A construction job, with room to grow

Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement provided thousands of jobs for Indigenous workers; some are capitalizing on the opportunity to build a career

Cameron Watson was barbecuing steak in his backyard on a Friday night in June 2018 near Whitewood, Saskatchewan when he fielded a phone call from Enbridge. Unbeknownst to the Ochapowace Cree Nation resident, his name had been put forward by a neighboring Indigenous oilfield construction company, Eagle Energy Solutions Ltd., owned by Des Dumais of neighboring Kahkewistahaw First Nation.

With his previous experience as a laborer in construction projects, he was a strong candidate for an Enbridge Inspector-in-Training program in Regina, which he later was invited to attend with nine other Indigenous candidates from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Soon after completing the training, Watson was dispatched to a Resdin Inspection Services crew working southeast of Regina on the Line 3 Replacement Program (L3RP), where he’s had an opportunity to job-shadow different inspectors and learn the intricacies of the many disciplines involved in pipeline construction.

“For Enbridge to give me a golden ticket like this seat, it’s a complete game-changer for me and my family,” he says. “I had been in this industry many, many years and I always viewed inspectors as top of the rung. I never, ever dreamt of becoming one. “

It wasn’t until he physically found himself in the middle of the L3RP action last summer that the responsibilities of his important new role really dawned on him.

“All of a sudden you have three booms swinging. Which one’s coming quick? Where’s the hot line? Where’s the overhead power, where are the guys? It’s a lot of moving parts to look after—to ensure you do it safely and follow procedures, you need to do your due diligence and build relationships with the operators and their ‘oilers’ (apprentices).”

Diplomacy is critical, says Dennis Weeks, a citizen of the Metis Nation of Alberta who manages the Resdin inspection team Cameron is part of.

“It’s your personality, your ability to work with the crew in a manner where you can make suggestions without coming across as taking over, but knowing you’re the person that’s responsible for ensuring that specifications for construction are being met,” he says. “You’ve got to have eyes in the back of your head. You’ve got to know the crews are doing exactly what Enbridge has contracted them to do. If those specifications aren’t met, if we don’t bring that to attention, then the quality of the line is in jeopardy, so being an inspector is a super-important position.”

Cameron credits the mentorship he’s received from Weeks and the support of co-workers like fellow inspector-in-training Preston Henry who’ve made the transition to the role smooth.

“It’s great to see Enbridge providing these opportunities and setting up people for success,” says Weeks. “What’s really great about this project is that commitments are made to provide opportunity and not just on the ground floor. The Inspector-in-Training program provides meaningful opportunity, and it’s up to the candidate to take advantage because once these guys are finished here, they have to sell themselves as independent contractors.”

Watson is working doggedly toward that goal—with the next step to obtain (API 1169) certification as a fully qualified craft inspector.

“That would be huge for me,” he says. “I’ll be able to provide for my family, I’ll help out in the community, I’ll be able to give back and help others.

“The most important message for me to get out there is things that you think are impossible, that are out of your reach . . . if that’s one of your goals, break it down and just do it.”

(TOP PHOTO: Cameron Watson (right) and inspection team members—from left, Tammy Weeks, Kara Pasap and Dennis Weeks—working out of the Enbridge Moosomin, Saskatchewan field office.)