This blog offers a compilation of forty annotated resources consisting of news articles, blogs, videos, websites, letters to the editor, and Letters from First Nation Chiefs on this very topic.
Algonquin Anishinaabe Grandfather William Commanda’s Vision
Algonquin Anishinaabe Grandfather William Commanda of Kitigan Zibi, and traditional wampum belt holder, had a vision to free the Chaudière Falls of the ring dam and build “The Asinabka National Indigenous Center”: a place for healing individual and collective relationships with Mother Earth; healing, strengthening and unifying Indigenous Peoples; and, healing relationships with all others. Commanda developed a proposal and suggested the lands would be held in trust by Algonquin elders.
1. 1950; The Jacques Gréber Plan
First Commissioned in 1936, the 1950 Gréber Plan is one of the most significant documents in Canadian planning history. The plan was a guide for the transformation of Ottawa and Hull from industrial towns into an attractive modern capital. Jacques Gréber, a French planner and landscape architect, headed the planning team. Gréber was recruited by Prime Minister Mackenzie King to realize his dream of a capital that would inspire pride among Canadians. It was Gréber’s position, “The most effective improvement will be the central park at the Chaudière Falls.” Further, Gréber argued, “The time will come when the heavy and obnoxious industries, now occupying the islands, peninsula, and the rocks, from which the falls originally receded, will finally move to more appropriate sites, for their normal development, and more economical operation.”
2. December 28, 2013; Albert Dumont, Personal Blog
This is a really special blog about the Chaudière Falls. Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder Albert Dumont desires to see the destruction ended. He describes the Chaudière Falls: “Nothing was more pure of spirit, nothing nurtured and sustained more life! For all which the river provided, we were thankful. The Kettle of Boiling Waters was a special place on the river and known as such spiritually to all Anishinabe of our territory. We gathered there to pray and acknowledge and honour the force of Kichi Manido. The falls were truly the centre of our woodland cathedral.”
3. January 6, 2014; Albert Dumont, Personal Blog
In this blog post Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder Albert Dumont speaks to the debate about who owns the territory The City of Ottawa is built on. He argues, “To make quarrel over this is foolish. Can we not just join hands in a circle and together give thanks that we live here in this wonderful place of healing and prosperity? Mr. Arbour and Ms. Duchene and anyone else are welcome to pay homage to the land as Mohawks. Nobody will attempt to stop them! In turn leave us (the Algonquins) in peace to do the same in our own way.”
4. April 1, 2014; Lynn Gehl, Book
The land claims process in Canada is complicated and fraught with a continuing colonial order. This book examines the Algonquin land claims process in Ontario offering an insider’s analysis of the issues with federal and provincial policy as well as an analysis of Algonquin internal dynamics and politics. Gehl argues the land claims process is rooted in colonial policy and all that it manifests such as racism and sexism. She discusses Canada’s constitutional beginnings, many of the issues with the formation of the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO), and the land and waterscapes that are sacred to the Algonquin Anishinaabeg.
5. April 26, 2014; Lindsay Lambert, Letter to the Editor Ottawa Citizen
In this letter Lindsay Lambert explains that in actual fact the Chaudière Falls have been dammed for industrial use since 1908 and as such when the Windmill Development Group states they intend to make them accessible for people to enjoy what they are really saying is they will make the dam visible, not the Falls. Lambert also argues there is no longer the need to keep the Chaudière Falls dammed as the industrial use has ended adding there are alternative forms of harnessing the energy from a river. He also adds, it is time to honour Algonquin Anishinaabe Grandfather William Commanda’s vision that calls for the Chaudière Falls and islands located downstream to be returned to its natural and sacred splendour.
6. May 26, 2014; Albert Dumont, Personal Blog
In this blog post Algonquin Anishinaabe Albert Dumont speaks to his desire to see the Chaudière Falls re-naturalized. He offers, “I long to see the waters of the Chaudière Falls flowing through the eyes of my ancestors. And my ears to hear their song in the same way as did the Algonquins of thousands of years ago.” He compares the damming of the Falls to that of a chained turtle: “To me, the Falls as they are now, can be likened to a great turtle, old and filled with wisdom whose legs are clasped in irons leaving her a captive of technology, unable to roam freely where God intended her to go.”
