Algonquin chiefs force meeting with Quebec’s Liberal caucus

“It don’t matter if we weren’t invited, or not, we’re here now today, and we’re not going anywhere,” said Algonquin chief.

Tom Fennario
APTN National News
Quebec’s Liberal caucus kicked off its annual meeting Thursday with a rousing applause for their leader.

But the meeting was only able to get underway after they fixed a major oversight by scheduling an early morning meeting with the Indigenous peoples of the territory.

“We just want to give the message to the Quebec government that we’re ready, we’re ready to sit down and talk. It don’t matter if we weren’t invited, or not, we’re here now today, and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon from our territory,” said Grand Chief Verna Polson of the Algonquin and Anishinabeg Tribal Council.

Polson and six other Algonquin chiefs had to demand the meeting with the premier

Once they had his ear they made one thing clear: When it comes to natural resources, they want their cut.

“We’re going to be establishing a negotiation table with the Quebec government, and it’s long overdue,” said Polson.

The unceded Algonquin territory in Quebec is rich in logging and mining resources.

However, many Algonquin communities struggle with poverty, addiction and overcrowding.

These are problems they hope resource royalties could help address.

The chief of a nearby First Nation invited Premier Philippe Couillard to come see the challenges her community faces.

So far he hasn’t committed.

“Quebec has to stop hiding behind Canada, just because it’s Canada that finances us usually, because we’re an important part of Quebec society. We are here, we still exist, we will always be here,” said Chief Adrienne Jerome from Anishnabe Nation of Lac Simon.

Quebec said the meeting with chiefs was productive.

“How to improve relations between mining companies and the Algonquin is something that is very important,” said Geoffrey Kelley, minister of Indigenous Affairs. “As you can see there is some interest in approving mining here in this region, but it has to include, and I think the premier was quite clear yesterday, it has to include partnerships with the Indigenous populations, the Algonquin population here.”

But when asked if Quebec committed to sit down at the negotiation table Polson said no.

“No promise, but the dialogue will start. It has to start. Cause we need this, we need this for our people,” said Polson.

The Liberal caucus meeting continues Friday.

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Producer Nouvelles Nationales d'APTN / Montreal

Born and raised in Montreal, Tom cut his teeth working in community television in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory before joining APTN as a cameraman/editor in 2008. In 2015 he was promoted to Video Journalist. Since 2019 Tom has been a producer for the French weekly newscast Nouvelles Nationales d’APTN.