Quebec Algonquin First Nations oppose Windmill development in Gatineau

The redevelopment of a former pulp and paper mill in Gatineau, Que., on the shore of the Ottawa River has drawn criticism from five Algonquin First Nations in Quebec who say the land should never have been sold to a private developer.

Zibi development set to begin construction this fall and be completed in 2030

Developers released this image in February 2015 of its anticipated development on the former Domtar lands. The construction is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015. (Windmill/Dream)

Five Algonquin First Nations in Quebec have voiced their opposition to the Zibi development on the shore of the Ottawa River.

Windmill Developments and Toronto's Dream Corporation plan to build a $1.2-billion residential, commercial and retail community on the Chaudière and Albert Islands starting this fall.

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

However, leaders of five Quebec First Nations — Eagle Village, Wolf Lake, Timiskaming, Barriere Lake and Long Point — say they oppose the plan.

"It was a sacred area and it should be developed by the Algonquins," said Harry St. Denis, the chief of Wolf Lake First Nation.

The First Nations want the area to become a Algonquin cultural park and commemoration site, controlled by an Algonquin institution.

St. Denis does not take issue with the developer, but instead the National Capital Commission for not purchasing the land. The NCC had said it wanted to purchase the land but could not afford the price tag when it was put up for sale.

Support from Ontario First Nation

The nearest Algonquin First Nation, Kitigan Zibi, has not taken a firm stance on the project. The other nearby First Nation — Pikwakanagan near Golden Lake, Ont. — supports a plan to work with Windmill.

"We've taken the view that we're not going to take issue with people's private property and what they do with it," said Pikwakanagan Chief Kirby Whiteduck.

Whiteduck said he wants the site — which once housed the Domtar pulp and paper mill — cleaned up, and said he wants to have Algonquin street names and to create jobs for Algonquin workers.

The developer of the land is trying to create a database of Algonquin workers for construction that will likely continue until the project is completed in 2030.

The objections from the First Nations came the same week as architect Douglas Cardinal and others appeared before the Ontario Municipal Board to try to get a hearing to fight the city's plans to rezone the land.

A decision is is expected in the coming weeks.