Canada’s First Nations are upping the stakes, trying to leverage their clout in order to gain stakes in gas and oil projects as they try to obtain higher profits for energy that is transporter across or produced on their land – territory.
Aboriginal groups in Canada have typically played a very passive role when it comes to the energy industry. They never had any direct interaction on when or how energy was produced or transported, and simply received royalties. This is changing though, as indigenous groups are starting to negotiate terms in the new XL pipeline and storage projects as well as buying their own oil wells.
From Veto to Approval
Even though this is the first time that the First Nations are looking to get directly involved in the production of energy, the oil companies, and the Canadian government have always had a legal duty to accommodate and consult them when working on projects that can have an effect on any of their territories.
This law basically gives them the power to veto any projects that they don’t like.
Some First Nation groups have used their leverage to delay or stop oil projects, like when Enbridge Inc wanted to create the Northern Gateway pipeline. The pipeline proposal was rejected by Trudeau when environmental concerns were raised. The new trend seems to be going in the opposite direction though, with indigenous groups using that same power to try and get themselves ownership stakes in new projects.
Canada, which is the world’s 5th largest producer of gas and oil, could benefit from this new trend. Since less aboriginal groups are trying to object these projects, more oil and gas will be able to be produced in areas where it might otherwise stay underground. Many of the groups are looking at this option because of the high poverty levels that aboriginal groups face.
The extra income from negotiating better deals with energy corporations on their lands, could help First Nation groups focus on lowering not only poverty but also the high death rates that they experience which seems to be connected to their financial issues.