7. August 1, 2014 (approximate); Peter Stockdale, Petition
Settler ally Peter Stockdale initiates a petition to free the Chaudière Falls from the ring dam. He has over 800 supporters.
8. September 30, 2014; Douglas Cardinal, Equitable Education
Well known Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal offers his understanding of the historical and sacred significance of the Chaudière Falls and the islands located downstream. He too argues there is the need to honour the late Algonquin Anishinaabe Grandfather’s vision.
9. October 2, 2014; CBC
Amidst opposition from many people such as Peter Stockdale and Christopher Wong, The City of Ottawa’s planning committee unanimously approves a rezoning request for the massive re-development project by Windmill of a former industrial site on the Ottawa River which is considered sacred to First Nations people. This is terrible.
10. October 5, 2014; Peter Raaymakers, Ottawa Citizen
The City of Ottawa’s Planning Committee unanimously passes a request from Windmill Developments to re-zone Chaudière and Albert Islands for mixed-use community-scale sustainable development as part of its re-development project on the old Domtar lands – lands that are sacred to Algonquin Anishinaabeg. Raaymakers explains: “Ottawa and Gatineau are cities built on land that was never ceded by the Algonquin people who once lived in this region. The Algonquin people still retain Aboriginal title of the land, and their land claims over vast swaths of Ontario and Quebec, including the National Capital Region, remain unresolved (although an agreement-in-principal between Ontario, Canada, and the Algonquins of Ontario was released in 2012 for public review and comment).”
Offering support for Grandfather William Commanda’s vision Raaymakers argues, “freeing the Chaudière Falls would be a symbolic gesture of reconciliation with the natural environment that would enrich the Asinabka park environment.” He Adds, “In partnership with Algonquin and other Indigenous people in Canada, the federal government should work with the City of Ottawa, Domtar, and Windmill Developments to realize the Asinabka redevelopment plan. The legacy of colonialism and oppression of Indigenous people is Canada’s greatest shame, and Commanda’s vision represents a huge opportunity for Canada to take legitimate steps towards healing and reconciliation between Canada and the Indigenous peoples who’ve lived on this land since time immemorial.”
11. October 13, 2014; Lindsay Lambert, Equitable Education
Ottawa local historian and knowledge holder Lindsay Lambert − in conversation with Judith Matheson – offers a discussion of the Indigenous significance of the Chaudière Falls and the islands downstream. He discusses the various features as well as the history of industrial use that has now ended.
12. October 19, 2014; Albert Dumont, Personal Blog
In this blog post Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder Albert Dumont argues, “The churches who were instrumental in driving the Algonquins from the Falls in the first place, need to come forward and demand that the City of Ottawa cease and desist with any and all plans being made now which would allow Windmill Developments to bring machinery to the Falls and thereby disturbing a glowing spirit awaiting our tobacco offerings in its churning waters.”
13. December 9, 2014; CBC
Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal is one of five people who have filed appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) over development at the Domtar lands on Albert and Chaudière islands. They are appealing the city’s approval of rezoning applications made by Windmill Developments. Cardinal, who designed the Canadian Museum of History, has argued the site was once an indigenous spiritual meeting place and it should be returned to this existence. Cardinal further offered, every country has an embassy in Ottawa, but there’s no place in the city with a dedicated aboriginal presence. Cardinal’s appeal is based on that the city doesn’t have title to the land, which is unceded Algonquin territory. The other appellants are Larry McDermott, Richard Jackman, Lindsay Lambert, and Romola Treblicock (Thumbadoo).
