Relief is on the horizon with recent announcement that the Ontario government has designated Wataynikaneyap Power the transmission company to build an ambitious 1,800-kilometre power line linking 17 remote First Nations communities to the provincial power grid.
Last December, the electricity grid in Margaret Kenequanash’s home community of North Caribou Lake was so fragile she says even hanging Christmas lights risked sparking a dangerous power outage. “We couldn’t even celebrate Christmas,” she said.
“It becomes an emergency situation when there’s a power outage in the community. Milk, food starts to go bad in fridges. We have elderly people that require day-to-day support and care. We need to make sure they’re looked after,” Kenequanash said.
The diesel generator that powers this remote First Nations community in Northwestern Ontario is at capacity and just can’t keep up with demand, Kenequanash said.
The problem is mirrored in First Nations communities across Northwestern Ontario. In some communities, the situation is so bad that local governments have declared a state of emergency.
But relief could be on the horizon, with the July 29 announcement that the Ontario government has designated Wataynikaneyap Power the transmission company to build an ambitious 1,800-kilometre power line linking 17 remote First Nations communities to the Ontario power grid.
Wataynikaneyap Power is a partnership between 22 Northern Ontario First Nations communities , FortisOntario and RES Canada. Kenequanash, who chairs that partnership, said she has been working towards an indigenous-led solution to the power problem for eight years.
The lack of reliable power “compromises the community development, infrastructure, and basic needs like food, shelter. In the winter at -40 C, water lines can freeze. It compromises everything,” she said. “With this announcement it will enable us to move forward on the crisis.”
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