Canada’s upstream oil and natural gas industry has a long history of interaction with Indigenous peoples. The industry has made great strides toward learning, developing relationships, and sharing benefits from resource development, to help Indigenous groups with opportunities like creating jobs and generating income to overcome poverty in remote communities.
One recent piece of good news: in September 2021, Suncor Energy announced a partnership with eight Indigenous groups and First Nations in the oil sands area, so these groups can purchase part of the existing Northern Courier pipeline from TC Energy.
Financial assistance goes a long way
The partnership agreement includes Suncor, three First Nations and five Métis communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which is the region where the oil sands industry is located. The partners will purchase 15 per cent of the pipeline’s ownership, with a value of about $1.3 billion. Owning part of this operating pipeline will provide stable revenues for these Indigenous communities for decades to come.
Some of the Indigenous communities in the partnership require money for things like education, elder care and providing clean drinking water, while others plan to build cultural or community centres. Others intend to place some of the money from owning the pipeline into a future fund that will help new generations to develop things important to them.
“We are engaging with Indigenous communities, making them a full and equal partner in the journey forward,” said Suncor’s president and CEO Mark Little. He added that If more business leaders across Canada can engage with more Indigenous communities, then a decade from now there could be breakthroughs that could positively change the future of many Indigenous peoples on a larger scale.
Building on past success
This is not the first time Suncor has established a partnership with Indigenous groups. In 2017, the company helped the Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation to acquire 49 per cent of Suncor’s East Tank Farm development for $503 million. Money generated from operating this facility has supported a number of programs and services in these two Indigenous communities, and provided employment as well.
Suncor isn’t the only to be taking these steps. For example, many operators in the industry support Indigenous businesses by purchasing goods and services from Indigenous companies (called ‘procurement’). In 2019, the oil sands industry spent $2.3 billion on procurement of goods and services from 275 Indigenous suppliers, contractors and other businesses across Canada.
Beyond the oil sands region, companies large and small throughout the natural gas and oil industry are forming a variety of partnerships and agreements with Indigenous communities:
- In November 2020, the Council of Haisla Nation near Kitimat, B.C. on Canada’s West Coast voted to approve a partnership agreement for the Cedar LNG project, a ﬂoating liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility. Cedar LNG will be the first majority Indigenous-owned LNG export facility in Canada.
- In 2020, Birchcliff Energy awarded contracts worth about $1.75 million to Indigenous service providers for activities such as water management, site preparation, safety equipment rentals, medical services, drilling equipment rentals and environmental and remediation services.
- On Canada’s east coast, the Indigenous Safety and Oﬀshore Engagement Training program offers training for Indigenous businesses on safety issues, industry safety, and set up opportunities for Indigenous businesses to supply goods and services to the offshore oil industry.
There are many other examples of successful, respectful relationships between Indigenous peoples and Canada’s natural gas and oil industry. Read more on CAPP’s website, capp.ca.