Jeff Green | Apr 12, 2007
Feature Article - April 12, 2007
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Ardoch Algonquins finalise building plansby Jeff Green
In a press statement released last week, the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation (AAFN), formerly known as Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and Allies (AAFNA), has announced final plans for the construction of the Manomin Heritage Centre at Pine Lake, northwest of Sharbot Lake.
The centre is to be named Manomin after the wild rice at nearby Mud Lake that the non-status AAFN has been devoted to for many years. "We want to build a heritage centre so our kids can learn our language, so that we can learn about our culture, so we can be proud of ourselves and so our elders can see their efforts bear fruit," explains Co-Chief Randy Cota.
AAFN spokesperson Bob Lovelace believes that, "We, along with other Native peoples in the country, are in the process of defining how Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people work and live together" and are, in effect, "setting a standard for ourselves to live by."
AAFN intends to complete the project this summer in order to hold its annual Pow Wow on September 1. They have enlisted Alexander Wilson Architect Inc. of Kingston, “who will ensure that the Heritage Centre meets all requirements of authorities having jurisdiction as well as the standards outlined in the most recent edition of the Ontario Building Code,” according to the press release.
Ecological Services of Elginburg will be conducting an Environmental Assessment of the site.
AAFN requests that any concerns regarding the Environmental Assessment be made in writing and addressed to Alexander Wilson Architect, who, as a neutral party, will administer all dialogue between interested parties. "It is important to us that we do everything properly, that we are open and transparent in our dealings with the community at large," explains Co-Chief Cota, "as we are committed to the success of the project and the people it will benefit."
However the process has not been undertaken without controversy on a local level. David Rose, the President of the Pine Lake Property Owner’s Association Association, does not agree that AAFN has been forthcoming to the community at large.
“AAFN is taking a very aggressive view to the boat launch. They seem completely committed to forging ahead. I wish that instead of issuing press releases they would give some genuine thought to the deficiencies of the site, and allow for some meaningful consultation with the community. They have replaced community building with press releases,” he said, “they are not interested in any organic process.”
According to AAFN, the community centre will provide a "space for community members to come together in a culturally significant space for community gatherings, cultural and linguistic programs, education and training, as well as social and health services." The Centre will also "offer programs to non-members who want to learn about Algonquin people, culture and history."
Although the AAFN release expresses confidence in the progress of the project, municipal and provincial officials are still determining its legalities. The project has been progressing on land that has been under the jurisdiction of the Province of Ontario for hundreds of years, although it is within a vast amount of land that is subject to an Algonquin Land Claim.
On March 25, Mayor Ron Maguire and members of the North Frontenac Council attended a meeting of the AAFN Family Heads Council in Maberly, where the plans for the new centre were outlined. Maguire told the News that he “was encouraged to hear once again that the building code will be followed and that an environmental assessment is being completed.”
As for building permits and other technical requirements from the township, Maguire said he is still unclear where that is going. “Some of the issues are in the hands of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and some under the jurisdiction of our Chief Building Official under the Municipal Act,” he said.
On the part of the MNR, Vince Ewing, the Acting District Manager from the Bancroft Office said, “I would not say that AAFN have been in talks with the MNR, but I am aware that there is an environmental assessment process under way at Pine Lake, which is in keeping with our normal process, and is in line with land use permits being issued for Crown Lands.”