Akikodjiwan and Akikpautik (the “Pipe Bowl Falls”), located in the Ottawa River just upstream from Canada’s Parliament, are the very land and waterscape where Creator placed the First Sacred Pipe. Through colonization Akikpautik was eventually damned, and the islands that make up the larger Akikodjiwan landscape are now called Chaudière, Albert and Victoria Islands. It was Algonquin Elder Grandfather William Commanda’s vision to have this sacred place restored, a plan endorsed at one time by the National Capital Commission and City of Ottawa.
Unfortunately, despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s rhetoric of respecting a “nation-to-nation” relationship and calling for “reconciliation,” the current Liberal government is permitting the further desecration of this sacred place by a condo developer, Windmill Developments. We offer here a timeline of the continued destruction of the ultimate place of reconciliation inscribed by Creator.
Champlain records the Algonquin Anishinaabeg ceremonially offering tobacco to “asticou” which is the Anishishaabe word for “the boiler.” Champlain translates this into French as “Chaudière” which is “kettle” in English.
Philemon Wright’s lumber industry begins. His son Ruggles builds the first timber slide at Chaudière Falls, cutting a channel between Philemon Island and the Hull shoreline.
Settler George Buchanan acquires a ten-year lease to the islands from colonial officials. He builds a public use timber slide between Chaudière and Albert Islands. The government can resume possession if necessary for “greater public purposes.”
Chaudière, Albert, Victoria, and Amelia Islands are surveyed into streets and lots.
The Government of Canada approves an Order-in-Council reserving Chaudière, Albert and Victoria Islands, as well as some of the shoreline for “public purposes.”
The government offers two types of lots for use. First, there are hydraulic lots on the shorelines where the water power can be harnessed. These are offered under a limited form of sale, in that the government can resume possession at any time for public purposes. Second, building lots are offered for £10 each, on the condition that a building worth £100 is constructed within a year.
Although no treaty was established with the Algonquin, Canada’s Parliament Buildings are constructed on unsurrendered Algonquin territory, within view of Akikodjiwan.
Due to conflicts between the Crown and the lumber industrialists occupying the land, the Crown repossesses the lands and then issues 21-year term leases renewable in perpetuity. A provision remains in the leases that states the government can resume possession for public purposes.
Lumber baron J.R. Booth now holds most of the leases.
Leaseholders construct a dam extending from Chaudière Island and over the entire span of the Chaudière Falls, to more effectively harness the energy of the fast-flowing water.
E.B. Eddy Manufacturing gains majority control of the Ring Dam, the buildings, the hydraulic lot leases, and takes over the operation for its pulp and paper manufacturing purposes.
Prime Minister Mackenzie King commissions Parisian urban planner Jacques Gréber to create a Master Plan to govern the long-term growth and development of the National Capital Region.
Gréber’s Plan concludes: “The restoration of the Chaudière Islands to their primitive beauty and wildness is perhaps the theme of greatest importance, from the aesthetic point of view ‒ the theme that will appeal, not only to local citizens, but to all Canadians who take pride in their country and its institutions.”
The National Capital Commission (NCC) of Canada is established to implement Gréber’s Master Plan.
The NCC purchases 40 per cent of E.B. Eddy’s operations, addressing the most polluting elements of the lumber industry by closing the sulphite plant and the newsprint mill. As a condition of this purchase, the NCC is to have first right to purchase E.B. Eddy’s remaining property.
Respected Algonquin elder William (Grandfather) Commanda releases a plan for Asinabka, as he called Akikodjiwan, which means “the place of glare rock.”
Although it was not the NCC’s official position, NCC chair Jean Pigott expresses her desire to undam the Chaudière Falls.
Plans are officially announced regarding an Indigenous Centre on Victoria Island. The discussions are between the NCC and the Assembly of First Nations, the National Association of Friendship Centres, the Indigenous Bar Association, and the Native Alliance of Québec. Grandfather Commanda is invited to participate and Indigenous architect Douglas Cardinal is commissioned to design the centre.
