Consultation & Consent
Engagement with the Algonquin Anishinabe began in 2013 and is ongoing.
We recognize that the Ottawa River Watershed has been the territory of the Indigenous peoples who form the Algonquin Nation today. The Kichissipi (Ottawa River) is an ancient trade and travel route through the territory of the Algonquin Nation, as are the shores, islands and portages along the route.
Our engagement with the area’s Algonquin Anishinabe began before we bought the land and before any designs were conceived. Symbolically, the first meeting with stakeholders on the future Zibi site was with Algonquin leaders. And it was the first time, to our knowledge, that a private development company had invited Algonquin leadership to take part in a community building project in the National Capital region.
These efforts at engaging the Algonquin Anishinabe people – most of them voluntary and not required by law – have been endorsed by bodies as diverse as, for example, the National Indigenous Council of Elders and the Ontario Municipal Board.
We believe this is the most inclusive and robust First Nations engagement program by a private real estate developer, certainly in Eastern Canada, and possibly in all of Canada.
Consultation and engagement efforts have been sincere, substantive, and meaningful.
We have met with Algonquin Anishinabe elders, leaders, communities, Bands and Councils, social service providers, youth, women and men. We have attended Sharing Circles and presented to communities hours away in Ontario, and even further in remote parts of Quebec. We have talked with hundreds of Algonquin Anishinabe men and women throughout the territory and on both sides of the provincial border.
We have reached out to all of the Algonquin Anishinabe communities in both Ontario and Quebec, many of whom had never before participated in consultations related to the National Capital region.
The result is a collaborative benefits program – that continues to evolve as conversations advance – including investment and ownership that will create economic benefits for generations, entrepreneurial opportunities, jobs, and cultural celebration.
Zibi's efforts have been consistent with the spirit of TRC and UNDRIP
Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2015) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (adopted by Canada in May 2016) call for developers to obtain the free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) of the First Nations whose territory would be affected. These principles create an important new challenge and, even though Zibi was launched before these concepts were adopted, we support the principle. First Nations and Canadian governments and business are rushing to address this important principle for the first time, and there is not yet any consensus on how to make it real.
We are told that the spirit of FPIC is one of collaborative consent (elaborated on by former Grand Chief Fontaine’s 2015 report to the Trudeau government). It requires developers and First Nations both to work reasonably and with an open mind toward mutual consent. It does not require that consent be given, of course, but it does implicitly require reasonable and fair-minded exploration of what is possible, by all parties.
We are working hard and sincerely to obtain the free, prior, and informed consent of the Algonquin Nation, and are currently in active consultation and collaboration with the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan First Nation and with the Algonquins of Ontario.
Unfortunately, the communities that still oppose Zibi have so far refused to engage in dialogue toward collaborative consent. We have expressed, and continue to express, our willingness to discuss any terms, any benefits, any subject, any concession. We would attend any meeting, anywhere, anytime, on any agenda. We have not given up, and we remain hopeful of their collaboration and open minds.
Most AFN Chiefs don’t oppose Zibi.
It is true that at its Special Chiefs Assembly in December 2015, the Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution to oppose the Zibi project. It is even more important to note that of more than 200 Chiefs eligible to vote that day, only 12 gave their support to the motion; the rest either abstained or opposed it. All of the other 36 motions that day, with one exception, were carried by a consensus of the Chiefs. In September 2015, Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde took this position in the press: The disagreement over the development is something that should be resolved among the Algonquin people. “This is Algonquin territory, we have to respect that. As a national chief, I am careful not to choose sides.” Source
It is offensive and ironic to suggest that Zibi has “purchased” support.
Insinuations have been made that Zibi has bought the support we find in the Algonquin community with tokens and bribes. To the proud Algonquin men, women, and Chiefs that support Zibi as an opportunity to advance the economic and cultural interests of their communities, this is condescending and offensive. Moreover, it is ironic that those critics that argue for fair negotiations and partnership would criticize the concessions demanded and won in those very negotiations.