The site for the joint facility is located on the unceded, traditional territory of the Anishinābe Algonquin people, who have lived in the area for thousands of years. The land surrounding the Chaudière Falls is a sacred meeting place for the Anishinābe Algonquin and other First Nations, associated with a portage and trade route for Indigenous people along the Ottawa River.
The idea of a community public library and national library and archives on this site presents an opportunity to examine the nature of knowledge transfer and learning that will take place in the building, and how it relates to the local Anishinābe Algonquin peoples as well as Indigenous communities in Ottawa and across the country. The identity and vision of the project is made richer by the inclusion of traditional Indigenous knowledge.
The joint facility project team and the architects worked with an Indigenous consultation specialist to engage with the Anishinābe Algonquin host nation. He has acted as a guide and facilitator for Anishinābe Algonquin engagement on this project. The goal: endeavor to undertake a meaningful engagement process with friendship, trust building, and mutual benefit as guiding principles; as well as follow a process and approach that respects cultural protocols and traditional Indigenous knowledge.
Approach to engagement
The Anishinābe Algonquin communities of Kitigan Zibi and Pikwakanagan were selected as the two main communities for engagement on the design of the joint facility. These communities are important for a number of reasons including proximity to Ottawa, cultural fluency, and interest in participation.
To begin this process, the Design and Project Teams travelled to the two communities in March 2019. These initial meetings were dedicated to listening, understanding, and developing relationships. Gaining support from the Elders and honouring their communities was important in carrying the project spirit forward and laying the foundations for a mutually beneficial relationship. The Design Team provided an overview of the project, timeframe and milestones, and most importantly sought advice on making meaningful Anishinābe Algonquin territorial acknowledgments.
To continue the series, in June 2019, the Design and Project Teams invited interested Elders and community members to Ottawa to provide creative input at design-focused workshops. The first design workshop was an opportunity to work with community members to identify preferred locations within the facility and the landscape where Indigenous design elements could be incorporated.
In addition to working with the communities of Kitigan Zibi and Pikwakanagan, the Design and Project Teams met with Library and Archives Canada’s Indigenous Advisory Committee in May 2019.
Next, two design-focused workshops were held with the communities of Kitigan Zibi and Pikwakanagan in October and December 2019. The Design Team reflected back to the communities what they heard during the last design workshops and how their ideas have impacted the design of the facility. You can read more about the design feedback received from the Anishinābe Algonquin host nation here.
At the beginning of 2020, the project team planned additional engagement activities with the urban Indigenous community of Ottawa as well as national Indigenous organizations, to help design a space that is welcoming, reflective and inclusive of all First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation visitors.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Indigenous engagement activities were moved to virtual and online platforms.
In late September and early October 2020, engagement sessions took place for local and national Indigenous organizations to hear about the architectural inspirations for the facility’s design; the initial concepts for integrating Indigenous art into the facility; and the early thinking on the programs, collections, and service. Opportunities to ask questions and share ideas were included in the event format.
Led by Indigenous facilitators, a virtual engagement session with the Ottawa-Gatineau urban Indigenous community members was held in November 2020.
Participants learned about the architectural inspirations for the facility’s design, asked questions about the programs, services and other features of the joint facility, and provided input and recommendations to ensure the new joint facility is an inclusive space for local First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation individuals, families and organizations.
An online Indigenous engagement survey accompanied the virtual engagement sessions. This survey provided Indigenous peoples in the Ottawa area and across Canada a way to provide ideas, suggestions and input into the new joint facility including the design of the indoor and outdoor spaces as well as the programs and services offered.
The project team will continue to engage with the Anishinābe Algonquin host nation and local and national First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation individuals and organizations to inform the programs and services that will be offered in the joint facility.
All project partners have an interest in building relationships that are ongoing and that can continue throughout the next several years of planning and after the opening of the joint facility.