NIPISSING – Tilting at windmills is usually considered a fool’s errand but opposing a wind farm turned into a victory for a coalition of townships, Algonquin First Nation bands and a local lake association.
“It was amazing to see how quickly all these communities came together to speak with one voice in opposition to the wind farm proposal,” says John Kelsall, President of the Lake Talon Conservation Association (LTCA).
The LTCA was formed 30 years ago to maintain the pristine condition on Lake Talon.
“We monitor water quality and water levels on Lake Talon and we hire two students every summer to pick up garbage in our camping areas,” Kelsall says. But when they found out about the wind farm proposal, the LTCA shifted from conservationist to activist mode.
“I phoned Chief Dave Joanisse of the Antoine First Nation (AFN) and Don Paquette of the Mattawa/North Bay Algonquin First Nation (MNAFN) to find out if they knew anything about the wind farm. Like us, they had not heard anything about the wind farm other than the newspaper ad,” Kelsall says. “The LTCA contacted the hosting company (Innergex Renewable Energy) and were made to understand that we would be allowed to speak at the public meeting in Mattawa.”
“But when we arrived there we were told that no speeches would be allowed that night,” says Chief Dave Joanisse. More than two hundred members of the public had shown up for the meeting. Representatives of the LTCA, AFN and MNAFN decided to make speeches anyway. To repeated applause from the audience, all three organizations let it be known that they strongly opposed the wind farm proposal. François Morin, Senior Advisor of Public Affairs for Innergex politely listened and promised to make their opinions known to his company.
Two weeks later, another public information meeting was held in Mattawa. This one, held at the Mike Rodden Arena’s Community Hall, was paid for by the LTCA but the list of scheduled anti-wind farm speakers included the AFN, MNAFN, MPP Victor Fedeli, MP Jay Aspin, and five mayors from the Mattawan, Mattawa, Bonfield, Calvin and Papineau-Cameron townships.
This time, Innergex’s François Morin was the invited guest. “We didn’t insult or embarrass him,” says Peter Murphy, Mayor of Mattawan Township. “We just wanted him to see how strongly we felt about this proposal. No one at the meeting was in support of the wind farm.”
On March 17, Innergex issued a press release announcing the cancellation of the wind farm proposal. The reason cited was “The many concerns expressed by residents and local authorities have demonstrated that we do not have social acceptability for the Nodinosi project, nor the context to develop such a collaborative approach. We will not pursue a project without the appropriate level of support of the community.”
But it is an ill wind farm proposal that blows no good. For the LTCA and the two local First Nations bands, it was an opportunity to meet and find common ground.
“My family has had a cottage on Lake Talon for 70 years,” Kelsall says, “but until the Innergex meetings I had never met either Chief Joanisse or Chief Clifford Bastien. (MNBAFN). We found our organizations are all interested in the same things – preserving the environment and a way of life. I hope we can work together on future projects.”
Chief Joanisse agrees. “The First Nations communities are often fighting the environmental battles alone. The Innergex proposal shows that First Nations and non-First Nations organizations that have similar interests can work together for a common purpose.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding