Government Commitments

Government Commitments to Truth and Reconciliation

Ontario promises to add 5 more First Nations to power grid, end reliance on diesel

April 3, 2024

First Nations stress they want to be consulted during the process

A man speaks at a podium.
Premier Doug Ford told a news conference on Thursday he’ll work with five remote First Nations to connect them to the Ontario power grid. (Michelle Allan/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: As the Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission project nears completion, Ontario plans to add five more remote First Nations to the provincial power grid and end their reliance on diesel fuel.

Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Thursday at a media event in Oliver Paipoonge, a small community just outside Thunder Bay. He was with Energy Minister Todd Smith and Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford as well as the chiefs of some of the communities that will be connected to the power grid. 

Though he did not have specific details or timelines, the premier pledged to add the five Matawa communities to the grid — in addition to the 16 communities that will be connected through the Wataynikaneyap project when it’s completed. 

“Our government is working with First Nations that wish to partner with us to end their reliance on costly diesel-generated electricity,” Ford said. “We’re making tremendous progress.”  

The communities mentioned in Thursday’s announcement are: 

  • Webequie First Nation. 
  • Nibinamik First Nation. 
  • Neskantaga First Nation. 
  • Eabametoong First Nation.
  • Marten Falls First Nation.

Consultation with the First Nations will be integral, said representatives of Webequie, Nibinamik, Eabametoong and Marten Falls First Nations who were at the announcement. 

“We are not opposed to any type of development but we need to be thoroughly involved in these processes, so I look forward to working collaboratively with Mr. Ford and his team,” said Nibinamik First Nation Chief Michael Sugarhead.

First Nations urge consultation

Some of the First Nations want to maintain ownership of generation and transmission assets built on their land, said Solomon Atlookan, chief of Eabametoong First Nation

“EFN was excluded from decisions on our land for too many generations,” said Atlookan. “We live there and we have to be consulted along the way.”

Atlookan said Eabametoong First Nation currently operates an independent power authority and pays some of the highest rates in the province. The community plans to build a small local solar hybrid system to reduce reliance on diesel. 

The energy minister said getting these communities off diesel will take time. 

“This isn’t going to be done tomorrow,” Smith said. “This is very much the start of the conversation.” 

The Wataynikaneyap Power project is expected to be finished by the end of 2024. 

The communities currently generate power using diesel generators driven by fuel that they fly into the community at tremendous cost, or truck into the community over a winter road network that is open for shorter and shorter periods due to climate change.

Ford’s visit to northwestern Ontario is the latest in a provincewide tour over the past week. He recently made appearances in Hamilton and Toronto to promote government spending after the provincial budget was released last week. 


Michelle Allan, Reporter

Michelle Allan is a reporter at CBC Thunder Bay. She’s worked with the CBC’s Investigative Unit, CBC Ottawa and ran a pop-up bureau in Kingston. She won a 2021 Canadian Association of Journalists national award for investigative reporting. You can reach her at