14. December 14, 2014; Lucy Scholey, Toronto Metro
In this article Lucy Scholey discusses a proposal for a national monument intended to commemorate victims of the Holocaust that will be built in The City of Ottawa, at the corner of Wellington and Booth streets. She offers Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal’s view stating: “unceded Algonquin land slated for the National Holocaust Monument would be better suited for a memorial honouring First Nations people” adding “there needs to be better recognition of the First Nations people who have suffered within their own country since as far back as first European contact”.
15. Feb 24, 2015; Windmill Development
This video is produced by Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp. as part of its promotional campaign of the Zibi project. They have deep pockets.
16. March 11, 2015; Lynn Gehl, Personal Blog
In this blog Algonquin Anishinaabekwe Lynn Gehl offers a critique to the common belief that only the federally recognized Algonquin Indians hold the legitimate voice of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg. She argues that due to colonial practices, policies, and laws there are in actual fact more non-status Algonquin in Ontario. Clearly First Nation Chiefs who argue or suggest that non-status Algonquin as being frauds, fakes, or not really Algonquin are grossly misinformed. While this matter is addressed, the author is not supportive of the Algonquin land claims process in Ontario in which Pikwakanagan First Nation and the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) are participating. It is her contention that critique to the land claims process must not target non-status Algonquin Anishinaabeg, rather it must target colonial policy.
17. April 29, 2015; Don Butler, Ottawa Citizen
Don Butler speaks with Lindsay Lambert who argues there is the need to respect the Jacques Gréber Plan completed in 1950, first commissioned in 1936 to establish a strategy that would improve Canada’s capital region. It was Gréber’s position that the Chaudière Falls would become the central feature of Ottawa. He called for the re-naturalization of the Falls when industrial use ended.
18. May 3, 2015, Lynn Gehl; Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa
Algonquin Anishinaabekwe Lynn Gehl offers a traditional understanding of the sacredness of the Chaudière Falls. She discusses various features such as the main caldron which represents the pipe bowl and underwater passage which represents the pipe stem. She explains these features and how they converge to tell the story of Creator’s First Sacred Pipe. Indeed Indigenous land and waterscapes are storied with great meaning for all.
19. May 2015 (approximate); Free the Falls Website, Settler Allies
An informative website created by settler allies who wish to see the vision of Algonquin Anishinaabeg Grandfather William Commanda be realized. The website vision statement is clear: It is time for the Falls and the islands to be free from colonial use. Interestingly, it is stated that Canada allows embassies from 129 countries to occupy prime real estate in Ottawa yet there is no embassy that honours First Nations.
20. May 26, 2015; Lynn Gehl, Anishinaabek News
Lynn Gehl relies on Lindsay Lambert offering a discussion of the industrial history of the Chaudière Falls. She offers, it is Lambert’s contention that when Domtar closed the federal government should have voided the industrial leases and complied with the 1950 Jacques Gréber Plan commissioned in 1936 by Prime Minister Mackenzie King intended to govern the growth of the capital region of Ottawa. In this plan, Gréber concluded “The most effective improvement will be the central park at the Chaudière Falls. The time will come when the heavy and obnoxious industries, now occupying the islands, peninsula, and the rocks, from which the falls originally receded, will finally move to more appropriate sites, for their normal development, and more economical operation. The Master Plan is a long range programme based upon which the Capital will grow; urban planning demands resolute perseverance, and the Falls will always remain the main feature of Ottawa’s natural setting.”
21. June 5, 2015; Vela Catalyst, Personal Video
This is a short video that offers the sound of the dammed Chaudière Falls. Settler ally Vela Catalyst offers, “This is what has been hidden from you! Many of us in Ottawa and Gatineau (Canada) don’t realize we live right by a beautiful waterfall.”
22. August 7, 2015; Denise Deby, Green Living Ottawa
This article offers a summary of various community efforts intended to raise awareness of the issue. Denise Deby correctly states that the area is sacred to Anishinaabeg where Algonquin Elder William Commanda’s dream was to restore it as a gathering / interpretive centre / park for all people. Despite this Windmill Development Group plans are to build condominium towers, townhomes, a commercial space, and public areas on Albert and Chaudière Islands.
