In one of our blogs, we explored how First Nations need support to open avenues to enable Indigenous equity investment in resource projects.
Today, we look at another barrier to Indigenous equity investment — the federal government’s emissions-cap policy for oil and gas.
We turn to the Indigenous Resource Network (IRN) for opening thoughts on this.
The IRN is questioning the policy, announced in July, that is meant to reduce emissions from the Canadian oil and gas sector by 42 per cent by 2030.
The IRN protests that Ottawa did not take into account the needs and priorities of Indigenous Peoples.
“We feel that we have been left behind,” says Robert Merasty, IRN executive director.
“This emissions cap would be very harmful to Indigenous communities that have successfully pursued ownership in oil and gas projects, and to the thousands of workers and businesses engaged in the sector.”
The federal government says it consulted First Nations groups as it built the policy. It cites the use of a “First Nations Climate Lens.”
But more than one Indigenous leader insists that Ottawa consulted only Indigenous groups that agreed with it.
Merasty says Ottawa has not consulted with the wide range of views in the Indigenous community.
“That’s what I disagree with: Political people making their own statements without consulting with . . . rights holders.
“In our Indigenous communities, we are rights holders. We have, absolutely, certain rights that are identified within the Constitution of Canada. You need to have meaningful talks.
“So let’s sit down and talk about what’s digestible in terms of addressing our climate change. Let’s sit down and talk about how do we do it together. Because in the midst of an energy crisis that Canada is having, we can’t simply shut off our energy production and (be) purchasing our energy from other countries. That does not make economic sense.”
The IRN says the emissions cap would endanger Indigenous investments in oil and gas, including the Haisla Nation’s Cedar LNG project in Kitimat.
The sector provided an estimated 10,400 jobs in 2020, and Indigenous employment in the oil and gas sector has risen 20 per cent since 2014.
As The Terrace Standard noted: “Additionally, oil and gas companies spent more than $2.6 billion on procurement from Indigenous businesses in 2019—up from $1.5 billion in 2017. More than 250 Indigenous-owned services and other businesses were active in Canada’s oil and gas sector.”
Merasty says of the emissions cap: “We are finally becoming owners of projects in our own territories, yet this policy seeks to restrict that. This is taking us a step backwards in reconciliation.”
Merasty said the federal cap doesn’t take into account how much the energy industry has contributed to bringing Indigenous communities out of poverty.
“Nobody supports the protection, the stewardship of our Mother Earth more than our Indigenous communities. . . . That’s paramount. But we also have to address the dilemma of how we address the poverty.
“It’s really an issue of government dictating what must be done instead of sitting and discussing and asking what should be done. That’s the fundamental approach here.”
Merasty says Ottawa has not consulted with the wide range of views present in the Indigenous community with regard to what role the oil and gas sector can play in their societies.
“That’s what I disagree with: Political people making their own statements without consulting with … rights holders. In our Indigenous communities, we are rights holders. We have, absolutely, certain rights that are identified within the Constitution of Canada. You need to have meaningful talks.
“So let’s sit down and talk about what’s digestible in terms of addressing our climate change. Let’s sit down and talk about how do we do it together. Because in the midst of an energy crisis that Canada is having, we can’t simply shut off our energy productions and (be) purchasing our energy from other countries. That does not make economic sense.”
The IRN group compared the emissions cap policy to the Impact Assessment Act, which gave the federal government more jurisdiction over major resource projects, (and was ruled unconstitutional by the Alberta Court of Appeal.)
“Restricting what Indigenous peoples are permitted — and not permitted — to do of their own accord smacks of paternalism,” the court ruled.
And Merasty argued: “More than 100 First Nations communities, jobs, and businesses are at risk. For a decade, Indigenous communities have been working to become partners and owners in oil and gas projects.”
The IRN suggests one way to focus efforts on global emissions is by supplying LNG to Asian markets to reduce their reliance on coal. That, says Merasty, is something that can be Indigenous-led.
And Merasty notes a new Ipsos Canada poll that found Indigenous partnerships within Canada’s energy sector have become part of the reconciliation process for many Canadians. Ipsos asked if Canadians believe that Indigenous community involvement in developing Canada’s natural resource is an essential part of the broader reconciliation process. Nearly three quarters (72%) agreed that it is.
Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs, says: “Many Indigenous people would particularly suffer from Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault’s proposed emissions-cap approach, harming our quest for economic independence, self-determination and sustainable community infrastructure — the three pillars that define Indigenous economic reconciliation.”
He added, in a guest column in Financial Post: “Almost 14,000 self-identified Indigenous people work for Canada’s oil and gas industry. Their incomes benefit their families and communities across the country, allowing for significant progress in areas that address poverty and inequality experienced by Indigenous people.”
And Swampy continued: “The implementation of this policy proposal will have numerous negative consequences. Consumer prices will rise further. Our economy will suffer more. Investments into carbon technology will become less likely, making climate change an even greater threat for all of us. And Indigenous reconciliation, something the Liberal government supposedly cares deeply about, will become even harder to achieve.”
As the IRN pressed its campaign for greater access to funding to open avenues to enable Indigenous equity investment in resource projects, it also launched a national campaign called “Don’t cap Indigenous opportunity.”
And on social media, the IRN posted this graphic message:
(Posted here 02 November 2022)