Guided by the Gréber Plan and in line with Commanda’s Asinabka Plan, Ottawa-Carleton Regional Chair Bob Chiarelli, along with other Ottawa politicians, express an interest in freeing the Chaudière Falls from the unsightly dam. Chiarelli later changes his position.
Domtar Inc. purchases E.B. Eddy Company’s remaining operations for $800 million. This includes the lease interests and building infrastructure, not the land or the waterscape.
Grandfather Commanda asks to see the NCC’s and Domtar’s land ownership deeds. Nothing materializes.
The Ministry of Canadian Heritage grants Grandfather Commanda $50 000 for the preparation of a Memorandum of Recommendation and Architectural Design Plans for the Indigenous Centre called Asinabka.
The NCC endorses Commanda’s Asinabka Plan, allocating $35 million to the development process.
Stephen Harper becomes prime minister and opens the doors to Windmill, a private developer, for their project on Chaudière and Albert Islands.
F. Jette, a representative of Domtar, reveals Domtar has leased the land on Chaudière Island for $100 per year: a lease that Domtar took over and extended from as far back as 1889.
Domtar closes their paper mill operation.
The City of Ottawa endorses Commanda’s larger Asinabka Plan that includes freeing Chaudière Falls.
Domtar places its interests up for sale. Desiring to fulfill their mandate as per the Gréber Plan, the NCC applies to the Treasury Board of Canada for funds but is refused.
Without public consultation, the federal government allows the quiet transfer of Domtar’s hydraulic lease interests to Energy Ottawa, a municipally-owned power company.
Windmill announces its intent to submit an application to have the lands that Domtar occupied re-zoned for their condominium/retail complex.
Apr 24, 2014
Mayor Jim Watson pledges to cut red tape regarding the redevelopment of the islands. The Ottawa Citizen states the Cities of Ottawa and Gatineau are collaborating with the NCC to make sure redevelopment of the site “doesn’t get nibbled to death by process and red tape.”
The Circle of All Nations, an organization acting as the holder of Grandfather Commanda’s vision, discloses that, according to the Service Ontario Land Registry, most of Chaudière Island is not owned by Domtar.
7 Oct 2014
Kitigan Zibi (Algonquin) Anishinabeg First Nation publicly announces that “Our traditional territory has always been and continues to be, Unceded. We hereby put Canada, Québec and Ontario on notice that the status quo, in which our Aboriginal title lands are taken up by governments and industry, is not acceptable,” adding it is no longer “business as usual. The Tsilhqot’in case has come to significantly change the legal landscape.”
8 Oct 2014
The city re-zones the islands from “Parks and Open Space” to “Downtown Mixed Use.” City documents refer to this re-zoned land as 3 and 4 Booth Street – which, according to the tax assessment roll, is only a small portion of Chaudière Island.
Douglas Cardinal, Romola V. Thumbadoo-Trebilcock, Richard Jackman, Larry McDermott, and Lindsay Lambert – a group of Indigenous and settler supporters of Commanda’s vision – file appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board regarding the city’s rezoning.
Archaeology curator Jean-Luc Pilon and Journalism professor Randy Boswell identify the larger area of Akikodjiwan and Akikpautik as a significant meeting place for four to five millennia.
Windmill has a public competition to re-name their billion-dollar project known as “The Isles” and begins to sell condominium units on land they do not own.
The NCC changes its position regarding the islands and approves private development.
Internationally renowned architect Raymond Moriyama argues the Windmill project is “heart sinking and idiotic.”
Windmill changes the name of their project to “Zibi,” an Anishinaabe word that means water.
Chief Gilbert Whiteduck of Kitigan Zibi announces he does not support Windmill’s project and argues the use of the word “Zibi” is cultural appropriation.
The city and Windmill file a notice of motion that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) dismiss the appeals without a full hearing.
3 June 2015
The OMB pre-hearing begins with OMB member Richard Makuch presiding and with no public record. The pre-hearing is adjourned until August 2015.
The media reports Domtar has sold land on the islands to Windmill; land that Domtar has never proven it owns. According to the Service Ontario Land Registry, Windmill holds a five-year lease and a sublease from Domtar.
