More Indigenous communities are taking the lead in oil & gas

A growing number of Canada’s Indigenous communities are becoming owners of oil and gas projects
By Deborah Jaremko

A grow­ing num­ber of Canada’s Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties are becom­ing own­ers of oil and gas projects that can allow them to help reduce envi­ron­men­tal impacts and earn a greater share of the prosperity.

“I see so much con­ver­sa­tion about the impor­tance of Indige­nous peo­ple sit­ting at the table of major projects and dis­cus­sions. The con­ver­sa­tion is with the major stake­hold­ers, and that’s Indige­nous peo­ple,” said Jor­dan Joli­coeur, pres­i­dent of Métis-owned Carvel Elec­tric, dur­ing the launch of a recent report about Indige­nous engage­ment in oil and gas.

Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties involved in the resource sec­tor have gained sig­nif­i­cant­ly more influ­ence and ben­e­fits over the past 20 years, accord­ing to the Mac­don­ald-Lau­ri­er Insti­tute (MLI).

“The trend in recent years has evolved towards nations assert­ing them­selves as part­ners, own­ers and share­hold­ers in resource devel­op­ment,” said MLI fel­low Heather Exner-Pirot.

“This is often the most con­se­quen­tial way through which they can achieve eco­nom­ic self-deter­mi­na­tion and real lever­age in how projects pro­ceed, includ­ing hav­ing a more direct say in the envi­ron­men­tal pro­vi­sions of projects.”

Here are some cur­rent exam­ples of Indige­nous own­er­ship in oil and gas:

Enbridge Oil Sands Pipelines

In the largest ener­gy-relat­ed Indige­nous part­ner­ship trans­ac­tion in North Amer­i­ca, 23 First Nations and Métis com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern Alber­ta are invest­ing $1.1 bil­lion to become part own­ers of sev­en Enbridge oil sands pipelines.

Through a new com­pa­ny called Athabas­ca Indige­nous Invest­ments, com­mu­ni­ties will hold an 11.57 per cent own­er­ship stake in pipelines that trans­port about 45 per cent of Cana­di­an oil sands production.

“It’s going to allow us to improve the qual­i­ty of life,” said Frog Lake First Nation Chief Greg Desjarlais.

Coastal GasLink Pipeline

Six­teen Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in B.C. will joint­ly own a 10% stake of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline once it is run­ning in 2023. Coastal GasLink will deliv­er nat­ur­al gas from north­east B.C. to the LNG Cana­da export ter­mi­nal on the coast at Kitimat.

Glob­al LNG demand is expect­ed to near­ly dou­ble to over 700 mil­lion tonnes in 2040 com­pared to 380 mil­lion tonnes in 2021. Cana­da is expect­ed to help reduce glob­al reliance on coal with LNG that will have the low­est emis­sions per tonne in the world.

“This deal is impor­tant because it demon­strates the val­ue First Nations can bring as true part­ners in major projects,” said Chief Cor­ri­na Leween of the Ches­lat­ta Car­ri­er Nation.

Cedar LNG

The Hais­la Nation on B.C.’s north coast is approx­i­mate­ly 50% own­er of Cedar LNG, a pro­posed $2.4‑billion float­ing nat­ur­al gas export ter­mi­nal that would be sup­plied by the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

“It will bring tremen­dous eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties and ben­e­fits, ensur­ing the Hais­la peo­ple have con­trol of our own future,” said Hais­la Chief Coun­cil­lor Crys­tal Smith.

Ksi Lisims LNG

Ksi Lisims LNG is a $10-bil­lion pro­posed new Cana­di­an nat­ur­al gas export project near the Alas­ka bor­der on the B.C. north coast owned joint­ly by the Nisga’a Nation, Rock­ies LNG and West­ern LNG. Start­up is planned in late 2027 or 2028.

LNG New­found­land and Labrador

The B.C.-based First Nations Major Projects Coali­tion and Miaw­pukek First Nation on Canada’s East Coast are work­ing togeth­er on the first-ever Indige­nous equi­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion in an Atlantic ener­gy project, called LNG New­found­land and Labrador.

“Our inclu­sion in this project is his­tor­i­cal, trans­for­ma­tion­al, and an exam­ple of how the off­shore ener­gy indus­try, Cana­da, and New­found­land and Labrador are tru­ly embrac­ing and giv­ing effect to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” said Miaw­pukek First Nation Chief Mis­el Joe.

East Tank Farm

In north­ern Alber­ta, the Fort McK­ay and Mikisew Cree First Nations own 49% of the Fort Hills oil sands project’s East Tank Farm. Com­plet­ed in 2017, the $545-mil­lion deal is one of the largest busi­ness invest­ments to date by a First Nations enti­ty in Canada.

The eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits of own­er­ship include fund­ing social pro­grams, edu­ca­tion and train­ing, devel­op­ing busi­ness capac­i­ty and build­ing infra­struc­ture, Mikisew Cree First Nation says.

Cas­cade Pow­er Project

The Indige­nous Com­mu­ni­ties Syn­di­cate is invest­ing $93 mil­lion for an equi­ty stake in the Cas­cade Pow­er Project, a new nat­ur­al gas-fired pow­er plant with capac­i­ty to sup­ply 8% of Alberta’s elec­tric­i­ty requirements.

Cas­cade is expect­ed to start oper­at­ing in 2023. Secur­ing the deal is “trans­for­ma­tion­al” for the First Nations com­mu­ni­ties, said Alex­is Nako­ta Sioux Chief Tony Alexis.

Polaris Car­bon Cap­ture and Storage

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Ener­gy Tran­si­tion, an affil­i­ate of Indige­nous-owned Project Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, has entered into an agree­ment with Shell to add “mate­r­i­al own­er­ship for First Nations” in the company’s pro­posed Polaris car­bon cap­ture and stor­age (CCS) project.

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Ener­gy Tran­si­tion says its invest­ment in Polaris “will sup­port envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship and cre­ate pen­sion-like inter­gen­er­a­tional wealth—thereby sup­port­ing the path towards heal­ing, respect and self-deter­mi­na­tion for par­tic­i­pat­ing Nations.”