Thunder Bay

Nishnawbe Aski Nation insists on separate talks with Ontario on energy issues

Not everyone is happy about a recently announced pan-Canadian task force on diesel fuels in remote communities.
A pan-Canadian task force has been established, including a number of provinces and territories, that will examine ways to reduce the use of diesel generation to provide power to remote communities. The Nishnawbe Aski Nation says it wants to hold separate talks with the Ontario government. (Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

Not everyone is happy about a recently announced pan-Canadian task force on diesel fuels in remote communities.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation says it's been trying to deal with electricity issues in its communities for years, and wants separate negotiations with the Ontario government.

In a statement, NAN said some of its member First Nations want to accelerate their energy developments and can't wait for the new process to get going.

"It is NAN's position ... that the unique nature of our territory, demography and remoteness justify a separate negotiations table within the Ontario round-table or [pan-Canadian] task force as NAN First Nations," the statement said.

"[The First Nations'] energy groups' progress cannot be impeded by an all-Ontario or [pan-Canadian] approach."

Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories and Yukon established the task force, which will prepare a report that examines efforts that have been, or are currently, underway to reduce diesel use in remote communities, among other things.

The report will also make recommendations on next steps.

NAN said 23 of its communities are dependent on diesel generating systems.

Connection brings stability

Meanwhile, the chair of Wataynikaneyap Power said she's applauding the government's announcement.

Margaret Kenequanash said her conglomerate of 20 First Nations communities has been working with government for years to expand grid connection in northwestern Ontario

Connecting the remote First Nations in this region will bring stability, she said.

"Their current outages that they face today pose some problems on daily living, such as water, food, shelter," Kenequanash noted.

"[It] also does not allow for growth in the community, when it comes to business and economic development initiatives."

Reducing First Nations reliance on diesel fuel will save more than $1 billion in avoided energy costs, she added.

NAN is calling on the province to provide a timeline on connecting remote NAN First Nations to the grid.

The organization also asserts that it "will own and operate energy infrastructure assets .... and NAN First Nations can invite external companies to be their partners, where appropriate."

now