Indigenous coalition calls on Ottawa to reconsider site for new hospital

Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition is requesting the space be used instead for reconciliation

The Ottawa Hospital’s $2.8-billion new campus development will be located on Carling Avenue next to Dow’s Lake and is set to be complete in 2028. (Photo courtesy of the City of Ottawa)

By Meral Jamal

The Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition wants the city to reconsider its approval of plans for a property where 750 trees are to be cut down to make room for the new Ottawa Civic Hospital campus.

Instead, the coalition wants the land used as a reconciliation space for urban Indigenous people and all Canadians who live in Ottawa.

In February 2018, the federal government announced plans to lease about 50 acres to the Ottawa Hospital for its new campus. It’s currently a public green space, home to historic trees and an ornamental hedge collection.

In February of this year, Ottawa City Council’s planning committee approved a development plan for the site.

So far 159 trees have been taken down, with the rest to be removed later.

“We do not believe that a hospital that is intended to restore health should be a part of a process that would destroy something that also restores our health,” said coalition co-chair Stephanie Mikki Adams, who is also executive director of Inuuqatigiit Centre for Inuit Children, Youth and Families.

“The trees and the land, as we all know, are essential public space that needs to be maintained in order to support the health and wellbeing of our community and for the planet.”

An alliance of 10 Indigenous service organizations including Tungasuvvingat Inuit and the Inuuqatigiit centre, the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition provides front-line programs and services to First Nations, Inuit and Métis people living in the National Capital Region.

That includes working to improve the health of urban Indigenous people — including the few thousand urban Inuit in Ottawa — and foster reconciliation in the city.

The decision to clear land to build the hospital there will negatively impact that work, said Adams.

The Ottawa Hospital’s new campus development will be located on Carling Avenue next to Dow’s Lake. The new hospital will be the major referral centre for eastern Ontario, western Quebec and Nunavut, as well as the Eastern Ontario Trauma Centre.

The $2.8-billion project is set to be complete in 2028.

Joan Riggs, a facilitator with the coalition, said the city did not consult Indigenous communities and organizations about the decision to cut down the trees.

She said what the coalition wants instead is a moratorium on the land, with the new hospital built at another location and the current site used as a reconciliation space for urban Indigenous people and all Canadians who live in Ottawa.

“A lot of the elders said the same thing, which is, ‘If I had known about a real consultation process, I would have come and spoken to this.’ It feels like it’s really underhanded.” she said.

“If (the city) really is serious about reconciliation, we have to have ways to engage urban Indigenous people. Urban Indigenous people are still Indigenous, so they have the right to consultation on things that are going to impact them.”

In an emailed response, Ottawa Hospital media relations officer Rebecca Abelson said the hospital “engaged directly with community partners including regional hospitals, patient advisers, all levels of government, and Indigenous communities throughout the process of planning the new campus development.”

The hospital has also been working with its own Indigenous Peoples Advisory Circle, a group of organizations that represent or serve the needs of urban Indigenous communities, Abelson said.

Riggs said service organizations that are part of the coalition will continue to push for the land to be used as a space for reconciliation.

She said there is a big difference between programming indoors and outdoors. Land-based activities like cutting up country food together, which take place out on the land, help “reconnect to identity, to culture and just to the relationship we have with Mother Earth” more effectively.

While the land has since been partly cleared, Riggs added that continuing to advocate for a space for reconciliation is essential for healing given the challenges over the past couple of years.

That includes isolation caused by COVID-19, the discovery of remains of Indigenous children at former residential school sites across the country, and more recently the occupation of the downtown by “Freedom Convoy” protesters.

“It was really hard. we needed ceremony, we needed to be on the land, we needed to keep the sacred fire going,” Riggs said.

“Throughout these two years, we’ve kept saying the same thing to the city: Help us have land that will actually restore balance.”

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(11) Comments:

  1. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    I hope Inuit organizations are not spending money or much time on this lost-cause initiative. Urban Inuit have more pressing needs that urgently need to be met .

    • Posted by Ragin Ronnie on

      Where did the term ‘urban inuit’ come from? I don’t remember being called a ‘northern newfie’ when I moved north. I just moved. Period. Just shows the special status given to Innuit even out of the Territory.

      • Posted by Strange Indeed on

        I wondered the same thing, it is not a very clear term.

        Inuit living in Iqaluit should rightly be considered “urban Inuit”, but ones living in a town of 7,000 in rural Ontario wouldn’t be. It is a very strange term.

      • Posted by stop adding labels on

        The “urban Inuk” queen herself L.Brown, at formerly Ottawa Inuit Childrens Centre ( Inuqatigiit) claims to have coined the term cause she didn’t fit in. Sorry, how many labels do i need to become more digestible to Qallunaat ? awful term

  2. Posted by John K on

    I think they have really misread the room with this.

    If this were a high end apartment building or a warehouse I would agree with them. But the tail end of a global pandemic that highlighted our woefully underdeveloped healthcare system is not the time to rail against the development of a new hospital.

    Sucks to lose those trees; sucks more to lose a loved one for lack of a hospital bed.

  3. Posted by What?????!!!!!! on

    Don’t hold your breath on Trusting the Federal Government of Canada and want to be Trudeau about Reconciliation. Throughout Canadas History, you always had Politicians making Promises to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit of Canada but to have them Broken. The Trudeau Government is continuing to Lie at any level to any group of person(s). It has to profit his Government Friends and Lobbyists and Contracting Buddies. They don’t care about the First Nations, Metis and Inuit of Canada. Its just window shopping for them so that the rest of the world will say “LOOK AT THE CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER, APOLOGIZING TO THE NATIVES ONCE AGAIN”. Lip service, Broken Promises, and Alligator Tears from a half wit Teacher putting on a cultural show once again.

  4. Posted by pissed off on

    I guess these people would prefer a park than a hospital even they are sick and need medical attention !!!!!

    Do we have the luxury to claim that we have enough hospital beds and operating rooms ??????

    The government of Ontario did not come up with such a massive investment without years of planning for a small bunch of people to put sticks in the wheels even if they have good intentions .

    Enough of those fly-by night group initiatives

  5. Posted by prohealth on

    The site for the new hospital is directly linked with the current site of the Civic Campus. Moving it to another location would impact how our medical staff work together between campuses not to mention that it would be a huge tax burden on all Canadians. I’m all for reconciliation space but maybe there is another location like, for example, the Experimental Farm area at Baseline and Merivale for one. Sucks about the trees but maybe they could be moved to another location.

  6. Posted by sigh on

    Someone explain to me what a “reconciliation” space is please. I miss the harper government.

    • Posted by NUNAVIMIUK on

      What ever it is , sounds expensive

  7. Posted by delbert on

    When we all be Canadians?

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