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Barriere Lake takes over Lawrence Cannon's press conference

posted by dru Geography: Canada Topics: elections, Indigenous

September 18, 2008

Barriere Lake takes over Lawrence Cannon's press conference

Or: The Coup D'Etat vs. The Liberal Plane

Members of the Algonquin community of Barriere Lake crashed Lawrence Cannon's press conference in Maniwaki yesterday, demanding a meeting with Cannon, an immediate leadership reselection process in the community, and for the Federal Government to uphold the shared use agreement it signed with the community. (Check out this photo essay for some background).

[If you're looking for election newsy, gossipy, scandalous coverage, don't despair. Read on. The juicy stuff is at the bottom.]

In June, people from Barriere Lake and several supporters occupied Lawrence Cannon's office in Buckingham, QC. Then, Cannon refused to meet, and two Algonquins and four supporters were arrested for refusing to leave until Cannon met with them. (Full disclosure: I was one of the supporters.)

Several other demonstrations were held, before and after, targeting Cannon and various other government officials. It all stems from when, in 2006-2007, the Feds imposed a minority faction as the government.

The background to this story is extensive. It is worth looking into, as it reveals some elementary but shocking truths about Canada's colonial policies and how they are intimately tied to control of natural resources.

The media, unfortunately, has shown very little interest in covering what happened at Barriere Lake. Not only that, but it is actively disinterested in covering it accurately.

Sure, you can look at scores of short newspaper reports that get basic facts wrong as the product of incompetence.

But when Globe and Mail feature writer Bill Curry writes a major story (accompanied by a photo essay) about the community but fails to mention the most basic facts. Like the fact that the current Band Council was imposed by the Feds. Or the significantly precedent-setting Trilateral Agreement, which Quebec and the Feds signed, then pulled out of. And so on.

But wait, we've got something here that will warm the hearts of the narrative-affirming, gaffe-documenting, Liberal-plane-reporting media.

If you watch the Aboriginal People's Television Network coverage of the event, a few minutes in, you'll see Cannon's Constituency Assistant Darlene Lenigan featured in the following exchange, in the context of arranging the long-refused talk with Cannon:

Norman Matchewan: Am I gonna be arrested if I go over there?

Darlene Lenigan: Why am I gonna arrest you if you come into my office?

NM: The Buckingham people...

DL: ...if I let you in here...

NM: ...we were arrested when we were over there.

DL: If you behave, and you're sober, and there's no problems...

NM: Sober! We were sober when we went over there [to Buckingham].

DL: One of them showed up the other days and was drinking.

NM: Are you calling me an alcoholic?

DL: I'm not calling you an alcoholic. It's just to say that you're in a federal office, and you're coming in to negotiate, and...

And she keeps digging from there.

Apparently, APTN called up the Conservatives and asked them about it, and they apologized immediately for Lenigan's remarks.

So far no other news outlet seems to have picked up the story.

It's disappointing, though. The media has proven that they will go to great lengths to avoid giving voice to the criticisms of people from a small, impoverished but quite resilient Algonquin community.

But it would be even more disappointing if they gave up valuable news cycles talking about the Liberal plane, but neglected to speculate on whether one woman's racist remarks outside a constituency office reinforced or contradicted anything about the "narrative" or the Conservative's Party's new, carefully cultivated "friendly" image.

Because if even a few minor stories were written about this superficial manifestation of deeply colonial policies, then maybe some of those readers or viewer would be able to look into what's going on.

If enough of them did the research on their own, and found out what's actually going on in Barriere Lake, and across Canada, then "Indian Affairs" might even be elevated to an "election issue".

But if we hope for that, then our expectations have fallen too low indeed.

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