There is no question that the oil and gas sector has invested considerable work in recent years towards building and improving relationships with Indigenous communities. As many corporations operating within Canada’s resource-based industries understand, the path towards reconciliation must include an economic component.
The energy sector has much to offer Canadians when it comes to understanding how crucial Indigenous ownership is for empowering First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities and why Indigenous peoples must see a tangible impact and prosperity from their participation in Canada’s resource economy.
Documents such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the Crown’s duty to meaningfully consult and accommodate Indigenous communities, have set a path towards building better partnerships with the ultimate ambition of atoning for a tragic and shameful past.
However, true partnerships with Indigenous communities must go beyond mere consultation and engagement and prioritize Indigenous-led decision-making and ownership. Meaningful partnerships must integrate and value traditional knowledge, environmental responsibility, and direct socioeconomic benefit for Indigenous communities.
In this article, we look at some of the ways authentic partnerships are being created and prioritized and why doing so is a vital part of reconciliation.
1. Good Relations Must Permeate Every Aspect of Your Organization
The work of reconciliation cannot be limited to the board room or the negotiating table. Everyone benefits when businesses prioritize intercultural competency, learning and dialogue.
Truly successful partnerships with Indigenous communities and Indigenous-owned enterprises must incorporate this learning at every level and aspect of the organization. Authentic partnerships mean aligning core business values with the work of reconciliation and commitment from non-Indigenous stakeholders. In short, these partnerships must be viewed as more than simply a business deal.
Attaining this kind of values-driven commitment will require considerable investment and internal reflection, but the reward will be a business and a community that better serves the economic interests of all its people. To move forward in a truly good way, there are no shortcuts.
2. Traditional Knowledge, Ceremony and Culture Must Provide a Foundation for Partnerships
Traditional knowledge and ceremony are fundamental to the lives of Indigenous peoples. Authentic, Indigenous-led partnerships must incorporate Indigenous knowledge and ceremony in the development, design and implementation of any project.
Many Indigenous-owned energy companies are already building their business practices on a foundation of traditional ceremony and community relationships. As Indigenous-owned companies and workers continue to grow, the sector has an opportunity to incorporate a wealth of knowledge and tradition that will strengthen relationships and honour the full history of Turtle Island.
For truly authentic relationships to flourish, the voices and culture of Indigenous peoples must lead the way and guide the decision-making process.
3. Businesses Must Invest in Local Communities
The foundation of any partnership should be established through authentic relationships with the community as a whole. That means supporting Indigenous autonomy and sovereignty by investing in communities on a holistic level.
This includes things like:
- establishing procurement policies that benefit Indigenous-owned businesses;
- investing in education, capacity building and skills training, including traditional knowledge, traditional land use and cultural learning;
- supporting housing infrastructure and clean water access;
- planning for long-term community prosperity through tools such as heritage trust funds.
As Canadians continue to forge a path together to realize the work of reconciliation, the energy sector will continue to play an important role in these conversations. The industry has an opportunity to create intentional conditions for Indigenous communities to lead the way when it comes to securing a strong future for their people.
Alchemy Communications specializes in strategic marketing and communications for businesses across sectors. We support companies seeking to improve relationships with stakeholders and communities.
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