Since time immemorial the home of the Dokis People has been on the shores of the French River. Today, along with private partner Hydromega, the Dokis Nation is tapping into the hydroelectricity potential of the French River to power the local economy and drive job creation.
It's a win-win sustainable development story for the greater Sudbury region.
The French River is a sacred place. The waterway is the home to the Fish Eagle, the Migisi in our language, Ojibwe. In the early 1900s three dams, the Chaudiere, the Little Chaudiere and the Portage were built to control water flow down the French and maintain water levels on Lake Nipissing.
Twenty years ago, Chief Marty Restoule of the Dokis First Nation asked a simple question: "Can we generate power from the dams." Two decade later, his vision is on the cusp on being realized.
Working in partnership with Hydromega of Montreal, the Dokis First Nation has started building a powerhouse adjacent to the Portage Dam with the support of local residents, fishers, canoeists and even the French River Provincial Park. All this is due to smart planning which has stressed environmental conservation, habitat and endangered species protection, enhancement of fishery spawning beds, archaeological preservation and heritage recognition.
The project now employs over 50 tradespeople and journeymen, from the Dokis Nation and surroundings communities including Sudbury, Sturgeon Falls, North Bay and Monetville. Dozens of local companies from our general contractor to specialty firms are generating income, and creating jobs.
None of this would be possible without the Green Economy and Green Energy Act of Ontario, which was introduced by the provincial Liberal government six years ago. First Nations, in partnership with qualified private companies can now develop renewable energy projects and sell clean, green and sustainable electricity to the Ontario grid.
As Chief of the Dokis Nation, I want to stress that renewable energy like hydropower generated by the Okikendawt Project is cost-competitive in comparison to dirty coal plants or nuclear energy.
In addition, by offering First Nations an opportunity to drive local economic development through clean energy the Ontario government has accorded indigenous peoples one of the most important thing we seek - respect.
In about a year's time, the Okikendawt Hydro project will begin generating power and produce on-going earnings for the Dokis Nation. Our community will ensure that these funds are used wisely. Project revenues will be applied to economic development, health and social services, and community infrastructure; all efforts which will strengthen the economic fabric of the greater Sudbury area.
The Dokis First Nation is a 100% supporter of Ontario's Green Economy and Green Energy Act. It is the right thing to do at the right time to ensure our province's economic future will be based on clean, green and sustainable power from the traditional territory of First Nations.
A future that forges a new mutually supportive relationship between the residents of the near North of Ontario, and the First Nations who have walked these lands since time immemorial.