INDUSTRY-INDIGENOUS RELATIONS: A TREND TOWARD DEEPER ENGAGEMENT
The Canadian oil and natural gas industry has a strong history of engagement with Indigenous peoples. Since its early initiatives, the petroleum sector has had many learnings and opportunities for growth with respect to its interactions with Indigenous communities. Consequently, these relationships have evolved towards ever-deepening forms of engagement including consultation and business partnerships. However, the nature of these relationships has been difficult to communicate with credibility; arrangements between companies and communities are often confidential, thus limiting the ability of industry to share positive stories of engagement.
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), an association that represents Canada’s oil and natural gas producers, has utilized multiple surveys of its members in order to better understand the relationship between industry and Indigenous peoples. One of these surveys, known as the Telling Our Story survey, was commissioned by CAPP and conducted by Dr. Ken Coates of the University of Saskatchewan. Additionally, CAPP developed its own survey focused on procurement, community investment and consultation capacity funding in the oil sands. These surveys provide data that demonstrate the value producers place on building long-term, sustainable relationships with Indigenous communities. In particular, economic engagement is viewed as a primary opportunity to establish good relations and support Indigenous self- determination.
The purpose of the Telling Our Story survey was to collect information about the oil and natural gas industry’s efforts to engage Indigenous communities. Research was conducted by Dr. Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Coates used a comprehensive survey of industry representatives, in partnership with CAPP, plus CAPP’s member companies and partner associations including the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Petroleum Services Association of Canada, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, and the Canadian Association of Geophysical Contractors. A total of 122 companies participated in the study, representing a cross-section of the oil and natural gas industry in Canada. Data was collected in a confidential manner, anonymized and aggregated into a final report. The survey highlighted key themes related to industry’s engagement with Indigenous communities.
Consultation and Community Engagement
Companies within the oil and natural gas industry have developed long-term relationships with communities, and these relationships are multifaceted. Of course, a core aspect of relationship-building takes place through consultation processes. The trend toward consultation accelerated in 2004 with the Supreme Court of Canada decision on Haida Nation v. British Columbia, which determined the Crown has a duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples when making a decision that could affect their constitutional rights. Procedural aspects of this duty can be delegated to industry, and now industry conducts the majority of project consultations. Survey respondents noted that today, companies are actively engaged in this process, seeking to ensure meaningful, two-way discussion in consultations. CAPP members indicated that they view these relationships formed through consultation as critically important to their business. Many companies have teams of staff dedicated to consulting and building relationships with communities, and funding is often provided to support community capacity to engage in consultations. A separate survey of CAPP’s oil sands members found that between 2015 and 2016, oil sands operators provided $40.79 million for consultation capacity funding to local Indigenous communities.
Associated with consultations are a variety of forms of engagement. CAPP’s members placed particular value on supporting various community activities, social and cultural priorities, and infrastructure needs. The aforementioned survey of oil sands members found that between 2015 and 2016 operators in the region spent $48.6 million on Indigenous community investment. According to companies, these focused investments positively impact relationships. Furthermore, there has been a trend toward the negotiation of long- term, collaborative agreements between project proponents and Indigenous communities in areas of operation that address community concerns and include clauses related to procurement, employment, community investment, dispute resolution, capacity funding and other topics of importance to the proponent and the community.
According to oil and natural gas producers, there is a strong emphasis on economic engagement as the priority in building relationships. In particular, procurement – the purchasing of goods and services from Indigenous businesses – presents a significant opportunity for mutual benefit. Both joint venture partnerships and preferential contracting arrangements with Indigenous-owned companies enable companies to build links and trust with communities. The focus on these arrangements is evidenced by substantial financial investment: in 2015 to 2016, oil sands producers spent $3.3 billion on procurement from 399 Indigenous owned- companies in 65 Alberta communities. While a sizable proportion of Indigenous businesses may be small or new, the data suggests their role in the sector will continue to increase.
This type of engagement allows Indigenous peoples to leverage their own expertise, build capacity, and ultimately establish pathways to prosperity. In this regard, industry can play an important role in supporting successful, self-determining communities. Although procurement was ranked most highly in terms of its benefit to the relationship between producers and communities, there are other forms of economic engagement; a number of companies have Indigenous recruitment strategies and support training programs intended to build the technical skillset of Indigenous employees and contractors.
The research commissioned by CAPP highlights the emphasis that oil and natural gas sector companies place on meaningful consultation, partnerships, and in particular, economic engagement. Industry has made strides in building deeper partnerships, and it is expected that the trend toward more meaningful engagement will continue. As an industry association, CAPP believes the oil and natural gas sector has an important role in tangibly advancing reconciliation together with Indigenous peoples in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 92. CAPP believes its role in reconciliation can be described as identifying and finding feasible ways to share economic opportunities arising from resource development, while continuing to learn, grow and improve strong relationships based on trust, respect, and open communication. Industry’s understanding will continue to develop, and the sector is open to further dialogue in order to inform its understanding of industry’s role in reconciliation.
