On September 30th, Canada will be holding the first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In this blog series, we will be taking a look at how Zibi strives to be a model of reconciliation in the National Capital Region by working with Algonquin Anishinàbe partners to confront the truth that systemic barriers in the Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec construction industry were in the way of achieving reconciliation with Algonquin Anishinàbe workers and companies. By leading the way on meaningful engagement, supporting Algonquin Anishinàbe partners in breaking down systemic barriers, and creating opportunities for employment, capacity building and cultural representation, Zibi has created a model that other developers can follow to begin the real work of reconciliation in our region.
Photo: Josée Bourgeois photographed by PJ Leroux @HighRezPhoto
Building a model: Zibi as a model of truth and reconciliation for developers
From the get-go, Zibi made a commitment to do things differently. They were the first developper in the region to engage in discussions with local Indigenous communities on a development project. Zibi secured collaborative agreements with Pikwakanagan First Nation and the Algonquins of Ontario, and signed letters of intent with Long Point and Timiskaming First Nations to create opportunities for their communities.
“…officials say they were told they were the first private developer to ever engage in discussions with Algonquins about a development.” – Ottawa Citizen. May 20, 2014
Very early in the project, Zibi also accepted a traditional tobacco offering from Algonquin First Nation members to engage and pursue the creation of what would become the Memengweshii Council, an Anishinabe women-led advisory council. The Council strives to ensure the integrity and relevance of the Indigenous cultural, heritage and socio-economic aspects of the Zibi project to positively impact Algonquin First Nation people and other Indigenous communities.
“Our Memengweshii Council is growing to be a solid model of how relationships and engagement should look like between First Nations communities and corporate entities. We have a real opportunity to continue to push the status quo on what collaboration can be on our ancestral territory, which happens to be the Nation’s Capital, Ottawa. I have an important role. How I got here is a beautiful story, and how this will end will hopefully be legendary, #heretostay” – Josée Bourgeois, member of the Pikwakanagan First Nation and Memengweshii Council.
Zibi vowed that the project would become a model of reconciliation in this part of Canada by offering concrete and tangible opportunities for Indigenous Peoples. Not only did they hire Algonquin workers from an Algonquin-owned company to work on site remediation, they supported Decontie Milestone in their efforts to remove the barriers that were standing in the way of creating these opportunities and continue to refine their Indigenous workforce engagement strategy.
“We are setting the stage for something really historical here, and I am proud to be a part of it because this is about moving forward beyond the reserve,” Wanda Thusky said.” – Ottawa Citizen
Zibi also supported Decontie Construction to create the first ever list of available Indigenous tradespeople in the region. This project set the stage for Decontie to receive funding from the Government of Canada to undertake the Pathway to Strengthening the Algonquin Anishinàbe Workforce (PSAAW) project, which will establish resources to help employers and general contractors research, recruit, retain, train and integrate more Algonquin Anishinàbe/Indigenous tradespeople in the construction industry.
More recently, Zibi and the Memengweshii Council have worked with the NCC and local Indigenous artists to ensure the Algonquin culture would be reflected in the public places and parks at Zibi. The NCC has unveiled the design for two new parks: Pangishimo (sunset) and Tesasini (flat rock), which will both be open to the public by Fall 2022.
Pangishimo Park photographed by CSW Landscape Architects.
“Until recently, many people didn’t know that the National Capital is part of unceded Algonquin territory. There were few traces of the culture. Fortunately, we are seeing more buildings and places representing the culture, for example, the new central library will be called Ādisōke. The nearby LRT station is called Pimisi, and so on. But we’re really proud that Zibi was a trailblazer in this area, and that we will be a real reflection of Algonquin culture, not only with our naming of the community, parks, streets and places, but with art and culture represented throughout.” – Jeff Westeinde, President, Zibi
Zibi has not always gotten it right, but with the continued support of its Algonquin partners it has been able to pivot and keep moving forward on the path to meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous People. This is something all private sector companies in our region should be striving for.
Link to the first blog, Acknowledging the truth: Systemic barriers have blocked Indigenous peoples from working on their territory
Link to the second blog, Paving the way for reconciliation: The private sector has a role to play
“The property, especially the falls, is considered of significance to First Nations. Windmill has had discussions with Algonquins of Ontario and Kitigan Zibi about the project and says it is committed to initiatives including a First Nations route through the site, interpretive signage, “themed places” and areas of contemplation. It is not clear whether there has been agreement among Algonquins to work with Windmill. But officials say they were told they were the first private developer to ever engage in discussions with Algonquins about a development.”
“It’s hard to talk about the truth, but it’s a necessary part of the reconciliation process,” says Christina Ruddy, who is an educator focused on removing some of the internalized barriers through Indigenous-inspired educational practices.