Aboriginal Business Elite Promote Pipelines as part of ‘Energy Corridor’

First nations carving out an energy bridge to the B.C. coast

Nathan Vanderklippe, The Globe and Mail, Feb 5, 2013

Calvin Helin doing power point presentation in his button blanket regalia.

Calvin Helin doing power point presentation in his button blanket regalia.

For the Canadian energy industry desperate to pump oil and natural gas through British Columbia, the single greatest obstacle has been the dozens of first nations fighting to ensure pipelines are never built.

Now, some of the leading figures in Canada’s aboriginal business community are offering a bridge across the province’s difficult political landscape. They have formed Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd., a company quietly working to create a first nations-owned energy corridor across northern B.C. that could serve as a physical line across the province to move natural gas, electricity and oil.

It’s an idea that promises first nations a much greater involvement in moving Canada’s energy, from large equity stakes in pipelines to major construction contracts, tugboat work, and engagement in spill response. In exchange, it promises the energy industry a possible route to the B.C. coast with less of the opposition that has confronted major pipelines in B.C., such as Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway.

At a time when Canada faces seemingly intractable conflict between first nations and a resurgent resource sector, Eagle Spirit also presents a shimmer of hope that a third way may be possible. And the company has some deep-pocketed backers, including the Aquilini family, which among other assets, owns the Vancouver Canucks.

Eagle Spirit’s path, however, is unlikely to be easy, given the tremendous complexity of negotiating with dozens of first nations, and the huge cost and expertise required to build pipelines and power lines.

Still, the work has already begun. Eagle is in talks with coastal first nations on whose land export terminals would be built, in the belief that gaining approval from groups like the Lax Kw’alaams is the critical first step in assembling broader support. And because a corridor will require gaining title to what is now Crown land, Eagle is launching talks with government, beginning with B.C. this week, and Ottawa in the next few weeks.

If first nations can take an active role in owning and managing new pipelines, “they will be a lot more conducive to wanting to see projects develop in their territory,” said Calvin Helin, a well-known author and B.C. first nations leader who is Eagle Spirit’s president. That’s especially true “when they know they’re going to get a fair share of what’s going on and be in a position of reasonable stewardship and control,” he said.

Eagle is not the first attempt to directly involve first nations in moving oil. A small company called G Seven Generations Ltd. has sought to assemble native involvement in an $8.4-billion plan to build an oil export railway to Alaska. In addition, First Nations Limited Partnership was formed so more than a dozen first nations could jointly negotiate for benefits from Pacific Trails’ pipeline proposal to carry natural gas to Kitimat, B.C., for export.

What sets Eagle apart is the stature of its partners. They include Dave Tuccaro, a

Dave Tuccaro, a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan

Dave Tuccaro, a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan

northern Alberta aboriginal entrepreneur who has built a nine-figure empire on the oil sands; Mr. Helin, a lawyer who is president of the Native Investment & Trade Association and author of Dances With Dependency; and Aquilini Development and Construction Inc., run by the prominent Vancouver family which owns the Canucks.

Aquilini is North America’s largest producer of blueberries and cranberries, and owns and operates 44 hotels. It has no pipeline experience. It is, however, an important B.C. property developer, and has in recent years struck deals with first nations to develop on native land. For example, Aquilini is in the midst of building roughly 2,000 homes on 125 acres of land belonging to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, located on the north shore of Vancouver. Under the terms of the $1.8-billion development, the Tsleil-Waututh provide the land, while Aquilini takes care of financing and construction. Profits are split, with 60 per cent going to the Tsleil-Waututh.

A similar model could be used for pipelines, with first nations owning the corridor outright and taking large stakes in anything that runs through it.

“We’re not here to hand out. We’re here to employ,” said David Negrin, president of Aquilini Development and Construction. Although an oil pipeline is not a first priority – a natural gas pipeline may come before – it’s clear the movement of crude oil across B.C. is fundamental to Eagle’s plans.

“For Canada we believe there will be an [oil] pipeline. We believe it’s inevitable,” Mr. Negrin said.

