Indigenous Partnerships and Prosperity

Partnerships and Prosperity: Shared Benefits from Resource Development

Canada’s upstream natural gas and oil industry has a long history of interaction with Indigenous peoples and has made great strides toward learning, developing relationships and sharing benefits from resource development. The industry acknowledges the importance of Indigenous reconciliation in Canada, and believes natural resource development is linked to the broader Canadian reconciliation process.

The industry’s strongest role is through ‘economic reconciliation’ — identifying feasible ways to share economic opportunities arising from resource development, while continuing to improve and grow relationships based on trust and respect.

Industry works with Indigenous communities in a variety of ways to meaningfully engage and to share in the economic opportunities arising from development.

According to Indigenous Works, the resource sector is “…the most engaged sector of the Canadian economy.”

Each company in the industry designs its own path toward building relationships and sharing benefits. Some of the notable actions undertaken include implementing Indigenous relations policies, providing Indigenous training to employees and contractors, and partnering with Indigenous business and communities.


A major study released in August 2020 by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) indicates the Canadian natural gas and oil industry has made tremendous progress in building positive relationships with Indigenous communities. The report outlines numerous economic and social benefits within Indigenous communities, including well-paying jobs and other benefits that arise from various business opportunities.

Three indigenous women workers pose onsite at an oil and gas facility.

Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) defines reconciliation as an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.

In 2015, members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada presented 94 Calls to Action. The Calls to Action have various target audiences and Call to Action #92 is directed at the private sector.

“We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.
  2. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
  3. Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”


Cenovus Energy to Help Address Indigenous Housing Shortage

Cenovus Energy announced it will take action to build housing in northern Alberta, helping alleviate an ongoing shortfall of adequate housing that faces Indigenous communities in the region. In a news release, Cenovus said it will commit $10 million annually for five years to build new homes in six First Nations and Métis communities closest to the company’s Christina Lake and Foster Creek oil sands projects, with the potential to extend the project for a further five years.

PETRONAS Canada Road Maintenance

Extreme temperatures, rain and snow, and heavy vehicle traffic are hard on unpaved roads leading to various PETRONAS Canada facilities in northeastern B.C. As part of an ongoing effort to support local Indigenous businesses, PETRONAS Canada signed road maintenance agreements with two First Nations in the area, enabling First Nation-owned companies to borrow necessary capital to buy a grader, creating year-round work that supports jobs and income within remote Indigenous communities.

Image courtesy of Cenovus

Indigenous Employment

Indigenous peoples engage in the oil and natural gas industry in a number of different ways, including as entrepreneurs who provide valuable products and services to the industry, and others who work for Indigenous-owned or non-Indigenous owned companies. Indigenous participation in the industry has increased over the years, as the industry offers well-paying jobs and opportunities for Indigenous peoples to work near their communities. In 2019, approximately 13,900 self-identified Indigenous peoples were directly employed in Canada’s oil and natural gas industry, an increase of 26%, or 2,900 positions, from 2014. For comparison, Indigenous peoples make up about 3.3% of Canada’s total workforce.

Oil and gas producers partner with other companies to provide a variety of services, everything from site construction and transportation to environmental consultation and other professional services. Increasingly, this supply chain emphasizes Indigenous-run business that create local jobs and opportunities.
A report by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) indicates many Indigenous communities are suffering serious economic impacts as a result of challenges facing Canada’s oil and natural gas sector that include a worldwide oil price collapse early in 2020 and the ongoing effects of the global pandemic.

Indigenous Employment Income and the Natural Gas and Oil Industry

A report by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) indicates many Indigenous communities are suffering serious economic impacts as a result of challenges facing Canada’s oil and natural gas sector that include a worldwide oil price collapse early in 2020 and the ongoing effects of the global pandemic.

Included in the report is data on Indigenous employment incomes—showing that the resource sector drives the creation of well-paying, high-quality jobs for Indigenous workers relative to other sectors. This has broad impacts on Indigenous economic reconciliation and poverty reduction.

Indigenous Support for Resource Development

A majority of Indigenous peoples support responsible resource development. In 2021, the Indigenous Resource Network, a non-partisan platform for Indigenous workers and business owners involved in resource development, commissioned a poll by Environics Research on Indigenous support for natural resource development and found that 65% of Indigenous respondents said they supported resource development. In some cases, Indigenous communities have become partners with industry on large energy projects, becoming equity owners.

Indigenous Leaders Hold Summit in Support of Energy Development

More than 80 First Nations chiefs and Métis leaders held a summit in Calgary in 2019 in support of oil and natural gas as a means to defeat on reserve poverty. The event was organized by the National Coalition of Chiefs (NCC)

“The social issues that plague First Nations all have poverty at their root. There are not a lot of revenue-generating opportunities for First Nations in northern B.C. that have the potential to make a dent in our communities’ poverty. Oil and gas production, and transmission provides a real solution,” said NCC director Chief Dan George of the Burns Lake Band (Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation).

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