Community Engagement During Project Development: Early and Often

May 15, 2024

Henvey Inlet Wind and its unique story were topics of discussion at the recent Indigenous Led Projects Forum in Toronto. 

The event “provides a unique space for Indigenous communities and organizations & industry and government representatives to come together and engage in meaningful discussions about the opportunities, challenges, and support surrounding Indigenous-led projects in Canada,” as explained on their website.

Guest speakers spoke about four key topics: critical minerals, the nuclear sector, Indigenous-led utility corridors, and renewable energy.

A Growing Partnership

The partnership between Henvey Inlet First Nation’s Nigig Power Corporation and Pattern Energy is unique. The facility was the first to develop a First Nation Environmental Stewardship Regime under the First Nations Lands Management Act.

“When we started out in the early days with the wind farm around 2008, I heard a gentleman speak at a Chiefs meeting about a 50 percent partnership between First Nations and renewable energy,” said Henvey Inlet First Nation Chief Wayne McQuabbie during a celebration event in 2022. “That really caught my ear.”

Jennifer Ashawasegai-Pereira, who was the communications consultant for Henvey Inlet First Nation at the time, spoke about this on the Renewable Energy Journey panel at the Indigenous Led Projects Forum.

“And that’s when we had developers knocking on our door because some of our land is along beautiful, wind-swept Georgian Bay,” she said in a recent article by Sam Laskaris from Anishinabek News. “So, you can imagine there is a lot of wind and there is that potential… Since we had developers knocking on our door, we thought this might be a really good idea. So, we talked amongst ourselves, thought it would be a good idea, and then we did our due diligence. Part of our due diligence was also wanting to have a good partnership. One of the things we wanted was a 50-50 partnership. We weren’t going to settle for less.”

While Henvey Inlet First Nation had several developers expressing interest, Jennifer says they couldn’t come to an agreement. But Pattern Energy stood out in a positive way.

“One of the things that Pattern did, we hear about these things all the time, is engage early and engage often. And they did that,” she said in the Anishinabek News.

Jennier is now the Indigenous engagement and traditional knowledge specialist for AtkinsRéalis, an engineering and project management organization. 

Continuing to Listen, Learn, and Engage

Joining Jennifer on the Renewable Energy Journey panel was Pat Murray, community relations advisor for Pattern Energy.

Pat has developed great relationships with Jennifer, Henvey Inlet First Nation Chief Wayne McQuabbie, and other members of the community over the years.

“I believe that engaging early, often, and consistently throughout the lifecycle of a project is essential to building and maintaining our relationships. We gain valuable insights into what the community needs and we become true allies by nurturing great relationships,” Pat says.

Read more about Henvey Inlet Wind’s story and history here: