Beausoleil First Nation copes with community-wide, nine-hour power outage

·2 min read

There were no emergencies or significant problems as Beausoleil First Nation had to deal with a major power outage, said Joseph Stup, the community’s communications officer.

Stup said electricity was cut Jan. 25 to almost all the homes on the territory, located on Christian Island, about a 30-minute ferry ride from the mainland. Stup said that during construction at Cedar Point Dock on the mainland, where the territory’s ferry docks, an underwater power cable was damaged, resulting in a disconnection of power to the island.

He added that people who live at Cedar Point, which is part of Beausoleil First Nation, also lost power. Stup said most of the 750 residents of the community were without power for about nine hours.

“They were originally forecasting an outage of 24 to 48 hours. Chief, council and staff immediately sprung into action, declaring an emergency to deal with the loss of major community infrastructure,” Stup said. “We were about to relocate our (Elders), our vulnerable people, to the mainland because they needed the heat and a couple of them were on oxygen.”

Stup said the planned evacuation of about 15 Elders did not need to happen as power came back on at about 9:30 p.m. He added that ferry service to the island was stopped for about two hours due to the blackout. Stup said that staff fanned out across the community to make sure that those who burn wood for heat had wood, propane users were topped up and those who needed generators had them.

He added that it was fortunate that it wasn’t extremely cold at the time, with the temperature hovering just below the freezing mark.

Stup said that there were warming stations available for residents with coffee and tea at the recreation centre, events centre, seniors' centre and fire hall, and there were organized community meals. It was unclear how many people took advantage of those services.

“It was a smooth response. There weren’t any challenges, and we were organized with it. We implemented our emergency plan and followed through with what we had in place,” Stup said. He added that the community had extra food and fuel available as well if it had been needed.

Meanwhile, Stup said the power outage did not cause major problems for the community’s residents who are quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19. He added that Beausoleil First Nation has now reported three COVID-19 cases in total, up from two earlier this month.

Stup said community members and staff are working to adhere to COVID protocols in an effort to keep the First Nation at just three cases.

John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance