Here’s what else you need to know about the 3 islands that sit at the base of Chaudière Falls. They were part of Grandfather William Commanda’s vision for a place of healing and gathering for all nations that he called Asinabka. His vision always included Chaudière and Albert Islands. The National Capital Commission (NCC) confined him to Victoria Island, and that needs to change.
Canada needs a national government willing to provide direction to the NCC—and willing to settle Indigenous title claims so that these unceded islands can be managed and held in stewardship by Anishinaabeg.
Canada needs a national government willing to provide direction to the NCC—and willing to settle Indigenous title claims so that these unceded islands can be managed and held in stewardship by Anishinaabeg. Here are 10 reasons to oppose the proposed commercial development.
The largest of the islands, Chaudière Island, is closest to Chaudière Falls and provides the best vantage point from which to view the Falls. Grandfather William Commanda envisioned an historical interpretation centre here. Like the Falls, it should be restored to its natural state, planted with trees not condos.
That natural environment has not existed since the lumbering era began in the 1800s. Abandoned by Domtar in 2008, the buildings on this island resemble bunkers surrounded by wire fences. As far back as 1950, Ottawa’s Master Plan – the Greber Report – envisioned the eventual restoration of this industrial area to a central park adjoining the freed Falls.
Next is Albert Island, a sliver of land that is also wall-to-wall concrete. An aerial view of the islands shows not a single tree growing on this island. Grandfather William Commanda called for a Powwow Grounds here. The mega project that Windmill Development Group describes as “green” and ecologically sensitive involves creating equally impermeable surfaces on both Chaudière and Albert Islands. The company has partnered with a billion-dollar real estate firm called Dream Inc. so it can spend $1 billion on 1,200 condominiums, 17,000 sq. metres of office space, almost 5,000 sq. metres of retail stores, and a hotel.
In October 2014, the City of Ottawa’s planning committee voted unanimously to rezone Chaudière and Albert Islands from parkland to mixed use in support of Windmill’s proposal. This municipal decision is now the subject of appeals by five people, including architect Douglas Cardinal, to the Ontario Municipal Board.
Allowing thousands of people to live and work on the site will generate tax revenue for Ottawa’s municipal government. It will not reclaim or conserve green space, rehabilitate the river, nor further Canada’s future as a nation. People who live in the downtown of Ottawa wonder: how can a plan that will stretch already limited bridge and road infrastructure be seen as people friendly?
Windmill Development Group admits that as many as 3,500 people will live or work on the proposed site each day. With a car in every condo, the downtown core is set for even more gridlock than exists now.
A founding member of the Ottawa River Institute has written passionately about competing visions for these two islands. The former Chief of Kitigan-Zibi Algonquin, Gilbert Whiteduck, has told the City of Ottawa it does not have the right to dispose of these islands because they are unceded Algonquin territory. He also opposes Windmill’s use of the name “zibi” to brand the condo development.
The third island, Victoria Island, is not part of the condo project. As unceded Algonquin territory, it has been acknowledged as such, to some extent, by the National Capital Commission. For the last decade, “Aboriginal Experiences” on the eastern tip of Victoria Island has hosted coming of age and summer solstice ceremonies, as well as drum circles. It was the centre of Idle No More activities in the capital in 2013.