As Canada continues to experience the impacts of climate change, particularly profound in the North and Arctic, many Indigenous communities are leading the way in building a resilient clean energy future. To support their vision, the Government of Canada is investing in Indigenous-led renewable energy projects, based on local priorities and innovative solutions that work in their communities. These projects will grow local economies and create good jobs while fighting climate change and protecting the environment in Indigenous, rural and remote communities.
On February 13, 2023, the Minister of Natural Resources, Jonathan Wilkinson, the Minister of Northern Affairs, PrairiesCan and CanNor, the Honourable Dan Vandal; and the Minister of Indigenous Services, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, announced the selection of seven Indigenous leaders who will make up the Indigenous Council that will help guide the transition to clean energy in Indigenous, rural and remote communities.
The Indigenous Council will provide guidance and advice to the Government of Canada on policy and program design and direct engagement with Indigenous partners on accessing resources and funding that reduce diesel reliance.
“The newly formed Indigenous Council, Wah-ila-toos, is an important development for our collective advancement toward a more sustainable future,” said Wilkinson. “I congratulate all of the members of Wah-ila-toos. The Government of Canada looks forward to your advice and guidance as we work toward reducing diesel reliance, advancing clean energy deployment, and creating economic opportunities and sustainable jobs with First Nations, Inuit and Métis.”
In April 2022, Canada announced $300 million in funding to support communities launching clean energy projects such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydro and biomass along with a new, streamlined service model for communities seeking to access resources and clean energy funding. This single window initiative, newly gifted with the name Wah-ila-toos, is a partnership between Natural Resources Canada, Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and Indigenous Services Canada, with support from Infrastructure Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Indigenous Council for Wah-ila-toos
With the support of an Indigenous consultant, the Indigenous Council members were selected on the basis of their knowledge and leadership in supporting clean energy projects within communities. The Indigenous Council is a distinctions-based with First Nation, Inuit, and Métis representation, and reflects diverse communities, languages, geographies, skills, and gender. They will serve on the Indigenous Council until at least Fall 2024.
Nation: Nunavut Inuit (Nunavut)
Alex is the owner of ArchTech, a 100% Inuit–owned and operated design-build developer for affordable, efficient and resilient net-zero buildings in rural and remote Arctic communities. As an Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative Champion, Indigenous Clean Energy 20/20 Catalysts, and Vice-Chair of the Arctic Renewables Society, Alex is passionate about the global transition toward a clean energy future. He holds a bachelor of business degree majoring in management and leadership from Saint Francis Xavier University and is completing certification as a Residential Energy Advisor with Natural Resources Canada.
Relevant associations: IODI Champion, Baker Lake, Nunavut 20/20 Catalysts Program Alumni Indigenous Clean Energy, Energy Advisor Candidate Natural Resources Canada, Owner of ArchTech
Nation: Inuit (Nunavut)
Alex Ittimangnaq was born and raised in Kugaaruk, Nunavut. He is an Energy Champion and a catalyst who is currently leading the clean energy program for the Hamlet of Kugaaruk. Passionate about his community, he strives to improve the quality of living for all through collaboration with community members, federal departments and local leaders to develop a clean and sustainable energy future. A proud father of four beautiful daughters and one son, he is committed to improving the quality of life for his family and his community.
Relevant associations: IODI Champion, Kugaaruk
Nation: Gwich’in First Nation (Northwest Territories)
As President of Nihtat Energy Limited (NEL), Grant has served as overall Project Lead/Coordinator for a number of renewable energy projects advanced by Nihtat Corporation (NEL) since 2018. In this capacity he provided oversight and direction for the Inuvik High Point Wind Study (2016–2018), the Multi-residential Solar Net Metering Demonstration project (January 2018–September 2019) and for Commercial Solar PV Installations in NWT and Nunavut (April 2018–May 2020).
Grant was a 20/20 Catalyst (2016) and is currently participating as an Energy Champion in the Indigenous Off-grid Diesel Initiative (IODI). As a Gwich’in participant, Grant has also been active in several Gwich’in organizations, serving as Chair of the Gwich’in Settlement Corporation and as lead business representative and board representative on the Nihtat Gwich’in Development Board, and participating in Gwich’in / Imperial Oil access and benefits negotiations in connection with the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline. He was also the Executive Director of Gwich’in Council International (2012–May 2019).
