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Activist Communique: Mining company suspends exploration in Algonquin territory

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Algonquins of Barriere Lake are celebrating the suspension of mining exploration in their territory by Cartier Resources Inc. -- a Val d'Or-based corporation -- after it had begun line-cutting in preparation for its mining exploration earlier this year. On the company's request, the government of Quebec has now suspended the term of Cartier Resource's 1,052 mineral claims in the territory until July 3, 2013, No exploration activity can take place on the claims during this time period while further consultations take place.

This prompted fierce resistance from members of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake who expressed concerns about the resource extraction, especially with regards to land ownership -- the Algonquin Territory is considered as unceded according to British Common Law -- and mining ethics;  both are situations that apparently violate international and nation-to-nation protocols for the management of indigenous lands.

This includes, for example, the yet-to-be-honoured Trilateral Agreement signed in 1991 between Barriere Lake and the Quebec and Canadian governments, the latest examples of the provincial and federal governments' long history of not honouring agreements and treaties with First Nations.

Accorded under the recently signed United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Persons (UNDRIP) is the right for indigenous peoples to have control "over developments affecting them and their lands, territories and resources will enable them to maintain and strengthen their institutions, cultures and traditions, and to promote their development in accordance with their aspirations and needs."

According to a July 8, 2011, press release by Cartier Resources, the corporation is suspending its mining exploration in Algonquins of Barriere Lake territory after discussions with the government and community members.

Philippe Cloutier, President and CEO of Cartier was quoted in the release: "We believe that our discussions and the initiative to suspend exploration work on this territory and requests for specific assistance from the Ministère de Ressources naturelles et de la faune and the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones, confirms our respect for stakeholders in this area and will contribute to future development of the project."

In a statement released this morning, Norman Matchewan -- a community spokesperson for Barriere Lake -- said, "the community applauds Cartier Resources for respecting our wishes that no mining exploration and drilling proceed. The company is setting an important precedent by not moving ahead without the free, prior and informed consent of the community, a right recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

While the mining exploration by Cartier Resources has been suspended, the Algonquins will continue to press for more permanent solutions from the Quebec government. "We call on the Quebec government to follow Cartier Resources' lead by withdrawing any mineral claims in the entire area of the Trilateral Agreement until they have implemented the Trilateral Agreement. If Premier Jean Charest is committed to sustainable development and a just relationship with First Nations, this should be his natural next step," said Matchewan.

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