Two native bands are threatening to tie up the Ontario government’s long-range power plans using lengthy court delays.
In a submission to the Ontario Energy Board, people from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation Territories argued the province has not lived up to its legal requirement to consult with them on the plan’s impact.
The lawyer for the two communities, near Wiarton on the Bruce Peninsula, spoke earlier this week at board hearings into the Ontario Power Authority’s proposal for new energy sources.
Arthur Pape reminded board members of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Queen’s Park has a legal duty to consult with First Nations on the impact the power plan will have on their lives.
“There’s no way the Saugeen Ojibway could participate meaningfully with government to ensure that this part of the plan could be implemented in a way that protects their rights,” Pape told the board.
Pape says there’s still time to negotiate compensation that may be owed to First Nations for the impact of new wind farms, hydro dams and transmission lines on their hunting and fishing rights and way of life.
But he warned that if the government fails to negotiate, it could mean lengthy delays in getting the plan approved.
“If the government won’t work with them to find a way to accommodate those things, they may find themselves applying to the courts, and asking for the courts to not let this plan be implemented,” he told CBC News.
Neither the government, nor the Ontario Power Authority, which drew up the plan, would comment on Pape’s submissions.
The OPA’s new plan, which calls for the provincial government to spend $26.5 billion on nuclear power plants, still requires regulatory approval.
The plan also proposes doubling the amount of renewable energy on the grid by 2025 and phasing out coal-fired generation by the end of 2014.
Several energy providers are considering building more wind farms on the Bruce Peninsula to bring power to the south of the province.
Much of that energy will require new transmission lines to be built.