Transcript: The Agenda at WGSI: Energy Poverty in Canada | Apr 25, 2016

Steve stands in a university auditorium, in front of a panel that reads "W.G.S.I., Waterloo Global Science Initiative." He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and striped blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Indigenous power struggle."

Steve says TONIGHT WE START HERE AT HOME.
MORE THAN HALF THE COMMUNITIES
IN CANADA -- YOU MAY NOT BE
SURPRISED TO HEAR -- THAT ARE
NOT CONNECTED TO THE POWER GRID
ARE INDIGENOUS.
THEY'RE VERY OFTEN REMOTE.
SOME FACING HEART-BREAKING
CHALLENGES, MADE EVEN WORSE BY
ENERGY POVERTY.
JOINING US NOW FOR A LOOK AT THE
ENERGY CHALLENGE FOR INDIGENOUS
COMMUNITIES HERE IN THE PROVINCE
OF ONTARIO, WE WELCOME: ISADORE
DAY, HE IS ONTARIO REGIONAL
CHIEF FOR THE CHIEFS OF ONTARIO.

Isadore is in his late forties, with short gray hair and a soul patch. He's wearing a gray suit and blue shirt.

Steve continues JUDITH SAYERS, FORMER ELECTED
CHIEF OF THE HUPUCASTH FIRST NATION IN B.C.
NOW A PROFESSOR AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA FACULTY OF LAW.

Judith is in her fifties, with short brown hair. She's wearing glasses, a printed red and black shirt, and a silver necklace.

Steve continues CYNTHIA WESLEY-ESQUIMAUX VICE
PROVOST FOR ABORIGINAL INITIATIVES AT LAKEHEAD
UNIVERSITY IN THUNDER BAY.

Cynthia is in her fifties, with wavy gray hair. She's wearing a black blazer and pearl earrings.

Steve continues CHRISTOPHER HENDERSON, PRESIDENT
OF LUMOS ENERGY AND A CLEAN
ENERGY ADVISOR TO NUMEROUS
ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES IN CANADA. HE'S ALSO THE AUTHOR OF ABORIGINAL POWER.

Christopher is in his late fifties, clean-shaven, with receding gray hair. He's wearing a gray plaid suit, and a white shirt.

Steve continues AND MITCHELL
DIABO, SECRETARY
TREASURER AT THE KASABONIKA
LAKE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION.

Mitchell is in his late forties, with short gray hair shaven at the temples and a trimmed moustache. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit and a blue shirt.

Steve continues I WOULD ASK OUR
FRIENDS HERE AT THE MIKE
LAZARIDIS THEATRE OF IDEAS TO
WELCOME OUR GUESTS HERE TO
WATERLOO TODAY. THANK YOU.

[Applause]

Steve continues JUST LET ME ADD MY WORDS OF
WELCOME AS WELL EVERYBODY
PARTICULARLY JUDITH, YOU CAME
ALL THE WAY FROM BRITISH COLUMBIA
TO BE HERE WITH US
TODAY, THANK YOU SO MUCH.
LET'S JUST PUT SOME FACTS ON THE
TABLE HERE THAT WILL SORT OF SET
THE TABLE FOR OUR DISCUSSION TO COME.
SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD, THIS
GRAPHIC, PLEASE.

A slate appears on screen, with the title "Off the grid."

Steve reads from the slate and says
THERE ARE ABOUT 300 COMMUNITIES
IN CANADA THAT ARE NOT CONNECTED
TO THE NORTH AMERICAN ELECTRICAL GRID.
OF THOSE 300, 175 ARE INDIGENOUS
COMMUNITIES, MANY OF WHICH RELY
ON DIESEL GENERATORS FOR THEIR POWER.
TWENTY-FIVE OF THOSE OFF-GRID
INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES ARE HERE
IN THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO, TO
WHICH CHIEF DAY RECENTLY SAID...

