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Feds pledge $20M to help Indigenous communities get off diesel power

'We want to build a capacity of the communities to find local solutions that work for them,' said Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi in Whitehorse on Wednesday.

Panel of Indigenous jurors will select up to 15 communities to receive money for clean energy projects

'We want to build a capacity of the communities to find local solutions that work for them, instead of solutions that might be imposed by external organizations,' said Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi. (Mike Rudyk)

The federal government is putting $20 million toward a new program meant to reduce reliance on diesel power in remote Indigenous communities in Canada.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi made the announcement in Whitehorse on Wednesday.

"Through this program, we want to build a capacity of the communities to find local solutions that work for them instead of solutions that might be imposed by external organizations," Sohi said.

A panel of Indigenous jurors will select up to 15 communities across Canada. Those communities will each receive up to $1.3 million to develop their local plan for over three years.

Sohi says there are more 200 communities across Canada that apply for the funding because they rely on diesel power generation.

The federal funding was announced in Whitehorse on Wednesday.

"We all know that diesel has a significant impact on the environment for the creation of greenhouse gas emissions, but diesel also has health impacts," said Sohi.    

Blair Hogan, president of Whitehorse-based Gunta Business Consulting, was a guest speaker at the announcement on Wednesday. His company has been involved in the Teslin Tlingit Council's biomass heating plant which received federal funding in 2017.

"What about communities like Watson Lake, what about communities like Ross River? Those are the types of communities that really need to have some more of this support," he said.

"It helps move those communities forward, and all the other communities across Canada that just have that need but haven't had that ability."

The federal government says the new program is in addition to $700 million already committed to help rural and remote communities get off diesel.

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