Blockade goes up in Wemotaci over dispute with council on forestry agreement

After the Atikamekw council of Wemotaci signed a forestry framework agreement with the government of Quebec, a blockade was erected in protest because some community members say they were not consulted.

Dave Petiquay, who represents the Petiquay family, says some traditional families were not consulted in the on-going negotiations between the Wemotaci council and provincial government.

“We don’t support this agreement. We maintain that the band council has no authority over ancestral territories other than reserve land. And I’ve told the other nations, the people, that they should take note of the Indian Act,” Petiquay said in a recent interview.

This is not the first time members from Wemotaci’s traditional families have mobilized. Last spring, Petiquay and a few others set up another blockade.

At the time, he told APTN News that the government was not respecting a harmonization agreement on forestry activities on their land.

After setting up the new blockade earlier this month, Petiquay and his supporters began evicting forestry workers, he recounted, adding that there is a police presence, but so far, everything has been peaceful.

“We are defending our customs, our rights, our way of life in this territory. That’s why we mobilised,” he explained.

But according to Wemotaci chief Vivianne Chilton, the framework agreement recognizes the significance of ancestral territories and the importance of maintaining and transmitting the Atikamekw way of life in the territory.

“It also provides for the negotiation of a cooperation agreement concerning the protection, management, and development of Nitaskinan, the non-ceded ancestral territory,” Chilton said in an interview.

Moreover, she told APTN that the framework agreement was approved by the traditional families and emphasized that the agreement was reached at their request.

“Following consultation with the guardians of the territory (chiefs of the traditional families) in our community, we have come to the conclusion that it is essential to give the negotiation session that is currently underway a chance.”

But Petiquay maintains that the council has failed to protect their rights and, thus, cannot represent the interests of the traditional families when it comes to their territory.

“We call for the blockade to be lifted immediately,” Chilton said.

In a statement, Ian Lafrenière, the Quebec minister responsible for Indigenous affairs, appealed for calm and expressed confidence that a solution will be found with the new framework agreement.

“They should stop negotiating amongst themselves and come and negotiate with the real representatives of the territory. The guardians of the land. Not the Council,” Petiquay said.

Petiquay added that he hopes other First Nations join his movement.

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