Northern Ontario First Nation Communities Reduce Fossil Fuel Use Through Forestry  

News release

September 21, 2020                                     Thunder Bay, Ontario                                     Natural Resources Canada

Canada's forest sector plays a central role in combating climate change, driving innovation and creating economic opportunities for rural and Indigenous communities. The best solutions for combating climate change in these communities come from the people who live there. This is why the Government of Canada is investing in projects to equip communities with tools to build greener businesses and promote further economic opportunities in the forest sector.

The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, on behalf of the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, today announced nearly $13 million in funding for six projects in Northern Ontario:

  •  $1,670,000 to Askii Environmental Inc. to install biomass heating systems in Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and Pikangikum First Nation, which will offset the fossil fuel used to heat schools in these communities; 
  •  $2,452,750 to Wikwemikong Development Commission to demonstrate the effectiveness of forest-based biomass and efficient residential heating sources in Wikwemikong Unceded Territory through the installation of pellet stoves, biomass boilers, wood pellet furnaces and wood pellet storage silos;
  • $2,532,000 to the Nishnawbe Aski Nation to replace existing woodstove heating appliances in six of the nation’s communities with upgraded high-efficiency woodstoves, which will reduce fossil fuel heating use by lowering demand on the community’s diesel-generated electricity supply;  
  • $1,051,000 to Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek to replace the community’s sawmill diesel heat source with a biomass system and to install biomass-compatible heating systems in three new housing units in preparation for future biomass heating expansion, which will demonstrate the economic development benefits and cost-effectiveness of biomass heating; 
  •  $4,168,000 to Sagatay Cogeneration Limited Partnership to develop engineering plans for a biomass cogeneration system, which, once constructed, would reduce the community’s dependence on diesel fuel for heat and electricity; and
  •  $983,000 to Wahgoshig First Nation to install a forest-based biomass heating system for four community buildings — the Community Firehall, Lands and Resources Office, Community Centre and Community Elder’s Residence — which will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

These projects will help Indigenous communities reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, decrease emissions and demonstrate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of biomass heating. Funding these initiatives will also increase local Indigenous economic development by providing an opportunity to participate in the bioeconomy by using renewable sources of heat, all while creating local employment.

Funding for these projects comes from the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities Program: BioHeat Stream. The six-year, $220-million program aims to reduce reliance on diesel in rural and remote communities by deploying and demonstrating renewable energy, encouraging energy efficiency and building local skills and capacity. It is part of the Government of Canada’s Investing in Canada infrastructure plan, which invests more than $180 billion over 12 years in public transit projects, green infrastructure, social infrastructure, trade and transportation routes and Canada’s rural and northern communities.

Canada is investing in Indigenous-led projects so that communities can be better positioned to participate in Canada’s bioeconomy and benefit from creating clean energy solutions that use forest-based biomass. Increasing Indigenous participation in the management of forest resources on traditional lands is key to ensuring Canada’s forests are used to their full potential while keeping them healthy and vibrant.


“These First Nation communities are taking control of their energy production while creating good jobs in the forest sector and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources

“Indigenous people have had centuries of experience protecting the environment. Their solutions to ensuring a strong economy and healthy forests are invaluable. We will continue to work with First Nations to ensure they have the tools they determine they need to foster healthy and prosperous communities grounded in culture.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu

Member of Parliament for Thunder–Bay Superior North and Canada’s Minister of Health

“It has been a blessing and an honour for me to work with Pikangikum First Nation and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug on their clean energy journey. This 300 kW wood chip boiler project is not only about clean energy and diesel reduction but also so much about capacity development. Each Nation now has a team of five workers who are primarily youth working and learning in the multifaceted wood gathering program. Each Nation now has a sawmill to make lumber in the community, chain saws to harvest for firewood and fuel for the boilers, and Pikangikum First Nation also has tools to fabricate value-added items such as sheds and furniture. It is hoped that Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug will have carpentry tools next year. Thanks to Natural Resources Canada, many programs, Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and the other funders who have supported this amazing initiative. Chi Miigwetch.”

Cara Sanders
Principal, Askii Environmental Inc. 

“We sincerely appreciate the funding commitment of NRCAN to the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory’s Wood Pellet Heating and Infrastructure Project. NRCAN is supporting Wiikwemkoong’s vision to build a sustainable community and addresses our objective to reduce our ecological footprint. The Clean Energy Initiatives Sector is one of Enaadmaagehjik’s four economic priorities, and with any new technology we continue to face many challenges in meeting the deliverables. However, with the support and guidance from the NRCan–CERRC team, we will meet our target to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Miigwech.”

Mary Lynn Odjig
General Manager/EDO, Wikwemikong Development Commission 

“We are pleased to partner with Natural Resources Canada, and we thank the Minister of Natural Resources for his support of this much-needed project. This investment will allow for increased energy independence and the expansion of fire-safe practices for participating First Nation communities. Over the next two years, 75 fully certified and code-compliant woodburning systems per year will be installed by locally trained community members according to Wood Energy Technology Transfer (WETT) standards. This bioheat project will help these communities achieve their goals of developing stronger local economies and increasing efficiency while lessening the impact on the environment.”


Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler
Nishnawbe Aski Nation

“As Chief of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek, a community that is developing from the ground up, I believe that environmental and energy sustainability are critical pillars of our community’s development. Our Biomass Project has allowed us to fully utilize our sawmill wood waste to heat our facility and to prepare our homes for the future conversion to a district biomass heating system. This will ensure that our First Nation will be a leader in clean biomass technologies going forward. We greatly thank Natural Resources Canada for its support for this incredibly important project and opportunity for our First Nation. Miigwetch!” 


Chief Joe Ladouceur
Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek

“Wahgoshig is very pleased to be able to participate in NRCan's CERRC program. Implementation of biomass at Wahgoshig will help us develop new jobs for our members, help us heat our community more efficiently and contribute to our good stewardship over the land.”

Deputy Chief David Morris
Wahgoshig First Nation

“The Bioeconomy Centre is an example of how all levels of government can work together to transform and shape economic opportunity through the adoption of low-carbon technologies. We can then demonstrate how carbon reduction can lead to poverty reduction in Indigenous communities such as Whitesand. I wish to thank Canada for its continued support of this community-led project.” 

David Mackett, Board of Directors

Sagatay Cogeneration and Wood Pellets 

Associated links


Ian Cameron
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources

Media Relations
Natural Resources Canada

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