Aboriginal communities and pipeline companies: Relationships beyond regulations

Consultation with Aboriginal communities is critical to any pipeline project that proposes to cross reserve or traditional land. Pipeline companies work with Aboriginal communities to select a route that minimizes the impact on the community and the environment.


Aboriginal consultation is a regulated part of the pipeline review process in Canada; the Crown must consult with Aboriginal communities whose land is affected by a proposed project before the project can be approved, and a pipeline company must show in its application to the National Energy Board that it has engaged with communities along a proposed route.

Relationships beyond regulations

Consultation may be a regulatory requirement, but the importance of relationships with Aboriginal communities extends far beyond regulations.

“Consultation can be beneficial to both parties only if each agrees to work together toward a common understanding that consultation is only part of the bigger picture,” said Francis Erasmus, owner of Bridging Circles, a company that advises organizations on how to work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities.

Once built, pipelines remain in operation for a long time, so building long-term partnerships between pipeline companies and Aboriginal communities can be mutually beneficial, and – more importantly – it is the right thing to do. 

Erasmus explained that successful pipeline proponents approach consultation with the will to make the relationship work and are committed to involving Aboriginal communities in the economic benefits of their projects.

“Aboriginal communities have been saying for many years now that they would like to be part of the benefits of pipeline projects that go through their territories and that (means) much more than just consultation from their point of view,” said Erasmus, who has spent over two decades working with Aboriginal communities in roles with both government and industry.

Economic benefits can include jobs, training, business opportunities and compensation for the use of land. Pipeline companies should work together with Aboriginal communities to find a balance between economic prosperity and traditional Aboriginal culture.

Why input from Aboriginal communities is critical for pipeline companies:

By learning traditional knowledge about local land, forest, water and wildlife, pipeline companies are able to learn how to better minimize the environmental impact of their projects. In order to obtain the social license pipelines need to operate, companies need the support of Aboriginal People.

Read CEPA’s guiding principles for Aboriginal relations

Regulatory Roadmap: Want to know what special obligations pipeline companies need to abide by when planning to construct on Aboriginal land? Click here for the answer.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.