The Wabun Tribal Council and Wataynikaneyap Power were recently recognized with the Entrepreneurial Community and First Nations Business Award of Excellence awards at the 2020 Northern Ontario Business Awards.
“First of all it was a great surprise, and secondly on behalf of our communities, it’s well deserved for the five First Nations who have been working so hard to advance their business interests and the tribal council playing a small role in that,” says Jason Batise, executive director at Wabun Tribal Council. ”I can’t be prouder of the work that our team and the communities have done.”
Wabun, which serves the Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities of Brunswick House, Chapleau Ojibwe, Flying Post, Matachewan, Mattagami and Beaverhouse, was recognized with the Entrepreneurial Community award.
“As a group of communities who are in the middle of probably the busiest mineral and forestry hubs in northeastern Ontario and probably in Canada, I think we have managed to find a good balance between what the communities are looking for in terms of sustainable environmental initiatives as well as looking to participate in the economy here in the northeast,” Batise says.
Batise says the Wabun communities have been able to focus on understanding the industries and their own land-based rights and how to match that with what industry needs and the communities need.
“And that all boils down into sustainable development, whether it’s mining, whether it’s forestry, whether it’s tourism or any other initiative that goes on on the land,” Batise says. “That’s where our communities have really excelled is supporting industry where they’re responsible and secondly fighting for our place within those industries.”
Batise says the mining industry has been operating in the Wabun area for more than 100 years.
“Under the right conditions, our communities have found a way to convince the mines to operate in a more responsible manner, integrating some of the Aboriginal knowledge and some of the land-based knowledge that our communities bring, resulting in better ways to operate,” Batise says. “I think we do have a willing industry that wants to ensure that the land rights holders are playing a pivotal role in their operations, and that creates certainty for their operations, certainty for their shareholders and in return certainty for our communities that we’re going to get the economic benefit of that activity and not just have to sit and watch it happen anymore.”
Wataynikaneyap Power was recognized with the First Nations Business Award of Excellence for the $1.6-billion Wataynikaneyap Power project that will connect 17 remote First Nations to the provincial power grid for the first time.
“We are very pleased to receive this 2020 Northern Ontario Business Award,” says Margaret Kenequanash, CEO at Wataynikaneyap Power. “It’s of course in recognition of the work we are doing in bringing the Wataynikaneyap Power line to the north to connect the remote First Nations.”
Kenequanash says the communities need additional electrical power for new housing and other facilities.
“A lot of our communities are having challenges to connect all of these different capital projects they have,” Kenequanash says. “By improving infrastructure and enhancing community development obviously that will also improve their programs and services.”
Kenequanash says the communities have also put in place a vision to own local infrastructure in their homelands.
“So through partnership and ownership the intent is to empower the vision of the people,” Kenequanash says.
The Northern Ontario Business Awards were held in a virtual format this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The other award recipients were: Sunnynook Farms with Company of the Year (1-15 employees); Sunwire with Company of the Year (16-50 employees); Manroc with Company of the Year (51+ employees); Don Champagne, North Bay Plastic Molders, with Entrepreneur of the Year; Rachel Pessah, Bright Spot Therapy Services, with Young Entrepreneur of the Year; Flosonics Medical with the Innovation Award; and Rheault Distillery with the Judges’ Choice award.