23. August 14, 2015; Kirby Whiteduck, Ottawa Citizen
Chief Kirby Whiteduck of Pikwakanagan First Nation, who represents approximately 1700 members in Ontario, argues that Windmill’s project known as “Zibi” is a genuine effort at collaboration and reconciliation. He argues Indigenous people have a right to self-determination free from settler ally interference, and he criticizes a vocal group of settlers who are speaking out about the Zibi plan and the call for the land to be returned to Algonquin stewardship. He argues these people have not consulted with the Algonquin. He also criticizes this un-named group’s fundraising effort to free the Chaudière Falls and save the islands. Hmm − there are more non-status Algonquin in Ontario and so this raises the point that a First Nation Chief does not hold the authentic voice of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg.
24. August 17, 2015; Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen
This news article begins with asking, “Who speaks for the Algonquin?”, pointing out that it must be valued that Algonquin-Anishinaabeg are spread across both Eastern Ontario and Quebec on formal reserves, off-reserve, and in towns and cities. While Windmill is branding the project as environmentally sustainable and arguing they will employ Algonquin people, high-profile Blackfoot architect Douglas Cardinal argues the Chaudière Falls and the islands downstream are sacred places and as such need to be protected from corporate destruction. Cardinal argues there is the need to honour Grandfather William Commanda’s vision. On the other hand Algonquin Anishinaabe Andrew Decontie, founder of Decontie Construction, argues that the Zibi project is an opportunity to address the economic gap imposed on Algonquin Anishinaabeg. Hmm − There should be more respectful ways for the Algonquin Anishinaabeg to enter into the current economic paradigm. It is sad that the destruction of a sacred place is the only option.
25. August 17, 2015; CBC
In this news article the issues with Windmill’s Zibi project are outlined. The Zibi project will cost Windmill $1.2 billion and will take place on Chaudière and Albert Islands as well as a site in downtown Gatineau, Quebec. Jeff Westeinde, the co-founder of Windmill, told CBC he is creating a database of available and skilled Aboriginal workers, which could begin decontamination work in September or October 2015. Windmill’s Algonquin partner, Decontie Construction Inc., is in the process of establishing an inventory of Algonquin Anishinaabeg construction workers. Hmm − this appears to be an act of environmental racism in that Indigenous people are being relied upon to clean up colonial pollution.
26. August 18, 2015; Cathy Remus, Letter to the Editor Ottawa Citizen
Cathy Remus opposes the Windmill project and argues the LeBreton Flats in Gatineau, Quebec is a better location for Windmill Development Group’s mega-project.
27. August 18, 2015; Four Algonquin First Nation Chiefs in Quebec, Market Wired
Four Algonquin First Nation Chiefs in Quebec call for protection of their sacred places − Chaudière and Albert Islands − and oppose the City of Ottawa’s re-zoning of lands for Windmill’s project. This article states, “The duly elected Chiefs and Councils from four Algonquin First Nations (Wolf Lake, Timiskaming, Eagle Village, Barriere Lake) announced today their adoption of Council Resolutions calling for the protection of an important Algonquin sacred area on the Ottawa River between the cities of Hull and Ottawa and opposing the amendment of the National Capital Commission and City of Ottawa’s Master-Plans to re-zone the Chaudière and Albert Islands from ‘parks and open space’ to ‘mixed-use’ for the massive proposed Windmill urban development.”
28. August 18, 2015; Shady Hafez, Personal Blog
Shady Hafez, who is of Algonquin and Syrian ancestry, decided it was more important to address the issues of lateral violence in the Indigenous community and bullying on the part of allies. He argues Indigenous people who shame their brothers and sisters because they want jobs and a brighter future for their families is an awful tactic. He then criticizes allies for their traditionalist framework that denies Indigenous people the right to compete in the current economic paradigm. He argues, allies have co-opted the anti-development movement; Algonquin do not need people to speak on our behalf; allies need to accept that Algonquin are a diverse people; that Indigenous sovereignty must be respected; and that allies should not cast some as the real Indian and others as corporate sell outs in that we are all real Indians. He continues allies need to value that some Algonquin will want to develop their lands in a way that may not be in accordance with what allies value. Hmm − can allies really co-opt the anti-development movement? After all it belongs to all people who desire respect for the land and water. It must also be valued that it is possible that the allies in question have consulted with members of the larger body of non-status Algonquin.
