Arboretum Festival’s main stage and after-parties will take place on Albert Island. We humbly acknowledge that Albert Island, and all of the Outaouais, is unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin territory.

An industrial site for over two hundred years, Chaudière Island and Albert Island have been sitting derelict and contaminated for decades. In 2011, the Domtar Company put its lands up for sale, and an Agreement of Purchase was signed with Windmill Developments, an Ottawa-based developer, in 2013. 

Chaudière Island, Albert Island, and the NCC-owned Victoria Island are together often referred to as Asinabka, 'the place of glare rock'.  The islands have long held significance to our region’s Algonquin community, to other First Nations, and as one of the earliest sites of human civilization in Canada. The majestic Chaudière Falls, the second-highest in Canada after Niagara, were a geological wonder before being dammed in 1908.

The celebrated Algonquin elder William Commanda (1913-2011) had a grand vision to transform Victoria and the remaining Chaudière Islands, which has not come to fruition.

In late April, we  halted festival planning. We were compelled to dig deep about:

  1. The unceded status of Ottawa/Gatineau, and what that means;
  2. The geological history and social significance of the islands;
  3. The 11 status Algonquin communities, as well as other First Nations, that have played a part in the history of the Outaouais;
  4. The vision for the islands and the falls of Algonquin elder William Commanda, and the people who wish to see his vision fulfilled;
  5. The plans for Commanda’s vision designed by his friend, architect Douglas Cardinal, and why they have not been realized;
  6. Windmill, the local developer hosting us, their development plans and consultations with Algonquin communities in the region;
  7. The Ontario Municipal Board zoning appeal against the City, Province, federal government and Dream Corp./Windmill, by Douglas Cardinal, Richard Jackman, M. Lindsay Lambert, Larry McDermott and Romola Thumbadoo;
  8. The recently dismissed lawsuit against the federal government, other governments, and the Algonquins of Ontario, by Stacy Amikwabi;
  9. Why Treasury Board Secretariat refused the purchase of the land when the NCC requested it, and what the development would have looked like through the lens of the NCC had it been purchased by the government;
  10. Our community’s mixed feelings on the new neighbourhood development; and
  11. The history of urban planning in Ottawa, First Nations engagement, and environmental best practices.

We reached out to many people, and heard many sides of a similar story. People, in general wanted to avoid the mistakes of the past, wanted progress and equality for the Algonquin people, and mostly, sought respect and healing for the land and water. We spent time with non-First Nations activists, an elder from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, a band councillor at Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, a public affairs consultant, indigenous artists, the developer (Windmill), representatives at municipal government, community leaders, local artists, concerned citizens, friends, and strangers.

We found ourselves in the middle of challenging, deeply rooted discussions, and we had to ask ourselves: “Is there a purpose in us being here? What is our responsibility, if any?”

We observed:

  1. People, regardless of the depth of their awareness, had questions.
  2. People, regardless of political interest, were willing to speak with us.
  3. There were no easy answers, and nothing was black and white.

Our options were to:

  1. cancel the festival (we don’t have the capacity to mitigate the situation);
  2. move forward without addressing the issues; or
  3. present the festival while facilitating critical discussion, raising awareness, and empowering our public.


Choosing to move forward was by far the path of most resistance, and one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made as friends and colleagues.  

We feel that facilitating a public discussion, offering our public a chance to come to the land and speak with those affected will:

  • raise awareness;
  • empower our public; and
  • ultimately allow the community to hold each other, and the powers that be, more accountable.

We've entered a time of humanity-affirming paradigm shifts, but also knee-jerk, vitriolic reaction that threatens to fracture the communities leading social change. With that in mind, we agreed that offering our shared communities the opportunity for education and a chance to ask questions was important. We also felt that transparency was crucial.


We're organizing FREE public conversations to ask questions, and address issues as they relate to our festival site, our city, and our community.

All the talks will take place, SATURDAY, AUGUST 22nd on Albert Island:


I) UNCEDED: The Algonquin and the Outaouais

The purpose of this public conversation is to enlighten our audience to the history and relationship of the Algonquin to the region. We will hear ideas from a grand body of thought on the land, the environment, development, and how we can move society as a whole towards greater compassion and equality.

Chief Kirby Whiteduck – Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn First Nation
Verna McGregor (Minwaashin Lodge) – Kitigan Zibi Anishinabe
Albert Dumont (Poet, writer, speaker) – Kitigan Zibi Anishinabe
Josée Bourgeois (Powwow dancer, Memengweshii Council) – Pikwàkanagàn



II) ISLANDS IN THE STREAM: Reconnecting with Music in the Age of Infinite Access

A conversation with Laurie Brown (CBC Radio 2’s The Signal) and others TBA.

Laurie Brown is a celebrated Canadian broadcaster and television journalist with career spanning 30 years. She began her career by hosting the City TV program The New Music, worked as VJ on Much Music, and worked as a reporter and host on CBC television’s national broadcast. She’s interviewed such unknown artists as David Bowie, Robert Plant, Tommy Lee, and Whitney Houston. Laurie currently hosts CBC Radio 2’s late-night-radio program, The Signal.


III) If you build it: Cultural, Social and Environmental Responsibility in Modern Development

The world continues to grow; neighbourhoods, like people, are born and pass. In an age of depleting resources, economic instability, and near environmental collapse, what is the role and responsibility of the modern developer? Can new neighbourhoods afford positive social change to our increasingly complex and crowded society? In Canada, the definition of an urban community didn’t include First Nations people, further entrenching segregation with the non-First Nations populations. 

Greg Searle (One Planet Communities Program/Bioregional North America)
Wanda Thusky (Memengweshii Council)
Rodney Wilts (Windmill Development)

Ian Capstick (MediaStyle, CBC Power & Politics)



In the end, we chose to hold Arboretum Festival on a meaningful site, with the encouragement of people of vastly differing priorities and backgrounds. You may come to the festival and feel nothing, but we doubt it. Our hope is that you walk away with more knowledge, more questions, and inspiration to forge a greater connection to our shared region and communities.