Renewable Energy vs. Responsible Aboriginal Government Part Three: M’Chigeeng vs. Wikwemikong Blowing in Opposite Directions

Chief of the Anishinabek First Nation M’Chigeeng, Joe Hare,  will host an event on Manitoulin Island tomorrow in northern Ontario attended by invited guests including Minister of Energy Chris Bentley, David Suzuki and Kristopher Stevens executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association. The event, which celebrates the development of two wind turbines on band land of 2 MW each, has been coordinated to coincide with the Global Wind Day 2012.

The official M’Chigeeng event will be protested by members of the Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA) and Wikwemikong Elders, Community Members and Youth. MCSEA’s announcement discussing the protest is attached at the end of this post.

There are serious questions about the propriety of M’Chigeeng wind power development.

  • Does Chief Joe Hare or his family members receive the lease payments for the turbines?
  • Once the turbines start generating and payments received, where does all the money go?
  • Why was Chief Joe Hare locked out of his band office last month?
  • When and how will Chief Joe Hare deliver on his promise, issued during the last band council election, that the wind power development will provide free power to all band households?
  • Was Chief Joe Hare aware that Franklin Paibomsai (AKA Shining Turtle) was impersonating a public official while Hare and Turtle were both the signing the wind power development agreement between Northland Power and Mnidoo Mninising Power in February 10, 2010 to build the McLean’s Mountain Wind Farm?
  • Are any M’Chigeeng elders being paid to attend the June 15th celebrations?
  • Do M’Chigeeng residents opposed to the industrialization of reserve lands through wind power have any reason to fear loss of opportunities for band-controlled employment, housing or other services?
  • How much money and/or loan guarantees from the provincial and federal governments is involved in the M’Chigeeng wind project and its associated infrastructure?
  • How much money has 3G Energy made off the M’Chigeeng project?

In contrast to wind development at M’Chigeeng, the Manitoulin aboriginal community of Wikwemikong has taken the opposite course. In 2011, political activism by members of Wikwemikong Elders, Community Members and Youth caused the band council to reverse a previous decision to develop a wind power project once envisioned at 200 MW. Wikwemikong Elders, Community Members and Youth induced the local band council to reiterate the ban on wind development again this Spring.

(Statement issued by Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives, June 14, 2012)

MCSEA and Wikwemikong Elders, Community Members and Youth — groups well
known for their opposition to Industrial Wind Turbine Projects on
Manitoulin Island — will be protesting the opening of the M’Chigeeng
industrial wind power project on June 15.

M’Chigeeng community members who have concerns with the project but also
have concerns about possible repercussions from M’Chigeeng Band Council
should the opponents be seen protesting have specifically requested MCSEA
and Wikwemikong citizens raise awareness, circulate information to the
public, and conduct a peaceful protest.

The Wikwemikong group has restored democracy in their community and
repeatedly halted industrial wind turbines by successfully petitioning
their council. The democratic success of the Wikwemikong citizens
contrast starkly the lack of democratic rights of other rural residents
of Ontario who have had their right stripped away under the Green Energy
and Green Economy Act.

The concerns of many M’Chigeeng citizens include the potential for
additional turbines to be added in future, the loss of traditional
hunting grounds, forest loss, the siting of the turbines in key habitat,
loss of reserve lands for productive use due to the minimum 550 meter
provincial danger zone setback from each turbine, and the concern that
even this exclusion distance is totally inadequate to mitigate impacts.

Wind opposition groups worldwide have generally recommended setbacks from
residences of 2 kilometers based on peer reviewed evidence. Worldwide
setback info can be found in this link.

Even with a minimum four kilometer setback around each turbine, a lot of
the M’Chigeeng community’s limited land base will be lost to productive
use. Key habitat will be impacted for at least one generation.

With other turbines planned, there is a clear need for full consultation
with all members of the community.

With heavy government promotion, the availability of particularly massive
subsidies to aboriginal businesses, and less stringent rules on land use,
the exploitation of reserve land for wind power development is under
particularly acute pressure.

