First Nations Power Authority (FNPA)

First Nations Power Authority (FNPA) was established in 2011 as North America’s only not-for-profit clean energy organization that is Indigenous-owned and led. FNPA facilitates the development of partnerships between First Nations and industry players to develop, build, own, operate and maintain cleaner energy in Canada. FNPA leverages project development expertise, a network of industry experts, and technical advisors to develop projects resulting in increased economic benefits for First Nation communities with the ultimate goal of energy sovereignty in all parts of Canada for Indigenous nations.

“Success looks like healthy relationships between Indigenous people and industry,” says FNPA’s CEO Guy Lonechild. He continues, “Meaningful engagement must be early, often, and responsive to Indigenous voices. These engagements should empower communities to drive the development of clean energy.”

Being in the community is essential to the way we approach our work at FNPA. We consider service-based leadership to be the model of our method. Our workplace culture is built around creating a safe space for employees and consultants. As an organization, our core values include collaboration, transparency, and accountability to each other and who we serve through creating a strong environment to advance partnership relationships in this sector, along with building and sustaining trust. We work to advance the interests of the community through fair advocacy and representation. Our basic operating premise is- when communities succeed, we succeed.

The ultimate idea of success would be to work ourselves out of a job. We have genuinely realized economic success when First Nations are leading the development and ownership of projects themselves. To do this, we need more Indigenous engineers, project managers, and technicians to maintain green technology to make this happen.
If COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that Canada has the capacity to pull together. While we must maintain our vigilance about the pandemic, it is time to talk openly about how we can convert that commitment to other collective aspirations. There is an urgent need to balance safe, reliable energy supplies with high-level environmental stewardship as we embark on the economic reconciliation process as a prime focus of our joint efforts.

We hope that, from our work, others learn the value of creating healthy partnerships in this sector. Business is a two-way street. It’s important to listen to one another’s priorities to understand what’s important to each partner. Plan around maximizing both benefits, measuring, and reporting on them to build stronger allyship. Right now, in our industry, the largest challenge to economic reconciliation is the lack of process for developing relationships. Power utilities in Canada build reconciliation action plans in isolation. Plans should be made in partnership with Indigenous people. Sometimes a utility company will build its own reconciliation plan without any Indigenous input. This can create uneasy feelings. Engagement shouldn’t be a checkbox project, it should be like a meaningful relationship. It should have a long-term vision and should involve periodic input from nations as it progresses.

As the Indigenous economy grows, we have begun seeing power projects owned by Indigenous communities, real wages being created for Indigenous people, and more sophistication in the development process. Lots of learning and expertise are being built around sustainable energy. We have also noticed finance knowledge and capacity increasing and more equity ownership in large-scale infrastructure.

These high-profile initiatives position First Nations at the leading edge of economic reconciliation and as key players in the preservation and improvement of national prosperity. The emphasis on clean, affordable, locally generated and distributed energy will stabilize power supplies and improve the market competitiveness of all businesses and operators, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. In energy, as in so many other sectors, there is no longer a sharp division between Indigenous needs and those of the entire nation.

The past 150+ years of relations with dominant society have hampered the economic participation of Indigenous people. We have reached the cusp of mobilizing Indigenous wealth. It starts with the land, asserting our rights, and our responsibility to do Indigenous development like it hasn’t been seen before. Indigenous people are now buying back and taking over these roles.

We must strive to be the suppliers of energy in Canada. Leadership has to be Indigenous. If we allow for minimal equity participation or settle for it, we won’t be able to build the future we deserve. We must think boldly about controlling our resources again. Forestry, agriculture, mining, and clean energy, all present opportunities for the growth of clean energy, and we are poised to help corporations clean up their emissions.

We believe that the future of the Indigenous economy lies in skills development. It is time to establish an Indigenous Center of Excellence for clean energy and a low carbon future. It is time to invest time and money into preparing Indigenous youth to take over as future leaders so they can be welcomed and their identity can be celebrated and leaned on for decision making. This is a time of economic reconciliation for Corporate Canada to uphold the Truth and Reconciliation’s Call to Action #92: for corporate Canada to build meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples. The First Nations Power Authority is demonstrating Indigenomics in action in the emerging 100 billion dollar Indigenous economy.