Lambert’s letter to NCC Ombudsperson spells out the issues regarding sacred Indigenous site | Unpublished

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Ottawa , Ontario
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Lindsay Lambert, BFA (Honours), 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. Lindsay works hard to keep stories alive in the minds, hearts, and memories of all who are willing to listen and learn. A part of his work is dedicated restoration and the preservation of the sacredness of Chaudière Falls and Islands located downstream in what is now called the Ottawa River.

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Lambert’s letter to NCC Ombudsperson spells out the issues regarding sacred Indigenous site

November 5, 2016

Historian and researcher, Lindsay Lambert, has written to Ellen Fry, the ombudsperson for the National Capital Commission. His letter sets out the framework by which the NCC can view its public responsibility to ensure an Indigenous stewardship of the sacred site Asinabka/Akikodjiwan.

Dear Ms. Fry,
For almost 70 years, the plan has been to reclaim the Islands for public use. Prime Minister Mackenzie King commissioned Parisian Urban Planner Jacques Greber to submit a Master Plan to govern the long-term growth & development of the Capital Region. His Plan for the National Capital was published in 1950, and the NCC was established in 1958 to implement his recommendations. From the Introduction, it was dedicated as Canada’s National War Memorial to the Second World War. It has given us Confederation Square, the Greenbelt, the Queensway and the Parkway among other details. Greber states on page 230 that:

The most effective improvement will be the central park at the Chaudiere Falls.
The time will come when the heavy and obnoxious industries, now occupying the islands, peninsula, and the rocks, from which the falls originally receded, will finally move to more appropriate sites, for their normal development, and more economical operation.

The Master Plan is a long-range programme based upon which the Capital will grow; urban planning deserves resolute perseverance, and the Falls will always remain the main feature of Ottawa’s natural setting.

From page 250:

(This) is properly a restitution scheme, the merits of which can be judged from a great many old prints, which show how impressive was the original setting of the Chaudiere Falls, the Ottawa River banks and the whole of Parliament Hill. Such proposal aims to give a more dignified environment to the representative buildings of the nation, and is more particularly a matter of national pride….

The restoration of the Chaudiere 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.

Between 1969 and 1972, the NCC purchased 40% of E.B.Eddy’s industrial site in order to free some 44 acres of shoreline and remove the major polluting elements. (They closed the sulphite plant and the newsprint mill.) As a condition of the sale, the Commission was to have first call on the remaining property when it became available.

In 1986, a citizens’ group, the Chaudiere Committee, made representations to Jean Pigott, then Chair of the NCC, for developing the Chaudiere area as a natural tourist attraction. Ms. Pigott wanted the Chaudiere Falls freed from the dams, and the Islands as parkland.

In 1998, City of Ottawa politicians and then-Regional Chair Bob Chiarelli wanted to free the Chaudiere Falls from the Ring Dam, and in 2008 the City Council zoned Chaudiere & Albert Islands as Parks and Open Space in accordance with the established plan.

In 1990, the NCC commissioned architect Mark Brant to draw up a plan for Chaudiere, Albert & Victoria Islands. He envisioned it as an eco-district, with Victoria Island being parkland, and the old industrial buildings on Chaudiere & Albert rehabilitated for a designated mix of commercial, institutional and recreational uses, with appropriate new structures added. This is a departure from Greber’s overall central park, but it was still for public purposes: According to a 2012 article, “Brant said he and the NCC does not envision residential development on these islands. “This National Treasure is far too special for letting people to just start putting up private condominium buildings.”

Domtar bought E.B. Eddy in 1998, closed the mills in 2007, and put the site up for sale in 2012. The NCC expected to purchase it and approached the Treasury Board for funding. They were turned down.

The Harper government turns things around

The long-term vision of reclaiming the Islands for public use was suddenly inverted under Harper’s government in favour of private development. The Ottawa City Council re-zoned the area from Parks and Open Space to Downtown Mixed Use in October, 2014, without meaningful consultation and disregarding extensive opposition. This is in the process of being appealed.

The Windmill Development Company have been telling people that they own the land they intend to build on, and have been selling condominiums.The NCC has been asserting this as well, most recently at a Directors’ meeting (September 2016) that was open to the public. This is false information: According to the current Ontario Land Records, Windmill only has a five-year lease, which they are two years into, and a sublease, both from Domtar. One might expect a business to fudge the truth in order to make sales. (I certainly wouldn’t put money down on a condo if I knew that the developer was just renting the land.) However, the National Capital Commission is a Crown Corporation, and is accountable to the public. They shouldn’t be deceiving people in collusion with a private developer.

