Opportunity for involvement 'has never been better'

Natural resources industry offers potential prosperity to Aboriginal groups, Moosomin chief tells L3RP hearings

Canada’s Aboriginal population has a tremendous opportunity to benefit from the future development of our natural resources, says a Saskatchewan First Nations leader.

The energy, mining and forestry industries, in particular, represent an “unprecedented” economic opportunity for Canada’s Aboriginal people, Chief Brad Swiftwolfe of the Moosomin First Nation told the National Energy Board’s Line 3 Replacement Program hearings on Wednesday in Winnipeg.

“The opportunity . . . has never been better. Canada is facing a very large number of retirements over the next decade, and future labor shortages are expected,” said Chief Swiftwolfe. “Meanwhile, over 400,000 Aboriginal youth will be entering the labor force over the next decade, creating an unprecedented opportunity for our people to fill this void.”

Chief Swiftwolfe cited statistics that indicate 32,000 Aboriginal people work in energy, mining and forestry in Alberta, making the natural resources industry a leading private-sector employer of Canada’s Aboriginal people—and encouraged further collaboration.

“We need to expand on this success, not contract it. Our young people need access to relevant education, and help in identifying where the employment opportunities will be,” said Chief Swiftwolfe, whose First Nation is located near North Battleford, SK. “We need to collaborate with private-sector companies and industry associations to ensure that jobs await them.”

Enbridge’s proposed $7.5-Line 3 Replacement Program, the largest project in our company’s history, will present economic opportunities in communities across the Prairies as we replace one of our mainline right-of-way crude oil pipelines from Hardisty, Alberta to Superior, Wisconsin.

The Aboriginal engagement initiative for L3RP represents the most extensive outreach to Aboriginal groups in Enbridge’s history. We’ve met with more than 150 Aboriginal groups and communities—some of whom have Reserve lands as far as 300 kilometres from our Line 3 pipeline right-of-way.

“Enbridge has treated us with respect, and has been fair and reasonable in their dealings with us. We support the project,” said Chief Swiftwolfe.

A prominent facet of our ongoing engagement with Aboriginal communities relates to economic opportunity. Enbridge is committed to providing training and employment to members of Aboriginal communities, and creating meaningful opportunities for Aboriginal businesses.

We recently launched the L3RP Aboriginal Training Program, designed to connect Aboriginal workers with future employment in the pipeline industry and related sectors, and we provide ongoing financial awards to Aboriginal post-secondary students across Canada, in communities near our pipelines and facilities.

“My message to my people, to members of the Moosomin First Nation, is to rise up and seize the opportunities that present themselves. Pursue an education. Strive for an exciting and prosperous career, and create a positive life where you can contribute to your communities. Encourage one another, and encourage your children,” said Chief Swiftwolfe.

“My message to Enbridge is to remain committed to your core values, which include integrity, safety and respect.”

We’re committed to a meaningful and respectful dialogue with Aboriginal groups and communities on the L3RP project, with respect for cultural protocols and engagement focused on active listening.

To date, our L3RP First Nations and Métis community engagement activities have included 640 in-person meetings, more than 1,000 discussions via telephone, more than 3,675 responses via e-mail, and nearly 4,800 mailings, including notification packages and letters to groups.

The NEB’s L3RP hearings will continue through Thursday in Winnipeg, and continue from Monday, Dec. 7 through Friday, Dec. 11 in Calgary.