Members of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) work every day to realize the goal of mutual trust and respect with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
Why? Because the energy that flows through our pipelines fuels many aspects of life in Canada and helps us thrive. Safe, healthy and sustainable communities are of utmost importance to CEPA members. Because we don’t just operate in communities, we live in them.
Developing and maintaining good long-term relationships with the landowners, communities, governments and Indigenous groups who live near our operations is key to meaningful consultation and engagement.
Diana Audino, Chair of CEPA’s Indigenous Affairs Work Group (IAWG) explains that it’s important for the industry to establish and maintain good working relationships with all stakeholders, in particular with Indigenous groups affected by our projects and operations.
“We work with Indigenous groups to consult meaningfully with them about our projects and operations,” says Audino. “That way, we can address their concerns and mitigate any impacts on their Aboriginal and Treaty rights (such as the right to hunt, fish and trap).” She notes maintaining close contact on an ongoing and regular basis helps build trust. “Sharing information about projects and operations with Indigenous groups allows us to respond to their questions and concerns as best as possible. That helps to build a strong relationship that benefits everyone,” says Audino.
This hands-on approach allows for better understanding of the communities’ priorities. Companies can then work together with Indigenous groups to find common ground and help advance those priorities together. But it’s important to remember, what’s meaningful to one Indigenous group may not be meaningful to another.
As specialist in Aboriginal law, Bryn Gray, points out in the report Building Relationships and Advancing Reconciliation through Meaningful Consultation, “There is no single recipe for meaningful consultation. However, the successful approaches of some industry proponents and government entities have certain common ingredients, such as bringing the right attitude and outlook to the table, a focus on building relationships and trust, and engaging as early as possible in the decision-making process.” (Report to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. Gray, B. May 2016.)
Audino agrees, “As an industry, it’s important that we engage in a two-way dialogue. This means we don’t just provide updates on projects and operations. We have to listen to concerns raised by Indigenous groups, who may be affected by our activities, and we have to discuss their priorities.”
The IAWG is just one of several work groups at CEPA, which bring together volunteer representatives from member companies to work together on important issues and share knowledge.
“Part of the purpose of CEPA’s Indigenous Affairs Work Group is to ensure our members understand the importance of building meaningful relationships with Indigenous groups,” explains Audino. “It’s about connecting and getting to the heart of what matters most and coming together to find solutions, in particular, at a time of reconciliation. We all play a role in reconciliation.”