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Sacred Fire Burning at Queens Park for Ottawa’s South March Highlands

by Allan Lissner

Daniel Amikwabe Bernard (right) and supporters brave the sub-zero temperatures to tend to the Sacred Fire at Queens Park
Daniel Amikwabe Bernard and supporters brave the sub-zero temperatures to tend to the Sacred Fire at Queens Park


February 8, 2011


(Toronto) Daniel Amikwabe Bernard, Algonquin Firekeeper, is keeping a Sacred Fire burning at Queen’s Park from Wednesday 9th to Sunday 13th February to urge the province to halt tree-clearing and to promote understanding about Ottawa’s most important ecological and cultural heritage areas.

The South March Highlands are one of the most bio-diverse areas remaining in urban Canada, with more than 675 different species of life, including 240 species of wildlife and over 134 different types of nesting birds.

For the past year local citizens, environmentalists and First Nations groups representing over 14,000 people have mounted a vigorous campaign to save undeveloped lands in the 10,000-year-old, ecologically unique, South March Highlands. In the 1970s it was protected as a Natural Environmental Area but urban development has steadily eroded it until less than 1/3rd remains protected. Citizens have actively opposed development since 1981 because the South March Highlands is an old-growth forest having the densest bio-diversity in Ottawa and provides critical habitat for 20 species-at-risk.

In the latest assault on the forest, KNL Developments recently began clear-cutting trees for a subdivision in an area known locally as the Beaver Pond Forest, even though development depends on planned water diversions without Environmental Assessment and a questionable archaeological study.

Starting Wednesday, a Sacred Fire will burn as a beacon of hope within the provincial capital to promote understanding and to request support from the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, to issue a Ministerial Order to halt the clear-cutting, in light of the two independent archaeological reviews, and the discovery of potentially significant sites since the 2004 MTC approval.

In an unprecedented recognition of aboriginal religious practices by the Provincial Legislature, permission has been granted to keep the Sacred Fire burning day and night. The Sacred Fire is an altar for prayer and visitors are invited to approach respectfully and spend time with the Firekeeper to learn more about the South March Highlands and to discuss our relationship with Mother Earth.

On Sunday, February 13th, the Sacred Fire will go out at mid-day. There will be Closing ceremonies, with drumming, prayers, and singing, a message from Grandfather William Commanda, and from other First
Nations elders and chiefs. Everyone is invited to join with us regardless of religion, race, or culture.

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allan lissner (allan lissner)
Toronto, ON
Member since July 2009


Allan Lissner is an independent documentary photographer, journalist, painter, and graphic designer based in Toronto, Canada. Born in Denmark to a Danish father and a Philippine-Canadian mother, Allan was raised in Ethiopia, Liberia, USA, Nepal, Lithuania, Denmark, Jordan, Bangladesh, and Canada. Some of the organizations Allan has done work with include Amnesty International, GlobalAware Independent Media, Oxfam, Make Poverty History, Norwegian Church Aid, the Ontario Council for International Cooperation, the United Nations Development Program, and the United Nations Women’s Association in Bangladesh

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So inspired by your story Allan!

Thank you!

Together our energy into the committment for social justice and protecting mother earth from all sorts of nasty things is "the way".


Tami Starlight - VMC Editorial Collective



Meegwitch Toronto folk for the hospitality.

Meegwitch for the support of the sacred fire and the fight for the Great Forest. 

Grandfather William is a great teacher of forgiveness. 

Only by letting go can we be free.  Let us pray for the spirits of the forest with the fire.

Call the minister of Tourism and Culture, for Environment and the Premier and Ottawa's MAYOR.  They're all on Google telephone # search!

They cannot ignore the facts and must exercise their discretion.

All my relations,

Patti (Ottawa)


Many of us continue to pray

Many of us continue to pray for the land and the forest and the creatures, the supporters and the detractors.  If we remember forgiveness and gratitude and be the change we seek, we will go far united. Thanks for sharing.Bode Museum 

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