An April report released by the ILO, Indigenous peoples and climate change: From victims to change agents through Decent Work rejects the characterization of Indigenous people as “victims”. The report states that indigenous peoples, numbering over 370 million worldwide , “are at the vanguard of running modern green economies”, and “if they have access to decent work opportunities; if they are empowered to participate in decision making; if their rights are protected; and if policies address their social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities while honing their positive potential as partners, workers, entrepreneurs and innovators, indigenous peoples will become empowered agents of change who can play a vital role in spurring green growth and combating climate change.”
As if to prove the points of the ILO report, a press release on April 24 announced the results of a survey conducted by the University of Victoria Environmental Studies for B.C. First Nations Clean Energy Working Group and Clean Energy B.C. . First Nations and Renewable Energy Development in British Columbia reports the results of a survey conducted from October 2016 to February 2017, showing that 47% of the 105 First Nations respondents are involved in the clean energy industry in some way – from ownership to receiving royalties. There are currently 78 operating projects, (in which they have invested over $35million), plus 49 projects under development and an additional 249 projects that they want to build, ranging from wind farms to solar installations to run of river power generation. 61% of First Nation respondents said the biggest barrier for their projects is the lack of opportunity to sell power to B.C. Hydro, because the utility has stopped buying power from independent producers, projecting a surplus of power from the controversial Site C dam. (DeSmog Canada compiles the latest news and research about the Site C project here.)
First Nations across Canada are also active investors in green energy, according an article in the Toronto Star April 26, “Six Nations of Grand River lead the charge on green energy” . The article mentions projects in Quebec and Manitoba, and highlights the Ontario Six Nations of the Grand River solar and wind projects as exemplary – most recently, the Oneida Business Park in Ohsweken, Southwestern Ontario, which was awarded Aboriginal Project of the year by the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association in summer 2016.
Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation (SNGRDC) manages the Six Nations’ economic interests in 17 renewable energy projects and numerous economic development opportunities. It employs over 100 people. SNGRDC’s current green energy portfolio is capable of producing over 900 MW of renewable energy through its direct or indirect involvement in 10 solar, 6 wind and one hydroelectric project(s). Consultation is currently underway about another investment in a solar project near the now-decommissioned Nanticoke coal-burning power plant – which will consist of 175,000 to 210,000 solar photovoltaic panels on 4 parcels of land either owned or leased by Ontario Power Generation. The Grand River Employment and Training (GREAT) administration is involved to promote employment of First Nations workers in the contruction phase.
In January 2016, the Whitesand First Nation also received an OSEA award for their sustained efforts to launch a 3.64 MW combined heat and power biomass plant, which will provide electricity to three communities of the Far-north.