IGNITE Official Speaks at National First Nations Forum on Housing and Infrastructure

Walter Manitowabi, Director of the First Nations Sustainable Communities Program of IGNITE Infrastructure Association, presented at the Assembly of First Nations 2017 National Housing and Infrastructure Forum being held in Montreal, Quebec, October 30-November 1. During his presentation, Manitowabi announced the national launch of the First Nations Sustainable Communities Program.

Manitowabi participated in a panel discussion on Skills Development and Capacity Building. The panel also discussed opportunities to support First Nations with innovative project development and financing models. “It is crucial, now more than ever, for First Nations to develop new ways of project development and financing.  The current government programs are broken and have been broken for a long time.  Yes, First Nations do need a national strategy with new delivery models and new federal programming, but until then, First Nations need a new approach to infrastructure – a community driven approach that is supported by IGNITE.”

Born and raised on the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in Ontario, Manitowabi has extensive knowledge of project development and financial services, as well as First Nation Governance. Direct experience includes:

  • Chief of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, one of Canada’s largest and most progressive First Nation communities
  • Chief Operating Officer, Union of Ontario Indians, serving 39 First Nation communities of Anishinabek Nation
  • Director of Operations/Band Manager, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory
  • Worked with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and their Section 95 On-Reserve Housing Program
  • Delivered the Aboriginal Business Development Program of Industry Canada

About IGNITE Infrastructure Association

A non-profit association headquartered in Oshawa, Ontario, IGNITE Infrastructure Association (IGNITE) operates as a governing body that facilitates the development, design, building, financing, operation and maintenance of infrastructure assets as directed by its Members. IGNITE provides its Members with an extensive network of carefully vetted vendors and services, facilitates all required tendering processes, and acts as the sole interface during the procurement stage with the goal to ensure the decision-making process is transparent and objective with the overriding goals being to mitigate any undue vendor influence and manage future risk. Following the procurement process, the client, selected vendors, and IGNITE, work together to further develop, enhance and implement project plans.

First Nation Community Develops Collaborative Long-term Energy And Infrastructure Plan

Innovative Strategy Will Improve Economic Prosperity and Social Well-Being 

October 11, 2017 – Manitoulin Island, Ontario – The Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, one of the 10 largest First Nation communities in Canada, is honoured to be the first community to participate in the First Nations Sustainable Communities Program, developed by IGNITE Infrastructure Association Inc. (IGNITE). Elected Chief of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Ogimaa Duke Peltier and Director of the IGNITE First Nations Sustainable Communities Program, Walter Manitowabi, celebrated the official launch of the program in Ontario, as well as the successful completion of Phase One of the Wiikwemkoong project, today at a ceremonial red ribbon event. Endorsed by the Chiefs of Ontario, the First Nations Sustainable Communities Program provides support to First Nations in developing comprehensive, community-driven plans that reflect local opportunities and constraints. Through the program, IGNITE works with First Nations communities to design, build, finance, and deliver project implementation strategies; which are developed collaboratively with First Nations Leadership through needs assessments and comprehensive energy and facility audits.

In June 2017, the Wiikwemkoong IGNITE Energy Infrastructure Project commenced. This long-term collaborative strategy, which will directly benefit more than 8,000 members, aims to address the high energy costs faced by the community and upgrade its aging infrastructure.

  • Phase One of the project is a major LED lighting retrofit and an upgrade for all 29 community buildings, including over 11,000 components. It is estimated that through this Phase, the community will save more than $157,000 per year in energy costs, a 58% savings in the energy used for lighting.
  • Phases Two and Three will consist of further investments in First Nation owned infrastructure for energy efficiencies and facility upgrades, as well as power generation opportunities (solar microgrids, geothermal, etc.). A comprehensive residential rehabilitation program will also be developed and implemented by Wiikwemkoong and IGNITE.

Beyond saving energy and lowering operating costs, this project will assist Wiikwemkoong in modernizing its operations and provide their community with a better quality of life, and make it a more attractive destination for recreation, education, and business through better and more useful facilities.

Through the Sustainable Communities Program, IGNITE facilitates self-determination among First Nation peoples; encouraging communities to develop, own, drive and deliver long-term development plans that address their needs. In 2018, IGNITE plans on rolling out the program nationally.


“The Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory is proud to be a part of the IGNITE First Nations Sustainable Communities program. Our community can and should decide where and how investments should be made to best address our needs. Through this program, Wiikwemkoong is transforming the way we plan, fund and build the projects we need, to create growth and equip our community for a more sustainable and productive future. We are pleased that Phase One has been completed and look forward to further implementation of infrastructure upgrades for Wiikwemkoong.” 

− Ogimaa Duke Peltier

Elected Chief of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory

“The First Nations in Canada are in a crisis with respect to energy costs and failing infrastructure. Existing government programming is just not available on a scope needed to address this escalating problem. The First Nations Sustainable Communities Program has been created to support First Nations in developing and implementing an innovative way of planning and investing in infrastructure upgrades accessing all available resources, including private financing. Wiikwemkoong has proven it can be done and we welcome all other First Nations to join the IGNITE movement.

− Walter Manitowabi Director, IGNITE First Nations Sustainable Communities Program

“I applaud the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in exemplifying strong leadership. Through the IGNITE program, Wiikwemkoong has taken meaningful steps to build capacity within their community to own, drive, and determine the kinds of services they need. By advancing its self-determination, Wiikwemkoong is building a stronger, healthier and more sustainable community, while raising the quality of life for its people.” 

− Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee

Anishinabek Nation

“The Chiefs of Ontario supports Wiikwemkoong, and other First Nations, as they continue to build upon this new initiative, and as they take leadership and control in addressing their infrastructure issues. We challenge all levels of government to be more aggressive in program development and funding to close the gap on the infrastructure and energy crisis facing First Nations. We look forward to working further with IGNITE, in order to continue to address the needs of our communities in a meaningful way.’’ 

− Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini Chiefs of Ontario


Situated on the eastern end of Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario and the pristine shores of Georgian Bay, Wiikwemkoong is home to a vibrant First Nation community with a rich history and culture. Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory is the fastest-growing community on Manitoulin Island in terms of population and commercial opportunities. It is home to 8,167 members, of which approximately 3,300 reside within the community, and the remaining 4,867 residing elsewhere in other communities.


Headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, IGNITE Infrastructure Association Inc. (IGNITE) is a member-driven, non-profit organization, that manages the development, design, building, financing, operation and maintenance of infrastructure assets entrusted to its care by its community members (e.g. First Nations communities, MUSH sector organizations, government). As members of IGNITE, community members are provided access to resources to assist them in planning and delivering infrastructure projects in a cost-effective and timely manner. Through their IGNITE representative, community members connect with IGNITE resource members, such as vendors, administration, systems operators, and financial lenders, and together they all work in the development and execution of project plans.


Leanna Karremans

Director, Communications, Policy and Research

Pathway Group