Signed On

By Jamie Smith of

Chiefs sign an agreement Wednesday afternoon.

An agreement signed Wednesday is an historic moment over a decade in the making say area First Nations leaders.

Five Lake Nipigon First Nations communities signed a statement of relationship in order to have a unified voice and show a commitment to development in their territories. With the proposed 100 megawatt hydroelectric project at Little Jackfish River as an anchor, Whitesand First Nation economic development officer Clifford Tibishkogijig said coming together is an important step to economic development in the area.

“This is historical in the sense that the Lake Nipigon chiefs have decided to work in unison with all of the potential development here in the region,” Tibishkogijig.

Although traditionally struggling to find economic opportunities in the region, Bingwi Neyaashi Anishnaabek development officer J.P. Gladu said spin-offs from the Little Jackfish project could include wind power projects for his community that could tie into the proposed Northwest Transmission power line project that would be built with Little Jackfish.

“We’re recognizing the strength in numbers the strength in not only our financial but our human resources to work together because we all bring special strengths and abilities and knowledge to the table,” Gladu said. “I think five voices are stronger and louder than one.”

Gladu said anyone looking to develop energy projects around Lake Nipigon can now have “one-stop-shopping” and more certainty by dealing with one unified economic development corporation.

Animbiigo Zaagi Igan Anishnaabek development officer Joe Donio added the partnership will also help control development in the area.

By demonstrating to government a commitment to development through uniting, Biinjitiwabik Zaaging Anishnaabek councillor James Mishquart said educational and training opportunities will come along with proposed energy projects.

“I think that’s our common goal here is trying to build healthier and sustainable communities for our people within Northwestern Ontario,” said Mishquart.

Edward Wawia, a councillor from Red Rock Indian Band, agreed. From high school diplomas to high quality jobs like line technicians and electricians, Wawia said development will bring training for members in his community. Red Rock chief Pierre Pelltier said with Little Jackfish proposed to start construction in 2013 and hydro lines hopefully being installed starting in 2012, the partnership will speed the projects up and get community members trained.

“We have to definitely get our people trained to be ready to go when this happens,” said Pelletier.