A focus on 'Duty to consult' opens the door to poverty reduction and
economic development for First Nation communities throughout Ontario
TORONTO, Feb. 24 /CNW/ - Serpent River First Nation citizens, Chief,
council and Elders were present yesterday as George Smitherman, Minister of
Energy and Infrastructure, introduced the Ministry's Green Energy Act (GEA) to
the Ontario legislature on behalf of the his government.
The GEA seeks to achieve two things: First, to make energy conservation
and renewable energy primary parts of energy projects across the province.
Second, to position Ontario as the jurisdiction of choice for businesses
invested or seeking to invest in the green economy while providing much needed
stimulus for Ontario's sputtering economy.
Serpent River citizens were there for another important aspect of the Act
- aboriginal engagement.
"The Green Energy Act is a signal that the Ontario government is serious
about getting down to the business of First Nation partnerships," said Isadore
Day Wiindawtegowinini, Chief of Serpent River First Nation. "This bill focuses
on respecting the environment, and providing Ontario and other consumers with
a secure source of energy, not one that will leave us in the dark. We must
commend Premier McGuinty and Minister Smitherman for this new Green Energy Act
that now gives call to strategic partnerships in the private sector, First
Nation community and government."
Chief Day, Lake Huron Treaty Commissioner also stated, "the Green Energy
Act is a signal that governments and industry need to consider Aboriginal and
treaty rights; how that happens will depend on the strength of the
consultation and accommodation process as the energy sector evolves."
A key provision within the Green Energy Act allows for resources to be
applied specifically for engagement with First Nation communities in energy
projects. In addition, it moves the responsibility for planning these
projects, along with the accompanying regulations, from the municipalities to
This provides a provincial standard for energy planning, removing the
hodgepodge, one-municipality-to-another approach to dealing with First Nations
as done in the past that seemed to create bottlenecks in the planning process.
By helping First Nation communities to build, own and operate their own
renewable energy projects, the GEA is actually building a stronger, greener
economy with lasting, well-paying jobs for members of these communities
"The Ontario Government and the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure
must be congratulated for this fundamentally important step in setting the
stage for First Nation communities to participating in Ontario's energy
sector. By requiring First Nation partnerships, inclusion in policy making and
making decisions about energy development I believe the GEA will positively
impact the lives of our citizens," added Chief Day as he addressed a packed
room of stakeholders in the Minister's luncheon that took place minutes before
the bill's introduction.
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