The North Bay / French River Algonquins are hosting their first public meeting this evening, December 7, within the Regency Ballroom at North Bay’s Best Western at 7 p.m.
The group currently consists of a nine-member committee “and we’ve taken a cross section of members from Verner to behind Bonfield,” explained committee chair, Rolland Boisonneault.
“We’ve already held three meetings in order to get organized,” he added, noting the committee has been busy working on registering to become a non-profit organization, and ironing out the main issues of concern they want to remedy.
Tonight, they present this information to the public with a presentation followed by questions from the audience.
“We expect at least 125 people to be there,” Boisonneault said. “That’s how many responded to the invitation.”
One of the main items on the agenda is status cards, specifically, how many Algonquins in the region “have lost their cards,” or have “applied through the Mattawa / North Bay Algonquin Community and were either refused or never received a letter acknowledging their application which qualified them with an approved ancestor.”
Boisonneault expects many of tonight’s attendees will be “the people who got kicked out of the Algonquins.”
He cited a recent CBC investigation that revealed many Algonquin ancestry claims were put in question after a letter claiming 19th century voyageur Thomas Lagarde was Algonquin, was mostly likely fabricated.
This put into question the status of over 1,000 descendants of Lagarde who claim Algonquin ancestry.
“There are at least 1,000 people who are not Algonquins,” Boisonneault said, noting that number could be as high as 1,500.
The committee wants to facilitate access to status cards. Boisonneault notes that “as per the Supreme Court of Canada, there are no boundaries and no time limit to qualify for being an Algonquin member.”
Tonight, the committee will “talk about the fact that some people got thrown out or kicked out, and basically they were kicked out by people who weren’t even Algonquins,” Boisonneault said.
“We are determined to do what is right with honesty and integrity for our people, the Algonquins,” he added.
Besides the status card issue, land claims will be discussed, as the group has been “trying hard to get Crown Land from Calvin Township down to the French River.”
“Our vision regarding fishing and hunting and timber,” will also be discussed, Boisonneault said.
“We want to take what belongs to us” he stressed. “We are Algonquins.”
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.