We are a group of people, non-Indigenous and Indigenous, who support a green and non-commercial vision for Chaudière waterfall and its three islands.Over 5,000 years ago, Chaudière Falls became a place of worship – with a peace pipe manifested in the huge bowl of surging water at its centre.
It later came to be a site of negotiation and trade for at least 65 First Nations. Subjected to 200 years of industrial use and abuse, the site mostly enriched a few lumber barons. In a place that Algonquin have described as sacred, we must not allow economic growth in the form of 2,000 condos to add to the city’s existing glut of condominiums.Indigenous people deserve a place to worship in the capital. Why can’t this site support tranquil contemplation and non-commercial gatherings as it once did?
It is time for three islands and the dammed water around them to heal from 150 years of colonial onslaught and become a true oasis at the capital’s core. Almost 5,000 people have signed our petition to Free the Falls and the Islands. In June 2016, loving hands tied more than 1,000 ribbons to the bridge closest to the dam at Chaudière Falls. Later that month, more than 500 people marched to Parliament Hill in Ottawa carrying the message, It is Sacred.Student and labour activists in Ottawa are rallying in support of Algonquin First Nation chiefs under the banner Stop Windmill. In the summer of 2016, they asked the Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna, to stop the transfer of federal lands on the islands to private corporations. She demurred, so the group launched a pledge campaign in the fall that seeks to exert citizen pressure on her, based on her influence as a Cabinet Minister and as the sitting M.P. in the Ottawa Centre federal riding.It’s clear that thousands of Canadians want to return Chaudière Falls and its three islands to honourable hands. For some, it’s because the rights of Indigenous people and the natural environment matter more than corporate profits and political maneuvering.
For others, carrying on with the vision of Algonquin Elder William Commanda for this sacred site is paramount.Everyone opposed to a condo development wants Windmill and its partner Dream Unlimited Corp. to #moveZibi, possibly to Lebreton Flats. All those opposing want the islands free from condos. We favour a truly green vision under Indigenous stewardship.The vision for Chaudière Falls and its three islands was held, during 30 of his 97 years, by Algonquin Elder William Commanda. He lobbied and he prayed for A Circle of All Nations at this site in the Ottawa River.
It is this vision that world-class Anishinaabe architect, Douglas Cardinal, is carrying today.The power and beauty of the sacred site shows through in drone footage by Hydro Ottawa, which is currently desecrating Chaudière Island by expanding hydro capacity using the river’s waters. The condo developer, Dream Windmill, wants a piece of this power-generating pie so it can meet its marketing goals for being a “green” development. Ottawa taxpayers are paying for this cynical move, which has not been subject to public scrutiny in any way.Dream Windmill’s public vision for its mega-project will create a high-density development for the elite of the city. Is this slick video vision of the site by the developers something Ottawa needs as a city, and as the nation’s capital? Or is it another example of a developer with deep pockets convincing municipal politicians and the NCC to jump on a bandwagon?In 2017, Canada will mark 150 years as a federation. Many good people with settler roots believe the country is ripe for reconciliation with Indigenous people.
The capital city’s historic and magnificent Ottawa River, Chaudière Falls, and the three islands downstream can support Canada’s emergence as a nation that respects Indigenous values and cultures, and showcases them to the world. It is time to bring an honourable vision to fruition.