Algonquins of Ontario face questions about private venture
Algonquins of Ontario first of 94 delegations as Ottawa's official city plan nears approval
The Algonquins of Ontario (AOO) says its realty corporation will set up a trust for any profits that flow from a major proposed development in Ottawa's southeast end and it will extend the Greenbelt by adding swaths of natural areas it owns.
The group provided more details about its vision for a new, sustainable suburb in the rural southeast, and its partnership with developer the Taggart Group, while answering Ottawa city councillors' questions Thursday — although they said they felt some questions about their private joint venture were disrespectful.
Four members of the AOO, and their consultant, were first on a list of 94 public delegations signed up to speak to two city committees about the new official plan. Councillors are also set to debate the city-building blueprint and tweak it with motions, before voting on it in the coming days.
"Tewin means home," Wendy Jocko, Chief of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation told the committees. "Tewin is not just a business deal for the Algonquin people in Ontario. Tewin reminds us that we are at home in our traditional territory and assures us that we can rebuild our meaningful presence on these lands and within the social fabric of this city."
Last winter, city councillors had decided to admit 445.35 hectares of the vast Tewin lands for urban development, even though staff scored them poorly and had suggested five more years of study. Other parcels were considered closer to existing city infrastructure and, thus, cheaper to service, but councillors cited reconciliation and then economic development for expanding to Tewin.
Money to be managed in trust
Last winter, Coun. Shawn Menard had sided with those who felt staff should study the Tewin area for years longer to resolve concerns about infrastructure costs and construction conditions.
At Thursday's final committee meeting before the plan goes for approval — and after CBC News had reported the Taggart family owns two-thirds of the land being admitted into the urban boundary, while the AOO owns less than a third — Menard asked if it was the AOO that had approached Taggart.
The AOO's Ottawa representative Lynn Clouthier, who is also listed as president of the Algonquins of Ontario Realty Corp. on its records, told the meeting that surplus Ontario land had become available under the province's duty to consult with Indigenous communities.
"We needed a partner because, as you know, our land claim has not been finalized. So basically, our assets are only potential," she said.
Clouthier then asked Menard if he asked other developers about their private business deals, and questioned his right to ask at all.
"We are fully competent to be able to manage our affairs. We have had good advice. This is a joint venture. And the details of the venture are, in fact, private," Clouthier told him.
Menard said he wasn't questioning the group's competence, but how individual Algonquin people will benefit financially at Tewin, a key concern for other Algonquin leaders who oppose the project.
Clouthier said it depends on what the AOO is able to accomplish with its treaty and investments, but the goal is to have a "rebirth of a nation."
"How does that filter down to any particular Algonquin? Only the future can tell," Clouthier said. "But no Algonquins are going home with a pocketful of cash. All of the money is coming to the AOO Realty Corp. The money will be managed in trust and we will deal with our affairs subsequently."
Large natural area nearby
As for the lands themselves, the AOO's consultant from Urban Strategies called Tewin "the missing piece in your urban structure."
Cyndi Rottenberg-Walker said trunk sewers and highway interchanges already exist from the 1970s when the area was slated to be a suburb like Kanata or Orléans.
The area would be built densely from the beginning in order to support transit, she said.
Of the more than 1,600 hectares the AOO bought from the Ontario government, about half fall outside the urban boundary in what's called a "natural heritage system".
Richard Zohr, the AOO's negotiating representative for the Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation, said the group is proposing protecting 600 hectares as a "natural land trust connecting to, and expanding the Greenbelt."
There were questions about whether those natural areas would always be protected. Staff are proposing a late change in wording to the official plan to "avoid" development in such areas rather than to "exclude" it.
Planning co-chair Scott Moffatt said Tewin's natural areas are unevaluated wetlands that would need further study, and a designation by Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry would carry more weight than the city's.