(Members of the Liberal caucus from left, Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Marc Serré, Yvonne Jones, Michael McLeod, Dan Vandal, Vance Badawey on top of the former U.S. Embassy building across from Parliament Hill)
APTN National News
MPs with the Liberal Indigenous caucus posed for a picture on top of 100 Wellington Street Monday.
Saint-Boniface MP Dan Vandal, in a Facebook post, declared it, “the future home of Indigenous Peoples House!” He said further details would be released tomorrow, on National Aboriginal Day.
The building sits on prime real estate, directly across the street from Parliament Hill and facing Centre Block. It once housed the U.S. embassy but has sat empty since 1998.
U.S. architect Cass Gilbert designed the building. He was also responsible for several state capitols, New York’s Woolworth skyscraper, and the U.S. Supreme Court building.
However, the Indigenous Task Force of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada says the building is not a culturally appropriate space for an Indigenous Centre.
“Indigenous people always get hand-me-downs, the buildings, and land that settlers no longer have a use for,” said the task force. “Canada’s Indigenous communities have, for too long, been forced into leftover spaces that fail to connect in any meaningful way to their cultures and unique connectivity to place.”
It called the building’s classical revival architectural style the one most identified with colonization, saying there is a “significant discord between the building itself and the values of Canada’s Indigenous communities.”
Instead, they want to see an Indigenous design for a new centre. But if the federal government moves forward with the idea, the task force suggests using the vacant land on both sides of the building to repurpose the structure.
“Perhaps the place to start would be for the federal government to provide capital dollars for the design and construction of a meaningful culturally appropriate structure based upon Indigenous knowledge through the use of Indigenous architects,” said Patrick Stewart, chair of the task force.
The choice of the former embassy is also not sitting well with a group of Algonquin elders opposing a housing and commercial development near downtown Ottawa.
“If they think that offering to turn the old U.S. Embassy into some kind of glorified friendship centre will make us forget about protecting the sacred Chaudiere Falls site, they are sorely mistaken,” said elder Albert Dumont.
It has been reported that Wednesday’s announcement will be the beginning of a consultation process with First Nations, Metis and Inuit over what would be the best use of the building.