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Oneida band chief irked with turbine project

The Oneida First Nation is siding with Dutton-Dunwich over a controversial wind farm project, claiming they were passed over during the planning process for the Strong Breeze Wind Project.

Chief Randall Phillips recently spoke to Dutton Dunwich councillors. He says his band of 2,500 members was sidestepped by Chicago-based energy giant Invenergy LLC, and that the consultation process for renewable energy projects is ripe with flaws.

“The process that government uses with First Nations is not always entirely straight up,” Phillips said.

He also contacted members of six Ontario First Nations about their apparent support for the wind project, one touted by Invenergy LLC. Turbine project bids are preferred when they have participation from a First Nation.

The six Ontario First Nations who supported Invenergy’s bid are located roughly 1,000 km north of Dutton-Dunwich, closer to the Manitoba border than they are to the proposed turbine sites.

“In essence, their reply was that they are northern First Nations communities that have lacked the opportunity and resources for economic development for many years,” Phillips said. “They see this as a way to make money to enrich their community.”

But the local Oneida band was not contacted nor did they give their consent, he said.

The little municipality of Dutton-Dunwich voted 84 per cent against the project during a referendum. But the results fell on deaf ears, doing little to halt turbine construction.

Now Phillips wants to organize a vote on the project in his own first nation community.

Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam presented Phillips with a copy of the municipality’s consultant report. Oneida on the Thames First Nation is preparing its own environmental conservation program.

The government has not heard the last of him, Phillips said.

“I want to put the responsibility back on them to say this is a good idea,” he added.