Mi’kmaq man leads Lennox Island to a greener future with his traditional knowledge

When Drew Bernard returned to Lennox Island three years ago, he found that there was not much work being done in the community regarding energy.

He couldn’t find any reports on how many homes were burning oil or what opportunities there were for the First Nation to move toward a more sustainable future.

Bernard knew he had to do something. Having worked in oil and gas in Alberta, he wanted to move away from fossil fuels and work in green energy. He enrolled in Holland College’s Energy Systems Engineering Technology program to learn more about it.

Today, he is the energy manager on Lennox Island and works to bring the community to zero electricity and energy independence.

“We have held community sessions to engage the people of Lennox Island to ensure that we are creating an energy plan that is rooted in traditional knowledge and that is really what people want, not just what I want,” says Drew Bernard. (Submitted by Drew Bernard)

“Not only do we want to harness renewable energy systems and move towards a greener future, but we also want to control that energy as we try to become a sovereign First Nation,” Bernard told CBC. island morning.

“We really believe in focusing on creating our energy ourselves and being able to control our own destiny and control our own power.”

Bernard is one of many young members of Lennox Island First Nation who have recently returned to the community and brought their fresh new ideas, Chief Darlene Bernard said.

The chief fully supports Bernard’s vision, particularly given the threat climate change poses to Lennox Island – with many homes near the water being affected by coastal erosion, she said .

“The energy projects that we want to work on, and the other work that we do, are directly linked to this, to the idea of ​​reducing our carbon footprint, which will help us fight coastal erosion and climate change” , said Darlene. Bernard.

“An energy plan rooted in traditional knowledge”

Drew Bernard completed the first phase of his plan to bring Lennox Island to net zero last year after consulting with companies and organizations like Maritime Electric and Efficiency PEI

But more importantly, he spoke with different members of the green energy group, from adults to children.

Last year, Drew Bernard held community engagement sessions with children on Lennox Island to teach them about green energy. (Submitted by Drew Bernard)

“We’ve had community sessions to engage people on Lennox Island to make sure we’re creating an energy plan that’s rooted in traditional knowledge and is actually what people want, not just what I want,” he said.

To learn more about this knowledge, he turned to the elders, who taught him the traditional values ​​of sustainability. One of the advice that has stuck with him relates to the waters around Lennox Island, Bernard said.

“We have to make sure that we don’t just deplete the waters that we have around us, especially the rich Malpeque Bay waters that we have around us,” he said.

“The waters around where we are are so important to who we are, and we don’t want anything to do with the water. The water should be left as it is.”

Drew Bernard spoke with the elders of Lennox Island and learned about the importance of the waters surrounding the First Nation. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

What the elders taught Bernard coincides with what he discovered on Malpeque Bay.

It is a recognized and protected wetland under an international conservation treaty signed in 1971, known as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It’s not just a bird and wildlife sanctuary, but the majority of Lennox Island residents live in the bay.

“We wanted to avoid that. We really identified solar power as the way we would like to move forward.”

Off-Reserve Solar Power

Phase two of Bernard’s plan includes solar power projects.

Solar power is not popular on Lennox Island at the moment, with only one or two houses fitted with solar panels, he said. He plans to create an off-reserve solar power system.

He is also working on the First Nation’s transition to electric heat and plans to install the first electric vehicle charging station on Lennox Island this summer.

“It’s been a very tumultuous year with COVID,” he said. “But we are optimistic that we will soon be able to start assembling energy systems here.”

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