Architects call proposed Indigenous House in Ottawa a ‘hand-me-down’ - APTN NewsAPTN News

Architects call proposed Indigenous House in Ottawa a ‘hand-me-down’

(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)

Todd Lamirande
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.


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9 Responses to “Architects call proposed Indigenous House in Ottawa a ‘hand-me-down’”

    Carlos July 4, 2017 at 1:30 pm #

    It works very well for me

    Cathryn July 2, 2017 at 2:23 am #

    Thanks to the wonderful guide

    Michelle Hache June 22, 2017 at 5:24 pm #

    Walk a mile in an Indigenous’ persons moccasins!!!! Then tell us what you see!!!!

    Rotflmfao June 22, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    Unfortunately it’s a no win give that they will never be happy with any solution provided unless it was every person to leave except indigenous people and give back any things taken from there forefathers.

    Johnny Canoock June 21, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    It’s a bad look Indigenous leaders. You look out of touch and too greedy by half. Now I hope they rescind the offer. Go build your dream building if you’re so discriminating. How about contributing to the collective Canadian experience rather than constantly posturing that you’re special. That attitude has only kept your children ignorant as the world has passed them by.

    Johnny Canoock June 21, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    Typically ungrateful. It’s not the function of the space Indigenous leaders are looking for. They need fashion. This sort of whining is hard to forget years later. Indigenous persons take note. You can be too greedy.

      Lyle catt June 22, 2017 at 8:51 pm #

      Give them a few thousand dollars for a large tent to build in some traditional place in the woods. That should make them much happier.

        Marie Lloyd June 30, 2017 at 3:01 am #

        The court settlements for First Nations stolen land aren’t quite just “a few thousand dollars”, Lyle. Every time I can, I send money to strengthen their appearance in courts of law. It’s all about broken treaties and our courts of law get that pretty well. It’s the very least the descendant of colonizers can do to help compensate for the shame of our hundreds year old theft. The more First Nations wisdom guides our actions on the environment – what you call “some traditional place in the woods”- the safer we all will be. We were about as good at protecting nature as we were at being decent humans. The result? Planet-killing climate change.

      Marie Lloyd June 30, 2017 at 2:51 am #

      Oh, hey Johnny –not as greedy as the people who invaded Canada, stole all the land, herded the original occupants into tiny reservations through the violence of weapons and starvation, tried to “kill the Indian” in them by stealing their children, and who are now so abusing this land that deadly climate change is well on its way. I’m the descendant of colonizers and guess what, Johnny- I bet you and I have clean drinking water.
      That’s not an accident.
      What people ground down for centuries would want a building that symbolized the ideals of their colonizers? Would it really be OK if I came in with a gun, rewrote the law so I could steal your house and land and then told your descendants that they were ungrateful when I gave them a pup tent? I hope they wouldn’t whine, Johnny. You don’t admire that.