Sacred Fire for Beaver Pond Forest starts Wed in Toronto

Media Release ~~ February 8, 2011 ~~ For Immediate Release

SACRED FIRE WILL BURN AT QUEEN’S PARK FOR OTTAWA’S SOUTH MARCH HIGHLANDS

(Toronto) Daniel Amikwabe Bernard, Algonquin Firekeeper, will keep a Sacred Fire burning at Queen’s Park from Wednesday 9th to Sunday 13th February to urge the province to halt tree-clearing and to promote understanding about Ottawa’s most important ecological and cultural heritage area.

The South March Highlands is one of the most bio-diverse areas remaining in urban Canada, with more than 675 different species of life, including 240 species of wildlife and over 134 different types of nesting birds.

For the past year local citizens, environmentalists and First Nations groups representing over 14,000 people have mounted a vigorous campaign to save undeveloped lands in the 10,000-year-old, ecologically unique, South March Highlands.  In the 1970s it was protected as a Natural Environmental Area but urban development has steadily eroded it until less than 1/3rd remains protected.  Citizens have actively opposed development since 1981 because the South March Highlands is an old-growth forest having the densest bio-diversity in Ottawa and provides critical habitat for 20 species-at-risk.

In the latest assault on the forest, KNL Developments recently began clear-cutting trees for a subdivision in an area known locally as the Beaver Pond Forest, even though development depends on planned water diversions without Environmental Assessment and a questionable archaeological study.

The principal Algonquin Spiritual Elder, Grandfather William Commanda, Ancestral Carrier of the 3 Sacred Wampum Belts, Officer of the Order of Canada, recognized as a spiritual leader and founder of the Circle of All Nations, considers the South March Highlands to be Sacred and sees this as an opportunity to renew our sustainable relationship with Mother Earth.

Algonquin across the Ottawa River Watershed in both Ontario and Quebec have called for a comprehensive archaeological assessment of the area.  KNL’s archaeological study was accepted by the Ministry of Culture in 2004 despite being described as ‘fatally flawed’ by Dr. Robert McGhee, past president of the Canadian Archaeological Association.  A review of the KNL study by Groupe de recherche archéologique de l’Outaouais (GRAO) led by Marcel LaLiberté, concurred that the area “can no longer be ignored as of low archaeological potential”.

In addition to questioning many irregularities in development approvals, the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands has put forward creative proposals for stewardship of the South March Highlands that the City of Ottawa and the Provincial Ministries of Environment (MoE), Natural Resources (MNR), Culture (MTC), Aboriginal Affairs (MAA) and Municipal Affairs (MMHA) have to-date declined to discuss.

“We are also asking why the MNR has yet to confirm the area as a provincially- significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest despite the fact it was recommended for that designation in 1992, and why the MMHA has yet to enforce the Provincial Policy Statement that prevents development in ecologically significant areas such as ANSI candidates,” says Paul Renaud, of the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands.

“We are asking why the MoE is allowing development to proceed without Environmental Assessments and why the MAA has yet to uphold the Canadian Constitution which requires the Crown to consult and accommodate the interests of First Nations,” adds Renaud.

Starting Wednesday, a Sacred Fire will burn as a beacon of hope within the provincial capital to promote understanding and to request support from the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, to issue a Ministerial Order to halt the clear-cutting, in light of the two independent archaeological reviews, and the discovery of potentially significant sites since the 2004 MTC approval.

In an unprecedented recognition of aboriginal religious practices by the Provincial Legislature, permission has been granted to keep the Sacred Fire burning day and night. The Sacred Fire is an altar for prayer and visitors are invited to approach respectfully and spend time with the Firekeeper to learn more about the South March Highlands and to discuss our relationship with Mother Earth.

On Sunday, February 13th, the Sacred Fire will go out at mid-day.  There will be Closing ceremonies, with drumming, prayers, and singing, a message from Grandfather William Commanda, and from other First Nations elders and chiefs.  Everyone is invited to join with us regardless of religion, race, or culture.

PLEASE NOTE:  There is a protocol regarding filming and photography at the Sacred Fire and media are kindly asked to speak with the Firekeeper before recording or photographing.

