The acting grand chief of a tribal council of seven Algonquin First Nation communities has written Ottawa city council members asking them to take the Tewin suburb off the table when they vote on a new official plan Wednesday, saying it could be "a very costly mistake on many fronts."
While he doesn't reference reconciliation, Coun. Riley Brockington is expected to table a motion to do exactly that, setting the stage for council to vote again on whether the proposal by the Algonquins of Ontario and developer Taggart should still go ahead.
Eight months ago, council attracted similar condemnation from Algonquin leaders when a joint committee decided, followed two weeks later by city council, to allow 445 hectares inside the urban boundary for development in the name of reconciliation with the Algonquins of Ontario (AOO), an organization that is negotiating a land claim and includes the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation.
Chiefs of Algonquin communities in Quebec said then, as now, that they do not recognize the provincial border, nor the AOO organization itself, pointing to how many of its members' ancestry is being challenged.
'This is not reconciliation. You have not taken the proper steps to consult us. You are not making an informed decision,' - Savanna McGregor, acting grand chief, Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council
They opposed council's political move in February, saying they didn't see it as reconciliation at all. Their position hasn't changed.
Chief Wendy Jocko of Pikwakanagan in Ontario attended a city committee in recent weeks, to urge councillors to support the Algonquins of Ontario's Tewin proposal to build a whole new compact and transit-oriented community for thousands of residents — saying it would allow the group "to participate more fully in the socioeconomic fabric of Canada."
On the eve of Wednesday's vote, acting grand chief of the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation Tribal Council, Savanna McGregor, has written all council members to say they cannot make an informed decision without consulting its chiefs, too.
"We want to make it abundantly clear that just because a land owner whose realty corporation is partly owned by one Algonquin First Nation and self-identified Algonquin people, does not qualify as an act of reconciliation with the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation. It is a business transaction, plain and simple," she wrote.
CBC News has reported the Algonquins of Ontario Realty Corporation bought nearly 1,600 hectares from the Ontario government in January 2020 for nearly $17 million with financial help from its development partner Taggart Group, which owns the most land to be admitted inside the urban boundary.
Cultural protocol 'in jeopardy'
McGregor pointed to how the chiefs are working with the City of Ottawa on a cultural civic protocol to define how they're consulted on projects that could affect them.
"Therefore, the city should have known better and should have reached out to the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation when this project first began, especially when you are boasting this project as an act of reconciliation," wrote McGregor, saying that work is now in jeopardy.
The motion Brockington plans to table, seconded by Coun. Rawlson King, does not mention reconciliation but speaks only to the outstanding concerns and risks raised by community groups, residents and some councillors about the costs of taking infrastructure to a whole new suburb far from existing services, especially when the City of Ottawa has declared a climate emergency.
He points to how the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, whose minister must give his final approval of the official plan after it passes council, had questioned whether Tewin lands were located in a cost-effective location that met provincial planning policies.
Brockington's motion seeks to remove Tewin entirely, and re-insert 175 hectares of lands in South March that were originally recommended to be brought inside the urban boundary.
McGregor, too, calls on council to heed its staff's original advice.
"This is not reconciliation. You have not taken the proper steps to consult us. You are not making an informed decision. The only useful information you have is from your staff who have evaluated the lands and have scored it low. We urge you to reconsider all factors because this could be a very costly mistake on many fronts."