Discover how Indigenous communities are driving Canada’s transition to renewable energy

Indigenous communities are leading Canada’s clean energy transition

Nestled amidst the pristine wilderness of British Columbia’s Northern Rockies lies Fort Nelson, a community that was forever changed by the gas industry. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for shale gas extraction transformed this remote corner of Canada into a battleground of environmental concerns and economic aspirations.

Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, a member of the Fort Nelson First Nation, reflects on the impact of the oil and gas industries on her territory. She highlights how these industries have exploited natural resources like oil, gas, timber, and water for their own benefit, leaving behind a trail of environmental damage and economic instability.

The Rise and Fall of Fort Nelson’s Economy

For a while, Fort Nelson experienced a thriving economy and bustling streets due to the energy boom brought on by companies rushing in to capitalize on gas extraction. However, as quickly as they arrived, these companies departed, leaving behind job losses, business closures, and a decrease in property values.

The downturn in the gas sector from 2008 onwards compounded these challenges, leading to deserted gas wells, aging infrastructure, and abandoned pipelines across the territory. The Fort Nelson First Nation is now faced with the daunting task of cleaning up the environmental damage and transitioning towards clean and renewable energy sources.

Transitioning to Clean Energy

Inspired by the need to repair the land and create a sustainable future, Indigenous communities are leading the way in clean energy initiatives. In 2015, the Fort Nelson First Nation successfully prevented a company from extracting water from a local lake, showcasing their commitment to protecting the environment.

One such initiative is the Generation Power program developed by Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE), which provides training and mentorship opportunities to Indigenous youth in clean energy projects. Participants like Taylor Behn-Tsakoza have found a renewed sense of purpose in working towards clean energy solutions, such as the Tu Deh-Kah geothermal project.

Clean Energy Creates Opportunities

The demand for clean energy initiatives is on the rise, with organizations like ICE offering job placements and training opportunities for Indigenous youth. Programs like Generation Power aim to equip young individuals with the skills needed to pursue careers in the clean energy sector.

Alum Anthony Huete-Jacobs’ experience highlights the impact of these programs in bridging the gap between traditional knowledge and modern energy solutions. His journey from intern to program delivery officer at Wah-ila-toos demonstrates the transformative power of clean energy in Indigenous communities.

Decarbonization as Decolonization

W Dusk Energy Group, an Indigenous-owned firm, is at the forefront of integrating renewable energy projects into Indigenous communities across Canada. President David Isaac emphasizes the importance of using technologies that align with Indigenous knowledge and values, leading to the emergence of sustainable infrastructure led by First Nations communities.

Isaac points out the intertwined nature of colonialism with resource extraction, noting that decarbonization is essential for true decolonization to occur. By shifting towards renewable energy sources and community-led initiatives, Indigenous communities are redefining their future on their own terms.

As Indigenous communities navigate the complex landscape of environmental sustainability and economic empowerment, the transition to clean energy represents a stepping stone towards reclaiming agency over their land and resources. By embracing renewable energy solutions and advocating for environmentally conscious practices, Indigenous peoples are paving the way for a more sustainable and equitable future for all.



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