Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler looks forward to the installation of upgraded high-efficiency wood stoves in six Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities through $2,532,000 in federal government funding. The high-efficiency wood stoves are being installed to replace existing wood stove heating appliances, which will reduce fossil fuel heating use by lowering demand on the community’s diesel-generated electricity supply.
“The project that NAN is doing through this initiative is to install wood stoves that are safe, that are efficient in our communities,” Fiddler says. “In this first phase we are going to have three communities and then in the next phase another three communities. We hope this will lead to a bigger project across the NAN territory to have these types of stoves in more than just the six communities.”
Fiddler says it is a challenge to address infrastructure needs in the 31 fly-in NAN communities, including electrical power and heating.
“Many of our homes in these communities still rely on wood stoves,” Fiddler says. “We know that it’s not the safest (heating method). We’ve lost so many of our citizens over the years to house fires. Even this early summer my sister Liz and her family and her husband, their house caught on fire in Muskrat Dam. They were able to get out luckily — they’re still in recovery.”
Fiddler says the first three communities to benefit from the initiative are Wapekeka, Nibinamik and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) and the next three communities will be announced shortly.
“We’re looking over the next two years to have in place fully certified and code compliant wood burning systems … that will be installed by locally trained (citizens) according to the Wood Energy Technology Transfer standards,” Fiddler says. “This is an important piece of this project as we do this work that we build capacity at the community level for local (citizens) to be trained to properly install these types of systems.”
The $2,532,000 was part of about $13 million in funding from Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities (CERRC) Program: BioHeat Stream that was announced by Thunder Bay-Superior North MP Patty Hajdu.
“Indigenous people have had centuries of experience protecting the environment,” Hajdu says. “Their solutions to ensuring a strong economy and healthy forests are invaluable. We will continue to work with First Nations to ensure they have the tools they determine they need to foster healthy and prosperous communities grounded in culture.”
Askii Environmental Inc. will receive $1,670,000 of the funding to install biomass heating systems in KI and Pikangikum, which will offset the fossil fuel used to heat schools in these communities.
“This 300 kW wood chip boiler project is not only about clean energy and diesel reduction but also so much about capacity development,” says Cara Sanders, principal, Askii Environmental Inc. “Each nation now has a team of five workers who are primarily youth working and learning in the multifaceted wood gathering program. Each nation now has a sawmill to make lumber in the community, chain saws to harvest for firewood and fuel for the boilers, and Pikangikum First Nation also has tools to fabricate value-added items such as sheds and furniture. It is hoped that Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug will have carpentry tools next year.”
Wahgoshig will also receive $983,000 of the funding to install a forest-based biomass heating system for four community buildings, the Community Firehall, Lands and Resources Office, Community Centre and Community Elder’s Residence, which will reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
“Wahgoshig is very pleased to be able to participate in NRCan’s CERRC program,” says Wahgoshig Deputy Chief David Morris. “Implementation of biomass at Wahgoshig will help us develop new jobs for our citizens, help us heat our community more efficiently and contribute to our good stewardship over the land.”