Wednesday April 13, 2016

Ontario wind farm fight escalates over far away First Nations support

(Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

"It's ludicrous for them to do something like that."

That's how some residents of the southwestern Ontario township of Dutton Dunwich are reacting to news that a number of wind turbines will be built in their community. 

Wind farm protest

Dutton-Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines (via Twitter)

Invenergy, the Chicago-based energy company behind the project, has the support of six Ontario First Nation communities. The problem is none of those First Nations are anywhere near the township of Dutton Dunwich. In fact, they are all more than 1,000 kilometres away. Some are not even in the same time zone.

"Those six First Nations I'm sure have no idea where Dutton Dunwich is." - MPP Jeff Yurek

They are: Fort Severn, Poplar Hill, McDowell Lake, North Spirit Lake, Keewaywin and Deer Lake.

Invenergy says it was simply following the steps laid out by the Ontario government for obtaining project approval. Additionally, the company says that the revenues from the project will help these communities.

In contrast, there are apparently three local Aboriginal bands nearby that are opposed to the project but were not consulted.

Jeff Yurek, a local MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, tells As It Happens guest host Laura Lynch he understands this project will bring much-needed economic benefit to these Northern Ontario First Nations. But he says if the government is committing to helping them, it shouldn't be at the expense of Dutton Dunwich.

"Let's work with them and see how we can improve their outcomes. Maybe there's a green energy project that can be developed in Northern Ontario. I'd be all for the government to develop those programs," he says.

Yurek would like to see the Ontario Liberal government "return autonomy back to municipalities."

"You would assume local decision-making would be local — but this is not the case."

Yurek adds the decision is "tearing the community apart."