Some community members also have concerns over the visual impacts,
especially now that the size of the turbines is now evident to all. The
wind development has also closed down a local hiking trail.

Although community members were promised free hydro if the project moved
ahead, the exact opposite has taken place with electricity costs now
skyrocketing. Since wind power always requires backup generation when
there is no wind or the wind is blowing too hard, the rate impacts of
wind power are not limited to the high purchase cost.

With David Suzuki and Liberal Provincial Energy Minister Chris Bentley
attending these ceremonies and promoting First Nation Land use loss
perhaps they should also be aware of the divided communities these
projects are creating throughout Ontario and First Nation Lands where
questions are raised to who truly benefits from these projects and how
much oversight has been involved for environmental impacts and community
consultation on both sides of the issue.

We will be protesting at a house across from Paul’s corner store in
M’Chigeeng beside the Lafarge cement plant on Hwy 540 beginning around 10
am. Bring your signs and placards if available should you wish to join

The OPP liaison team has been notified who are working with the UCCMM
Annisnaabe police to maintain a peaceful gathering for all.

Raymond Beaudry


  1. From Page 7 of the IESO 2014 Annual report released today :

    M’Chigeeng First Nation made history on June 15, 2012, when it brought into operation Ontario’s fi rst wind project wholly owned by a First Nation community. The four-megawatt Mother Earth Renewable Energy (MERE) wind farm, located on Manitoulin Island, is expected to generate about $13,800,000 for the community over the course of its 20-year Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) contract.”

    Parker’s calculations:

    A 4 MW wind turbine project generating at 30% of its capacity should produce 10,512 Megawatt hours (MWh) annually: 4 X 30% X 8760 hours = 10,512.

    Over 20 year the total generated MWh would total 210,240 and at $150 per MWh should generate total earnings of $31,536,000 at the $135 per MWh + the adder of $15 per MWh.

    Question: What happened to the missing $17,736,000?

    According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Affairs Canada website they provided $980,000 and M’Chigeeng First Nation promised to commit $3 million and seek $8.5 million to complete the project making the capital costs appear to be $12,480,000. OK so capital costs were $12.5 million but that still leaves $5.256 million unaccounted for.

    I was unable to find how much Ontario’s Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program guaranteed but this from their press release of July 30, 2012 had this quote from Chief Hare:

    “I’d like to express my deep appreciation for Ontario’s Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program, which made it possible to borrow funds to complete M’Chigeeng’s windmill project. First Nations have great difficulty securing financing due to their status as First Nations, and so without a guarantee program, renewable energy projects like ours would just not happen. Our windmills are turning, turning, making money, thanks to Ontario’s Aboriginal Loan Guarantee Program.”
    — Chief Joseph Hare, M’Chigeeng First Nation”

    Published on: 6/21/2011 2:12:29 PM

    M’Chigeeng wind farm nets $980,000 windfall
    By: Northern Ontario Business staff

    The federal government is contributing close to $1 million to the Mother Earth Renewable Energy (MERE) wind farm project on the M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island.

    Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada will provide $500,000 towards the project for the construction and installation phase, while FedNor will contribute $480,000 for engineering and project management costs associated with the installation of the turbines. The First Nation will contribute $3 million of its own capital to the project.

    “The M’Chigeeng First Nation community welcomes this funding and looks forward to the completion of this project,” M’Chigeeng Chief Joe Hare said in a news release. “This project brings us one step closer to becoming a leader in sustainable development in the renewable energy sector and generating additional income for the community. Our commitment to this project also includes securing additional funding of $8,500,000 to complete the project.”

    MERE will encompass two 2 MW turbines on 100 acres of band-owned land on a bluff overlooking the community, which will generate 4,000 KW of power annually. M’Chigeeng has secured a 20-year contract with Ontario Power Generation to sell power to the grid at 15 cents per kWh—13.5 cents
    plus a 1.5-cent Aboriginal adder—through the Feed-in Tarrif program.

    A number of jobs for band members are expected to be created during the construction and operational phases of the project.

    Site preparation work has already begun and construction is slated to begin in September, with completion estimated for November.

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