On November 19, the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) passed a resolution brought forward by Algonquin chiefs to protect the sacred Akikodjiwan falls site on the Ottawa River (Kichizibi) in downtown Ottawa/Gatineau, Canada’s capital, unceded Algonquin territory.
This is in opposition to Windmill Development Group Ltd’s plans, in partnership with Dream Corp, to build a commercial and condominium development named “Zibi” (an Algonquin word meaning “river”) on two of the islands at Chaudière Falls and along the Gatineau-side shoreline.
Hydro Ottawa has also recently started development on a new hydroelectric generating facility at the dammed falls.
The prelude to the points of the resolution cites articles 11 and 12 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the historic Algonquin habitation and use of this territory, and the destructive history of colonization. It asserts the Indigenous rights of the Algonquin Nation to this site and condemns the violation of Canadian law and the international human rights of the Algonquin Peoples by different levels of government.
The resolution includes the following:
- a call for immediate government consultation with the Algonquin communities about this site;
- opposition to the rezoning of these lands for development;
- a call for no development until there is free, prior, and informed consent from the Algonquin Nation as a whole;
- demand of the return of the sacred site to the Algonquin Nation;
- demand that the governments purchase all privately held lands at the site;
- a call for the governments to enter into discussions with the Algonquin chiefs and councils for the establishment of a Algonquin Nation Cultural Park and Historic Commemoration Site at this location.
The AFNQL resolution was passed two days after the provincial Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) dismissed appeals against the City of Ottawa’s decision from last October to rezone the island lands for the “Zibi” development. The rezoning is a prerequisite for the sale and transfer of these lands from the current holders, Domtar Corp, to Windmill. A minority of the land slated for the development is owned and leased out by Public Works Canada/the National Capital Commission.
The OMB decision not to hear the rezoning appeals stated, in part:
The evidence shows that an extensive consultation process was undertaken by both the City and proponent [a.k.a. Windmill] and that the concerns of First Nations particularly the Algonquin have been adequately considered …
The OMB decision is being challenged at the Ontario Divisional Court by one of the original appellants, renowned Anishinabe architect Douglas Cardinal. Cardinal is a keeper of the late Algonquin hereditary chief and elder William Commanda’s Asinabka vision for the waterfalls and islands, and has played a leading role in the opposition to the Windmill development.
The chief of Wolf Lake First Nation, Harry St. Denis, brought forward the AFNQL resolution, and it was seconded by Jean-Guy Whiteduck, chief of Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation. The resolution was passed unanimously (with one abstention) at last week’s meeting of the AFNQL, a 43-member organization including nine Algonquin chiefs. Although not all of the Algonquin chiefs were present for the resolution’s passing, Chief St. Denis confirmed for this article that he had ensured they were all supportive before he brought the resolution forward.
The only federally recognized Algonquin chief to support the development is Kirby Whiteduck of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation (located by Golden Lake, Ontario). The organization Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) is also on record in support of the development — the AOO was formed in 2006 to negotiate the eastern Ontario Algonquin land claim that in current form would give up rights to the Ottawa islands section of the sacred site (along with some 98.7 per cent of the full territory being negotiated in the claim). Seven of the 16 votes in AOO decision-making are held by the Pikwakanagan chief and council, with the other votes coming from the Algonquin Negotiation Representatives for each of the nine non-status Algonquin communities included in the land claim process.
About the author
Greg Macdougall does interdependent/freelance media, grassroots education and community organizing/activism based in Ottawa, unceded Algonquin territory. This article was originally published on his website EquitableEducation.ca and is reprinted here with permission.
Text of resolution points
… THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AFNQL Chiefs-in-Assembly:
- Call upon the governments of Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the National Capital Commission and the municipalities of Gatineau and Ottawa to immediately consult the Algonquin communities who form the Algonquin Nation regarding changes to the status of lands and islands within the Algonquin sacred area Akikodjiwan; and
- Oppose the re-zoning of the sacred area Akikodjiwan (Gatineau Waterfront in Quebec and Chaudiere, Albert and Victoria islands in Ontario) from parks and open space to mixed use due to the failure to consult and accommodate the Algonquin communities who form the Algonquin Nation; and
- Support the Algonquin Nation in their opposition to the Windmill Development Groups’s Zibi Project proceeding within the Algonquin sacred area Akikodjiwan unless and until the free, prior and informed consent of the Algonquin Nation is given; and
- Support the Algonquin Nation in their demand for the Algonquin sacred area Akikodjiwan to be returned to the Algonquin Nation and controlled by an Algonquin controlled institution to be established by the legitimate Algonquin communities who form Algonquin Nation; and
- Support the Algonquin Nation in their demand for the governments of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Ottawa and Gatineau to purchase any lands privately held within the Algonquin sacred area Akikodjiwan and return those lands to an Algonquin controlled institution to be established by the legitimate Algonquin First nations comprising the Algonquin Nation; and
- Call on the governments of Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the National Capital Commission and the municipalities of Gatineau and Ottawa to immediately contact the duly elected Algonquin Chiefs and Councils forming the Algonquin Nation to discuss the establishment of the proposed Algonquin Nation Cultural Park and Historic Commemoration Site to be established on part of the Akikodjiwan under an Algonquin controlled institution to be established by the legitimate Algonquin Communities who form the Algonquin Nations; and
- Direct the AFNQL Regional Chief to communicate this decision of the AFNQL Chiefs-in-Assembly by letter to the governments of Canada, Ontario, Quebec, Ottawa, Gatineau, the National Capital Commission and the Windmill Development Group.
- Collection of Algonquin voices opposed to ‘Zibi’ condo development on sacred site in Ottawa (Nov 2015)
- Reconciliation as Real Negotiations or Termination Table? The Algonquin Land Claim in Eastern Ontario (Nov 2015)
- Architect Douglas Cardinal on the Chaudière Falls and Islands, and the Windmill condominiums plans (Sept 2014)
- Spirituality, the Chaudière Falls, and Responsibility: Albert ‘South Wind’ Dumont w/ Judith Matheson (Feb 2014)