Professor Diana Lewis and Professor Heather Castleden are frustrated that First Nations still get resistance from big power utilities when they want to build renewable energy projects. For them and the First Nations they work with, reconciliation is based on good energy.
Indigenous Peoples across Canada have developed energy projects that deliver clean, affordable and reliable power to their communities. This episode provides examples of what happens when First Nations and industry work together—and what happens when industry fails to build respectful relationships and commit to meaningful consultation, as outlined in TRC Call to Action 92.
Professor Diana (Dee) Lewis and Dr. Heather Castleden
Diana (Dee) and Heather are Co-Directors of A Shared Future: Achieving Strength, Health, and Autonomy through Renewable Energy Development for the Future, an international research program which explores how Indigenous knowledge systems, as applied to renewable energy development, may have the potential to lead us towards ‘healthful environments’ through reconciling and healing our relations with each other as well as with the land, air, and water around us.
Diana Lewis is an Assistant Professor at Western University, Department of Indigenous Studies and the Department of Geography and Environment. She has worked with multiple First Nations directly, as well as many Indigenous political organizations, federal government agencies, and program delivery organizations in Canada over 30 years.
Diana is Mi’kmaq from Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia, and holds a Master of Resource and Environmental Management degree. Her PhD research focuses on resource development, and the impacts of resource development on the health of Indigenous peoples using a methodology that combines both Indigenous and western-based sciences. Her long-term research interests are to foster a wider understanding of the unique aspects of Indigenous environmental health, specifically as it is impacted by resource or industrial development.
Dr. Heather Castleden is a (white) settler guest and scholar on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory at Queen’s University where she is a Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments and Communities. She has spent her academic career as a geographer working at the theoretical, methodological, and empirical nexus of power and resistance, relationships to place, and moral/ethical accountability. Her research is community-based and participatory, in partnerships with Indigenous peoples, communities, organizations, and governments on topics important to them, focusing on the politics of knowledge production in environment and health justice.
>> 14:14: Heather: We knew that we wanted to look at reconciliation. We knew we wanted to look at renewable energy.
>> 12:40: We were really interested in bringing forward stories of strength, stories of Indigenous leadership in the renewable energy sector to showcase the work that Indigenous communities are doing that reflect their values and ways of being, in relationship to the land.
>>19:19: Diana: When I think of the three terms, reconciliation, self-determination, and energy security, I think about Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick. New Brunswick had a community set aside for wind energy projects. And the set aside for First Nations required a take all or none approach.
>>20:40: It was either Tobique First Nation or another First Nation. It didn’t facilitate like a partnership approach to splitting the set aside in the eyes of the First Nation communities.
>>19:29: So it pitted First Nations against each other, which had the potential to not reconcile, but create more barriers between communities. And so in this project, we’re really looking at how policy facilitates reconciliation or does not facilitate reconciliation.
>>23:21: Heather: It’s not going very well. One of the important findings about this, and it is so contrary to reconciliation, is that one of the individuals that was interviewed said, ‘We engage in impact benefit agreements and we have some joint ventures and there are set asides, but at the end of the day, we still have them by the balls.’ And that to me is so disappointing.
>>34:40: Diana: I think when government utilities used words of reconciliation and decolonization, initially we were really hopeful. And what has become more obvious over the last five, six years is that there’s no real substantive re-engagement with the community to see, okay, what should we do next? And I think that that’s something that has to change because the communities are learning so much about what having energy autonomy can mean and what benefits it will bring to the community.
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