For decades, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake have been fighting to protect their ancestral lands. Located five hours northwest of Montreal, they continue to live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, subsisting to a large degree on wild animals hunted in their traditional territory, much of which is now part of Quebec's Verendrye Wildlife Reserve.
Since the formation of the Verendrye Park a few decades ago, clear-cut logging has wiped out large swaths of the forest – over 50 percent of their territory has now been logged. Clear-cut logging severely affects local wildlife populations on which the Algonquins’ way of life depends. Through logging, the generation of hydro-electric energy, and fishing and hunting permits, Quebec generates some 100-million dollars off the territory. But despite the wealth of their traditional lands, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake are living in extreme poverty, with almost no job opportunities and little government services. Their reserve – called Rapid Lake – is overcrowded, with up to 16 people living in dilapidated housing, some of which has been condemned by Health Canada. The community was relocated in the 50‘s to allow for the creation of a new hydro electric dam and reservoir, and is known in Algonquin as Kitiganik, or “the place where we were planted”.
In 1991, the Algonquins of Barriere Lake signed a landmark agreement with the Provincial and Federal governments to provide for sustainable development that would benefit all users of the Park, and for revenue sharing of the profits earned from the territory. Despite being lauded by the United Nations, the Trilateral Agreement, as it is known, has yet to be implemented by the Canadian government.