The 5.6-hectare Victoria Island on the Ottawa River, north of Ottawa’s downtown core, holds special significance for Indigenous peoples in National Capital Region.
The site has a long history of mixed industrial, commercial and residential land uses dating back to the late 1800s. Soil, groundwater, sediment and surface water at the site are contaminated from these activities.
The NCC is cleaning up the site for safety and security reasons and preparing the site for future use. The island is closed until 2028 during the cleanup.
The latest on the project
The construction contract for Phase 3 of the work has been awarded, with construction work starting in September 2023. Here is what you can expect:
- Removal of debris from the site, enhancing its appearance and safety.
- Fencing with clear detour maps to guide construction traffic, minimizing disruptions to pedestrian pathways.
- Mild noise levels during standard working hours.
Phase 1 recap
Read Senior Environmental Officer Allison Myatt’s blog on Phase 1 of the work.
About the project
Soil samples taken in 2017 revealed high levels of contaminants. To ensure long-term safety for both human health and the environment, immediate remediation work was required.
A temporary capping and fencing program was completed on the west side of Victoria Island in spring 2018. This temporary cap does not satisfy long-term safety requirements; therefore, we are 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
The Victoria Island site remediation project was launched in 2019 and is ongoing.
The project includes:
- Full-depth remediation (or installation of an engineered cap where remediation is not technically feasible) of the island, in phases.
- Removal, demolition or decommissioning of buried materials.
- Documentation and preservation of archaeological artifacts and unique geoheritage features uncovered during the work.
As part the project, we may need to remove trees. There will be fencing all around the island to ensure the safety of workers and passersby,
Phase 1: Timber slide ravine between Victoria and Amelia islands (completed)
Phase 2: Current commercial areas on the west side of the island (completed)
This phase also included the restoration of the aquatic habitat within the timber slide ravine to promote a fish refuge and fish habitat.
Phase 3: West of Portage Bridge and North of Middle Street (ongoing)
- Phase 3a: Central Island, work starting in September 2023
- Phase 3b: East Island, work scheduled for completion 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, industrial heritage and environmental activism 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.