Why should it matter that First Nations are seeking ownership in Canadian natural resource projects? As an Indigenous woman working in the energy sector, let me tell you!
When you hear the words "pipelines" and "Indigenous Peoples" in the same sentence, many Canadians are inclined to visualize protestors marching down some street in opposition to such projects.
But what many Canadians and those abroad don't realize is that there are more Indigenous pipeline supporters than opponents in Canada - much more, according to the latest polls and statements from Indigenous leaders.
Yes, Indigenous pipeline opponents are louder and more aggressive with their tactics. But now, Indigenous supporters of natural resource projects are also being heard and recognized in mainstream discourse.
It's about time. Those of us who support Canadian pipelines have our reasons too, and we have every right to be heard just as much as opponents do.
So then, why do Indigenous pipeline supporters like myself want to see these projects built?
Indigenous proponents support responsible natural resource development and pipelines for several reasons. Most say they desire to earn a good living and provide for their families, just like what most Canadians want.
Indigenous Peoples deserve the opportunity to be self-sustaining through business partnerships with natural resource companies. In many instances, Indigenous communities are in rural areas of the country and don't have many other economic opportunities outside of natural resources.
Indigenous Peoples want the ability to have a seat at the "table" as an equal partner and contribute to protecting the environment while earning own-source revenues. For example, many First Nations along CGL plan on using revenues from benefit agreements with CGL to provide their communities with a higher standard of living and quality of life.
Indigenous Peoples want to leave a sustainable future for their children and grandchildren thereafter. As protectors of the land for countless years, their input on environmental mitigation and protection techniques is invaluable for natural resource companies.
And Indigenous Peoples know their direct involvement in projects like Trans Mountain or Coastal GasLink will contribute immensely to fine-tuning the high standards of environmental safety and protections that these pipelines follow.
Trans Mountain & Indigenous Ownership
Despite rising costs, Indigenous-led coalitions are committed to pursuing ownership in the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Nesika Services is a non-profit organization working to help Indigenous communities along the pipeline's route obtain equity ownership in the project. Project Reconciliation is yet another Indigenous-led initiative aiming for 100 per cent ownership of Trans Mountain.
Both groups say the pipeline will help generate own-source revenues for Indigenous communities over many years and help pay for much-needed social programs, infrastructure and other initiatives.
Coastal GasLink & Indigenous Ownership
Sixteen First Nations have taken up a 10 per cent equity ownership stake in the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which will become active once the project is complete.
Chief Corrina Leween of the Cheslatta Carrier Nation – one of the FNs who have obtained equity ownership in CGL – expressed her happiness over the agreement.
"The finalization of the option agreement represents a historic milestone in our desire to participate as equity owners in the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. For many of us, this marks the first time that our Nations have been included as owners in a major natural resource project that is crossing our territories," Leween said.
The Chief's comment is just one example of the opportunities created for First Nations that acquire ownership in natural resource projects. Let’s hope there are a lot more to come!
Indigenous Ownership Matters
Pipeline protestors are bad press; there is no doubt about it. Such protests detract investors but so do the extensive regulatory hurdles these projects have to jump through to get built. Therefore, when Indigenous-led coalitions want ownership of pipelines, it should help to alleviate investor's concerns.
Ownership in such projects helps promote economic reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. It allows them to be self-sustaining and stop depending on government handouts for the sustenance of their communities.
Indigenous Peoples also are strongly committed to protecting their natural land, wildlife and habitat. We have used our land and resources since the beginning of time. So, it seems fitting that we would be involved in the modern-day development of resources on our lands to ensure our future generations don't endure the same hardships our elders have with poverty and a general lack of the necessities of life.
Economic reconciliation is precisely this. If people genuinely want Indigenous people to succeed, they must put their politics, emotion, and agendas aside. Indigenous partnerships in responsible natural resource development such as pipelines will ensure both First Nations and Canadians thrive and have a bright future.
More from Estella Petersen:
- Natural Resources are Good for All to Share In Canada, Indigenous Peoples Included!
- More "Celebrities" Attack Coastal GasLink, Overstepping their Roles
- How Resource Development Can Help Indigenous Communities in Canada
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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