Native activists erect blockade to keep federal official out of election

Native activists in Quebec say they are erecting a blockade on the road leading to their reserve.

Barriere Lake community members say they are trying to prevent a federal elections official from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada from interfering in their election process.

The reserve north of Montreal was told by Ottawa in the spring that it would have to hold band elections in the coming months.

But the activists claim the federal government is violating their right to hold elections according to band custom.

“We reject the (government’s) unconstitutional attempt to assimilate our leadership selection customs by imposing a foreign regime on us,” Marylynn Poucachiche, a community spokesperson, said in a statement.

“Because the government has not heeded its constitutional obligations or our community’s wishes, we are turning to peaceful direct action. We will be preventing the nomination meeting from proceeding and are demanding the federal government immediately cease and desist in their attempt to abolish our customs.

“The government is breaking the law, but through our actions we are protecting it.”

Provincial police said early Thursday that they had no reports yet of traffic disruptions in the area.

Meanwhile, internal squabbling has left the community without effective leadership for almost four years.

Activists also blocked a road in 2008 to protest their dispute with the government.

Elections Canada notes that whatever role federal officials may play in the reserve, their institution is not involved.

“We don’t go into band elections. We have no role — and have never had a role — in band elections,” said Elections Canada spokesman John Enright.

“To my knowledge, Elections Canada is not active in that region at this point.”

He noted that the federal elections body would only oversee federal elections or by-elections on an aboriginal reserve.

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