Community Capacity Building for Energy Sovereignty: A First Nation Case Study

Roopa Rakshit, Chander Shahi, M. A. (Peggy) Smith, Adam Cornwell


Ontario’s 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan has identified the Wataynikaneyap Power transmission line as a priority project. The line will connect seventeen remote, off-grid, diesel-dependent First Nation communitiesin northwestern Ontario, Canada to the provincial grid. The province’s current energy mandates and policies commit program dollars to build the human capacities of the seventeen Wataynikaneyap Power communities through the Remote Electrification Readiness Program (RERP). This effort is part of growing interests, changing perspectives, and focus in the continuum of provincial strategies to encourage First Nations to meet their emerging energy transitional needs and to partake in the energy sector.

Capacity-building challenges are unique in the Wataynikaneyap Power communities because they experience higher levels of poverty and socio economic inequities, are subjected to antiquated and unjust institutional structures, are following a legal and self-governance status, and are maintaining distinct cultures and ways of life.

Capacity building as a concept is wide-ranging and offers a multitude of expressions and interpretations. For the Wataynikaneyap Power communities, capacity building has offered the opportunity to exert their inherent rights and to increase their participation in local and regional energy planning and development.

This community-based research is derived from grassroots ethnographic community observation. Through a case study of one of the Wataynikaneyap Power communities, Poplar Hill First Nation, the paper will: a) elucidate a working example of an Indigenous capacity-building process through the RERP; b) demonstrate that capacity development is a key building block for self-determination and to achieve energy sovereignty; and c) illustrate the broader scope of learnings and pathways to effective capacity building for Indigenous communities that will drive energy development initiatives and actions in Canada’s expansive energy sector.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Roopa Rakshit, Chander Shahi, M. A. (Peggy) Smith, Adam Cornwell

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