The federal government is spending $13 million on six Northern Ontario projects to help build greener businesses and promote opportunities in the forest sector.

It is expected to facilitate Indigenous economic development by better positioning them to participate in Canada’s bio-economy and benefit from clean energy solutions that use forest-based biomass.

The funding comes from a six-year, $220-million program called the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities Program: Bio Heat Stream, which aims to reduce reliance on diesel fuel in rural and remote communities.

MP Patty Hajdu, minister of health, says in order for people to want to stay in their communities they have to feel that they can heat and power themselves safely, which will be a vision of prosperity for the community.

She said this is about partnerships with Indigenous communities.

“I think Indigenous people have known far longer than many others that you can’t have a good economy if you are not protecting the environment,” she said.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says they need to “build the infrastructure for people to heat their homes and to be safe in their homes.”

Safer biomass power and heating to replace wood burning stoves in the northern communities is needed as well as trained emergency personnel and the installation of smoke detectors in every structure.

Meanwhile, Shane Shane Ferguson, who works as the fire safety co-ordinator in the NAN communities through the Ambers Fire Safety program, says during the past few years he has been implementing smoke alarms with hush buttons into many homes and other structures and has done a great deal of Skype training — but hasn’t been able to do much recently due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the health safety restrictions. Much more work still needs to be done.

The Ambers Fire Safety program’s mandate is to have working smoke alarms in every home.

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