Chaudière Falls and The Islands

Written by Denise Deby.

Photo by Shanta Rohse on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Photo by Shanta Rohse on Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

In the Ottawa River, between Ottawa and Gatineau, the Chaudière Falls and three islands—Albert, Victoria and Chaudière—are a hidden but significant area with a lot of potential.

They’re home to a closed Domtar factory and largely cut off from public view, but a debate is raging about future plans for the site.

The area is sacred to Anishinaabeg. Local Algonquin Elder William Commanda had a dream to restore it as an internationally renowned gathering and interpretive centre and park for all people. Celebrated architect Douglas Cardinal worked with him on this, and continues to promote the vision.

You can find out more about the area and the vision at and

At the same time, Windmill Development Group is planning to build a mix of condominium towers and townhomes, commercial space and public areas on Albert and Chaudière Islands. They’re incorporating environmental sustainability into the design, but there’s a basic disconnect between the two ideas. In one, the islands are another residential-commercial development enjoyed by the people who live and pass through there; the other offers a national site at the centre of Canada’s capital where everyone can celebrate the river and land’s heritage, wander, meet, heal, build cross-cultural understanding and welcome people from around the world.

At the heart of the conflict are unresolved questions about who owns the unceded land, and who speaks for the different communities involved.

The answers? We as citizens need to understand that what our decision-makers choose will have an effect not only in Ottawa-Gatineau but across the country, where we are only just beginning to grapple with what reconciliation means.

If you’re interested in finding out more:

Indigenous Peoples’ Solidarity Movement Ottawa is inviting people to a Decolonial Picnic at Chaudière Falls on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. Walk or bike from Dundonald Park (Somerset and Bay) to Victoria Island with a group starting at 1:30 p.m., or meet at Victoria Island at 2:30 p.m. Includes a tour of the Island and the Falls and a discussion about the proposed development, as well as food and music. Check the Facebook page for details.

A free screening of DamNation takes place on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015. The documentary looks at experiences of dam removal and river restoration in the U.S. At the Ottawa Citizen building, 7-9 p.m.

There’s a discussion session on Chaudière Falls and the Islands on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015: what’s happening with the area, the importance of the land and waters, and what could be done. Noon-5 p.m; see for details.

The next morning, Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, there’s a rally to support the vision of an inclusive site. It’s at the Human Rights Monument outside City Hall starting at 8:30 a.m.; see for details.

See also APTN’s recent story.

5 thoughts on “Chaudière Falls and The Islands

  • 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 more converge to tell the story of Creator’s First Sacred Pipe. Indeed Indigenous land and waterscapes are storied with great meaning for all.

  • During this time of “reconciliation” Canada is permitting the further destruction of an Algonquin Anishinaabeg sacred site located in what is now called the Ottawa River, more specifically a site that is known to be the place of Creator’s First Pipe and the islands located downstream which historically were a meeting place where many Indigenous Nations converged to ceremonially discuss peace and friendship. This continued destruction is part and parcel of the land claims process where the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) are being forced to extinguish their land and water rights through Canada’s land claims policy. While there are many contentious issues with this desecration, and with the AOO who had to agree to leave private property ownership outside the scope of their land claims, it is most imprtant to understand that the Ontario-Quebec provincial border is a colonial construction and as such the voice of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg in what is now Quebec must not be ignored or dismissed. This sacred place was and remains the jurisdiction of all Algonquin. Indeed corporate colonial Canada is a creep!

    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.

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