Algonquin chiefs demand consultation on rural Ottawa development

OTTAWA — The chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg is calling for consultations with the city of Ottawa before council brings Algonquins of Ontario land into the new urban boundary in Ottawa’s rural-east-end.

In an open letter to Mayor Jim Watson, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Dylan Whiteduck says they learned through the media that the mayor and council are supporting a development plan by the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) as part of the urban boundary expansion.

“We have not been contacted, or consulted, by any representative of the city of Ottawa. We demand that the city of Ottawa immediately take the necessary steps to consult with Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg and affected Algonquin Anishinabe First Nations before voting on whether to include the AOO proposal within the approved urban boundary,” wrote Chief Whiteduck.

Last week, a joint session of the planning committee and agriculture and rural affairs committee approved the lands for new neighborhoods as part of the urban boundary expansion, also recommending adding 140 hectares of industrial land. 

The committees directed staff to do a focused analysis of a new satellite community of 445 hectares on the Algonquins of Ontario land near Boundary Road and Highway 417. The project is referred to as “Tewin.”

Speaking after the council meeting on Jan. 27, Mayor Watson said he supported expanding the urban boundary to support the Tewin project.

“If we’re serious about reconciliation we have to take our words, which we talk about land recognitions and so on, and put those words into action,” said Watson.

“One of the ways we can do that is to allow the First Nations to develop a community by their people to create some economic opportunities for individuals from First Nations. I think it’s a very innovated, pioneering way for a city to actually go beyond the traditional land claim statements that we make at beginnings of Council meetings and put those words into action for the betterment of First Nations and the betterment of reconciliation.”

However, Whiteduck says the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg has “strong objections and concerns” with the manner in which the city is approaching “what it calls reconciliation with Indigenous groups.”

Whiteduck’s letter notes that the Algonquins of Ontario are an entity established to negotiate with the Crown on behalf of numerous Ontario communities, the vast majority of which are not recognized as First Nations. 

“Kitigan Zigi and other Quebec Algonquin Anisinabe First Nations do not recognize the AOO as a legitimate representative of the constitutionally held rights of the majority of Algonquins Anishinabe,” writes Chief Whiteduck.

“We are very concerned that the city of Ottawa has made an announcement that is being called reconciliation with Algonquin Anishinabe people, without even making any move to consult with a substantial majority of the recognized Algonquins Anishinabeg.”

Chief Whiteduck says the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg is prepared to immediately engage in discussions about Algonquin lands.

“Reconciliation must have the proper ingredients in place before it is spoken as such. We believe that we can engage in a manner that is of benefit to the rights holders.”

In an interview with CTV News Ottawa Thursday afternoon, Chief Whiteduck said the city did not consult properly.

“I think Ottawa has to take a step back and re-evaluate the process of how this all came about – a decision was made on Jan. 26 to bring this forward on Feb. 10  – the decision made was done too quickly,” said Chief Whiteduck.

“I do believe the duty to consult Algonquin’s, in particular Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg was not completed. The duty to consult is a process we take very seriously and for the city to move forward in this process with a group that is non-indigenous and non-First Nation is, in my viewpoint, wrong and this has to be brought forward to the city.”

Chief Whiteduck says they have had discussions with the city of Ottawa on renaming the Prince of Wales Bridge after Chief William Commanda.

“If this is what is being viewed as reconciliation and working with a non-indigenous group – then there is something wrong here,” said Whiteduck. “That was our last discussion we had. It was great news – it was a great gesture to name a bridge after him, but this gesture and working with a group like this, this is where it’s turned wrong.

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