For years the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have fought against logging operations on their territory.
A film chronicling the the First Nation's struggle to protect their land opens in Montreal on Tuesday, February 10. Honour Your Word is part of a film festival called Cinema Politica taking place at Concordia University. The one-hour documentary depicts the Barriere Lake Algonquins’ decade-long fight to shield their land and culture that the federal and provincial governments have allowed. The First Nation community of 400 people is located 300 miles north of Ottawa, Ontario, and is surrounded by the province of Quebec.
In 1991 the Algonquins of Barriere Lake signed the Trilateral Agreement—an innovative resource-use agreement between the First Nation, the federal and Quebec governments that was supposed to create a sustainable development plan for the community’s traditional 3,900 square miles that would include revenue sharing, resource co-management and economic independence for the First Nation. But the federal and provincial governments have not kept their part of the agreement, and the Algonquins have had to resort to roadblocks and other direct actions to prevent cutting in the forest and mining activities on their territory.
Last November, the community blockaded logging company Resolute Forest Products, which had been authorized by the Quebec government without going through the consultation protocol established in the 1991 agreement. The exploitation of ore by Copper One Resources has also been suspended due to community concerns about the impact of mining on their traditional territory.
The title of the film refers to the Algonquins' campaign slogan urging the governments of Canada and Quebec to honor the 1991 conservation agreement, said band spokesman Norman Matchewan.
"I hope this film will help Quebecers and Canadians understand our shared responsibility for the protection of the territory and the irresponsibility of the governments of Quebec and Canada in their dealings with us,” Matchewan said.
Director Martha Stiegman worked on Honour Your Word for four years and said she hopes it will help correct the negative stereotypes associated with the ABL community and First Nations in general. The documentary “is the intimate portrait of life behind the barricades of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake whose dignity and courage stand in stark contrast to the injustices they face,” Stiegman said in a statement.
Mining Watch spokesman Ramsey Hart said the province of Quebec “is behind most other jurisdictions in Canada” in its dealings with indigenous populations, especially with regard to mining.
"This film should be an alarm bell for Quebecers on major injustices taking place a few hours north of Montreal,” he said.
Steven Baird of the Barriere Lake Solidarity group said the group looks forward to using the film to continue to generate support for the Algonquins of Barriere Lake.
“It is time that Canada and Quebec honor their word," Baird said.