Algonquin Grandmothers File Claim Over Proposed 'Zibi' Condo Development

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Grandmothers are going to court to stop development on their community's traditional lands along the Ontario-Quebec border.

The Algonquin Grandmothers of Pikwakanagan filed a claim statement in March, according to Metro Ottawa, to stop a mixed-use development from being built on both the Gatineau and Ottawa sides of the Ottawa River, and on the Chaudiere and Albert Islands.

The grandmothers are not only concerned that sacred lands could be turned into condos, but that by negotiating a treaty for the land, Pikwakanagan could at one point no longer be classified as a reserve.

zibi project
The proposed development will cover land on both sides of the Ottawa River. (Photo: Zibi Dialogue/Facebook)

“It has always been known that the women are the backbone of our community and, as a grandmother myself, I didn’t want to see any type of status taken away from my own grandchildren,” Barbara Sarazin, a spokesperson for the group of eight grandmothers, told APTN News.

"Zibi" named after the Algonquin word for "river," will be a mixed commercial, residential and retail development by Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corporation. The land has been used for industrial mills since the 1800s, but for generations before that, the waterfalls near the islands were a sacred site for First Nations.

"Zibi is where nature, culture, heritage and the joys of life culminate," reads the project's website.

zibi condo
A rendering on the project's website shows the proposed neighbourhood of Chaudiere West, which would be located just minutes from the sacred site of Chaudiere Falls. (Photo: Zibi.ca)

Supporters of the project include Pikwakanagan Chief Kirby Whiteduck, who says the project could be an opportunity for collaboration. Whiteduck says in a video posted to the development's website that it could bring jobs to community and that he values the sustainability of the project.

The grandmothers have some backup in their fight against Zibi. When it was announced in 2015, architect Douglas Cardinal and architect Raymond Moryama (who designed the Canadian War Museum, located near the proposed development) expressed their opposition. Cardinal told the Ottawa Citizen at the time that the pair support building a national indigenous centre on the land.

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