The federal government has said it will lend capital to Indigenous communities through the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) to purchase equity shares in infrastructure projects. However, the CIB is only mandated by Ottawa to invest in broadband, renewable electricity, green infrastructure, trade and transportation, and public transportation.
What about oil and natural gas projects, like those seen across Western Canada, that are ushering in economic reconciliation with First Nations? Why isn’t the federal loan guarantee program offered to Indigenous communities regardless of the industry they choose to participate in? Also see:
- Why Do Celebrities Interfere With Indigenous Business in Canada?
- The "Trickle-Down" Effect of Canadian Oil & Natural Gas
- A Day in the Life of an Oil Sands Heavy Equipment Operator
First Nations Should Have Access to All Industries
Indigenous businesses are throughout Canada. And the oil and natural gas sector is making a real effort with new Indigenous partnerships.
The days of having the “token Indian” show up at a meeting or two are in the past. Indigenous people are now included in the inception stages of a natural resource project and equally involved in its production and longevity. This also includes employment, education and training, environment assessments, and many types of procurement that benefit Indigenous communities.
But the federal government’s current exclusion of oil and natural gas in the loan program for Indigenous communities makes me wonder if Canadians want to see Indigenous people truly succeed, or if they want us to continue to be reliant on government handouts. Often, Indigenous lands are rich with natural resources, and when responsibly developed, these communities could be lifted out of poverty. But starting a business is costly, and Indigenous communities need financing to buy into projects – regardless of their chosen industry.
It only makes sense to provide Indigenous communities with whichever loan options they see fit for their lands and people.
Reconciliation and the Federal Government
The word “reconciliation” has been used a lot lately. Whether the Canadian government sincerely considers the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation is yet to be seen.
I have high hopes that Ottawa does not want to see Indigenous communities in poverty with all the socio-economic problems that come with it. Monthly handouts from the government only perpetuate a cycle of dependency, which anyone in such a cycle knows is hard to get out of and change.
Economic reconciliation through the responsible development of natural resources – oil, natural gas, agriculture, forestry, minerals and metals, aquaculture – helps implement important change, as it can change the structure of the community and the well-being of its people. The ability to provide for your family, strengthen your community or start your own business is, after all, an absolute game changer.
According to an Environics poll, 65% of Indigenous people support natural resource development, which not only includes pipelines, LNG, oil sands, forestry and fishing, but also “greener” initiatives like biofuels, wind, geothermal, nuclear and hydropower to name a few.
Most Indigenous people know that new initiatives for energy won’t replace oil and gas anytime soon, but instead, these energy sources will continue to underpin economic reconciliation with First Nations and the Canadian economy at large.
We Can Support Oil & Gas and Renewables At Once
Canada needs a federal guarantee loan program similar to the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) so that First Nations can get financing to buy into projects throughout Canada.
Internationally, people watch the relationship the Canadian government has with Indigenous people. Now is the time to show this positive new relationship to the world while working with First Nations in the true spirit of reconciliation.
As oil and natural gas are prevalent, even as the developed world looks to transform its electricity systems to renewables, not including these traditional energy sources in any federal loan program for First Nations would be another barrier to ushering in economic reconciliation with these communities.
Most Canadians, including Indigenous people, are working towards net zero at a realistic pace while continuing to grow the economy. Surely, the federal government realizes that our sustainability goals will take many years to implement appropriately without adversely affecting Canadians and First Nations, who are still heavily reliant on oil and natural gas resources as an economic mainstay within their communities.
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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