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Brock University to honour Wataynikaneyap Power chief executive

Margaret Kenequanash selected as Goodman School of Business Distinguished Leader for 2021
Margaret Kenequanash (supplied)
Margaret Kenequanesh, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power (Supplied)

A prominent Indigenous leader and executive who helped champion a movement to bring power to 17 remote First Nations in northwestern Ontario for the first time will be honoured this week by Brock University in St. Catharines.

Margaret Kenequanash, CEO of Wataynikaneyap Power, has been selected by Brock's Goodman School of Business as its Distinguished Leader for 2021.

In a virtual presentation on Thursday, Oct. 28, she will tell the story behind more than a decade's worth of work with the support of two dozen First Nations to make Canada's largest First Nations-owned infrastructure project a reality.

To register and listen in on the presentation, register here.

Each year, the Goodman School of Business honours a prominent Canadian business leader and connects the recipient with Goodman students and the broader Brock community.

When the $1.9-billion construction project is finished in 2023, the 1,800-kilometre long transmission line will eliminate the use of costly and environmentally-unfriendly diesel fuel as a source of generated power in these communities and will connect them to the provincial power grid.

The project has First Nations majority ownership, and was done in partnership with Fortis Inc. and other private investors. All the work between the partners follows First Nations-set protocols, culture and respect for the land and the environment.

Wataynikaneyap, which means ‘line that brings light’ in Anishiniiniimowin, represents more than the power it will supply the communities — it also reflects the socio-economic opportunities it will bring for future generations.

In a news release, Kenequanash thanked the Goodman School of Business for the Distinguished Leader recognition, which she said she is accepting on behalf of “our People and our partners.”

“I am honoured to have been asked to share insights on my own personal journey, successful business partnerships and meaningful engagement with First Nations with Ontario’s future business leaders,” she said. “The Wataynikaneyap Power Project is an unprecedented undertaking, majority owned by First Nations controlling the development in their homelands. I hope students will be inspired to think about new, innovative partnership models for the 21st century as they embark on their own careers.”

Goodman Dean Andrew Gaudes called it an “honour to have Margaret Kenequanash accept our invitation to be recognized as our Distinguished Leader for 2021.”

“We discuss with our students how the actions of one person can impact many,” he said. “Margaret is a shining example, where her collaborative approach to leadership and holistic perspective on project management can lead to a positive transformation in the lives of an entire community.”

Kenequanash has more than 30 years of experience working with First Nations and Tribal Councils in senior positions, was the first female Chief of her community, North Caribou Lake First Nation, and has significant experience in the fields of financial, health and project management and supporting community development initiatives.

Prior to the public event, she will have a virtual roundtable with Goodman Student Leaders, sharing personal leadership insights from her experiences. Kenequanash will then join Gaudes in conversation in an online fireside chat from 3 to 4 p.m. 

Past recipients of the Distinguished Leader award include Bonnie Lysyk, Auditor General of Ontario; Michael Lee-Chin, Founder and Chairman of Portland Holdings and Chairman and CEO of Mandeville Private Client Inc.; Julia Deans, CEO, Habitat for Humanity; and Ned Goodman of Dundee Corporation, among others.