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The Sacred Fire will be directly in front of the Provincial Legislature at Queen’s Park.

For more information:

Daniel Amikwabe Bernard – 416-876-3051

Liaison for Daniel Bernard: Peter Haresnape, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Aboriginal Justice Team – 647-838-8455 or office 416-423-5525

Paul Renaud, Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands  —  613-277-5898

Background Info:

UPDATE:

On the morning of Tues Feb 8th, approximately 20 community members staged an action in the forest, surrounding the cutting machines and temporarily preventing them from further destroying the forest:

Cutting taking place now at Beaver Pond Forest

CUTTING HAS BEGUN AT BEAVER POND FOREST
(please click here for background info – or read this article published Jan 31 at MediaINDIGENA – or twitter updates #BeaverPond)

MASS RALLY on Tues,  noon-1pm, at City Hall (Human Rights Monument, Elgin& Lisgar) please arrive early – We demand immediate halt to cutting and an Emergency Open Council Meeting including ALL Stakeholders by noon Wednesday Feb 2nd – invite people to the rally via Facebook

UPDATE – This morning (Tues Feb 1st), at sunrise, warriors from the Algonquin Nations chained themselves to the trees of the Beaverpond Forest in the South March Highlands to prevent further destruction of this important woodland. Media contact: Paul Renaud,613-277-5898 – update: read this story

UPDATE #2 – At 11:45 am (Tues) , concerned community members began a sit-in at Mayor Jim Watson’s office, demanding he take responsibility by immediately stopping cutting at Beaver Pond and calling for an emergency council meeting, open to all residents of Ottawa. Link to press release. Media contacts: Pei-Ju Wang (in mayor’s office) 613-276-8941, Ramsey Hart (offsite) 613-612-1768.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION NOW:

  • Consider getting out to the Goulbourn Forced Road Parking lot to bear witness (approx map: http://bit.ly/eQ1e3i)
  • Print off pamphlets to hand out to friends, random people (print single-sided, or double sided and then cut in half to get two flyers)
  • CALL & email the following, demand they stop this

ASK him to put his foot down:  Robert J. Potts Principal Negotiator and Senior Legal Counsel Algonquin Treaty Negotiations (Algonquins of Ontario)
Telephone: 1-877-593-7221 x3952 email: bpotts@blaney.com

Mayor Watson: 613-580-2496, Jim Watson <jim.watson@ottawa.ca>;
Watson’s Community Liason Director, Adam DeCaire 613-580-2424 x22700

Hon. Michael Chan, Minister of Tourism and Culture – Markham-Unionville, Liberal
– Suggestion of what to say to Minister Chan:
“All of the Algonquin First Nations have invoked their constitutional right to consultation and accommodation regarding the imminent destruction of provincially significant cultural resources in the South March Highlands.  The Honour of the Crown is attached and it is your duty under the emergency powers of the Ontario Heritage Act to issue a Ministerial Order requiring a new archaeological study be done by an independent agency such as  the National Capital Commission.  This matter is URGENT and in the interests of the 14,500 citizens of Ontario who support the Algonquin and who, in addition to me, demand that you protect all heritage in Ontario.”

Ministry of Tourism and Culture
9th Floor, Hearst Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 2E1
Tel: 416-326-9326
Fax: 416-326-9338
mchan.mpp@liberal.ola.org

450 Alden Rd., Unit 5
Markham ON L3R 5H4
Tel: 905-305-1935
Fax: 905-305-1938
mchan.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Premier Dalton McGuinty
Tel: (416) 325-1941
Fax: (416) 325-3745
dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Constituency Office (Ottawa South):
Tel: (613) 736-9573
Fax: (613) 736-7374

Norm Sterling, MPP for Carleton-Mississippi Mills
Phone: 416-314-7900
Fax: 416-314-7966
norm.sterling@pc.ola.org

Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre
Phone: 613-722-6414
Fax: 613-722-6703
ynaqvi.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Urbandale (the developers)
613-731-6331 – mjarvis@urbandale.com

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