Bearskin Lake First Nation Energized by Wataynikaneyap Power

The ‘line that brings light’ connects Bearskin Lake First Nation to the provincial power grid

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION, Ontario, Aug. 23, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Wataynikaneyap Power is pleased to announce the energization of Bearskin Lake First Nation. The northern Ontario community was connected to the provincial power grid on July 7, 2023. Upon grid connection, the community turned off the diesel generators which had previously provided them primary power.

The Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system connects the Bearskin Lake community distribution system to the Ontario grid through a total of 739 km of line and six substations, originating from its Dinorwic Substation. Bearskin Lake will continue to be served by Hydro One Remotes Communities Inc. (HORCI) for the local distribution of electricity. Bearskin Lake First Nation is located over 600 km north of Thunder Bay, Ontario and is accessible by ice roads in the winter season and plane year-round.

Bearskin Lake Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin states, “Grid connection is necessary to power the future needs of the community, including our future water and wastewater community upgrades. Reliable power enables us to grow. We have multiple houses and buildings ready for connection, as we no longer have to worry about being at max capacity for power.”

Bearskin Lake became the fourth First Nation energized by the provincial power grid through the Wataynikaneyap Power transmission system. Five more First Nations are planned to be energized in 2023, with the remaining seven to be connected in 2024.1

“We are here to celebrate the energization of Bearskin Lake First Nation,” remarks Margaret Kenequanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power. “The capacity of diesel generators limited our Peoples’ ability to grow. I want to acknowledge the work that Bearskin Lake leadership has already undertaken to take full advantage of the opportunities reliable power brings – for instance, to improve their housing situation. Now that we have a power transmission line, owned by the First Nations, we can all focus on looking to future opportunities, instead of band-aid solutions.”

Eliezar Mckay, First Nation LP Board Chair, states, “This vision has been almost 20 years in the making – to bring reliable power to our communities with infrastructure owned by the First Nations. We are now seeing the results of the First Nations’ resilience to keep this Project moving ahead.”

Wataynikaneyap Power is majority-owned by an equal partnership of 24 First Nations, in partnership with Fortis Inc. and other private investors, to build and operate the ‘line that brings light,’ a $1.9 billion dollar infrastructure project, a reality for remote, northern Ontario First Nations. The 1,800 km Wataynikaneyap Power Transmission Line will ultimately connect 17 remote First Nations to the Ontario power grid, removing their reliance on diesel-generated electricity.

“It is great to celebrate the continued progress of this unprecedented project,” remarks Frank Mckay, Board Chair for the Wataynikaneyap Power General Partnership (WPGP). “The people told us to do it, we listened and we did it with their full support and consent. Congratulations Bearskin Lake First Nation!”

“We are proud to stand alongside Bearskin Lake First Nation in commemorating their integration with the Ontario electrical grid,” said David Hutchens, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fortis Inc. “This connection to cleaner, more reliable power will pave the way for new opportunities within the community. With more than 94% of the Wataynikaneyap Project now complete, we look forward to the successful connection of all 17 First Nations to the grid.”

On August 23, Bearskin Lake invited Wataynikaneyap Power, Opiikapawiin Services, government, and other stakeholders to celebrate this momentous occasion in the community.

“The Wataynikaneyap Transmission Project is the largest grid connection project in Canada. Today’s announcement will ensure Bearskin Lake First Nation can transition away from diesel power and access clean, reliable electricity. By connecting First Nations to Ontario’s provincial power grid, this Indigenous-led project will bring reliable electricity to community members, while fighting climate change and creating jobs. Thanks to Indigenous leaders, work continues and we won’t stop until every First Nations community is connected to the grid," states the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor).

The Honourable Todd Smith, Minister of Energy, remarks, “I congratulate Wataynikaneyap Power on this incredible achievement in bringing clean, reliable and affordable electricity to Bearskin Lake First Nation. Our government is proud to support this first-nation led project which is enabling community development opportunities in Bearskin Lake First Nation, such as water treatment, new housing and economic development.”

About Wataynikaneyap Power
Wataynikaneyap Power is a licensed transmission company majority-owned by a partnership of 24 First Nations in partnership with Fortis Inc. and other private investors, regulated by the Ontario Energy Board. FortisOntario Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortis Inc., acts as the project manager through its wholly owned subsidiary, Wataynikaneyap Power PM Inc. The 24 First Nations also established Opiikapawiin Services to lead the community engagement and participation for Wataynikaneyap Power LP. To connect remote communities to the electrical grid, Wataynikaneyap Power will develop, manage construction, and operate approximately 1,800 kilometres of transmission lines in northwestern Ontario. For further information, please visit:

About First Nation Limited Partnership
First Nation Limited Partnership (FNLP) is a partnership of 24 First Nations in Northwestern Ontario working together to connect 17 remote communities currently powered by diesel generation stations. FNLP was established in 2015 to be the ownership and control of the participating First Nations’ interest in Wataynikaneyap Power LP. The 51% interest in Wataynikaneyap Power LP is equally owned by each of the 24 First Nation communities and FNLP will maintain their ability to increase their ownership to 100% over time.

About Fortis
Fortis is a well-diversified leader in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry with 2022 revenue of $11 billion and total assets of $64 billion as of June 30, 2023. The Corporation's 9,200 employees serve utility customers in five Canadian provinces, ten U.S. states and three Caribbean countries. Fortis shares are listed on the TSX and NYSE and trade under the symbol FTS. Additional information can be accessed at,, or         

About Opiikapawiin Services
Opiikapawiin Services LP (OSLP) was established by a partnership of 24 First Nations in Northwestern Ontario. OSLP is primarily responsible for administering projects and programs for Wataynikaneyap Power PM through a service agreement, relating to community engagement, community readiness, education & training, business readiness, stakeholder engagement, communications, and capacity building. OSLP also supports the First Nation Partnership in the management of its investment in Wataynikaneyap Power. For additional information, please visit:        

Media Contacts

Kristine Carmichael, Director of Corporate and Customer Services
FortisOntario Inc.
(905) 994-3637
Mary Kita, Manager, Communications
Wataynikaneyap Power
(807) 631-7503

1 Wataynikaneyap will continue to work with McDowell Lake First Nation, the 17th community, with the goal of becoming grid connected in the future.