By Mancini Ho
Chiefs and representatives from ten Algonquin communities met with the National Capital Commission (NCC) on Feb. 5 to discuss the LeBreton Flats and Zibi development projects.
Initially arranged as a presentation by the developments’ promoters, they were asked to leave by the Algonquin representatives so that the matter could be discussed with the NCC alone.
“We told the NCC that we [were] not properly consulted on the development of LeBreton and [we were] never consulted on the development of Chaudière Falls by Windmill [Development Group],” Chief Lance Haymond of Kebaowek First Nation told the Leveller in an email. “They have failed in the duty to consult and accommodate given it is a sacred site for the Algonquin.”
Haymond added that they “reminded [the NCC that] it is not the promoter’s responsibility to consult, it is the federal government’s responsibility.”
According to the NCC website, public consultation on the proposals to redevelop LeBreton have reached “thousands of Canadians from the National Capital Region and across the country.”
Consultation with First Nations has yet to occur, though NCC CEO Mark Kristmanson has agreed to further meetings with the Algonquin Chiefs. According to freethefalls.ca, “as a federal body with land holdings, the [NCC] knows it has a duty to consult with legitimate First Nations when it disposes of lands where Indigenous people are claiming title.”
After all, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the effort, at the Dec. 8, 2015 Assembly of First Nations, to “recognize the Algonquin Nation, on whose traditional territory [they were] gathering.”
Even the municipality has officially recognized that “lands within the boundaries of the City of Ottawa lie within the historic Algonquin Territory,” as affirmed in Section 5.6 of the city’s 2011 “Official Plan” document.
Despite allusions to the contrary in this same document, the municipal and federal governments have failed on several counts to consult Indigenous peoples surrounding development projects on traditional territories.
According to a Nov. 19, 2015 resolution passed by the Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador, federal, provincial and municipal governments “are violating Canadian law by proceeding to change the status of lands within the Algonquin sacred area without meaningful consultation or accommodation with all of the Algonquin communities which form the Algonquin nations.”
Currently , the LeBreton Flats and Zibi projects are two of the largest redevelopment opportunities in the National Capital Region, and while some communities, including those comprising the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO), are in favour of the developments, others are opposed.
“We made it clear that we are not anti-development but want to ensure that any benefits from these projects are benefiting all Algonquins and not only a handpicked select few,” Haymond wrote.
The communities present at the Feb. 5 meeting included Kitigàn-zìbì, Barrière Lake, Long Point, Lac-Simon, Kebaowek, Kiticisakik, Timiskaming, Wolf Lake, Abitibiwinni. They are opposed to the AOO -– who were not present -– because they feel that they are not capable of representing all Algonquins.
“We view the AOO process as a flagrant attempt to undermine and extinguish our First Nations rights, interests and title to unceded territories in Ontario,” said Haymond.
Haymond is “cautiously optimistic” that a solution can be found in the next scheduled meeting with the NCC, although the date has yet to be determined.
“We also asked that at the next meeting [that the] Minister [of Canadian Heritage, Mélanie] Joly, [be] present,” added Haymond.
This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 8 No. 5 (Feb/March 2016).