North Caribou Lake First Nation celebrates being energized by Wataynikaneyap Power
Tim Brody - Editor
North Caribou Lake First Nation held a celebration in the community on September 14, inviting Wataynikaneyap Power, Opiikapawiin Services, government, and other stakeholders to celebrate energizing the community, following their annual Hunting Festival.
“The Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system connects the North Caribou Lake community distribution system to the Ontario grid through a total of 590 km of line and four substations, originating from the Dinorwic Substation near Highway 17,” Wataynikaneyap Power informed in a Sept. 14 media release. “Connected on October 5, 2022, North Caribou Lake was the second First Nation energized by the provincial power grid through the Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system. North Caribou Lake continues to be served by Hydro One Remotes Communities Inc. (HORCI) for the local distribution of electricity.”
“North Caribou Lake First Nation has been in discussions since the mid-1990s to bring reliable energy to the community. We finally did it and congratulations!” remarked Margaret Kenequanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power. “This is my home, and it is a very special day for me. We have traveled a long path that saw successes, learning opportunities, and false starts to get us to this point. We are not done yet! Connecting all 17 First Nations and achieving the vision of 100% ownership of this major infrastructure in our homeland is important for our future generations.”
Wataynikaneyap shared that it will continue to work with McDowell Lake First Nation, the 17th community, with the goal of becoming grid connected in the future.
North Caribou Lake Chief Cornelious Benson shared, “Grid connection has been a long time coming. Diesel generation was unsafe, unreliable, and inadequate to meet the needs of the growing community. Since connection, we have been able to connect a new school, police station, a number of housing and trailer units, and many building upgrades.”
“North Caribou Lake First Nation has benefited from being connected to the main Ontario electricity grid for nearly a year,” said David Hutchens, President and CEO, Fortis Inc. “Having shut down its diesel engines, the community has reduced its carbon emissions and secured room for current and future growth. We are proud to partner with all 24 First Nations in building the transmission line throughout Northwestern Ontario and look forward to project completion.”
“Congratulations North Caribou Lake First Nation! We continue to celebrate the progress of this unprecedented project and work hard to meet the expectations of the people,” remarked Frank Mckay, Board Chair for the Wataynikaneyap Power General Partnership (WPGP).
“The Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project is the largest Indigenous-led grid connection infrastructure project in Canada. Today’s celebration marks an end to North Caribou Lake First Nation’s reliance on diesel-generated electricity. The completion and energization of the transmission line to the First Nation will provide the community with clean, safe, and reliable energy that will have a significant effect on the wellbeing of community members. Congratulations to North Caribou Lake First Nation and Wataynikaneyap Power on this significant milestone,” stated Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor).
Todd Smith, Minister of Energy, who was also in attendance, remarked, “Congratulations to Wataynikaneyap Power and North Caribou Lake First Nation on this extraordinary achievement in bringing reliable, clean and affordable electricity to the community. Our government is proud to support this First-Nation led project that is connecting communities to Ontario’s clean grid, unlocking new opportunities for community development.”
Eliezar Mckay, First Nation LP Board Chair, stated, “24 First Nations are working together to bring reliable power to the north, with infrastructure owned by the First Nations. Not only is this project going to be immediately beneficial to the communities, but it will also be an asset for our future generations to own, manage and build upon.”
“Wataynikaneyap Power is majority-owned by an equal partnership of 24 First Nations, in partnership with Fortis Inc. and other private investors, to build and operate the ‘line that brings light’, a $1.9 billion dollar infrastructure project, a reality for remote, northern Ontario First Nations. The 1,800 km Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Line will ultimately connect 17 remote First Nations to the Ontario power grid, removing their reliance on diesel-generated electricity,” Wataynikaneyap
North Caribou Lake First Nation, located 320 km north of Sioux Lookout, has an on-reserve population of 919 people, with a total population of 1,238.