The Ottawa River receives much-deserved Heritage designation

Riverkeeper Meredith Brown hopes this designation will enhance our collective sense of river pride and inspire people to respect and protect the river that flows through their community and through their veins.

OTTAWA, Ontario – July 28, 2016: Ottawa Riverkeeper is thrilled with today’s announcement that the Ottawa River has been formally designated one of Canada’s Heritage Rivers under Parks Canada’s Canadian Heritage Rivers System.

“No river in Canada reverberates as strongly with the Canadian spirit as the Kitchi Sibi, la rivière des Outaouais, the Ottawa River,” says Riverkeeper Meredith Brown. “The Ottawa River brings together the people of Ontario, Quebec, and First Nations. Granting our shared river Heritage Status is a wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate its significant cultural, historical, and natural values. It is the lifeblood of those who have lived in its watershed for thousands of years, and over time it has shaped our communities and our country.”

Ottawa Riverkeeper acknowledges the leadership of Len Hopkins, Larry Graham, and Algonquin Elder William Commanda, who travelled the watershed collecting stories and uniting people around the Ottawa River. It has been a decade since these community leaders started rallying people and organizations to nominate the Ottawa as a Heritage River. Though both Hopkins and Commanda have passed away, their spirit lives on in our shared commitment to steward, value, and appreciate the Ottawa River.

Our organization has taken the lead on bringing watershed players together. We have organized two Ottawa River Summits and are working to create a watershed council and an inclusive model of watershed governance that will improve collaboration and decision-making around river issues. On May 29, at the 2015 Ottawa River Summit in Gatineau, Quebec, we tabled a declaration for river protection, co-created by the Ottawa River Summit Advisory Committee and representing various sectors of society – including municipal governments, First Nations, businesses, provincial and federal agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. “The Gatineau Declaration summarizes why the river is important and lays out a unified vision of how we can work together to achieve common objectives,” says Meredith Brown.

One such objective is to acknowledge and celebrate the cultural, historical, and natural values of the Ottawa River watershed. We are pleased to be able to report to Summit participants that our provincial and federal governments are taking a great first step by designating the Ottawa River a Heritage River and recognizing its important role in our lives and history.

Although today’s announcement from Parks Canada states that the federal and Ontario governments have designated only the Ontario portion of the Ottawa River as a Canadian Heritage River, Quebec is not being left out. Ottawa Riverkeeper has been working with Quebec to find an appropriate way for the province to acknowledge the importance of the river and we are thrilled that they will be making their own announcement in 2017. That our shared river is rich in history and has played a critical role in shaping our culturally unique communities is something we can all agree on.

Riverkeeper Meredith Brown hopes this designation will enhance our collective sense of river pride and inspire people to respect and protect the river that flows through their community and through their veins.

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Contact:
Meredith Brown, Riverkeeper
keeper@ottawariverkeeper.ca
Work: 613-321-1120 x 1002
Cell: 613-864-7442

About Ottawa Riverkeeper:
Ottawa Riverkeeper is a citizen-based action group that brings people together to protect and promote the ecological health and diversity of the Ottawa River and its tributaries. Expert and independent, our organization advocates for responsible decision-making, public education, participation, access to information, and compliance with protective regulations, for the benefit of our river and our communities.

Ottawa Riverkeeper is licensed member of Waterkeeper Alliance, an international grassroots advocacy organization, founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.