Opinion: Feds' new loans for First Nations businesses shouldn't exclude oil and gas projects

December 6th 2023
At the National Coalition of Chiefs (NCC) we have developed several national First Nation employment and training programs, including our flagship, the NCC National First Nations Electrician Apprenticeship program, which operates in partnership with the Aboriginal Skilled Workers Association (ASWA). We’re also working with First Nation communities and industry to develop an employment program to defeat on-reserve poverty. None of this would be possible without the support of Canada’s natural resource industries, led by our oil and gas industry.

But now, just as anti-poverty momentum is building, the federal government decides to weigh its options on how to stop natural resource development, not just in Alberta, but throughout Canada. A new and much-needed Indigenous Loan Guarantee Program could be passed soon, but it’s possible Indigenous communities won’t be able to use it to finance oil and gas ventures, or for that matter any initiative related to natural resource industries.

This gets custody of our natural resources backwards. Who is better placed to manage natural resource development in Canada than First Nations? Over the centuries, we have earned the right to act as stewards of the land. We have fought hard to ensure Canada’s natural resource industry grew in the safest and most sustainable manner, and partly as a result of our fight, Canada now has the most environmentally responsible and technologically advanced industry in the world.

The federal government says it wants to support Indigenous economic reconciliation, but it would implement its version of economic reconciliation without oil and gas, our most important natural resource. The almost 14,000 self-identified Indigenous workers in the oil and gas industry want to share in the prosperity that can be generated from this industry, and several First Nation coalitions want to invest in, lead, and prosper from new growth opportunities in this industry including the proposed Pathways Alliance Project — an initiative led by Canada’s largest oil sands companies, working together to address climate change.

The NCC supports the Pathways Alliance Project because we believe it will help restore Alberta’s economy and help Canada lead the world in carbon capture technology (CCT). Many First Nation leaders believe our people should not only lead decarbonization initiatives like this but also fully own them. We can partner with the industry to ensure CCT is built and operated in the safest, most efficient manner. Who better to own these types of facilities than the original stewards of the land?

We are already leading LNG projects in B.C., where 20 First Nations are participating in the LNG Canada Project. In northwestern B.C. the Haisla Nation is building Cedar LNG and the Nisga’a Nation Ksi Lisims LNG. In the province’s southwest, the Squamish Nation is building Woodfibre LNG. These nations have been working with pipeline and gas companies for decades. They know and trust the industry. They know Canada has the best safety record in the world and they believe investing in extensive marine and coastal protection and long-term environmental monitoring will ensure the safety of Canada’s lands and waters.

Pathways Alliance will invest unprecedented time and resources to ensuring its carbon capture facility is built and operated in the safest way possible. One of the largest construction projects in Canadian history, it will put Canada on the map in the global carbon sequestration industry.

The only realistic road to Indigenous economic reconciliation runs through employment and equity ownership in our natural resource industries. The federal government needs to stop managing poverty and start managing job and ownership opportunities for our communities. With skin in the game, our leaders will ensure that the environment is protected. Environmental groups always say they believe we are the rightful stewards of the land. They should work with us, as owners of these resource initiatives, to ensure they are built and operated in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

Credits to Financial Post, Dale Swampy

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