A quote appears under the title "Into the 21st Century." The quote reads "OUR PEOPLE ARE LIVING IN SUBSTANDARD LIVING CONDITIONS. WE NEED TO BRING OUR COMMUNITIES INTO THE 21ST CENTURY. SUBSTANDARD IS NOT A STANDARD WE CAN LIVE WITH ANY LONGER."

Quoted from Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day. March 31, 2016.

Steve continues CHIEF DAY, JUST BEFORE I POSE MY
FIRST QUESTION TO YOU, LET US
LET US ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WE ARE HERE ON THE TRADITIONAL
TERRITORY OF THE PEOPLE.
SO WE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FOR
EVERYBODY IN THIS AUDIENCE
AND FOR OUR VIEWERS AT HOME AS
AS WELL.
WHAT RELATIONSHIP DO YOU SEE
BETWEEN THE LIVING
CONDITIONS IN OFF-GRID
COMMUNITIES AND THE LACK OF
RELIABILITY ENERGY.

The caption changes to "Energy Poverty in Canada."
Then, it changes again to "Isadore Day. Chiefs of Ontario."

Isadore says STEVE, THANK YOU FOR HAVING
US AND THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.
I REFLECTED ON THIS A FEW WEEKS
BACK AND I LOOKED AT THE ISSUE
OF WATER, FOR EXAMPLE, WHAT
WATER IS TO THE HUMAN BODY.
WE KNOW THAT'S WHAT ELECTRICITY
IS TO SOCIETY.
WE'RE NOW SEEING MORE AND MORE,
AS YOU INDICATED IN YOUR OPENING
REMARKS, THAT MANY COMMUNITIES
THAT ARE INDIGENOUS ARE IN FACT
LIVING WITHOUT ELECTRICITY.
AGAIN, YOU KNOW, TO THE COMMON
PERSON THAT LIVES IN THE
MAINSTREAM THAT HAVE MAYBE
SECOND, THIRD GENERATION ACCESS
TO ELECTRICITY, THEY DON'T KNOW
THE CURRENT STRUGGLES THAT ARE
BEING FACED IN THE NORTH.
TODAY, FOR EXAMPLE, WE'RE STILL
REELING FROM THE FIRE THAT TOOK
THE LIVES OF 9 PEOPLE IN
PIKANGIKUM FIRST NATION, ONE OF
THE REMOTE COMMUNITIES, AND ONE
OF THE CENTRAL ISSUES AND CAUSES
IS THE FACT THEY'RE NOT ON THE
GRID.
THEY DON'T HAVE ELECTRICITY.

Steve says I'M GOING TO GO TO
CYNTHIA ON THAT VERY CASE.
IN PIKANGIKUM, FOR EXAMPLE, THEY
GET THEIR POWER THROUGH DIESEL.
HOW DOES THAT AFFECT THE
COMMUNITY, THE FACT THEY HAVE TO
GET POWER FROM DIESEL?

The caption changes to "Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux. Lakehead University."

Cynthia says IT AFFECTS IT GREATLY.
ONE OF THE THINGS WE WERE TRYING
TO DO AFTER THE CORONER'S REPORT
CAME OUT IS ACTUALLY GET WATERS
TO THE COMMUNITIES...

Steve says THIS IS THE
CORONER'S REPORT ON...

Cynthia says PIKANGIKUM IN 2008.
WHEN WE ACTUALLY GOT THEM UP
THERE, THE GENERATORS WERE TOO
OLD TO BE ABLE TO ACCOMMODATE
THAT.
HERE WE HAVE THE FACILITY TO
MAKE IT HAPPEN, THE GENERATORS
ARE OLD, WE CAN'T BE REPLACED,
AND WE'RE NOT HOOKED UP TO RED
LAKE ABOUT 80 KILOMETRES AWAY.
WHY NOT?
THAT'S A BIG QUESTION CANADA HAS
TO ANSWER.

