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Canada's Nuclear Future

Q&A with Shane Chegahno: Why Indigenous Voices Matter in Nuclear

Shane Chegahno

Vice-President, Makwa Development Corporation

Mediaplanet chatted with Shane Chegahno, Vice-President of the Makwa Development Corporation, about what a more inclusive nuclear energy sector looks like, why Indigenous involvement and engagement are so critical, and how more opportunities for Indigenous youth and communities can be fostered.

How is Makwa Development Corporation fostering a more inclusive nuclear energy sector?

As a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned company from the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation, which is part of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, we saw a unique opportunity between the Indigenous workforce and the nuclear energy sector. Our traditional territory is host to the secondlargest operating nuclear facilities in the world, and we felt the need to open a new path to the industry for Indigenous and local workers. We create strategic business partnerships with industry companies, and then create opportunities for the Indigenous and local workforce, which in turn provides great value to the energy sector by localizing the workforce required to execute the projects.

Can you highlight some of the positive shifts you’ve observed in recent years in terms of Indigenous involvement and engagement in energy projects, and what further improvements are needed going forward?

We can see the differences in today’s energy landscape compared to a decade ago. Indigenous Nations and companies have evolved beyond the minimum requirements of engagement, consultation, and the checkbox exercise. Canada’s energy infrastructure is now an elaborate strategy of equity-sharing, partnerships, and Indigenous-owned projects. As this process continues to evolve, there are still opportunities for improvement. There’s a need for a Federal Indigenous Major Project Loan Guarantee Instrument to assist Indigenous Nations in participating as equal partners in this process to achieve economic reconciliation, and it is always helpful to ensure companies have access to the required support to understand Indigenous culture, values, and world views as these are front and centre in the success of the project.

Why is it so important for organizations in the energy sector to have Indigenous voices present on their teams, and how does this contribute to more sustainable and mutually beneficial outcomes?

No person is better equipped to advocate and understand Indigenous people than another Indigenous person. There are unique benefits to having Indigenous voices present on teams working in engagement, consultation, and projects. The oral tradition of sharing and teaching in Indigenous culture is still a practice and represents many of a community’s values. Organizations may have policy but there are small nuances that policy cannot capture. Indigenous voices can articulate what is not captured in policy, providing context and meaning that aids in understanding, which will lead to a more meaningful outcome.

What is Makwa doing to create more opportunities for Indigenous youth and to build true wealth in Indigenous communities?

The nuclear power industry is growing at a rapid pace and is poised to support our energy demands today and into the future as we strive to meet our climate action goals. Today, we’re seeing Canada at the forefront of new nuclear, with the deployment of small modular reactors in several provinces, as well as the plans for large conventional nuclear taking shape. Nuclear energy is critical to our net-zero goals and will provide safe, reliable baseload electricity. It will support and complement other clean-energy sources, such as wind, solar, and renewables. The nuclear industry is innovative and dynamic and poised for growth as we work to meet our clean energy demands in the future. 

This is only the beginning of our vision.

Learn more at makwadevelopment.ca.

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