29. August 18, 2015; Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen
This article discusses the notice of motion to dismiss the five appeals brought forward by The City of Ottawa. The City of Ottawa is asking that these appeals against the rezoning of the former Domtar lands by Windmill be dismissed. Although Douglas Cardinal said he expects the appeals to be dismissed, he vows to keep fighting. Windmill Development Group Corp. argues the project will be one of the most sustainable communities in the world. Windmill is working with an Algonquin advisory committee and has the support of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan as well as Algonquins of Ontario (AOO). Hmm, I wonder was this Algonquin advisory committee established by Windmill?
30. August 19, 2015; Haley Ritchie, Ottawa Metro
Five appeals (from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people) were filed with the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) to end the destruction of Chaudière and Albert Islands. In an act of bureaucratic bullying The City of Ottawa filed a notice of motion to dismiss these appeals. This motion was heard August 2015. OMB chair Richard Makuch will decide whether to dismiss the appeals or move forward with a full hearing. Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal vows to keep fighting development.
31. August 19, 2015; CBC
Five Algonquin First Nations in Quebec have voiced their opposition to the Zibi development project: Eagle Village, Wolf Lake, Timiskaming, Barriere Lake, and Long Point. While this is the case, it is said the nearest Algonquin First Nation, Kitigan Zibi, has not taken a firm stance on the project. Yet, the other nearby First Nation, Pikwakanagan near Golden Lake supports the plan. Chief of Pikwakanagan First Nation Kirby Whiteduck explains that as part of the Ontario land claims process they have “taken the view that we’re not going to take issue with people’s private property and what they do with it.” Whiteduck further offers he wants the site, that once housed the Domtar pulp and paper mill industry, cleaned up, and he wants Algonquin street names and jobs created for Algonquin workers. Hmm − it is important to value that the Chiefs of First Nations do not represent all Algonquin Anishinaabeg. Also, we need to keep in mind that as per the mandate of the Indian Act there are more non-status Algonquin in Ontario and Quebec than status Algonquin.
32. August 19, 2015; The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador, the political organization regrouping forty three Chiefs of the First Nations, asks that the sacred territory of the Anishnabe-Algonquins situated on Îles Akikodjiwan (Chaudière River) between Ottawa and Gatineau be recognized and protected from corporate development.
33. August 20, 2015; Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen
It is said that the Windmill Development has signed an agreement with the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) to preserve and promote Algonquin culture in the Zibi project. It is also said that the AOO are working with Hydro Ottawa to include Algonquin history and culture around the Chaudière Falls. Hmm − the AOO do not represent the Algonquin voice. There are many Algonquin who have no faith in the AOO as it is a colonial construction. Also, the Chaudière Falls and the islands downstream are significant to Algonquin Anishinaabeg in Quebec.
34. August 21, 2015; Ottawa Business Journal, Staff Writer
Windmill signs a letter of intent with the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO), creating a partnership to preserve and promote Algonquin culture in the residential, commercial and retail development on Chaudière and Albert islands. It is also explained that in 2004 ten Algonquin communities that comprise the AOO agreed to work together to reach a land claims settlement Pikwakanagan First Nation also signed a similar letter with Windmill in June. The AOO and Pikwakanagan First Nation are colonial inventions that do not represent the voices of all the Algonquin Anishinaabeg.
