Five Nations Energy, Canada's only Indigenous-owned long-distance energy company, recently wrapped up a two-year campaign to donate around $1.7 million to First Nations communities and health providers in northern Ontario.

The donation spree wrapped up Thursday with a $150,000 donation to Sagashtawao Healing Lodge, an addictions centre in Moosonee.

"What we wanted to do is live up to our social objectives, as a not-for-profit, and put some money back into the communities," said Pat Chilton, CEO of Five Nations Energy.

The campaign started in 2018, after the company had a surplus in revenue from the Ontario Energy Board and the Independent Electric System Operator.

The company's board of directors decided the extra money would be best spent helping communities and service providers in the region.

"Being able to build the communities and make the infrastructure stronger for them and being able to have access to equipment and facilities," said Lawrence Martin, chair of the company’s board of directors.

Reinvesting in the community

The company presented its final donation to Sagashtawao Healing Lodge's executive director, Collette Hookimaw at Five Nations Energy's Timmins office.

Hookimaw said her addictions centre has been in need of a kitchen remodel, as well as a new furnace system, bedroom and living room furniture and backup generators.

"Indigenous services and indigenous agencies back home really appreciate and love to see (this)," said Hookimaw.

"They are part of our communities and our Mushkegowuk area and we just can't express our appreciation for them to give back."

Five Nations Energy's other donations over its two-year campaign included:

  • $250,000 to the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (which serves the far north)
  • $200,000 to Northern College for a bursary fund
  • $100,000 to Attawapiskat First Nation
  • $100,000 to Kashechewan First Nation
  • $100,000 to Fort Albany First Nation
  • $100,000 to Moose Cree First Nation
  • $100,000 to Taykwa Tagamou Nation

The company also donated over $500,000 to the Timmins and District Hospital Foundation, which its executive director, Jason Laneville, said is a much-welcome help in purchasing equipment for the hospital.

"This was, basically, one of their first donations (to the hospital), so half a million dollars goes a long way," Laneville said.

Maintaining power in the far north

Martin said he hopes Five Nations Energy can generate more surplus revenue to donate back to the region, though he notes that maintaining the far north's electric transmission infrastructure is a costly task.

Among its future projects, Martin said, is preventative maintenance for its power lines, particularly with the rough geography in the area and erosion helped along by climate change.

Providing quality telecommunications and fibre optic internet infrastructure are important in those remote First Nations, he said, and so it requires a solid ongoing relationship with those communities.

"If the fire goes out, you don't have heat for a couple of days and we can't have that," Martin said.

"We have to make sure that the power line is always full and running."