I am writing to you on behalf of the 14,500+ persons in the multicultural communities who have come together to protect the South March Highlands from development in west Ottawa – only 20 minutes from Parliament Hill.
This multicultural community includes over 6,500 Algonquin in the First Nation communities of Ottawa, Kitigan-Zibi, Bonnechere, Kinounchpirini, Ardoch, Kichesipirini, and Pasapkedjiwanong who have responded to Grandfather William Commanda’s call for protection (attached). The multicultural communities unified in protecting the South March Highlands also includes another 8,000 Canadians of non-aboriginal heritage as well as many non-Algonquin Metis.
We are asking for your support and influence with both federal and provincial leaders to call for an immediate halt to development and a reassessment of this situation.
The South March Highlands (“SMH”) has been described in official studies as a “wild island” of natural landscape within the City of Ottawa (“City”). Until recently it remained largely in its original natural state because its rugged landscape was unsuitable for agriculture. SMH is the southern end of the Precambrian Canadian Shield outcrop known as the Carp Hills which first emerged from the Champlain Sea 11,000 years ago. Its geology is unique to the National Capital and its wetland-rich land has been described in City studies as “an island of rugged, heavily-glaciated, rocky, Gatineau Hills-like habitat”. The Carp Hills/SMH is the only place in Ottawa where the Canadian Shield is visible on the Ontario side of the great river.
No other major city in the world includes a vigorous old growth forest with endangered species. The closest is perhaps Vancouver’s Stanley Park which is 1/3 the size, contains ½ the variety of vascular plants, and no species-at-risk as compared to the SMH which is refuge for 20 documented species-at-risk of extinction within a small area of only 3 km by 4 km in size.
The SMH is a candidate Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (“ANSI”) for both its Life Science value (895 hectares) and for its unique Wetland Complex (114 hectares). It has been valued by scientists as the “most important reservoir of ecological potential” in the City because it has the densest bio-diversity and its 30 eco-types of vegetation provide a wide variety of resources for the renewal of depleted natural areas elsewhere. There are 10 distinct habitats within the SMH and the largest deer wintering yard (925 hectares) in the City.
The SMH is the aquifer for North Kanata and its hydrology is integral to both the Carp River as well as to the federally significant Shirley’s Bay wetland complex in the Greenbelt. The SMH is ecologically unique in the City, supporting over 440 native species of vascular plants and has the highest floristic diversity of any natural area in Ottawa.
This SMH is also home to over 269 species of wildlife, including 170species of birds that are known to breed in this area, twice the number found in Punta Cana’s world famous ecological park. The area is also home to the Monarch Butterfly, another species at risk, however no study of insect or bryophyte (non-vascular plant) species has ever been performed. We have written to the Federal Minister of Justice questioning the lack of authority granted to the City to authorize a mass killing of wildlife but have received no response.
The SMH is also rated by the City as having high potential for archaeological resources. To-date, 3 archaeological sites have been found that present evidence of native occupation of the SMH dating back 500 generations. One of these sites was confirmed by eminent archaeologists but is tied up in a court case because the developer who commissioned the research refused to pay for it. Two of the other sites have been identified but not been properly assessed to-date. An archaeological study done by another one of the developers was reviewed by a former president of the Canadian Archaeology Association who determined it was “fatally flawed” for having not adequately considered pre-European-contact cultural resources. Despite appeals to the Ontario Minister of Culture, nothing has been done about this.
We have also been working with the National Capital Commission to protect this area and in conjunction with the Greenbelt Coalition have made formal submissions which have been accepted by the NCC as part of their Greenbelt Master Planning process. Two MPs, Gordon O’Connor and Paul Dewar have called on the NCC to protect this area, as have Elizabeth May, the Sierra Club of Canada, and the David Suzuki Foundation. However, to-date Madame Lemay has declined to confirm any official NCC support for protecting the area.
This matter is now urgent as one of the developers is already clear cutting in the forest and another is about to start at the end of January. With the support of the Algonquin Chiefs, the Inter-Tribal Medicine Council has established a Sacred Fire last week which has been burning continuously to symbolize that this land is a place of Manitou and is integral to the cultural heritage of all Anishinabe people. The Sacred Fire is currently being maintained around the clock by Fire Keepers representing all the communities that have been unified in this cause.
More information about the South March Highlands and our efforts to protect it can be downloaded from the links below. This includes a couple of short videos that are well worth viewing.
We ask that you assist us in whatever way you can to bring this to the attention of both federal and provincial leaders for immediate action.
Please join us by adding your tobacco to our Sacred Fire to protect this place of Manitou.
Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands
Letters sent by First Nations:
And by Grandfather William Commanda:
And by other Elders:
Motion passed unanimously by City of Ottawa’s Aboriginal Affairs Advisory
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZBcLvtcJBY (4 minute documentary video)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhSU5heJl5o (8 minute cultural and natural heritage video)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJAezV9Ap6k (6 minute video on Sacred Fire)
- http://www.renaud.ca/public/Presentations/2011-01-13-SMH-1-SMH_Overview_v16.pdf (SMH Overview presentation)
- http://www.renaud.ca/public/Presentations/2010-12-07-SMH-2-Stewardship_Plan_Overview_v4.pdf (Stewardship Plan Overview presentation)
- http://www.renaud.ca/public/Presentations/2010-12-07-SMH-3-Advocacy_Overview_v4.pdf (Open issues overview presentation)
Other Letters of Support may be downloaded from:
http://onnaturemagazine.com/the-race-to-save-the-south-march-highlands.html – (Article in Ontario Nature Magazine)
http://www.renaud.ca/public/Presentations/2010-09-07%20Greenbelt%20Coalition%20Position%20Paper-for%20NCC%20Review.pdf – Greenbelt Coalition Position Paper to NCC on Emerald Necklace
http://www.renaud.ca/public/Presentations/2010-09-07%20Greenbelt%20Coalition%20Position%20Paper%20App5%20-%20SMH.pdf – Submission to NCC on South March Highlands