On Oct. 4, the Ottawa River officially joined the Canadian Heritage Rivers System. Unveiling the plaque are from left, Renfrew County Community Futures Development Corporation Board Director Ray Bonenberg, Councillor of the Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn Wendy Jocko, Algonquin Chef Kirby Whiteduck, Park Planner Jenny Fay, Ottawa River Designation Committee member Larry Graham, Lois Hopkins, Doug Hopkins, Renfrew County Warden Jennifer Murphy, Mayor of Petawawa Bob Sweet, Agent de Projet Eloise Bissonnette, Algonquin Negotiator Connie Mielke and Parks Canada Heritage Designations Manager Norman Shields.  (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

Heritage designation for Ottawa River

By Patricia Lebeouf

Posted on Thursday, November 2, 2017

Thanks to the efforts of former Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MP Len Hopkins, the Ottawa River has joined the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS).

The project began about 15 years ago, and although Hopkins passed away on Feb. 6, 2007, his dream remained alive. Now marking the river’s official designation is a monument affixed with a plaque at Petawawa Point, overlooking the river itself.

“Without Len’s determination and passion, we would not be here today,” said Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet. “Len is looking down on us ... and is extremely proud of what is taking place today.”
Hopkins’ wife Lois and son Doug were invited to unveiling ceremony on Oct. 4 alongside many other community stakeholders.

“It has been a long time for it to happen,” said Algonquins of Pikwàkanagàn Chef Kirby Whiteduck.

This river, known as the ‘Kitchissippi’ meaning Great River, has been part of local First Nations history for thousands of years and has been critical to the development of the country. It carries ancestral knowledge.

“The water is the lifeblood of Mother Earth and this will give us a better ability to protect the river and maintain its sustainability,” he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Algonquin Negotiator Connie Mielke.

She noted the development of Canada was only possible due to the river. It nourished the First Nations people who called its banks home and acted as a highway for them as well as the explorers and fur traders who traveled its waters.

“Today, it receives the proper acknowledgement and much due respect,” said Mielke.

This federal-provincial-territorial program gives recognition to the historical importance of certain rivers in the nation. It celebrates the historical importance of rivers to Indigenous people, explorers, voyageurs and settlers, industry and the economy, the landscape, environment, and it recognizes that rivers are essential to Canadians’ health, to communities and national identity. It works to conserve rivers and tell their stories.

“It has often been said that the Ottawa River is not a barrier but, in fact, a bridge,” said Renfrew County Warden Jennifer Murphy. “It will continue to bring us together and strengthen our bonds.”

Getting the designation is no easy task. Nomination is an arduous seven-step process that includes the creation of documents, studies, reports, a strategic plan and a gap analysis.

Then the paperwork must be reviewed before the title is awarded.

There are no new regulations associated with the designation and annual reports must be filed to detail any environmental issues, improvements or changes the river undergoes. A large, in-depth review must be done every 10 years as well.

According to the CHRS website, there are currently 42 Canadian Heritage Rivers, 39 designated and three nominated, totalling close to 12,000 km. The Ottawa River designation runs from the headwaters of Lake Timiskaming to East Hawkesbury, about 590 km.

“This heritage designation recognizes and celebrates the river’s rich history,” said Parks Canada Heritage Designations Manager Norman Shields. “As we mark Canada’s 150th, this designation provides an opportunity for all Canadians to learn more about our history and its role in the history of this line since time immemorial.”