Re­spect and Con­sul­ta­tion

Alberta Oil - - EDITOR’S LOG - NICK WIL­SON nwil­son@al­ber­taoil­


tide­wa­ter project has crashed into a fa­mil­iar ob­sta­cle—abo­rig­i­nal land rights.

Mem­bers of three Mi’gmaq com­mu­ni­ties are fac­ing off in court against Chaleur Ter­mi­nals about its plan to ship 150,000 b/d of Al­ber­tan crude by rail to the At­lantic, via the New Brunswick port of Belle­dune. Their ar­gu­ment is also fa­mil­iar—an al­leged lack of con­sul­ta­tion be­fore the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment granted en­vi­ron­men­tal, con­struc­tion and site per­mits, al­though Chaleur Ter­mi­nals says it met sev­eral Mi’gmaq bands over the last two years. It doesn’t have to be this way.

En­ergy firms have built suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships with abo­rig­i­nal groups across Canada. The oil in­dus­try does $1.5 bil­lion in busi­ness ev­ery year with abo­rig­i­nal-owned com­pa­nies, whose num­bers grow by 5.5 per­cent per year. They are not only grow­ing but glob­al­iz­ing—Car­il­lion, which has US$8 bil­lion in global rev­enue, owns a 47 per­cent stake in Al­berta’s Fort McKay-based Bouch­ier, whose many busi­nesses in­clude oil ser­vices com­pa­nies. An­other large abo­rig­i­nal-owned con­struc­tion and oil ser­vices firm, Fort McKay Group of Com­pa­nies, also com­petes in Edmonton’s lo­gis­tics mar­ket.

Big­stone Cree and Bronco En­ergy cre­ated a joint ven­ture and the big­gest oil sands project on First Na­tions re­serve lands in Canada. The El­iz­a­beth Métis Set­tle­ment has a ma­jor stake in Mir­tex En­ergy and has cut a deal to build a heavy oil up­grader.

Oil sands op­er­a­tors rely on lo­cal First Na­tions for about 10 per­cent of their work­force. Syn­crude, one of the largest pri­vate-sec­tor em­ploy­ers of abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in Canada, holds Gold Level accreditation by the Cana­dian Coun­cil of Abo­rig­i­nal Busi­ness’s Pro­gres­sive Abo­rig­i­nal Re­la­tions pro­gram. So does Shell.

Sa­vanna En­ergy forms joint ven­tures to share rig own­er­ship with abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples on whose land it drills. Im­pe­rial Oil’s pro­posed Beaufort Sea to B.C. coast gas pipe­line project of­fers res­i­dents on the route a piece of it. (The Macken­zie Val­ley Abo­rig­i­nal Pipe­line Cor­po­ra­tion, rep­re­sent­ing North­west Ter­ri­to­ries abo­rig­i­nal groups, is tar­get­ing a one-third own­er­ship stake).

The planned Al­ber­tan crude-totide­wa­ter Ea­gle Spirit Pipe­line is First Na­tions led. The part­ners of Ea­gle Spirit En­ergy Hold­ings in­clude some of Canada’s top abo­rig­i­nal busi­ness names, and it is con­sid­er­ing of­fer­ing First Na­tions on the pipe­line’s path a 50 per­cent own­er­ship stake.

Yes­ter­year’s strat­egy of get­ting per­mits first and then giv­ing res­i­dents a Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion later fre­quently sucked firms into le­gal swamp­lands.

Of course, there’s no guar­an­tees for suc­cess. De­spite of­fer­ing 10 per­cent of its North­ern Gate­way pipe­line to lo­cal First Na­tions, En­bridge still strug­gles to get it built. Both abo­rig­i­nal and non­a­bo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties across Canada weigh pro­jects’ pros and cons—jobs, rev­enue, na­tional econ­omy, cul­tural con­cerns, the en­vi­ron­ment—and de­cide what’s best for them. But re­spect and con­sul­ta­tion go a long way.

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