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Click to read a foreward from JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel River Group; Former President and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.
‘My heartdog’: Misunderstood wolfdogs get permanent home at sanctuary near Calgary
COCHRANE, Alta. — Angie Birch isn’t worried for a moment as she’s greeted by Rocky, Rue and Loki at a sanctuary for wolfdogs whose unpredictable behaviour and innate fear of humans make them too hard to handle for their original owners.
“We’re going to have a visit. Please be nice,” says Birch as she sits down on the ground at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, her three admirers licking her face and leaning against her.
“What a good boy. Could he be more precious?” she asks about Rocky.
Birch started out as an intern at the sanctuary, about 15 kilometres west of Cochrane, Alta., nearly six years ago. She’s now a tour guide and helps take care of the 37 wolfdogs permanently housed there.
Birch says some will learn to trust right away, but one fellow named Zeus was wary for four years before that changed.
“Every morning when I go in, I get some pretty nice snuggles from Zeus. I ask him do you feel like snuggling today? He’ll either come and lean right into me and rub his forehead into me or he’ll just look at me and walk away,” she says with a laugh.
A wolfdog is produced by mating a domestic dog with a grey wolf, eastern wolf, red wolf or Ethiopian wolf.
Anyone familiar with the HBO TV series “Game of Thrones” would be struck by the wolfdog’s similarity to the dire wolves featured prominently in the show.
Alyx Harris, the park’s operations manager, says many pet fanciers don’t realize what they’re in for when they decide to get a wolfdog and that’s why the sanctuary is near capacity.
“They’re super challenging to have as pets. They don’t care about humans the same way a domestic dog does and don’t have that same affinity to want to please humans or be around us as much,” Harris says.
“The more wolf content you get with the wolfdog the more they act like a wolf than they act like a dog.”
The recent addition of 10 wolfdogs as a result of an out-of-province animal cruelty investigation has stretched resources and space. Not taking the animals would have resulted in them being put down, Harris says.
She says wolfdogs aren’t considered dangerous, because wolves have an instinctual fear of humans. But that also makes it difficult for them to make a connection. She says they’re considered to be exotic pets, but that has backfired.
“You don’t get the best of both worlds. You get the worst of both worlds. You’re getting an animal that doesn’t really care to please you, so they’re terrible hunting dogs. They’re terrible guard dogs. They’re fearful of humans. But they really are beautiful.”
The entire sanctuary covers about a hectare and is fenced in with roomy individual enclosures that hold up to three animals. The environment is entirely natural with native trees and grasses.
There are almost 25,000 visitors a year, Harris says. And while there have been about 50 adoptions since the sanctuary opened 9 1/2 years ago, the animals there now are not appropriate for people to take home.
“This is their forever home. They will remain here at the sanctuary for the rest of their lives.”
For Birch, it’s Rocky that’s her favourite and the one she has taken home with her on occasion.
“He’s my heartdog,” she says. “He’s a really special animal that gave humans a second chance when we probably didn’t deserve it and he’s a very special animal to me.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 30, 2020.
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Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Alberta adds 700 enforcers to stop COVID-19 rule-breakers as hospitalizations climb
CALGARY — Alberta is giving 700 more peace officers the power to enforce COVID-19 restrictions as hospitalizations for the virus continue to climb in the province.
“We are not asking these officers to stop cold their day-to-day priorities or to harass responsible Albertans going about their everyday lives,” Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Friday, as Alberta reported 1,227 new COVID-19 cases and nine more deaths.
Police officers and health inspectors also have the ability to enforce the rules.
Federal data shows Alberta has the second-highest infection rate in Canada with 208 cases per 100,000 people. Nunavut, with 209 cases per 100,000, ranks highest.
Alberta has 405 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 86 in intensive care. A week ago, there were 55 patients in intensive care with COVID-19.
Postponing surgeries is one of the ways the province is freeing up space to accommodate more people severely ill with the virus.
New measures came into effect Friday to help blunt the spike in cases. Private indoor social gatherings are banned, capacity limits have been imposed on stores and students between grades 7 and 12 switch to remote learning on Monday.
Fines for breaking the rules range from $1,000 to $100,000 in extreme cases that make it to court.
When asked whether there would be crackdowns on anti-mask rallies, Madu said police will make independent decisions.
“But as minister of justice, my expectation is that those who are in violation of the measures that we have put in place would have to be held accountable.”
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said she is disappointed to hear about Alberta Health Services inspectors being verbally abused.
“Nobody deserves that, least of all the people who are working to keep all of us safe,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2020.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press
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