Steve says WE'RE GOING TO
EXPLORE SOME OF THOSE QUESTIONS
IN OUR HOUR TONIGHT.
MITCHELL, YOU LIVE IN ONE OF
THOSE COMMUNITIES.
WHERE IS KASABONIKA LAKE?

Mitchell says IT'S ABOUT 500 MILES FAR
NORTH OF ONTARIO. IT'S BETWEEN
WEBEQUIE AND BIG TROUT LAKE.

Steve says THAT'S NOT GOING TO
HELP TOO MANY PEOPLE.
NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO?

Mitchell says YES, NORTHWESTERN ONTARIO.

Steve says NORTH OF THUNDER BAY.

Mitchell says THAT'S CORRECT.
500 MILES NORTH OF THUNDER BAY.

Steve says THAT'S UP THERE.
HOW DOES YOUR ENERGY PREDICAMENT
AFFECT HOW YOU'RE ABLE TO LIVE
YOUR LIFE THERE?

The caption changes to "Mitchell Diabo. Kasabonika Lake Community Development Corporation."

Mitchell says BEING ON DIESEL GENERATED
POWER, AT LEAST WE HAVE A
RELIABLE DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
THERE, HYDRO ONE IN REMOTE
COMMUNITIES THAT WE WORK WITH.
WHAT WE SUFFER FROM WOULD BE
BLACKOUTS, BROWN-OUTS, AND LOAD
RESTRICTIONS.
WHEN THE DIESEL PLANT IS MAXED
OUT, THERE'S NO MORE GROWTH IN
THE COMMUNITY.
NOTHING MORE CAN BE HOOKED TO
DISTRIBUTION.
WE'RE JUST ON A PERIOD FROM 2007
TO 2015, NO NEW HOUSING, NO NEW
BUILDINGS, NO NEW ANYTHING.
YET THE POPULATION GROWTH
CONTINUES.
FAMILIES ARE FORMED.
AND OVERCROWDING CONTINUES.
THAT'S THE REALITY OF MAXIMUM
CAPACITY OF DIESEL POWER.

Steve says CHRIS, YOU'VE LOOKED
AT IT IN YOUR BOOK "ABORIGINAL POWER."
HOW DOES IT AFFECT PEOPLE'S
LIVES ACROSS THIS COUNTRY IF
THEY'RE OFF THE GRID?

The caption changes to "Christopher Henderson. Lumos Energy."

Christopher says IT AFFECTS THEM IN UNIQUE AND
POWERFUL WAYS, NEGATIVE WAYS.
SOCIALLY IT MEANS THE COMMUNITY
DOESN'T HAVE THE POWER FOR
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.
JOBS ARE HARD TO CREATE OR
MAINTAIN OR EVEN HAVE.
YOU HAVE HEALTH EFFECTS.
AS A RESULT YOU HAVE AIR QUALITY
ISSUES, RESPIRATORY ISSUES.
ECONOMICALLY, WHEN YOU DON'T
HAVE THAT POWER, YOU CAN'T OFFER
A PLACE WHERE COMPANIES CAN GET
ESTABLISHED BECAUSE THEY DON'T
KNOW IF THE POWER IS GOING TO BE
ON.
YOU CAN'T KEEP YOUR COMPANY
OPERATING SO COMPANIES DON'T GET
ESTABLISHED.
ENVIRONMENTALLY, STEVE, DIESEL
FUEL IS BAD FOR CLIMATE CHANGE.
IT EMITS HEAVY GREENHOUSE GAS
EMISSIONS.
THIS IS A TRIPLE WHAMMY FOR
THESE COMMUNITIES THAT ARE
SOCIAL WILL HE, ECONOMICALLY,
AND ENVIRONMENTALLY NEGATIVE.

