Canada’s energy Reconciliation on New York City billboard

Nicholas Allen
Pass Herald Reporter

A Canadian Indigenous leader lent his voice to a Manhattan billboard campaign this month, hoping it will bring global understanding to the country’s energy industry. It plays an important role in improving the standard of living for many First Nations People in Canada.

“Partnerships with Canada’s energy sector offer an incredible opportunity to pull our next generation out of poverty,” said Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs. “These partnerships advance the path of Reconciliation.”
Swampy, whose organization represents about 80 First Nations communities across Canada, hopes his message during New York’s Climate Week, one of the largest environment-focused events in the world, helps shine a light on the strong relationship many Indigenous communities have with Canada’s oil and gas and cleantech industries and the role economic and environmental partnerships have in the pursuit of Reconciliation.

“It’s important people also understand that the oil and gas industry is taking its commitment to tackle climate change seriously and that the inherent relationship our people have with the environment is helping projects to be developed more responsibly,” said Swampy.

Canada ranks number one among the world’s top oil reserve holders in the areas of environmental protection, social progress and governance (ESG) according to international third-party assessments. Oil and gas also employs more Indigenous people than any other industry in the country. Overall Indigenous representation in the oil and gas sector was more than 6 per cent in 2019, according to Statistics Canada. For comparison, Indigenous peoples make up about 3 per cent of Canada’s total workforce.

More First Nations communities and businesses are entering into equity partnerships and mutual benefit agreements on major pipeline and energy infrastructure projects. Canada’s oil sands producers have spent $15 billion with Indigenous businesses since 2012, reaching a record $2.4 billion in 2019, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“Yet, unfortunately, there are some coordinated groups who are preying on the desperation of some of our people to turn world opinion against Canada’s oil and gas industry,” said Swampy, a member of the Samson Cree Nation.

As a result, Indigenous communities lost out as governments have denied projects such as the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, which would have brought hundreds of millions of dollars of economic growth to communities, he said.

The $65,000 campaign, sponsored by the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), features Swampy and the simple message “Indigenous partnerships with oil and gas advance the path of Reconciliation.”

The campaign ran from September 20 to 25 on three large outdoor electronic billboards in high traffic New York locations at Times Square, targeting Climate Week speakers, delegates and media. CEC President and CEO Tom Olsen said Swampy has been an integral voice for Canadian First Nations involvement in beneficial equity partnerships.

“Dale has been a courageous voice for many years now on the important role First Nations leaders, businesses and monitors can play in supporting stronger and more sustainable projects,” said Olsen.

“It’s time the world gained that understanding too.”