Dueling First Nations groups in northern Ontario want in on transmission line build

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023 11:05am


Image Caption

From left to right: Chief Bruce Archibald, Keeter Corston, Jason Gauthier and Chief Patricia Tangie.


“I think we’re going to win the bid. If we don’t, whoever does win they’re going to have to deal with us.” — Chief Keeter Corston of the Chapleau Cree First Nation
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Four First Nations in northern Ontario have formed a coalition to bid on massive infrastructure projects.

The Transmission Infrastructure Partnerships 9 (TIP-9) coalition consists of Taykwa Tagamou Nation, Chapleau Cree First Nation, Missanabie Cree First Nation and Michipicoten First Nation.

Details of the coalition were announced via a press release on Sept. 7.

For starters, TIP-9 is hoping to be awarded a contract to build a 230-kilovolt transmission line that will be 260 kilometres long and run from the Wawa Transformer Station to the Porcupine Transformer Station.

“We’re hoping to find out a decision by mid-November,” said Bruce Archibald, chief of Taykwa Tagamou Nation.

Chief Archibald said it made sense to form the TIP-9 coalition.

“We’ve been talking for about three years to see how our First Nations can be involved with infrastructure projects in our territories,” he said.

Archibald believes it would be noteworthy for the Ontario government to award TIP-9 the contract to build the line.

“It would mean being treated like we should have been from the get-go, from the signing of the treaties,” he said.

But it won’t be an easy decision for Ontario officials as there are other groups interested in that transmission line contract, including other First Nations.

A press release to Windspeaker on Sept. 11 said Wabun Tribal Council chiefs representing Mattagami, Brunswick House, Matachewan, Flying Post and Chapleau Ojibwe Nations have announced their full-throated support to partner with Hydro One on its bid.

After a “comparative analysis of prospective private sector partners”, the Wabun chiefs say Hydro One has the ability to “perform and deliver” and offers a fair and equitable 50-50 partnership with “a proven track record with equity partnerships.”

Chief Keeter Corston of the Chapleau Cree First Nation said, however, it makes the most sense to award TIP-9 the contract since work will be done inside the traditional territories of the First Nations that comprise the coalition.

“Government is talking about reconciliation,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding. We are up for that discussion.”

TIP-9 has secured private financing, with leading American transmission power company, Ameren, backing the TIP-9 bid.

“It’s a slam dunk, a no-brainer for us to win the bid,” Corston said. “I think we’re going to win the bid. If we don’t, whoever does win they’re going to have to deal with us.”

The Wabun chiefs say they have been left out of development on “our traditional lands”, saying the Hydro One proposal would be “reconciliation at work in real time.”

Corston says the TIP-9 coalition will have numerous benefits.

“The coalition is very necessary,” he said. “And I think that it will lead to an even broader group. It’s going to be very good. It’s going to give us a huge say in what happens within our territories, especially environmentally.”

Corston anticipates TIP-9 will bid on other future projects in the north.

“There’s quite a few lines they want to put in the area,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see when they unfold their plans. I think this will be a good test on how we can all work together.”

Archibald estimates that about 300 new jobs will be created with the proposed transmission line project. He’d like to see many of those jobs go to members of not only his First Nation but also the others in the TIP-9 coalition.

Jason Gauthier, chief of Missanabie Cree First Nation, is hoping the provincial government improves its working relationships with Indigenous people.

“Increasing the participation of First Nations people in major projects as equity partners, entrepreneurs, and workers is the most effective way to see development projects move ahead and help close the socio-economic gaps between First Nations and average Ontarians,” he said. “Creating true equity partnerships within major infrastructure projects creates opportunities for own-source revenue for First Nation communities who have the experience and buying power to increase the economic footprint of northern Ontario.”

Patricia Tangie, chief of Michipicoten First Nation, said in the TIP-9 press statement that she believes it is time for government officials to alter their approach to dealing with Indigenous communities.

“The past 200-plus years have seen development occur within our traditional territories without our consent or our full participation,” Tangie said. “Today, our Nations are coming together in solidarity to ensure that our current citizens and future generations benefit. As our ancestors before us, we will have a voice for what happens on our lands.”

Tangie believes the formation of the TIP-9 coalition is step in that direction.

“Our Nations agree that we will be fully involved from the outset, right into the development and ownership of the projects that we determine to be valuable to our communities,” she said.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.