Ottawa

Petition to stop Zibi comes before more condos hit market

Two dozen people gathered on Victoria Island Monday afternoon to sign a petition to halt Zibi, a massive residential, commercial and retail development on Chaudière and Albert Islands, land considered sacred to First Nations peoples.

'It's clear that the Algonquin Nation as a whole is divided on the issue,' says Windmill co-founder

Evelyn Commanda, an Algonquin grandmother from the Kitigan Zibi First Nations reserve in Quebec, speaks out against Zibi. (CBC)

Two dozen people gathered on Victoria Island Monday afternoon to sign a petition to halt Zibi, a massive residential, commercial and retail development on Chaudière and Albert Islands, land considered sacred to First Nations peoples.

The latest move to stop the development comes less than a week before condos planned for the Ottawa side of the islands hit the market.

"Mother Earth is not for sale," said Evelyn Commanda, an Algonquin grandmother from the Kitigan Zibi First Nations Reserve in Quebec. "If someone was to offer me all the money around the world, no."

Despite its sacred history, the land has more recently been used as an industrial site. The old Domtar paper mill site shut down in 2007.

Windmill Developments co-founder Jeff Westeinde said three years were spent engaging with Algonquin groups, including some that support the project, and all levels of government.

"It's clear that the Algonquin Nation as a whole is divided on the issue," he said.

Windmill has promised to use many cultural and historic references in its development, as well as hire local aboriginal contractors to do much of the work. 

Architect Douglas Cardinal, who has been an outspoken opponent to the development, has called the developer's promise to hire aboriginal workers "bribery."

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      The 37-acre Zibi site, which includes the downtown Gatineau riverfront, is expected to include condo buildings, a boutique hotel, shops, waterfront parks and a network of pedestrian and cycling paths. 

      Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin and National Capital Commission CEO Mark Kristmanson have previously praised the project for breathing new life into dormant industrial lands near the Chaudière Falls.