35. August 22, 2015; Paula Mcooey, Ottawa Citizen
A panel discussion was held inside an Albert Island warehouse to enlighten people to the history and relationship of the Algonquins on both sides of the Ottawa River to the Outaouais region. Panel member Chief Kirby Whiteduck, of the Pikwakanagan First Nation at Golden Lake, strongly supports Windmill’s Zibi project for its environmentally friendly approach and for its economic benefits. However Peter Stockdale, who is not a First Nations member, argues Whiteduck is “out of step with the Algonquin community,” adding “five communities and the Assembly of First Nations Quebec Labrador have come out opposing it.” While Stockdale says he and his group − Freeing Chaudière Falls and Its Islands − supports a First Nations job creation initiative, they would like to see the Zibi project moved to Lebreton Flats and the islands turned in to a central park. Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder Albert Dumont, from Kitigan Zibi Anishinaabe at Maniwaki, stressed the need to protect the space as a spiritual sanctuary. Dumont argues, “We don’t need to give up a sacred site to have jobs.”
36. August 22, 2015; Lindsay Lambert, Letter to the Editor Ottawa Citizen
Frustrated with Windmills argument that they will be hiring Algonquin Anishinaabeg, in this letter Lindsay Lambert asks the question, “Will there be any fewer jobs if Windmill builds on LeBreton Flats instead?” Interestingly, drawing from the Gréber Plan, which called for the re-naturalization of the Chaudière Falls, he also points out the Gréber vision was dedicated by the federal government as Canada’s National War Memorial to the Second World War.
37. August 24, 2015; Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen
Elizabeth Payne offers a user’s guide to the Chaudière Falls, the islands downstream, Zibi, and Windmill. She discusses the history of the industrial use of the Falls and the recent sale of the islands by Domtar to Windmill. She also addresses many of the issues such as asking the question, “Who owns the Ring Dam and the islands downstream, is it Domtar, Hydro Ottawa, the federal government, or is it unceded Algonquin land?” She argues the Algonquin are not in agreement and explains the land in question is part of an ongoing land claims process in Ontario of which Pikwakanagan First Nation and the Algonquin of Ontario (AOO) are participating. Payne also discusses Algonquin Anishinabe Grandfather William Commanda’s vision who wanted the area returned to its natural state and placed under the stewardship of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg. She explains Commanda worked with First Nations architect Douglas Cardinal and the National Capital Commission (NCC) to design a centre on Victoria Island, a place to celebrate peace and bring people together. Commanda’s vision went beyond Victoria Island and included Chaudière Falls and other lands. Lastly, opponents have vowed to continue fighting if their appeal is turned down by the Ontario Municipal Board.
38. August 24, 2015 (approximate); Shannon Chief, Change.org Petition
Algonquin Anishinaabekwe Shannon Chief initiates a petition against the development of the Chaudière Falls and islands. She argues there is a lack of a collective Algonquin voice on the issues and she directs her complaint against the National Capital Commission (NCC) calling for the need for Canada to value the Two Row Wampum agreement made between the Indigenous and settler governments.
39. August 24, 2015; Matt Cicero, Personal Blog
Settler ally of Indigenous Solidarity Movement Ottawa Matt Cicero takes a strong stance against the Windmill Zibi project. He argues stolen land is not private property; challenges Windmill to look beyond geographic proximity and colonial constructed provincial boundaries as their criteria when determining which group of Algonquin have the legitimate voice; relies on the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People to argue there is a duty to consult with Indigenous people; criticizes the process of selecting speakers for the panel discussion set up for a public debate; and more. This blog is a good critique of many of the issues.
40. August 24, 2015; Albert Dumont, Personal Blog
Algonquin Anishinaabe Elder Albert Dumont talks about his experience as a panelist during the public discussion about the Zibi project. Dumont is disgusted that Asinabka (Chaudière & Albert Islands), a site sacred to the Algonquins for thousands of years, is now considered private land. He argues he learned that the support of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan or the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) is actually not required yet they do offer their blessings. He asks why the return of Asinabka to the Algonquin Nation was not a demand in the Ontario land claims process. Dumont is frustrated and left the panel discussion “feeling like I just had my nose rubbed in the caca spilling from the almighty dollar’s rear-end. I don’t like it!” Dumont values non-Algonquin supporters and allies speaking up about this destruction.