Relevant associations: IODI Champion
Nation: Metis Community of Île-à-la Crosse / Black Lake First Nation (Saskatchewan)
Jordyn Burnouf is a proud Nehîyaw Iskwew (Cree woman) from the Métis community of Île-à-la Crosse and Black Lake First Nation. As Advisor to the Vice President of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan, guide at her family’s land-based camp Pemmican Lodge, climate pro-activist, and hunter and wild rice harvester, Jordyn’s passions and lifestyle harmoniously intersect. As a proud northerner and Nehîyaw Iskwew, Jordyn has an inherent connection and love for the land. Her work is centred on clean energy and environmental stewardship with a passion for land-based teachings, cultural inclusion and empowering young people.
Jordyn is a 20/20 Indigenous Clean Energy Catalyst and a part of the Bringing it Home national initiative, which addresses the housing and energy needs of Indigenous communities in Canada. Jordyn continues to advocate and create space for youth and woman in the energy sector through her leadership roles as Co-Chair of the SevenGen Indigenous Youth Council and as a member of the Indigenous Clean Energy Board of Directors and Efficiency Canada’s Governing Council.
Relevant associations: SevenGen Co-Chair, ICE Board of Directors
Nation: Kitigan Zibi Anishnabeg Nation (Quebec)
Kim Scott is founder and principal investigator of Kishk Anaquot Health Research (KAHR), an independent, Indigenous–owned and operated consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, program design, performance measurement, partnership development and environmental sustainability with a varied client base of universities, government departments, professional associations, international and non-governmental organizations, school boards, health centres and communities. Her career spans a broad spectrum of activities related to public health, governance and comprehensive sustainability planning as well as international, organizational and community development.
Kim holds a master of science degree from the University of Waterloo and is a recent member of Canada’s Sustainable Development Advisory Council responsible for updating the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2022–2026. She developed the governance document for Ărrămat, an international research project seeking to strengthen health and well-being through Indigenous-led conservation and sustainable relationships to biodiversity (https://arramatproject.org). Kim is currently preparing a critical analysis of Canada’s sustainable development plans and priorities using a crosswalk between the UN sustainable development goals and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Relevant associations: ICE Executive Indigenous Advisory Board
Leona Humchitt – Zuxvalaqs
Nation: Haiłzaqv Nation (British Columbia)
Leona Humchitt currently serves as Climate Action Coordinator for the Haiłzaqv nation of Bella Bella, British Columbia.
She credits her journey and capacity building for clean energy to the Indigenous Clean Energy Leadership program and the completion of the 2019 cohort of the 20/20 Catalyst Program, an intensive clean energy capacity-building program that provides practical and applied learning of renewable energy, community energy planning, energy efficiency and conservation. She now serves as a member of the ICE Advisory Committee.
Leona is working locally and regionally with a peer network of Climate Action Coordinators who represent eight participating Coastal First Nations of B.C. They support each other and collaborate on efforts to decarbonize our coast in order to transition from diesel generation and reduce the transportation of fossil fuels through their ecologically and culturally significant territories.
Nationally, the Haiłzaqv nation is one of 15 remote and rural First Nations communities participating in the Indigenous Off-Diesel Initiative. The Haiłzaqv nation has completed its community-led Clean Energy Plan and is currently working on project design and partial implementation of a portion of its Clean Energy Plan.
Leona deems being a grandmother “as a whole new level of love.” With six grandchildren, she believes today’s hard work in climate action is much more meaningful and important. “We have a responsibility to ensure that through climate action, we protect and preserve our collective future for our children yet to come.”
Relevant associations: IODI Champion, B.C. Remote Community Strategy Indigenous Working Group, Coastal First Nations Climate Action Network, Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise – Advisory Committee Member, Simon Fraser University MBA (Indigenous Business and Leadership) 2020 Alumni, Candidate – 2022 UBC Graduate Certificate in Aquaculture
Sean Brennan Nang Hl K’aayaas
Nation: Haida Nation (British Columbia)
Sean is the project implementation manager for Tll Yahda Energy on Haida Gwaii and is focused on getting Haida Gwaii off diesel-based energy. A member of the Ts’aahl Laanaas Eagle Clan, Sean has been working toward Haida sovereignty his whole career. Coming from a forestry background, Sean has contributed to drafting the Haida Gwaii Land Use Plan; helped develop Cultural Feature Identification programs for industry; and worked directly with government and industry proponents to ensure the exercise of Haida free, prior and informed consent through the Solutions Table forum.
Relevant associations: IODI Champion, Indigenous Clean Energy 20/20 Catalyst, B.C. Remote Community Strategy Indigenous Working Group
Featured images credit: Government of Canada.