A photo showing some of the land under the conservation of Biblioterre.
Some of the land under the conservation of Biblioterre. Credit: Biblioterre / Biblioterre

This Earth Day, I would like to share a story about a community named Biblioterre. Biblioterre is a land-based co-operative on 700-acres of beautiful forest, meadow, and lake shoreline near Wakefield, Q.C. The co-operative is located on unceded and unsurrendered traditional Algonquin Anishinaabe territory, roughly 45 minutes outside of Ottawa.

Biblioterre’s aim is to be a living example of ecologically sustainable and equitable ways of living. It is developing projects that will help address the climate crisis, destruction of lands and waters and injustices of colonization and capitalism.

The land used to be heavily logged until recently. Nestle spoke to the previous owner about pumping groundwater for the underground aquifers, but luckily, this never went through. It is extractivist projects like these that Biblioterre wants to play a role in protecting the land from.

Guiding principles and the way we work

Biblioterre’s work is based on six core pillars: anti-racism/ anti-oppression, Algonquin sovereignty, liberation, holistic health, natural responsibility, and animism.

It describes its project as a “land library.” As shared on social media: “A land library is an attempt to take the “ownership” out of Land; to recognize that it is not something to possess, but something that gives to us and that we give back to in return.”

Biblioterre uses sociocracy, a governance system also known as “dynamic governance” to explore ideas and structure discussions. Decision making is consent-based, not consensus-based. Sociocracy encourages “connection, listening and co-creation among members.” These and other principles ensure that all of our members’ voices can be heard while we move forward with our vision.

Projects for the earth

Biblioterre has organized events to enable people to connect to land through herb walks, wreath making and more. Members and supporters planted more than 100 trees donated from La Pêche Global Forest last year to begin land restoration. We are planning on planting sunflowers this spring, which help draw lead and other toxins from the soils to decontaminate the soil for growing.

This year Biblioterre will begin to rehabilitate the land and structures that it has been entrusted with. Upcoming projects include ecological restoration that prioritize animal migration pathways and a Community Supported Agriculture initiative featuring sustainably foraged plants. Our projects also focus on community building including creating hiking trails and exploring the creation of a community garden for the neighbourhood.

As one alternative-to-capitalism initiative, Biblioterre is growing a tool library. The library will include tools for farming and gardening, home repair, automotive, kitchen, and art to lend to members and friends.

Why I joined Biblioterre

I became a member more than two years ago. As a settler, one of the things that draws me most to Biblioterre is its commitment to Algonquin sovereignty. A key goal is exploring land sharing, land divisions, and land trusts in allyship with the Land Back movement as we build relationships over time. This is key to the justice so many of us seek in social movements.

As a water and social justice activist, I continue to learn how we dismantle and replace wholly destructive and violent systems like capitalism, colonization and white supremacy. I believe restoring and healing our relationship to the earth is critical to this work as are land reparations for Indigenous peoples. For water justice, prioritizing Indigenous water laws is our best hope for protecting water.

Indigenous peoples protect 80 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, despite making up less than five per cent of the world’s population. This commonly cited statistic puts a spotlight on where the solutions are to climate, water, and other crises. Solutions must prioritize support and solidarity for Indigenous land and water defenders and work in allyship with the Land Back movement.

Who are Biblioterre’s members

The majority of Biblioterre’s members are local residents, including myself. Members and supporters volunteer their time and skills to grow this exciting initiative. Our community includes people who grow food, herbalists, builders, activists, musicians, writers, researchers, parents, teachers, people who work in different areas of holistic health and more.

As members and supporters come together to build this community, we are actively unlearning and relearning the systems of oppression that we have internalized. These systems include white supremacy and racism, patriarchy, ableism and more. This work includes understanding that even walks in nature can leave out people with disabilities. This learning is done through training as well as solidarity working groups including white privilege, cisgender privelege and abilities privilege groups. Biblioterre is working on increasing diversity in its membership, which adds strength to the project, by relationship building and outreach.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many communities. Biblioterre is no different. We are learning what it means to centre and make real the idea of community care.

Biblioterre brings together people who have a deep love for land, water and animals, a commitment to justice and a belief that – to borrow from the inspiring Arundhati Roy – another world is possible.

As the co-operative grows, Biblioterre hopes to connect more with similar communities. We hope to inspire similar actions by communities like ours across neighbouring Indigenous territories with similar values, visions and hope for a better world.

You can also learn more about Biblioterre, donate to support our work and learn how to get involved.

This article was written with contributions by other Biblioterre members.

Emma Lui - Fraser River

Emma Lui

Emma Lui is an activist, writer and researcher. She is a contributing editor with rabble.ca and a member of Cooperative Biblioterre. Emma is also the holistic health director for the Canadian Women...