Written by Denise Deby.
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.
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 FreetheFalls.ca 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 http://freethefalls.ca/events/free-the-falls-free-the-islands-rally-at-city-hall/ for details.
See also APTN’s recent story.