In the 1850’s, Chaudiere, Albert & Victoria Islands were surveyed into Hydraulic Lots and Building Lots. The former were leased by the Crown for the construction of industrial mills, and are still recognized as Crown Land. Windmill insist that they own the Building Lots in Fee Simple. The Federal Government is currently negotiating to transfer the Crown Lands to the NCC, to then be given to Windmill. Crown Lands belong to all Canadians, yet this is being done quietly without public consultation.

Archival records show government has not transferred lands to private sector

I have been researching the archival records, which show that there is no private ownership on the Chaudiere and Albert Islands. They are all Crown Land:

The government of the Province of Canada issued an Order in Council on August 25th, 1854, reserving the Chaudiere Islands and an area of Ottawa shoreline for public use. Areas that aren’t required can be disposed of, and leasing is recommended.

The Hydraulic Lots were leased largely between 1858 and 1861, but only to people who would immediately put them to industrial use. They were specifically not issued for speculation. The leases are “forever,” renewable on a 21 year basis, but revert to the Crown if the lessee doesn’t follow the conditions. (Pay rent, maintain their infrastructure so they won’t interfere with their neighbours’ works, and operate a mill. These are special-purpose industrial leases. – Domtar closed the mills, and Windmill is speculating in condos.) The Crown can also “take them back at any time for any public purpose.” The Building Lots are listed separately, almost as an afterthought. They were offered at $10.00 each, on the condition that whoever takes them constructs an industrial building to a certain value within a year. Otherwise, the lot reverts to the Crown and they lose their deposit. They are not described as being for sale in fee simple. It appears that they were made available for the lessees of the Hydraulic Lots who required more space.

The first industrial users were Messrs. Perley & Pattie. I have an 1868 letter written and signed by John A. Macdonald, indicating they had “licences of occupancy,” and that the land was all Ordnance Land under the Department of Crown Lands on July 1st, 1867, as of Confederation.

There was a legal question in 1902 as to whether the islands were under the jurisdiction of the Province of Ontario or the Federal Government. The conclusion is that they all belong to the Government of Canada, except for grants issued before Confederation. According to Sir John A., there were no such grants.

In 1926, the Federal Government took back an area on the east end of Victoria Island for the Royal Canadian Air Force aeroplane repair depot, following the Hydraulic Lots rules: They gave the occupant 30 days notice to clear their lumber yard and vacate, with nothing owed by the Crown. The interesting part is that there are no Hydraulic Lots there, just Building Lots.

The history is phenomenally messy. Rules are established, but then manipulated or ignored in favour of industry. As an example, at the beginning of the last century H.R. Booth was negotiating with the Government to lease a portion of Chaudiere or Albert Island. They couldn’t come to an agreement. What happened? Booth simply occupied the area, built on it, and used it without paying any rent. After 18 years, he offered to buy it from the Government. We are facing the same type of abuses now, with everything being rigged in the interests of private development.

The islands as “a reserve as defined in the Indian Act”

The Phase I Environmental Site Assessment – Domtar Lands Redevelopment Chaudiere and Albert Islands was issued in April, 2014, with a revised version in August. Both include 20 pages of environmental analyses done in 1980 – 1981 by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Indian and Inuit Affairs Program.) The stated “Reason for Involvement: A reserve as defined in the Indian Act.” The material comes from the Federal Inventory of Contaminated Sites. The Government evidently has a responsibility to the Islands as an Indian Reserve, which needs to be considered before any development can happen.

Windmill has been insisting that they have Algonquin support for their Zibi development, but they only have agreements from the Pikwakanagan Reserve at Golden Lake, Ontario, and a questionable group called the Algonquins of Ontario. The Ottawa River Valley watershed, which straddles both Ontario and Quebec, is unceded Algonquin territory. Not including off-Reserve Algonquin, there are 10 Federally-recognized First Nations here, Ontario’s Pikwakanagan and 9 on the Quebec side. All the Quebec Chiefs had a resolution passed at the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (October 2015), opposing the development of the Chaudiere islands and wanting the land back under Algonquin stewardship as a park. This was subsequently ratified by the national AFN. Does this indicate overwhelming Algonquin support?

I had extensive correspondence with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Minister of Heritage, Ministry of Public Works & Government Services (which administered Crown Lands) and Minister of the Environment about three years ago. I pointed out that, as Crown Land, the Islands belong to all Canadians and must be administered as such. They were made available for industry in the 19th century, which was regarded at the time as being for the greater public good. As this use has ended, the Government must now step back in order to determine what purpose serves the greater public good now. The historical documents support this. The area has been slated as parkland for years, and this should at the very least receive a fair hearing with a major public consultation.
Again, I will be grateful for your help, and I am not alone.

Yours sincerely,

Lindsay Lambert