Steve says WE'RE GOING TO TALK
ABOUT HEALTH IMPACTS AS WELL.
JUDITH, BEFORE WE DO THAT, I DO
WANT TO GET YOUR SENSE OF HOW IT
IS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA AS WELL.
WE'VE BEEN SORT OF TALKING ABOUT
ONTARIO EXAMPLES UP UNTIL NOW.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT PEOPLE IN
BRITISH COLUMBIA?

The caption changes to "Judith Sayers. University of Victoria."

Judith says THE SAME WAY.
THERE ARE MANY COASTAL
COMMUNITIES THAT DO NOT HAVE
ACCESS TO THE GRID, MANY THAT
ARE FAR AWAY FROM THE GRID,
ISOLATED COMMUNITIES,
COMMUNITIES THAT YOU HAVE TO FLY
INTO OR THERE MAY BE SNOW ROADS.
BUT, YOU KNOW, NOISE IS ONE OF
THOSE ISSUES.
I THINK THAT PEOPLE HAVE TO LIVE
WITH A NOISY GENERATOR.
THE FEAR OF DIESEL SPILLS INTO
PRECIOUS LAKES OR SACRED SITES.
AND JUST FEELING LIKE, YOU KNOW,
YOU'RE LIVING IN SECOND CLASS
CONDITIONS OR THIRD WORLD
CONDITIONS.
WHY ARE YOU DIFFERENT THAN A
COMMUNITY 100 MILES DOWN THE
ROAD?

Steve says LET'S TRY TO SEE IF
WE CAN ANSWER THAT QUESTION.
CHRIS, AGAIN, WORKING ON YOUR
EXPERTISE ON THIS.
DOES THIS SITUATION PERSIST FOR
TECHNICAL REASONS OR POLITICAL
REASONS?

Christopher says THE SIMPLE ANSWER IS BOTH.
IF THE POLITICAL WILL WAS THERE,
WE'D PROBABLY SOLVE THE
TECHNICAL REASONS.
GENERATING POWER FROM RENEWABLE
SOURCES OR SOURCES OFF DIESEL IS
NOT EASY TO DO.
BUT THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS IT
TAKES INVESTMENT.
LIKE A LOT OF THINGS IN THE
NORTH, INVESTMENT IS NOT THERE,
IT HAS NOT BEEN THERE BY AND
LARGE TO CONVERT DIESEL
COMMUNITIES TO RENEWABLE ENERGY.
SO I THINK YOU NEED BOTH: YOU
NEED POLITICAL WILL TO MOVE AND
YOU NEED A TECHNICAL WILL AND
THE KNOW-HOW TO PROVIDE THE
SOLUTIONS.

Steve says IF YOU WERE ABLE TO
BRING THOSE THINGS TO BEAR, HOW
LONG WOULD IT TAKE TO KIND OF
TAKE SOME STEPS IN THE RIGHT
DIRECTION?

Christopher says A LOT FASTER THAN PEOPLE THINK.
YOU CAN MAKE A VERY QUICK IMPACT
IN A YEAR OR TWO WITH MANY
COMMUNITIES WITH IMPROVED ENERGY
MANAGEMENT, ENERGY PLANNING AND
EFFICIENCY.
OVER THE MEDIUM TERM, TWO,
THREE, FOUR, FIVE YEARS,
RENEWABLE OPTIONS FOR
COMMUNITIES AND BRING THOSE
ONLINE.
IF WE BRING THE POLITICS AND
ECONOMICS TOGETHER, GREAT THINGS
CAN HAPPEN.

Steve says CHIEF DAY, DID YOU
WANT TO ADD SOMETHING?

