Federal Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program is a Win for Canada and First Nations

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By now, most Canadians have heard about the latest federal budget which includes an Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program that doesn’t discriminate between industries.

This is great news, as word on the street was that the budget would not include loans to Indigenous groups for oil and natural gas projects.

The Elephant in the Room

Historically speaking, some First Nations have been left disadvantaged when it comes to economic opportunities, leaving us behind in many ways.

It seems that people don’t always want to look at the history of First Nations and the atrocities we have endured over many decades, leaving scars on each generation to follow that surface in some as addictions, homelessness, and mental health issues to name a few. That is the reality many Indigenous people endure.

However, some of us have also risen against the odds and become successful lawyers, doctors, and teachers, and now enjoy careers and businesses in the energy sector. Undoubtedly, the responsible development of our oil and natural gas resources has given many First Nations new opportunities for well-paying, long-term careers in their often rural communities.

Some Indigenous lands are rich in natural resources, but are extremely remote. The socioeconomic aspect of living in such isolated communities often manifests into high unemployment rates as jobs are few, housing options are poor, and healthcare and education are limited.

But, with the increasing ability to become major stakeholders in energy projects through opportunities like the new federal government’s Indigenous Loan Program, there is new light at the end of the tunnel for many First Nations.

Finally, living in both worlds of tradition and economic stability is possible.

Unlocking Access to Capital

There was a risk that Canada was going to deny oil and natural gas projects to the Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program. Thankfully, instead, the federal government said the program “will be sector agnostic for natural resources and energy projects to prioritize economic reconciliation and self-determination.”

The sigh of relief surely could be felt in many provinces as ongoing projects could continue and new ones could be started. Although Alberta, Ontario, and B.C. have committed to similar programs, the federal one is available throughout all provinces and territories.

The opportunities for new projects are endless as innovation and technology advance: geothermal, biomass, biofuels, hydro, LNG, solar, wind, critical minerals, uranium etc. Also, there are many opportunities in Canada for Indigenous communities to participate in the development of emissions-reducing projects like small modular reactors (SMRs), nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, renewable electricity generation, and cogeneration plants to name a few.

Allowing oil and natural gas projects to access these federal funds supports our energy systems while also allowing for the development of less traditional ways of producing energy like wind and solar, as we now realize you cannot have one form of energy without the other while acknowledging each province has vast differences with respect to energy and mineral resources.

A Stronger Economic Future For All

To address the elephant in the room, economic reconciliation is a must for Indigenous communities across Canada, often found in remote corners of the country.

Accessing the new federal government’s loan guarantee program will enable First Nations to partner with companies to develop energy resources responsibly, benefitting Indigenous communities today and in the future.

Now, the onus is on the Chief and Council of each respective participating nation to be accountable for the funds.

Assuming the federal government will follow through with its announcement of such a loan, maybe it will also shorten the approval times of projects created within the Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program. Then, hopefully, Canada will make significant steps to be back on board with a budget that is not in deficit, but instead in financial abundance once again for all people living in Canada.

About the Author

Estella Petersen

Estella Petersen is a heavy machinery operator in the oil sands out of Fort McMurray. Estella is from the Cowessess Reserve and is passionate about Canada and supporting Canadian natural resources.