Historic Indigenous-led transmission project to connect 16 remote First Nations communities to provincial power grid

News release

March 22, 2018 - Thunder Bay, ON - Department of Indigenous Services Canada

Access to electricity is key to improved quality of life for Northern Ontario’s remote communities.

Today, the Honourable Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services Canada, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, and the Honourable Glenn Thibeault, Ontario Minister of Energy, announced $1.6 billion in federal funding for Wataynikaneyap Power to connect 16 First Nations to the provincial power grid. In addition, Ontario will apply existing ratepayer subsidies to support transmission connection and distribution costs. 

The Wataynikaneyap Power Project is the largest and most far-reaching Indigenous-led transmission project in the history of the province. Wataynikaneyap Power, a transmission company majority owned by 22 First Nation communities, has played a critical role in leading this project. CEO Margaret Kenequanash has demonstrated leadership on this project for many years and her commitment to a better quality of life for First Nation people right across the vast Northern reaches of the province is well known.

Connecting diesel-dependent First Nations to Ontario’s power grid will provide these communities with clean, safe and reliable energy that will have a significant effect on the health and safety of community members and also expand infrastructure and economic development opportunities. Reducing diesel fuel use will also lower greenhouse gas emissions and offer substantial environmental benefits and cost-savings over the long term. 


“The federal government is proud to support this historic Indigenous-led transmission project. This project became a reality because of the leadership of Wataynikaneyap Power and the federal and provincial commitment to work with First Nation communities to improve health and socioeconomic outcomes. This will provide a future of positive change for these communities alongside a cleaner and more reliable energy supply.”

The Honourable Jane Philpott,
Minister of Indigenous Services Canada

“Providing reliable sources of electricity is essential to remove barriers for Indigenous Peoples. Connecting Northern Ontario's First Nations to the existing power grid will open the door to new opportunities for economic development in these communities, and help strengthen them. This is the largest Indigenous-led infrastructure project in the history of the province, which speaks to the importance of our relationship, and our shared commitment to a brighter future for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians.”

The Honourable Bill Morneau,
Minister of Finance

“Thousands of Canadians in remote communities live ’off the grid’ – and know first-hand how important reliable, affordable clean energy is to quality of life. This partnership reflects our government’s commitment to support Indigenous communities in building a more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future. It takes us closer to the future we want: a country defined by innovation, ingenuity and clean technology.”

The Honourable Jim Carr,
Minister of Natural Resources

“Connecting remote First Nation communities to Ontario’s safe, clean, and reliable electricity grid is a priority for the Province, and is a key part of our plan to create fairness and opportunity for all Ontarians. By eliminating dependency on costly diesel generation, the Wataynikaneyap Power Project will create new economic opportunities and greatly improve the quality of life in these 16 remote First Nation communities. This project is an important step in Ontario’s journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”

Minister Glenn Thibeault,
Ontario Minister of Energy

“Reducing reliance on diesel power in 16 remote Ontario First Nations is truly something to celebrate. This partnership between Ontario, Canada, and Wataynikaneyap Power will support economic growth, help reduce greenhouse gas pollution, reduce fire risk in communities, and reduce reliance on winter roads.”

Minister David Zimmer
Ontario Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation

“Our government is committed to helping First Nations have access to a clean, reliable and sustainable source of power. We congratulate all the partners involved in this project, which marks an important milestone to move forward on the largest investment in Indigenous infrastructure in our country’s history.”

Minister Michael Gravelle
Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines and MPP Thunder Bay-Superior North

“This project will redefine the relationships and the landscape of how business must be conducted with the First Nations through creating a sustainable First Nation equity position overall. This provides the foundation for the communities to participate meaningfully in the economic prosperity of this country. We would like to thank both levels of government who’ve supported our vision of owning a major infrastructure in our homelands. Now we need to get the line that brings light into the communities. These are exciting times!”

Margaret Kenequanash
CEO, Wataynikaneyap Power LP

“Utilities can play an important role in the social and economic development of First Nations communities in our country. Fortis is pleased to bring its expertise to the table in the construction and operation of 1,800 km of transmission lines. Once complete, the lines will provide reliable electricity to the communities and help improve the lives of thousands of community members.”

Barry Perry
President and Chief Executive Officer, Fortis Inc.

Quick facts

  • In Ontario, 25 remote First Nations rely on high-cost diesel generation as their sole source of electricity, which has limited community growth and access to economic opportunities with all the challenges of fuel delivery and environmental disadvantages.

  • In 2014, a study undertaken by the Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator determined that there was a positive business case to extend the provincial electricity grid to 21 of the 25 First Nations which are currently diesel dependent.

  • The Wataynikaneyap Power project will connect 16 of those First Nations (Bearskin Lake, Deer Lake, Kasabonika Lake, Keewaywin, Kingfisher Lake, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, Muskrat Dam, North Caribou Lake, North Spirit Lake, Pikangikum, Poplar Hill, Sachigo Lake, Sandy Lake, Wapekeka, Wawakapewin, and Wunnumin Lake First Nations), serving over 14,000 individuals.

  • Constructing of a transmission line to Pikangikum First Nation is already underway by Wataynikaneyap Power, scheduled for completion by late 2018.

  • Wataynikaneyap Power, a licenced transmission company, owned by 22 First Nations (51%), with partner Fortis Inc. (49%), will connect the 16 communities to the provincial grid in northwestern Ontario with the goal of an eventual 100% ownership by First Nations.

  • In order to address energy affordability, Ontario enhanced the Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP), and introduced the First Nation Delivery Credit (FNDC) providing a 100 percent credit of the delivery charge to on-reserve First Nation households that are customers of licensed electricity distributors.

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Associated links


Andrew MacKendrick
Office of the Honourable Jane Philpott

Media Relations
Indigenous Services Canada

Colin Nekolaichuk
Minister's Office, Ontario Ministry of Energy

Natasha Demetriades
Communications Branch, Ontario Ministry of Energy

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