Isadore says CERTAINLY.
I THINK THE POINT IS WELL-TAKEN.
WHEN WE LOOK AT INVESTMENT, I
BELIEVE IT'S MORE THAN JUST THE
MONETARY SENSE OF INVESTMENT AND
IT'S ABOUT THE PLANNING AND
ENSURING THAT, YOU KNOW, PERHAPS
EVEN THE JURISDICTIONAL
SITUATION THAT EXISTS IN THE
SOUTH MAY NOT BE THE SAME THAT
IS NEEDED IN THE NORTH.
FOR EXAMPLE, YOU HAVE
ATTAWAPISKAT FIRST NATION WHO
RIGHT NOW NOW HAS AN ENERGY
THROUGH THE FIVE NATIONS ENERGY
LINE THAT WENT UP A NUMBER OF
YEARS BACK.
BUT WHAT THEY DON'T HAVE IS THEY
DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO THE WEALTH
THAT THE DIAMONDS THEY'RE
PULLING OUT OF THE REGION.
SO THIS WHOLE NOTION OF
EXPLOITATION POLICY THAT'S BEEN
AROUND FOR OVER 60 YEARS, YOU
KNOW, IF THINGS HAVE CHANGED
HERE IN SOCIETY AND, YOU KNOW,
YOU CANNOT HAVE THE MUNICIPAL
MODEL IN THE NORTH WHERE FIRST
NATIONS ARE PRESENT.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO BE LOOKING AT
IS HOW DOES THE FIRST NATION FIT
INTO THE ISSUE OF JURISDICTION,
HOW CAN THEY TAKE THE WEALTH
FROM THE TERRITORIES AND
ACTUALLY BUILD AND SUSTAIN
COMMUNITIES?

Steve says CYNTHIA?

Cynthia says WELL, ALSO, I THINK PART OF
THE PROBLEM WE HAVE AS A COUNTRY
IS WE NEVER REALLY RECOGNIZED
THOSE COMMUNITIES THE WAY THEY
SHOULD HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED.
THE ESTABLISHED ARTIFICIAL
COMMUNITIES AND THEY'VE SAID,
YOU KNOW, THESE PEOPLE HAVE TO
LIVE UP HERE AND THEY'RE NOT A
PART OF CANADA IN THE SAME WAY
THAT EVERYBODY ELSE IS.
WE MANAGED TO POPULATE THIS
ENTIRE COUNTRY FROM EAST TO
WEST.
THERE'S ABSOLUTELY NO REASON WE
CAN'T GO NORTH TO SOUTH AS WELL.
WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT WE
BRING THEM INTO THE COUNTRY.

Steve says PROFESSOR SAYERS?

Judith says I JUST WANTED TO MENTION THAT
INDIAN AND NORTHERN AFFAIRS
CANADA, I GUESS INDIGENOUS
CANADA NOW, CUT OUT THEIR REMOTE
COMMUNITY PROGRAM.
SO B.C. HYDRO DID THE SAME
THING, ALTHOUGH THEY HAVE AN
OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE SERVICE TO
EVERYBODY IN BRITISH COLUMBIA.

Steve says WHAT IS THAT PROGRAM?

Judith says THE REMOTE COMMUNITY
ELECTRIFICATION PROGRAM.
THE FEDERAL AND PROVINCIAL
GOVERNMENT CUT IT.
NO POLITICAL WILL, NO POLITICAL
FINANCES.
AND WITHIN THE PROVINCE OF
BRITISH COLUMBIA, THERE'S ALSO A
POLICY THAT YOU CAN'T USE NEW
TECHNOLOGY UNLESS IT'S BEEN USED
FOR THREE YEARS, SOMEWHERE UNDER
THREE PROJECTS.
IF WE WANTED TO BRING IN
SOMETHING LIKE KITE TECHNOLOGY
TO THESE REMOTE COMMUNITIES,
UNLESS IT'S BEEN TESTED TO THE
EXTENT B.C. HYDRO LIKES IT, WE
WON'T BE ABLE TO USE IT.
WE NEED A CHANGE IN POLICY.
WE NEED POLITICAL WILL TO OPEN
UP LAWS AND POLICIES SO WE CAN BRING
POWER INTO REMOTE COMMUNITIES A
LOT EASIER.

Watch: The Agenda at WGSI: Energy Poverty in Canada