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Catalysts in Action: Dustin Fournier | ICE Network

Catalysts in Action: Dustin Fournier

Catalysts in Action: Dustin Fournier

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“With more clean energy projects, my community will find the way back naturally to our roots”

After spending 12 years working in the oil and gas sector, Dustin Fournier decided it was time to make a career shift.

He dreamed for his community, Beaver First Nation ― located approximately 50 km east of High Level, Alberta ― being pristine and sustainable with an abundance of resources for generations to come. He needed his new career to reflect that vision.

Dustin now manages Beaver First Nation’s Lands & Resources Department and oversees the community stewardship plan. His role is to help ensure the protection of land, culture and ways of life while implementing the true spirit and intent of Treaty 8 Territory.

He handles all dispositions regarding government, commercial and private development that could potentially impact First Nations’ way of life and traditional practices. A huge part of his job is documenting and mapping their traditional areas to expand the consultative area.

“As we explore old and new interviews [with Elders and land users] and visit traditional sites, our collective knowledge of the land that we used ― and continue to use for hunting, medicinal and ceremonial purposes ― continues to grow,”

Dustin explains. “This is vitally important in working with the government and the industry as we strive to protect our Treaty, Aboriginal rights and interests.”

However, not everything has been smooth sailing for Dustin and his community. Despite their valiant efforts to combat climate change, in 2019, members of Beaver First Nation were forced to evacuate their communities twice due to wildfires, which burned 334,000 hectares just kilometers away from the community.

Commenting on the wildfires, Fournier says that, even though there were no structural losses to the community,their traditional lands suffered immensely. This further solidified their need to think about sustainability and self-sufficiency.

Although this event set back many projects in the works for Dustin and his community, they continued to push past these obstacles and develop projects that will get them closer to energy independence.

In early 2019, he attended a climate action conference,where he heard former Catalyst Calvin Waquan speak about his accomplishments and experience with ICE's 20/20 Catalysts Program. Dustin felt so inspired that, right after the event, he applied to the program.

Not long after the fires and his completion of ICE’s 20/20 Catalysts Program in 2019, Dustin hosted an Eco Fair to provide energy and climate education to community members. He brought in customized energy-saving kits created by Ecofitt, and according to him, “they went like hotcakes.”

“Everyone was thrilled to look at more energy-efficient and sustainable ways of living in both their homes and in our community.”

Beaver First Nation has taken tremendous strides to minimize its environmental impact and carbon footprint. Dustin is leading his community’s energy planning efforts and has introduced a community-scale solar project. He believes that with more clean energy projects, his community will find its way back naturally to its roots.

Currently, Dustin has over 20 projects on the go, and despite all the turmoil and delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, he has kept things moving forward. Some of his projects include working to build an off-grid greenhouse in his community. Dustin's hope is to target climate change and create food security with an orchard and a community garden that will grow all year round.

They are also working on a new grant to introduce battery storage to all their commercial buildings as well as retrofitting an old office space. In addition, the community is developing a solar garden for the newly built water treatment plant that provides clean drinking water without the use of chemicals. Lastly, Dustin and his community are also creating sustainable energy programming for youth and encouraging equal opportunity trade jobs. "We have had many women and youth working on the construction of our energy projects, and I’m very proud of their hard work,” he says.

How has the 20/20 Catalysts Program impacted you and your work?

The ICE 20/20 Catalysts Program has helped me immensely with my community energy plan, our energy and climate education programming, and all future energy development projects.

The Program far exceeded my expectations. I learned about clean energy and project implementation in away that I didn’t know it was possible. I still remember my first session during the program listening to Eryn Stewart from ICE speak about community energy plans. It was during this keynote that I realized our community energy plan hadn’t been done in a way that was truly reflective of our community’s vision and needs. Then, I picked up my phone and called my Chief and council to advise them that I would be returning to the community with tools that would improve how we do things, not just on energy but also on lands and economic development broadly.

The program ― the people, the work, and the accomplishments others achieved ― brought so much positive energy into my life that it changed me as a person.

* Beaver First Nation is hoping to hold a new Eco Fair this coming August. They are inviting Ecofitt to provide energy efficient boxes and education to the community, as well as Tolko to speak about their biomass plant that has been in full operation since early 2020.

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