In the News

Indigenous prosperity at a crossroad

New study outlines economic impacts on Indigenous peoples resulting from challenges in the energy sector.

A study released in November 2020 by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) indicates many Indigenous communities are suffering serious economic impacts as a result of challenges facing Canada’s oil and natural gas sector that include a worldwide oil price collapse early in 2020 and the ongoing effects of the global pandemic.

The MLI publication, titled “Where we go from here: Indigenous prosperity at a crossroad”, notes that in recent years, Indigenous people have become owners or part-owners of major energy projects and therefore have good economic reasons to support collaborations with the energy industry. For instance, oil sands operators have spent billions in procurement, training and joint ventures with Indigenous communities and businesses in the region. The Haisla Nation and other First Nations in northern B.C. have developed numerous economic relationships with LNG-related projects such as LNG Canada and the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Thus, Indigenous communities across Canada have been affected by the significant industry downturn. On-reserve production has lost revenue, and many Indigenous-owned businesses associated with natural gas and oil have dramatically cut back operations. These and other impacts have put Indigenous commercial activity and engagement in the oil and natural gas sector at risk.

The report makes a number of recommendations for the short, medium and long term to build on previous momentum and positive relationships, which will allow Indigenous communities to solidify recent financial achievements and move forward with even more participation in the Canadian energy sector. In particular, the report sees the potential to transform socio-economic realities for First Nations in Western Canada, based on growing participation in the natural gas and oil industry.

The November report builds on a study released by MLI in August, which outlined the growing engagement of Indigenous peoples in the energy industry. The previous report noted that Canada’s natural resource sector has emerged as one of the front lines of Indigenous reconciliation in Canada, providing mutually beneficial relationships linking Indigenous people with non-Indigenous Canadians, domestic and international business, and the broader national economy in Canada.