Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition says it’s being left out of talks on new hospital

As the City of Ottawa moves ahead with plans to build a $3 billion hospital west of downtown, one group says it has a beef with where it’s located.

The new Ottawa Civic Campus hospital is planned for a part of the city called the Experimental Farm, 400 hectares of farmland located southwest of the city’s downtown.

The land was owned by the federal government but handed over to the city for the project.

But the area’s sprawling greenspace and trees make it good for walking and cycling.

Mikki Adams says she fell in love with the area when she moved here from Rankin Inlet four years ago.

“Ottawa it’s such a beautiful city. A lot of green space and so much to discover just within the city itself,” she said. “So, whether it’s cycling or walking, we love to walk around and view what the city has to offer.”

Adams is co-chair of the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition (OAC) – a group of 10 Indigenous organizations that advocate at the community, municipal, provincial and federal levels to educate and raise awareness on Indigenous issues in the local area.

The group is against the new four-story hospital and parking lot for 2,500 cars behind it.

This facility will replace the aging Civic Hospital that was built in 1924 and sits across the street from the new site.

It’s been a long time coming and some on council don’t care what people think about it.

Jan Harder represents a ward in the south end of the city.

“So take your trees and your freaking parking lot and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine,” Harder told the coalition earlier this year. “Because you know what? All that we’re being asked to do is to give our very talented city chief financial officer the opportunity to do all she can, okay, to find out ways that we can contribute something that is acceptable to the people and the businesses in this city.”

Adams said comments like those make her wonder how serious Ottawa really is about reconciliation.

“It just goes to show their part on wanting to take part in reconciliation and how they, unfortunately, view Indigenous people and our culture and our ways with respect to shoving the trees up our blank,” she said.

“That is a very broad statement and a statement that really hurts the heart as well.”

But the OAC isn’t the only group against the project.

The area is represented provincially by NDP MPP Joel Harden.

He said a number of groups don’t like the plan – and as for that garage – it wasn’t part of the original plan.

“So we were told last May that this would be a four-story airport-sized parking garage across the street from a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were told. The hospital had said previously it would be 1,100 spaces, buried underground.”

In an emailed statement, the City of Ottawa told APTN that every effort will be made to preserve the trees.

And for every tree removed, five will be planted.

The new hospital said extensive consultations were made on the site and members of the Indigenous Peoples Advisory Council were part of the talks.