Algonquin Union hand-delivers urgent letter of appeal to stop clear-cutting of South March Highlands in Ottawa

Update:

Open Message to Ottawa Mayor Watson and City Council
The letter being hand-delivered to Minister Chan today (Feb. 24, 2010)

Information on the archaeological artifacts found on South March Highlands

Note: Algonquin Firekeeper Daniel Bernard has been invited by NDP leader Andrea Horwath to speak in the Ontario legislature today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, February 24, 2011

Algonquin Union hand-delivers urgent letter of appeal to stop clear-cutting of South March Highlands in Ottawa

(Toronto) Despite several respectful but failed attempts to schedule a meeting with Ontario’s Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Chan, representatives of the Algonquin Union are hand-delivering a letter today to his office. The letter, to be delivered by Algonquin Firekeeper Daniel Bernard (Amikwabe), contains new archeological information that provides Minister Chan grounds to stop the clear-cutting of South March Highlands in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata.

Tree cutting and heavy construction equipment continue to devastate this urban forest, which has been repeatedly identified as a site of significant archeological heritage, in addition to being of major environmental and ceremonial importance. The entire area has the potential to be recognized as Provincially Significant Cultural Heritage in accordance with Ontario Regulation 10/06.

“It is very disturbing that during the United Nations’ Year of the Forest the city of Ottawa is permitting one of the most amazing old growth forests located in an urban setting anywhere in the world to be destroyed,” Bernard says.

Algonquin people from across the Ottawa River Watershed in both Ontario and Quebec have called for an immediate halt to the KNL housing project at the site, while an independent archeological review is carried out to determine the cultural significance of the land. KNL’s own archeological study was accepted by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture in 2004, despite being described as ‘fatally flawed’ by Dr. Robert McGhee, past president of the Canadian Archeological Association. Many other reviews and studies have concluded that the site is of high importance from a cultural standpoint.

South March Highlands is an old growth forest and one of the most bio-diverse areas remaining in urban Canada. It offers critical habitat to more than 675 species of life, including 240 species of wildlife, more than 135 nesting birds and 20 species at risk.

Contact:
Daniel Bernard, on behalf of the Algonquin Union: Cell: 416-876-3051   Email: dan_bernard@rogers.com
Paul Renaud  Cell: 613-277-5898    Email: paul@renaud.ca
Algonquin Union: http://www.union-algonquin-union.com

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:

South March Highlands / Beaver Pond Forest

Latest updates:

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A message from Paul Renaud (paul@renaud.ca, renaud.ca/wordpress):

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.

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

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
Subcommittee:

Videos:

Presentations:

Other Letters of Support may be downloaded from:

www.ottawasgreatforest.com – website for the stewardship plan to protect the SMH)
www.southmarchhighlands.ca – (website for the coalition to protect the SMH)

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