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Historic milestone for First Nation communities as they become 50/50 partners with Hydro One

Gwayakocchigewin Limited Partnership and Hydro One entered into a historic agreement to advance the Waasigan Transmission Line.

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATIONS – Gwayakocchigewin means “making decisions the right way,” said Tom Johnson, president of the Gwayakocchigenwin Limited Partnership.

All in attendance at the Fort William First Nation Community Centre felt this expression as eight partnering First Nations signed a historical 50/50 agreement with Hydro One to advance the Waasigan Transmission Line Project.

"We must seek out partnerships where we participate as equal partners to support our communities and our members. The terms of the partnership signed with Hydro One today is a tremendous opportunity for everyone involved and demonstrates the right approach to Indigenous Participation in infrastructure development," said Johnson. "First Nations working together and in a true partnership with Hydro One will help us secure a brighter future for our people."

Gwayakocchigewin Limited Partnership represents the following First Nations communities:

  • Eagle Lake First Nation
  • Fort William First Nation
  • Seine River First Nation
  • Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation
  • Wabigoon Lake Ojibway Nation
  • Lac La Croix First Nation
  • Lac Seul First Nation
  • Ojibway Nation of Saugeen

"As Canadians, we have a responsibility to reflect on our past and take meaningful action towards Reconciliation with Indigenous communities," said Mark Poweska, president and chief executive officer, Hydro One. "Indigenous communities have historically borne the impacts of infrastructure development in their territories without seeing the benefits. This announcement is a progressive step to increase opportunities for First Nations communities to participate with industry and with Hydro One as we collectively build the electricity grid of the future."

The Gwayakocchigenwin Limited Partnership’s goal is to ensure that First Nations have fair economic participation in constructing the Waasigan Transmission Line while also establishing an agreement that Hydro One will protect the land, waters, and cultural values of the community that potentially have been affected by the Waasigan Project.   

Since the Waasigan Transmission Line passes through eight First Nation communities, environmental protection must be put in place to make sure that any contamination of the land, water, and surrounding communities is strongly mitigated.

“We’ve engaged with the Indigenous communities as partners to provide input as stewards of the land. That is very significant that we have that input as part of that process,” said Jason Fitzsimmons, chief corporate affairs and customer care officer for Hydro One. “We are a company that has strong commitments on environment and social issues, so the engagement we do will be comprehensive with our stakeholders and our Indigenous partners.” 

As investors in Waasigan projects, these communities will share in 50 per cent of the profit the transmission line will create. The 50/50 agreement between Gwayakocchigewin Limit Partnership and Hydro One will also ensure prosperity for the First Nations communities in Northwestern Ontario.

“Fifty per cent ownership with a conglomerate like Hydro One is a magnificent milestone for our communities that will make sure economic resources are shared,” Chief Peter Collins, Fort William First Nations, explained, “I want to congratulate Hydro One for their commitment, for thinking outside the box and for listening to us as First Nations people and listening to our strong desire to be a part of this bill.”

The investment in the Waasigan Transmission Line will provide additional power in the Northwest by adding 350 megawatts to the region with a new double-circuit 230-kilovolt transmission line between the Municipality of Shuniah and Atikokan and then a new single-circuit 230-kilovolt line between Atikokan to Dryden.

Phase one of the project is already underway, with environmental assessments beginning within the regions. It is projected that Hydro One with has the transmission line between the Municipality of Shuniah and Atikokan completed by 2025.    

Clint Fleury

About the Author: Clint Fleury

Clint Fleury is a web reporter covering Northwestern Ontario and the Superior North regions.
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