Algonquins of Ontario getting into development business

The Algonquins of Ontario are getting into the house building business in a unique, new partnership with Ottawa developer Tartan Homes at the former Canadian Forces Base Rockcliffe.

Not all Algonquins are excited about the new business partnership

The boundaries of the proposed redevelopment by Canada Lands Company Limited of the former CFB Rockcliffe base. (CLCL)

The Algonquins of Ontario are getting into the house-building business in a unique, new partnership with Ottawa developer Tartan Homes at the former Canadian Forces Base Rockcliffe.

While the Algonquins are attempting, through negotiations, to acquire 117,500 acres of public land in Ontario, the group is also using its leverage to create economic development opportunities, according to Bob Potts, senior negotiator and legal counsel for the Algonquins of Ontario.

The Algonquins land claim, which goes back 250 years, stretches from Mattawa in northern Ontario, to Kingston in the south, and includes Ottawa and Parliament Hill.

Potts said as the federal government disposes of Crown property within the claim area, it informs the Algonquins.

This was the case when it came to the sale of the Rockcliffe base in Ottawa.

"We worked out a rather unique arrangement through the Canada Lands Company to joint venture for that project," said Potts. "There was some capital made available to us by the government of Canada to participate in these kinds of acquisitions. We translated that in a joint venture with Tartan Homes."

Pierre Dufresne is vice-president of land development at Tartan Homes in Ottawa. (Submitted)

Under this deal, Tartan Homes now owns the property but the Algonquins will be partners in the building and selling of homes.

"What's unique here is the Algonquins were more or less given a right to purchase lots from Canada Lands as part of their ongoing treaty discussions and came to us and made a deal with us," said Pierre Dufresne, vice-president of land development with Tartan Land Corporation.

"They're going to benefit, as though they were a land owner at one time and we made a deal."

Controversial developments

Construction is currently underway, starting with the building of roads and sewers. Home construction is set to begin in March in the new Wateridge Village development, Dufresne said.

He added that trade job opportunities for the Algonquins are also expected to come out of the deal.

But not all Algonquins are excited about the new partnership between Tartan Homes and the Algonquins of Ontario. In fact, as land development and treaty talks continue, there's a growing wedge between the Algonquins of Ontario and the nine Algonquin communities in Quebec.

Chief Harry St. Denis represents the Wolf Lake First Nation in Quebec. (CBC)

Harry St. Denis, Chief of the Wolf Lake First Nation, is just one of the leaders in Quebec who does not recognize the Algonquins of Ontario as a legitimate group.

"They're a creation of the federal and the provincial government of Ontario," said St. Denis, who is also not convinced the deal for the Rockcliffe base property is a good one. "I think those lands are valued at lot more."

Deal not public

The business arrangement between the Indigenous group and the builder is not public, but Potts said $10 million was made available as part of the overall settlement funds, which the Algonquins are entitled to use.

"There's been a promissory note," said Potts, "which will be payable upon the completion of the treaty, assuming that happens." 

St. Denis and other Quebec chiefs recently met with the National Capital Commission regarding the redevelopment projects at LeBreton Flats and the Chaudière islands in the Ottawa River.

"We'd like to see those islands turned back to the control of the Algonquin people. That's the number one issue," said St. Denis, who is against Windmill's Zibi development on the former Domtar site.

Potts said the difference between the former Rockcliffe base property and the Chaudière islands is the latter were primarily under private ownership.

"The Crown doesn't have the same consultative rights," said Potts. "So that's why that property is a different property than Rockcliffe."

About the Author

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca