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Reconciliation: Honour the Sacred Sites

The Honourable Justin Trudeau,

Prime Minister of Canada,

House of Commons,

Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

October 26th, 2016

RE: Chaudière Island and Our Promises to Walk Rightly With First Nations

Dear Prime Minister:

I have been watching with admiration the past year your in depth and skillful articulation of the important issues facing Canadians. For me, these include correcting the wrong relationship we have with First Nations, for the first time ever in Canada making every vote count, addressing the terrible wrongs in our criminal justice system, and truly making a plan for Canada to cut greenhouse gases and renew our economy with renewable energy. Today I am writing to you about the relationships with our First Nations.

I have been walking with my church to learn as much as I can about our colonial history and our collective journey with our First Peoples. It is appalling. One has to wonder how a society could claim to be civilized after the terrible way we have treated the Indigenous Peoples of this country. I know you are fully aware of these problems. We are all responsible – Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and the citizens themselves. It will take a long time to correct this situation. Nevertheless, there are many things we can and should do as quickly as possible.

You have demonstrated yourself to be the master of the ceremonial moment. I believe we are at such a moment in Canada. We are about to celebrate, in the next year, our 150th Birthday of this great country. I believe you should grasp this opportunity and make the important symbolic gestures of reconciliation with our First Peoples. In Ottawa, that would mean the dedication of Victoria, Chaudière and Albert Islands to the Algonquin People (including Kitigan Zibi and the Quebec Algonquin as well as the Ontario Algonquin.) This gesture should include the offer to clean up the toxic site, and the restoration of the falls. The only power generation that should happen should be the more natural run of the river type that allows for the full functioning of the river for the fish and other creatures that depend on it. The area has a special energy that is cherished by the Indigenous people. It is a place for prayer and ceremony. The rock and island formations form a sacred pipe bowl of peace. If the Algonquin choose, it could be developed along the vision of Grandfather William Commanda. It would become a major tourist attraction for the City of Ottawa and would function as the soul of our city. My hope is that the Zibi project would continue to be planned, and would be allocated space in LeBreton Flats. It is a worthwhile project in the wrong place.

I believe you should work with Indigenous peoples across Canada to identify other such sacred sites that should be named and dedicated to the people of the land as a symbol of your commitment to respect the First Nations, Inuit and Métis people, their culture and religion. We tore their cultures apart by separating the children from the families and by banning the drum and the potlatch and all forms of ceremony. Indigenous people live every day through their sacred connection to the Creator and guide their actions through prayer and ceremony. To restore right relations, we must restore their sacred sites.

It is important that our First Peoples must not have to choose between restoring their sacred sites and having funding for education, housing, health care, and economic development. Our obligations in these areas continue as ever, and are not satisfied by symbolic gestures relating to religion and the land. I recognize that these changes may take time, but ask that you work on them urgently as well.

I hope you will begin by ensuring that every First Nations, Inuit, and Métis child in Canada will have equal funding with every other Canadian child for education. I see no reason why this need take years to implement. Our indigenous citizens need to have the funding to improve the quality of their schools immediately. Budget issues should not trump equality and fairness. If non-indigenous Canadians have to give something up in order to have equality with First Peoples, so be it. I also hope that in this process, we go as far and as fast as we can to put education decisions in the hands of our First Peoples. Let the dollars not be absorbed by bureaucrats and consultants who get the employment instead of teachers and consultants chosen directly by the Indigenous Peoples themselves.

And of course, it is equally important that we work aggressively to solve long-standing problems of inadequate drinking water, housing, and so on.

It is time our reconciliation with our First Peoples goes beyond words to action. I appeal to you to make the symbolic gesture of restoring the falls, and restoring the Victoria, Chaudière and Albert Islands during our 150th anniversary as an important first step.

In faith that we will achieve reconciliation if we try,

Rev. Frances Deverell (Retired Unitarian Minister working in the community in Ottawa)

cc. The Hon. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

House of Commons,

Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

cc The Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage

House of Commons,

Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Cc Rona Ambrose, Leader, Conservative Party of Canada

House of Commons,

Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

CC. Thomas Mulcaire, Leader of the NDP

House of Commons,

Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Cc Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada

House of Commons,

Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Cc Mayor Jim Watson,

Ottawa City Hall 110 Laurier Avenue West Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 1J1

Cc Russell Andrew Mills,

Chair of the National Capital Commission

202–40 Elgin Street Ottawa ON K1P 1C7

Cc Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

Legislative Building Queen's Park Toronto ON M7A 1A1

Cc Philippe Coullard, Premier of Quebec

Édifice Honoré-Mercier, 3e étage 835, boul. René-Lévesque Est Québec (Québec) G1A 1B4

Cc Douglas Cardinal (

Cc Claudette Commanda (

CC Albert Dumont (

CC Annie and Robert Smith St. Georges. (

Cc Gilbert Whiteduck (

Cc Chief Kirby Whiteduck (

Cc Chief Jean-Guy Whiteduck (

Cc Ghislain Picard (

  • This letter will be made open to the public.

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