How Resource Development Can Help Indigenous Communities in Canada

How resource development helps indigenous communities in Canada

Canadian oil and gas seems to always be in the spotlight a lot. Whether it’s international, across the southern border or in our own country, we like to talk about what should happen to the oil and gas industry.

But something we don’t always discuss is how many Indigenous People, especially those living in rural locations, overwhelmingly look to the natural resource sectors for economic opportunities.

It’s a fact that Indigenous communities have relied on natural resources for their livelihood and to sustain their economies even before Confederation – albeit not in the same sense as today, but trade was used openly.

Many Indigenous communities have an abundance of natural resources in their territories and are now open to developing them in a responsible manner. Successful collaboration between First Nations and companies is building strong pathways into the future for Indigenous People and their families.

In turn, these developments are helping to address the socio-economic standards countless Indigenous communities face, all the while being positive economic forces for non-Indigenous people as well.

Natural Resources & Indigenous Peoples: Economic Benefits

20 first nations support coastal gaslink pipeline in canada

If you’re not too sure just how natural resources benefit Indigenous Peoples in Canada, you’ll want to look at some of the facts below. It’s hard to deny the direct economic benefit resource projects have on First Nations communities across our country:

> 275 Indigenous-owned businesses obtained $2.36 billion in spending from Canada’s oil sands industry in 2019, equal to 11% of oil sands total procurement spending that year (CAPP)

> Indigenous People are a growing proportion of the oil and gas sector workforce, accounting for 7.4% in 2019, up from 4.8% in 2018. For comparison, Indigenous People represent 3.3% of the average workforce in all other Canadian sectors (CAPP)

> The average wage of Indigenous persons working in mining, quarrying and oil & gas was more than double the average wage across all industries - $98,952 versus $44,433 (Statistics Canada 2018)

> 12,000 Indigenous People worked in Canada’s forestry sector in 2016, representing about 7% of its workforce (Natural Resources Canada)

> 1,400 Indigenous-owned businesses work in the forestry sector, many earning revenues of more than $1 million annually (Indigenous Resource Network)

> Indigenous businesses are more than 40 times more likely to be engaged in the extractive resource sector than the average Canadian business (National Coalition of Chiefs)

Indigenous Peoples & Economic Independence

Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Benefit Agreements Signed with Indigenous Peoples

Many Indigenous People live well below the basic standard of living in communities found amid Canada’s vast and remote wilderness, where it can be challenging to land a long-term, well-paying career. Housing, employment, water, and access to goods and services like food and healthcare are below the national average.

Canada is a relatively progressive and ethnically diverse country. My hope is that non-Indigenous People would understand the desire Indigenous communities have to develop natural resources on their territories responsibly.

As First Nations form partnerships with one another and with the resource sectors, Indigenous People and communities thrive. Groups like the Indigenous Resource Network advocate for a sustainable future for Indigenous communities who rely on the natural resource sector in Canada.

As these communities and their people expand their economic independence, my hope is that they will also help other First Nations do the same so that other Indigenous communities living below Canadian basic living standards can also enjoy a good livelihood and future.

After all, isn’t that what we all want in Canada? More importantly, isn't that what we all deserve?

About the Author

Estella Petersen - Heavy Equipment Operator & Indigenous Woman in the Oil Sands

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.

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