The Indigenous Resource Network recently commissioned a poll on Indigenous perspectives on resource development, and it had surprising results.
The results of the poll, which you can read and watch in greater detail here, were a relief to me. I’m not going to lie, I was assuming that the Indigenous people making the most noise opposing natural resource development in Canada were the majority. After always seeing the anti-oil, anti-pipeline, anti-forestry, anti-mining, anti-fishing protests online, it’s refreshing to learn that 65 per cent of Indigenous Peoples do in fact SUPPORT natural resource development.
There is something about polls and statistics that I’ve always felt were misleading. But when I heard about this poll - conducted by Environics Research for Indigenous Resource Network – which was going to survey Indigenous Peoples all across Canada, it had more substance and truth for me. The questions were varied and objective, and judging by the results I believe they were thoughtfully answered. If, for example, it found that 95 per cent of Indigenous Peoples in Canada support natural resource development, I myself would have questioned the credibility of the poll.
IRN Poll Highlights:
- Support for resource development was higher for working age (35-54 years) respondents (70%) than their younger cohort (18-34 Years) (56%)
- Indigenous men were more likely to oppose resource development (28%) than Indigenous women (19%).
- Strong support for natural resource development was consistently higher among those who felt they were well-informed about the topic. However, the majority did not feel particularly well-informed about natural resource development, with only three in ten (30%) who described themselves as very or extremely informed about the topic. More than one-third felt somewhat well-informed (38%), while three in ten did not feel well-informed (30%).
- Half of the respondents (49%) believed that resource development can definitely be done while respecting the land and the environment definitely can, with another third (36%) indicating that it may or may not be possible. Only one in ten (11%) believed being successful at both was definitely not a possibility.
- Indigenous people were more likely to support resource development if the project:
- Includes best practices in protecting the environment (79%), provides economic benefits such as jobs, business opportunities and revenues for the community (77%), has best practices in safety (77%), consults the community (69%) and receives community support to proceed (62%).
- The percentage of respondents who identified the following as an “urgent” priority to improving the quality of life in their community included: better access to health care (56%), job opportunities from economic or resource development (55%), better access to education and training (53%); focus on traditional activities such as ceremonies or being on the land (39%); better governance (36%); increased transfer payments from the federal government to the community (33%).
What Can We Learn from this Poll?
Indigenous Peoples in Canada usually do support responsible natural resource development when they are included in the process because environmental impacts and employment are a high priority in Indigenous communities. By having a say in the overall process, they are much more comfortable in taking part in the extraction and development of natural resources on or near their lands.
Some of the negative comments I saw related to the outcomes of the poll were from people saying that it’s all about money – that people only support resource development out of greed. But in reality, money earned from natural resource development in Indigenous communities helps create employment, skill, training, education, benefits the community with social programs, mental health programs, educational programs, and so much more.
Some people think Indigenous people lose their culture once their economy on reserve changes. I disagree. I think it strengthens the ability to share their culture with all members and changes the relations with non-Indigenous communities. Because I believe non-Indigenous Peoples today do not want their communities to be living in poverty either.
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The majority of Indigenous people are not against resource development development. They're against being left out of the decision making.— Indigenous Resource Network (@IRN_Indigenous) June 30, 2021
Let's focus on improving resource projects in Indigenous territories, not blocking them. pic.twitter.com/v6D9ElPgaV
Most people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, support natural resource development because they know we all need and use those materials in our everyday lives, and we would much rather benefit from developing them than just importing them from somewhere else at a higher cost.
I’m proud to be a part of the process that brings resources - in my case oil and petroleum products - to market so people can have access to the energy and goods that they need. And I’m proud to support my family while doing it.
That’s why I’m one of the 65 per cent of Indigenous Peoples that supports resource development.
About the Author
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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