FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa and the Lowertown Community Association (LCA) are calling on the City of Ottawa to support alternative local ownership of St. Brigid’s Church. This will ensure that the historic heritage building, which is located in the Lowertown neighbourhood, stays within community hands. Horizon Ottawa has also launched a petition on its website.
The call comes after the former Church, preserved by the Irish Canadian Cultural Centre after it was bought in 2007, was recently acquired last month by an organization known as “The United People of Canada.” The group, which has clear connections to February’s so-called “Freedom Convoy”, only registered as a non-profit in March and all of its directors are from London, Ontario, opening questions as to how this organization is connected to the community and how it so quickly came up with $6 million in funds to acquire the property.
Further, their mission statement is vague and explains little as to what their organization actually intends to do. When one of the directors, William Komer, was questioned about support for the convoy, his answers were vague and indirect. The organization has also recently published problematic attempts to fundraise, including one which seems to engage in skepticism around the “true number of residential school graves.”
“Along with many residents of Lowertown, we have significant concerns of the presence of this organization in our neighbourhood and the traumatic evocation it brings of the Ottawa occupation” said Lowertown Community Association President, Sylvie Bigras. “We believe the Church belongs to the community and should remain in the community as an open and inclusive space; this is why we are joining the call to demand that the City support local ownership of St. Brigid’s and call upon the federal and provincial government to pitch in financially if necessary.”
The City leading ownership of heritage properties for conservation purposes does have precedence. In 1985, the City of Ottawa took ownership of the old Carleton County Courthouse, which had been slated for demolition by the Ontario government in 1980. The City designated the Ottawa Arts Court Foundation trustees as the building’s custodian and it is now what residents across the city know as the Arts Court which continues to be a lively community arts space to this day.
St.Brigid's Church is of similar significance to the Arts Court. It had since 2007, been used as a space to host many arts, cultural and social events, including art exhibitions, concerts, fundraisers, conferences and private functions. It also housed the now-defunct bar in its basement, Brigid’s Well. Both the Lowertown Community Association and Horizon Ottawa hope that the Church can return to its former use as a cultural center and/or include potential options for affordable housing if taken under local ownership in Ottawa.
“Our communities, friends and neighbours, especially racialized and working class folks are worried about this organization having a permanent space and for good reason.” said Sam Hersh, Board Member of Horizon Ottawa. “ We cannot cede this building to a group whose views are diametrically opposed to the safety and well-being of those who actually live here; the city must act and take whatever means necessary to take over this space either alone, through partnership with other levels of government or other local businesses and community organizations.”
For Media Inquiries:
Lowertown Community Association (LCA)