect the community's rights.
In a discussion with Norman Matchewan, a twenty-five year old
community teacher and part-time police officer, constituency assistant Darlene Lannigan set conditions for any future meetings.
"If you behave and you're sober," Lannigan told Matchewan.
"These patronizing, racist remarks from a representative of Cannon are just another example of the Conservative government's disrespect for our community," says Matchewan.
Lannigan went on to say that the "problem in the community is too many drugs, alcohol, incest, and violence."
"Our major problem is that the federal government is trying to get out of a landmark agreement that would give us co-management of our traditional territories and improve our dire economic situation," responded Matchewan. "They're using divide and rule tactics, ousting our legitimate Chief and Council and recognizing individuals who don't have the support of the community's majority."
Cannon's office issued a statement Wednesday stating that "these comments were made in a difficult context."
"Nothing justifies racism," says Matchewan . "And it wasn't a
difficult context – we were simply asking Cannon in a respectful
manner to follow through on his promises. This is a telling example of the attitudes we face in the Conservative government, and why we have problems in the first place."
Last summer Cannon told a crowd in Maniwaki that "the Government of Canada is committed to honoring its lawful obligations to First Nations, recognizing that their legal rights must be respected and upheld."
On March 10th, 2008, for the third time in 12 years, the Government of Canada interfered in the internal governance of Barriere Lake. The Government rescinded recognition of the Customary Chief and Council supported by the community's majority and recognized individuals whom the Barriere Lake Elder's Council says were not selected in accordance with their Customary Governance Code. To resolve the situation, Barriere Lake has demanded that the Government of Canada send observers to witness a leadership re-selection, and in good faith
recognize the outcome.
They also want the Government of Canada to uphold an internationally lauded sustainable development Trilateral agreement Barriere Lake signed with Quebec and the Conservative federal government in 1991. The Government of Canada has been in breach of the agreement since 2001.
"We have written letters to Cannon, picketed at his Maniwaki
constituency office, peacefully sat-in at his Buckingham office, and protested for days at his Ministry of Transport office in Ottawa," said Matchewan. "And yet he has not so much as answered once – which puts the lie to his promises to respect First Nations rights and shows he doesn't deserve to be re-elected."
Barriere Lake representatives will meet this week with the NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Liberal candidates in the Pontiac riding, to build support for their rights.
The Algonquin Nation Secretariat, the Tribal Council representing three Algonquin communities including Barriere Lake, continues to recognize and work with Customary Chief Benjamin Nottaway and his Council. Across the country, more than thirty environmental and civic groups and organizations have supported Barriere Lake's demands.
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Norman Matchewan, Barriere Lake youth spokesperson: 613-296-0110, 819-334-0411
Michel Thusky, Barriere Lake spokesperson (available 4pm–onward): (819) 435-2171
[URL=http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/nr/spch/2007/kza-eng.asp] Footnote 2