An Indigenous Perspective on Resource Development
Cheryl Cardinal gives in-depth insight into how energy firms can build win-win partnerships by understanding the communities they need to work with
This is the first installment of a two-part series that looks at
how energy companies can engage with Indigenous communities
Resource development in Canada is changing. The way the energy industry has done business in the past clearly is not working, and we need to start examining why. Understanding the history of Indigenous people in this country and the inclusion of Indigenous peoples through resource and energy developments is important because energy and resource development is happening in and around our communities. There are so many considerations that we have to examine when we are looking to be involved. Indigenous leaders always consider the environmental impacts and how they will affect our future generations while examining the opportunities and how they can benefit their communities.
Some Indigenous peoples are successful and are very engaged in oil, gas, mining and renewable energy industries. As Indigenous peoples, we have great examples of opportunities where we have come together to take advantage of business opportunities and participate meaningfully. We must also recognize that there are Indigenous communities that are struggling who need a bit more help—some of them need to look at what opportunities work for them when it comes to business. Ultimately, it comes back to empowering the community to move forward.
Those who are opposing pipelines are examining the environmental standards that are in place and looking at the impacts on the land. Traditionally speaking, we look at the actions that we are taking today and how those actions will impact our future generations. The time that communities take to make a decision in regards to resource development is used to talk through our elders, youth, leaders and community members. We want to be part of the decision and to be at the table when we are looking at resource developments. This will give us the opportunity to examine the pipeline route and discuss those areas that are culturally significant to us. We know where our ancestors are buried, we know where we gather our medicines, our hunting, fishing and trapping areas.
Throughout Canadian history, the federal government has been attempting to erase who we are in this country. Our culture, our identity, our Treaty and Aboriginal rights and our position in this country need to be recognized and respected. This will lead to true reconciliation for Indigenous peoples and Canada.
The levels of involvement depend on the community. You have companies like Eagle Spirit pipelines led by Calvin Helin, who want to specifically build a pipeline owned by Indigenous peoples. Some want to help build pipelines and want to generate business through their band-owned companies and provide services to the pipeline and resource companies.
There are also some communities that are examining opportunities to be environmental stewards so if there is a leak they will be able to catch it so it does not cause damage to their traditional territories. You also have to recognize that some want nothing to do with pipeline development at all. That’s where the diverse opinions come in which are not much different from Canadians in general. There are many who say, ‘we need these pipelines for the economy—to create jobs we need to start building this. We need to start exporting our product to places other than just the United States. We need to be able to get our product to tidewater to the global market.’ But others say, ‘we had this pipeline, and this happened and point out all the environmental impacts that it has.’ There are similarities between Canadians in general, and the positions of Indigenous peoples bring forward. There needs to be education surrounding pipelines and resource developments so Indigenous communities can examine the specific involvement of the communities.