It’s Wednesday morning, I sit at my computer ready to start my day and hear an alert, as the headline “Largest energy-related Indigenous economic partnership transaction in North America” displays across my screen. The first thing that comes to my mind is “this is huge news.” Because it is.
I wanted to share this piece of news with every single person I know. I mean, not only is this a landmark partnership that will be life-changing for Indigenous communities, but it embodies everything we talk about when it comes to economic reconciliation.
There seems to be a lot of conversation around Indigenous People in Canada related to our positions within the resource sector and how we view economic development. Nowadays, if you mention “Indigenous” or “pipeline” in the same sentence, you never truly know what to expect. As Canada continues to evolve as a nation and Indigenous history is pushed to the forefront, we become very easy talking points for those who want to speak for us, or on behalf of us.
The important thing to remember when you hear about major partnerships such as the one mentioned above is this: while Hollywood actors pretend to know what goes on in our communities or what is best for us, our leaders, people and communities are practicing self-determination and making moves. I could not be more proud.
This pride does not necessarily stem solely from a deal made with the resource sector to benefit 23 First Nation and Metis communities. My pride also comes from two things: economic reconciliation and self-determination.
See, no matter where you stand on the issue, our people being at the table in a partnership/equity role, having these conversations is not only impactful, it is necessary. Second, self-determination ensures that as Indigenous people we can freely pursue our economic development and determine our own political status.
So why is this not always the case? As an Indigenous person that follows politics in Canada rather closely, it is very easy to see how we can be vulnerable and become victims of different campaigns. We saw it with the Wet’suwet'en protestors and how that all unfolded in the public eye. It opened a pandora’s box of comments and assumptions that have run wild around whether we agree – or not – about the development of the natural resources on our lands.
Here is the issue. There is a large and sometimes frustrating misconception about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. We vary from community to community, and our customs, norms and values are incredibly diverse from a personal to a territorial level. It continues to be difficult to watch people speak on our behalf saying “Indigenous People do not want this” or “this isn’t what is best for them,” especially when such narratives come from massive campaigns being pushed forward by Hollywood celebrities who will probably never sit across the table from a regular person like me.
The best way forward through this is through economic reconciliation. This allows Indigenous communities to be part of the conversation while simultaneously applying our own ways of knowing and culture.
As we have now passed through the second annual Truth and Reconciliation Day in Canada, my hope is that those who push to speak for us remember that we have a voice too. Consistent with UNDRIPs assertions, we have the right - without discrimination - to improve our economic and social conditions.
For many Indigenous communities and people across Canada, the natural resource sector has been the place to do it. From working on a pipeline in British Columbia to flying into a uranium mine in Northern Saskatchewan, we have benefitted immensely with long-term, well-paying jobs for First Nation community members who often live in remote locations.
It is important to allow us to use our voices and be free from discrimination while doing it. Whether you are someone who does or does not support the resource sector in Canada, do not use hand-picked Indigenous voices that specifically reinforce your narrative in an attempt to pretend to represent all of our communities. We are a diverse and free-thinking group of people, it is something we have fought hard to be.
About the Author
Jennifer is a policy analyst and communications consultant from Northern Saskatchewan. As a member of Treaty 4, she obtained an undergraduate degree in Political Studies from the University of Saskatchewan as well as a proficiency in Indigenous Governance. She is currently a Graduate and Post Doctoral Studies student at the University of Saskatchewan, working in federal politics for five years and has many years of additional experience in the private sector. Jennifer is a huge advocate for self-determination and Indigenous policy across Canada.
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