Chapleau Ojibwe and Brunswick House First Nation leaders announced February 15 that the two bands have signed an agreement with a Montreal hydroelectric firm to develop several power projects.

The partnership with Hydromega Services Inc. is the culmination of several years of development and negotiations that included the Wabun Tribal Council and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. The partnership will see the creation of three waterpower projects and four powerhouses on Old Woman Falls, Big Beaver Falls and White Otter Falls along the Kapuskasing River.

The $70 million development will produce a total of 20 megawatts of electricity.

This is the first such power generation project produced under the Ontario government’s new waterpower site release policy.

Chapleau Ojibwe First Nation Chief Anita Stephens said the power project is a long term investment for her community. “This is a precedent and it will lead the way for other First Nations,” said Chief Stephens.

Brunswick House First Nation Chief Andrew Neshawabin said his community is eager to benefit from employment and revenue generation that will come from the project. “For too many years we have been excluded from resource development,” said Neshawabin. “This project with Hydromega will help in project development, housing projects and advancing our First Nation for our future generations.”

Hydromega will construct and develop the power generating facilities.

Hydromega Project Manager Stéphane Boyer has worked closely with First Nations leaders in developing the project. “This is a milestone project in terms of partnering with these two First Nations,” he said. “These two First Nations are working as true partners and stake holders in this project.”

Wabun Tribal Council worked with the Ministry of Natural Resources to create a Waterpower Site Release and Development Review Policy to prepare for potential development on Wabun First Nation territories. The policy established in 2004 by the provincial government includes a requirement for potential waterpower developers to contact First Nations whenever development will affect First Nation territories.

The council also worked with its two member First Nations to establish a partnership with Hydromega on the development of waterpower projects on the Kapuskasing River. “In Wabun Tribal Council’s history in dealing with resource-based development companies, this is the first time we have established a true partnership that provides a fair deal for our First Nations,” said Wabun Tribal Council Executive Director Shawn Batise.

The next step for the development of the Kapuskasing Waterpower projects will be a legal partnership which includes minority ownership for the two First Nations. As part of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by the two First Nations and Hydromega, the communities will have the opportunity to increase ownership as their investment in the project grows.