Working together with Aboriginal communities is important for many of CEPA’s member companies whose pipelines (or proposed pipelines) cross traditional or reserve lands. Direct and honest communication is key to pipelines companies understanding and addressing concerns Aboriginal groups may have about pipelines.
For this instalment of the People of Pipelines series, Jody Whitney talks about her role in developing and maintaining positive relationships with Aboriginal communities as an Aboriginal strategy manager with Enbridge.
I am currently located in Calgary (Alberta).
I have been in this position since March 2013; however, I have worked with Enbridge’s Aboriginal Affairs department since March 2004. I began initially as a consultant and became an employee in June 2010.
The minimum educational requirement for my current position is a master’s degree in a related field. I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in justice studies, with a thesis concentration on sustainable development in First Nations communities.
As a First Nations person, raised on a reserve, I have direct knowledge and experience with many of the challenges that First Nations people and communities face. Through my work with Enbridge, we have often been able to translate this experience into opportunities to find common ground and create positive win-win outcomes for both the company and the communities.
Much of my job relies on developing and maintaining positive working relationships with influential Aboriginal leaders, communities and organizations with a view to building capacity within Enbridge for a deeper understanding of the unique challenges and interests of Aboriginal peoples and communities. Equally, my job entails helping Aboriginal leaders to better understand Enbridge’s business and our corporate values.
I have a responsibility to ensure that Aboriginal people and communities are informed about our operations and, where there is an interest and it is reasonable to do so, facilitate opportunities to participate in our safety and integrity programs. Public awareness and participation is an important aspect of our commitment to building and operating the safest and most efficient pipelines possible.
At Enbridge, we take pride in the fact that we are a learning organization and value opportunities to apply key learnings. We know from experience that the Aboriginal Affairs discipline must be involved in every stage of the pipeline lifecycle. My role specifically is critical to the development of broader strategy and risk-mitigation measures to help ensure operational safety and social acceptance of our pipeline projects and business generally.
I have the responsibility to liaise and communicate with affected Aboriginal people and communities to help ensure safety and environmental protection. Over the past years, Enbridge has implemented a rigorous Incident Command System training program to achieve its goal of being best in class for emergency management planning. Communicating with stakeholder communities is a critical component of those efforts and that’s where my role would be in emergency management.
I enjoy the opportunity to learn and grow in an ever changing and evolving part of the energy industry. I also enjoy meeting new people and continuing to work with many others who have been a part of our business for several years. The aspect of my job that I find most rewarding is creating opportunities for true partnership between Enbridge and Aboriginal groups where Enbridge’s core business objectives are met and value is brought to Aboriginal groups through opportunities to participate and provide input into our projects and operations.
The most misunderstood and least known aspect of what I do involves the areas of common ground between Aboriginal groups and Enbridge. Many Canadians assume that there is a complete misalignment between the respective principles and objectives of industry and Aboriginal groups. We share the same principles of respect, integrity and safety, which are very much at the heart of everything we do and form the basis of our approach to building relationships and working effectively with Aboriginal people and communities.
Now that you know a bit about Jody, get to know our other People of Pipelines:
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.