Four Algonquin First Nations in Québec – Wolf Lake First Nation, Timiskaming First Nation, Eagle Village First Nation, and Barriere Lake First Nation – publicly call for the protection of the Algonquin Anishinaabe sacred area and oppose the city’s rezoning for Windmill’s desecration project.
17 Aug 2015
The OMB pre-hearing continues. The appellants have an opportunity to rebut the City’s and Windmill’s attempt to dismiss them without a full hearing. They argue consultation is required and the rezoning was a departure from the Gréber Plan and Commanda’s Asinabka Plan.
City and Windmill lawyers argue that the Gréber Master Plan is no longer followed and Commanda’s Asinabka Plan is not legitimate; therefore the appellants lack planning grounds and further they are not qualified to present planning grounds. It is also argued that consultation with Pikwàkanagàn First Nation and the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) occurred; Chaudière Island is no longer an Indigenous cultural site of significance because it was erased by the industrial era; and further much of the land is now in private hands.
17 Nov 2015
Makuch rules. He denies the appellants a full hearing with the OMB Board because the rezoning conforms to the City’s plan; there was adequate consultation with Pikwàkanagàn First Nation, the AOO and other Indigenous groups; and First Nations heritage will be respected. He further argued the appellants failed to raise legitimate land use planning grounds on which the Board could rely on to allow their appeals.
Justin Trudeau is elected prime minister, having promised a renewed nation-to-nation relationship and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
The Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs vote to support a resolution to communicate with the government about the protection of Akikodjiwan.
9 Mar 2016
The appellants move forward with a leave to appeal to the Ontario Divisional Court, Justice Charles T. Hackland presiding.
26 May 2016
Hackland denies the appellants leave to appeal on the grounds that the OMB made no errors of law.
The appellants move forward with a second appeal to the Ontario Divisional Court.
Local activist Greg Macdougall releases a video where Jeff Westeinde of Windmill explains Windmill will be leasing the land from the Algonquin.
The Ontario Divisional Court second appeal request takes place. The matter is heard before three judges who deny the appellants’ motion to “vary or rescind” the decision.
A mosque in Ottawa is vandalized. On the event of an arrest Mayor Jim Watson argues some people have “a lot of hate in their heart.” When it comes to the vandalism of Indigenous sacred places, both writers of this timeline contend that it is the City and Windmill who have hate in their hearts.
Windmill applies for $62 million under the City’s brownfield rehabilitation grant program to restore heritage buildings, remove contaminated soil and clean up toxic chemicals on the former Domtar site.
Algonquin elder Albert Dumont organizes a “Faith is Peace” walk from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill. Dumont explains that Akikodjiwan is an Algonquin sacred site, that it is being violated, and that no one would tolerate the desecration of colonial sacred sites like a church or mosque. Many of the region’s faith leaders walk with the Algonquin in support of the struggle to save sacred Akikodjiwan.
Although it is said the Tsilhqot’in decision ushered in a new paradigm of consent versus consultations, on December 15, 2017, the Government of Canada approved a series of land transfers between the NCC, Public Services and Procurement Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Windmill Dream Zibi Master LP for lands on islands in the Ottawa River. This happened without the consent of the larger Algonquin Nation, which includes Algonquin with and without federally-recognized “Indian” status in both Québec and Ontario.
On Feb. 5, 2018, the Ontario Land Registry identifies Windmill Dream Zibi Ontario Inc. as owners of parcels of land on Chaudière Island and Albert Island.
Lynn Gehl, Ph.D., is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe and a member of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation. In 2017 she won an Ontario Court of Appeal case on sex discrimination in the Indian Act, and is an outspoken critic of the Algonquin land claims process. Recently she published Claiming Anishinaabe: Decolonizing the Human Spirit. You can reach her through www.lynngehl.com and see more of her work there.
Lindsay Lambert, BFA, is an Ottawa-based published historian whose research is rooted in the archival record through a spiritual, justice, and anti-colonial lens. He was born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, of a Russian immigrant mother and a first-generation Canadian English father. Currently his work is dedicated to the restoration and the preservation of the sacredness of Chaudière Falls and Islands, in what is now called the Ottawa River.