Elders express opposition to wind power plan

By Ruth Farquhar, Sudbury Star

The chief and council have not done their homework on an issue so grave with an element as powerful as the wind, which is the breath of God.”

This statement was in an open letter to the media from elders and community members of Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve expressing their opposition to industrial wind development on Manitoulin Island.

Last week, elders took these concerns a step further by attending an open house put on by Northland Power and United Chiefs and Council of Mnidoo Mnising (UCCM) their partner in the McLeans Mountain industrial wind turbine project. What did Northland do? They called the police.

Here is what happened, according to Ray Beaudry, one of the Directors of Manitoulin Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA): The elders informed MCSEA they had invited the clans to attend the open house the open house and following a notice sent out, Beaudry received a call from the OPP Liaison team in Orillia about the meeting.

They had been called by Northland, who had concerns there would be a protest by the First Nations and/or MCSEA and a “meeting within a meeting.”

Beaudry was able to “assure the OPP that concerns raised by the First Nations Elders and the people of Manitoulin who are opposing this project are entirely peaceful and have never been anything but courteous and law abiding at meetings.” Following standard practice, three members of the Liaison team attended the meeting in plain clothes.

As far as I could tell, the three elder spokeswomen didn’t appear to be much of a threat. Well spoken, yes, passionate about the land, yes, firm in their opposition to the proposed industrial turbines, yes but a threat, well, no. Two are in their 80s and all sat through the open house while everyone was milling about.

It was an honour to speak with Josephine Eshkibok, Ida Embry and Mary Gaiashk. Eskabok expressed their views clearly: “This is a sacred Island, and there are many spiritual leaders and great chiefs buried here.” All three talked of being afraid for the wildlife, birds especially “our eagles” and plant life. Another big issue for the women was the lack of consultation with band members. “No one asked me about it, no one asked the members if they wanted the turbines” said Eshkibok.

If you have never been to an open house put on by a power company looking to build turbines, they are basically the same every time. This one was set up exactly like the one I attended a few years ago, when two turbines were put up near Spring Bay.

They have boards with maps, points on what changes have been made and photos throughout the room. Then people with the company are around to answer questions. Power companies are required by the province to consult with the community on any projects and open houses seem to be easy way to do that.

I have written before about the conflict this project is creating in the community of Little Current and now it appears that conflict is spilling into the First Nation’s communities, as well.

Those opposing the project have, in my view, valid concerns about what this project may do to the Island. And those for the project are looking to make money. The company says they are listening to concerns of the public by reducing the number of turbines from 33 to 24, but the reality is, they had to make those changes according to guidelines laid out by the province’s Green Energy act.

But the bottom line is money. And Chief of M’Chigeeng, Joe Hare, who imitated the UCCMM partnership with Northland, said it best: “We have a vision in our community, 20 million in 20 years, and we will get there.”

If that is doable is up for debate, but at least he’s upfront about it. The reality is

M’chigeeng is going ahead with their own turbine project and next time you drive though that area look to the bluff, the clear cutting has started.

The McLeans Mountain turbine project is just one of many proposed for Manitoulin. Next week, I will write about the rest of the meeting and what the future holds for Islanders as other companies look to get in on these subsidized projects. McLeans Mountain and M’Chigeeng is just the beginning.

— Ruth Farquhar is a freelance writer based on Manitoulin Island

11 thoughts on “Elders express opposition to wind power plan

  1. Ruth Farquhar, thanks for this article … you just helped us make up our minds.

    Rockgarden Terrace Resort was on our shortlist for this year’s vacation destination. We were hoping to see Manitoulin Island one more time before all hell broke loose. Now we’re reading that M’Chigeeng has already started the desecration, so …

    It’s off to Windermere House instead. Muskoka has it’s share of eyesores and inappropriate development but you can be sure nobody would have the cojones to ring the shores of Lake Rosseau with IWTs. The local economy and lifestyle would depend on it …

  2. These wind turbine projects are all about “OPM” (Other People’s Money). Unless you’re getting the money, you’re giving it!

  3. Industrial wind turbines are powered by greed – not wind.

  4. For many, many years (10?) my mother, my daughter and her best friend and myself enjoyed the beauty of not only Manitoulin Island itself but the beauty of the Wiki reserve – the only unceded reserve in Canada to the best of my knowledge. This is more than a shame! I understand the need for alternative sources of power but…………… on Wikki? really? The ONLY reserve in Canada that didn’t give in to the lies and beurocracy of “treaties?” that were for the most part (I am no history expert) not even honoured? That’s a discrace! Leave this beautiful, green, natural and open part of Canada as it is………………. it’s one of the few we have left!

  5. The need for alternative energy is another artificial need created to sell IWTs to the general public. This need is based on ideology and not science.

    All machines have their scientific limitations and IWTs cannot produce electricity unless the wind blows due to their particular set of scientific limitations. When the wind dosen’t blow is a scientific limitation. The result is unstainable and unreliable electricity production. Only the Almighty can ever change IWTs limitations to make them work when the wind dosen’t blow.

    • The land owners who host or want to host IWTs don’t care if they work or not as they will get paid whether they work on not. Or they think they will get paid.

      The only concerns that IWT hosts would have would be over health and saftey issues. For IWT hosts it’s all about the easy money that’s to be had.

    • Anytime someone comes along and offers to pay people for something they neither have to invest in nor work for to get the money will get plenty of takers.

      This is the reason why phones ring off the hook at local town halls when landowners hear about IWT projects coming to their area.

      The same applies to IWT co-operatives.

    • People who are hosting or want to host IWTs will come to council meetings and provide all sorts of reasons and excuses about why IWTs are good. Makes a good cover for accepting or wanting to accept “free money”.

    • Exactly Barbara, you know those people well.

      We happened to be right behind some of those greedy / uneducated types at last nights Millbrook meeting. As they sat there with blank faces, occasionally whispering to each other, never applauding or acknowledging the message being given by the speakers … they looked like “pod” people, right out of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

      It was clear that “Truth About Turbines” was not what they wanted to hear.

  6. Thanks for sharing what’s happening on Manitoulin, Ruth. Your description is the same for every part of Ontario. Industrial Wind Turbine developers laughing at the citizens of Ontario and trying to intimidate every step of the way.

  7. My husband and I vacationed on Manitoulin Island last summer and found solace in the peaceful pristine countryside. When we spoke to residents they told us that Manitoulin Island does not allow large stores and chains on the Island. This means there are no Tim Hortons, Walmart, etc. The Islanders and First Nations want to keep the jobs withing their community and the landscape preserved. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to jump into bed with Wind Farm companies, all in the name of the almightly dollar. Is nothing sacred? My heart goes out to the residents of this beautiful island who will suffer greatly if the Wind Turbines go in. The health of their families and the nature they cherish will be no match for the looming 500 ft. towers with their 20 year leases banketing their oasis. Then all the money in the world won’t solve their problems.

Comments are closed.