Victoria Island, recognized as a place of special significance for Indigenous Peoples in the National Capital Region, is a 5.6 hectare island in the Ottawa River, north of Ottawa’s downtown core.

The site has a long history of mixed industrial, commercial and residential land uses dating back to the late 1800s. Soil, groundwater and sediment at the site are contaminated from these former land use activities.

The NCC is remediating the site for health and safety reasons and preparing the site for future use. The island is closed until 2028 during the cleanup.

The latest on the project

The Victoria Island site remediation project was launched in 2019 and is currently ongoing, with construction being phased according to approved funding and capacity. The NCC has made significant progress to date, with 3.26 hectares remediated as of December 2023. Planning for the final phases of remediation is currently underway, with an anticipated project completion date of 2028.

As part the project, it is necessary to remove trees and landscaped features such as pathways to support full site remediation. These features will not be replaced as part of the reinstatement process, which aims to create a “blank slate” for the future visioning exercise. Additionally, installed fencing will remain around the island during construction to prevent public access and ensure the safety of workers and passersby.

Phase 1 recap

Read Senior Environmental Advisor Allison Myatt’s blog on Phase 1 of the work.

About the project

Soil samples taken in 2017 revealed high levels of contaminants. Furthermore, over 650 compressed gas cylinders were found buried on-site, with a significant portion showing signs of deterioration and remaining pressurized. Immediate remediation work, including the removal of the cylinders, was necessary to ensure the long-term safety of both human health and the environment.

A temporary capping and fencing program was completed on the west side of Victoria Island in spring 2018. As this temporary cap does not satisfy long-term safety requirements, the NCC is performing additional environmental remediation work.

The remediation work will prepare Victoria Island for future redevelopment. The vision is to transform the island into a cultural and ecological destination that honours its Indigenous heritage while creating a space for education, reconciliation and environmental stewardship.

Process and timeline

Phase 1: The timber slide ravine between Victoria and Amelia islands (completed)

  • Removal of contaminated soil, sediment, debris and buried compressed gas cylinders down to a clean bedrock base.
  • Documentation and preservation of archaeological artifacts and unique geoheritage features uncovered during excavation.
  • Site stabilization to allow for basic reinstatement as part of the second phase of work.

Phase 1 recap

Read Senior Environmental Advisor Allison Myatt’s blog on Phase 1 of the work.

Phase 2: Current commercial areas on the west side of the island (completed)

  • Removal of contaminated soil and debris down to a clean bedrock base.
  • Relocation of critical infrastructure and removal of the overhead duct bank that spanned the timber slide ravine.
  • Documentation and preservation of archaeological foundations and unique geoheritage features uncovered during excavation.
  • Restoration of the aquatic habitat within the timber slide ravine that include specialized features to promote fish refuge and fish habitat.
  • Basic site reinstatement including the use of specific plants to provide a pollinator habitat in naturalized areas.

Phase 3a: West of Portage Bridge and north of Middle Street (ongoing)

  • The construction contract for Phase 3a was awarded in summer 2023, with most of the area fully remediated by December 2023. Work included:
  • Removal of contaminated soil and debris down to a clean bedrock base.
  • Removal of asbestos from buried concrete former building foundations, followed by removal of the foundations.
  • Documentation and preservation of archaeological foundations and unique geoheritage features.
  • Site stabilization with placement of clean soil in fully remediated areas.
  • Planning for the remediation of the remaining area is currently underway.

Phase 3b: East of Portage Bridge (planning)

  • The planning stage for Phase 3b of the work has started. Remediation is currently scheduled between 2025 and 2028.

About the site

Victoria Island has a rich history and evidence of Indigenous habitation dating back 9,000 years. Archaeological evidence shows that this region was a lively trade hub around 6,000 years ago. Nomadic peoples lingered here to portage and exchange goods. The nearby Chaudières Falls (Akikodjiwan or Kîshkâbikedjiwan) held ceremonial importance, as witnessed by Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s.

The NCC acquired most of Victoria Island in the 1960s, and the remainder in April 2018, from Public Services and Procurement Canada. As the history of Victoria Island continues to evolve, it remains a significant area that represents the intersection of Indigenous culture and industrial heritage in the Ottawa region.

Victoria Island continues to be a site of cultural importance for the Algonquin people. Recognizing the island’s special significance to Indigenous peoples, the NCC, in partnership with the Algonquin Anishinabe Nation, anticipates establishing a site of special significance for Indigenous peoples and their cultural traditions, in keeping with the Plan for Canada’s Capital (2017–2067). It is recognized as part of unceded Algonquin territory, and efforts are underway to preserve and revitalize the island’s Indigenous heritage.

Victoria Island will be available for public enjoyment following the completion of the remedial work, when plans for the island are finalized and implemented.

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