With nearly 200 renewable energy projects in progress, each of them generating more than a megawatt of electricity at full capacity, Indigenous Clean Energy is calling on the federal government to invest C$500 million in a “decolonized energy future” for Indigenous communities.
That kind of investment and capacity-building “will ensure that Indigenous people can lead their communities into a more sustainable, equitable future, and will power reconciliation with a Canadian society that for too long has been content to accept Indigenous poverty as a fact of life,” , ICE Director Terri Lynn Morrison writes in an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail.
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ICE is making its pitch at a time when renewable energy and energy efficiency programs are rolling out in Indigenous communities across the country.
“First Nations are pursuing opportunities in renewable power that can reduce their current reliance on dirty, expensive, and often-unreliable diesel, which is the main or only source of fuel in many communities,” Morrison writes. “As well, they are developing capacity in energy efficiency, sustainable transport, and bioenergy. These projects provide healthy homes and communities, create wealth and jobs, and empower Indigenous people to govern their own affairs.”
And yet, “we’ve only begun to tap the transformational potential of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit leaders and entrepreneurs,” she says. “Indigenous clean energy projects not only lift up communities but provide lessons to the rest of the country—and indeed the world—on what a sustainable economy looks like.”
That transformation “can help create a new relationship among Indigenous peoples, allies, governments, utilities, and corporations,” while leaving Indigenous people “as full partners in their energy economies, rather than relying on decisions made by non-Indigenous governments and corporations.”
Morrison traces the steps her organization has taken to advance the shift. They include a catalyst program for youth that has run for the last five years and a new initiative, announced at the ICE network’s annual gathering last month, that will provide training and job opportunities for 80 Indigenous youth. Catalyst program alumni have worked on off-diesel and solar projects near Inuvik, off-diesel initiatives in northwestern Ontario and British Columbia, and energy efficiency projects focused on homes “that are often overcrowded and of substandard quality,” she writes.