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Indigenous protests against pipelines aren't the whole story.
Myth Buster

Myth: Indigenous peoples oppose energy development

Not only do many Indigenous peoples support oil and natural gas development—many communities depend on it.

Myth:

Indigenous peoples oppose energy development.

Source of this myth:

Media reports often show Indigenous people protesting against energy projects: for example, opposing the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP), the Coastal GasLink pipeline, and the Keystone XL pipeline project in the United States. Indigenous support for these and other projects receives much less media attention.

Busted:

Indigenous peoples are often portrayed as being uniformly opposed to energy development, but views and perspectives among Indigenous peoples are as diverse as they are among Canadians as a whole. Many see resource development as a pathway to economic reconciliation, opportunity and a means to end poverty in their communities. With Indigenous communities often located in remote regions of the country, developing natural resources like oil and natural gas are sometimes the only viable source of jobs and economic growth.

Certainly, some Indigenous groups are opposed to energy developments. But many support them. For example:

  • TransCanada secured agreements with all the elected Indigenous councils along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route, and the Haisla First Nation fully supports the LNG Canada facility being built on Canada’s West Coast. (Coastal GasLink will transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to the LNG Canada facility). However, a number of hereditary leaders from Indigenous communities along the route are opposed to the pipeline.
  • Many Indigenous communities in northern Alberta and throughout B.C.’s interior and northeastern regions support the TMEP, while Indigenous groups in the Lower Mainland are generally opposed.
  • More than 30 Indigenous groups and communities in Alberta and B.C. support the proposed Eagle Spirit pipeline corridor, which would facilitate construction of a pipeline from the oil sands region in Alberta to an oil export facility on the North Coast.
  • The Fort McKay First Nation near Fort McMurray, Alta. initially opposed oil sands developments, but when Europe banned imports of Canadian fur, this First Nation saw oil sands development as an economic opportunity. The community sought ways to work with industry and the provincial government to address concerns and find new revenue sources, and founded the Fort McKay Group of Companies (FMGOC) in 1986. Between 2011 and 2016, FMGOC generated more than $2.3 billion in revenue, which has supported the community in becoming self-determining and a strong, active participant in the oil sands industry and in the Canadian federation – as full partners and on their own terms. 

Industry is committed to meaningful consultation with Indigenous groups, recognizing that when consultation is done in a spirit of genuine collaboration and partnership, the outcomes tend to be positive. While not always front-page news, the relationship between industry and Indigenous peoples is continuing to evolve with these kinds of mutually beneficial partnerships.

The bottom line:

“While not always front-page news, the relationship between industry and Indigenous peoples is continuing to evolve with these kinds of mutually beneficial partnerships.”

When it comes to energy resource developments, it’s important to respect and consider all points of view – Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. It’s challenging to achieve consensus, and overarching national interest can override local and regional interests. But the upstream oil and natural gas industry has a long history of consultation and working with Indigenous peoples to find mutually beneficial solutions to concerns, issues and opportunities regarding energy developments.