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Council of Canadians joins Sacred Walk against Zibi development in Ottawa

Today’s Sacred Walk as it made its way from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill along Wellington Street. Photo by Brent Patterson.

Council of Canadians activists joined with about 500 people for a Sacred Walk in opposition to the Zibi development on unceded Algonquin territory in downtown Ottawa.

Algonquin and Traditional Grandmothers called for today’s Sacred Walk to “save Ottawa’s sacred site from development”.

Their outreach highlighted, “For over two hundred years we have asked the Crown and later the Government of Canada that our Sacred Site be returned to our care. Our Sacred Site was taken from us and we have been locked out of its reach – unable to pray at our Falls and Islands. …We call on the Canadian Government to declare this site sacred by National Aboriginal Day, June 21st, 2016. We also call upon all Nations, all Inter-faith groups and all citizens to join us in [this] massive sacred walk… In our Nation, the traditional Grandmothers carry the spiritual and ultimate authority – only at crucial moments do we call upon it. This is one of those historical moments!”

They are also asking for the creation of an Algonquin Nation Cultural Park and Historic Commemoration Site on these lands under the care of an Algonquin-controlled institution.

At issue is the $1.2 billion development on Chaudière Island and Albert Island on the Ottawa River. Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp. are developing “low and high rise condominium towers and townhomes, commercial and office space, unique waterfront plazas and outdoor squares, recreational facilities, and more” on the islands. The Globe and Mail has noted, “[The project will] eventually bring 1,200 condo apartments, office space, retail and a substantial amount of new park space to this place, just two kilometres from Parliament Hill.” A 500-square-foot studio apartment would start at about $220,000.

The federal government ‘owns’ 40 per cent of the land on the two islands and could choose to put an end to this development. It is hoped that given the federal government’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – which enshrines the right to free, prior and informed consent – that it will not release these lands for this development.

Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont says, “We are told over and over again in recent times that a ‘new relationship of honour and mutual respect is at hand’ between us, the First Nations and the settler communities. If Canadians are OK with a sacred site such as Asinabka (Akikodjiwan) being violated in the most despicable manner by the construction of highrise buildings upon it, then their warped definition of ‘reconciliation’ is very different than mine.”

Public Service Alliance of Canada regional vice-president Larry Rousseau has written, “Of the 10 federally recognized Algonquin First Nations in the Ottawa River watershed, nine are officially opposed to Zibi. Certainly, there is nothing even close to consensus amongst Algonquin First Nations when it comes to putting up condo and office buildings on what they recognize as a sacred site.” And while Chief Kirby Whiteduck of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation supports the development, it was the grandmothers from that First Nation that organized today’s sacred walk.

Other opponents to the Zibi condominium development include Free the Falls, Stop Windmill: Student and Labour Allies for Akikodjiwan, CUPE’s Aboriginal Peoples’ Council, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada-National Capital Region.

Further reading
Ottawa chapter at public forum on Zibi condo development