But unlike Enbridge, which has offered 10-per-cent ownership to first nations, Eagle might offer 50 per cent, with the remainder potentially going to Aquilini.

“Every nation along that route will have jobs in monitoring the pipeline, building the pipeline, working at the refinery if we build one, working at the ports,” Mr. Negrin said. “There’s numerous, numerous jobs.”Enbridge No andy everson

But with no treaties, land claims among B.C. first nations often overlap, creating a barrier to working together. And finding the right line on the map for an energy corridor is unlikely to be easy.

“Corridors like that tend to not work very well, and the reason is that pipeline corridors are different from power transmission corridors, which are different from highways,” said Roger Harris, a Vancouver consultant who has substantial experience with first nations and pipeline issues.

Still, those behind Eagle say it has been built on the kind of model that stands to make first nations participants, rather than naysayers, in Canada’s resource economy.

“I see us owning pipeline projects. I see us owning oil sands. I see us owning refineries,” said Mr. Tuccaro, the entrepreneur who grew up in Fort Chipewyan, Alta. “I see us owning a lot more than what we have now.”


Calvin Helin Announces Game Changing First Nations Energy Company

September 26, 2012, Prince Rupert, B.C. –Today Calvin Helin, Chairman and  President, announced the formation of a new ground breaking Aboriginal-owned and controlled company, Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd. Helin, a multi award-winning, and international best-selling author, entrepreneur, speaker and advocate of indigenous self-reliance, said that ‘’a team of highly experienced individuals in the resource development space have assembled to form a company with its key objective –  to assist aboriginal communities and individuals to become successful with managing economic opportunities in their traditional territories” .He also stated “We want to work with communities to establish a First Nations Energy Corridor across northern British Columbia”.

Helin, a member of the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation, and son of a hereditary Chief, noted further that “we chose Prince Rupert to kick off our new endeavor because we share the concern with our families and communities about the environmental impacts, the lack of transparency, fair equity participation, business benefits, and real consultation that has characterized the recent spate of energy projects announced.” “These projects impact the lands upon which our people have continuously lived for 10,000 years. Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd, intends to move forward only with publicly supported projects that can produce benefits to those who are involved,” he said.
During his speech Helin pointed out that members of the Land Claims Agreements Coalition in Canada’s north have treaties that result in the ownership, control, or influence over almost half the Canadian land mass representing a land base that is greater than 27 countries represented in the European Union. Surprisingly, this does not include many yet-to-be-settled treaties, or the legal requirement for consultation and accommodation that First Nations (below the 60th parallel) possess for projects that impact their rights in their traditional territories—rights established by recent decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada which are part of an unprecedented string of 150 court victories.

Board member Dave Tuccaro, one of Canada’s top Aboriginal businessmen, stated that, “Major corporations do not understand that the era of business-as-usual approach to offering beads and trinkets to First Nations for projects in their traditional territory is over.” He elaborated suggesting that, “Aboriginal people are not anti-business and they recognize the opportunities that development brings, but projects need to be done on their terms.”
The Aquilini Investment Group is also pleased to be part of this venture as the financial backer and partner for Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd.  Luigi Aquilini, the founder of Aquilini Investment Group stated that  “Our group, who have a long history of working cooperatively on business projects with Aboriginal communities, is delighted to have the opportunity to assist Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings Ltd to solve energy problems with better solutions for First Nations in British Columbia’’.Mr Aquilini was recently honored with the Order of British Columbia and is the Owner of the Vancouver Canucks.
Dave Porter, CEO of the BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council welcomes the announcement on the launch of this company. ‘’It is important for the economic development of our communities that our entrepreneurs step out into the business arena help build capacity’’.

Darrell Beaulieu, Board member and President and CEO of Denendeh Investments Inc., a corporation representing the corporate investments of the Aboriginal groups in the Northwest Territories noted,  “I support the concept of an Aboriginal owned energy corridor that provides for the economic wellbeing, environmentally balanced and sustainable business solution that will benefit Aboriginal peoples, industry and governments. This is a leading edge solution that will provide a win, win, win.  A beneficial partnership. To disagree with the concept and partnership benefits would clearly signal and enhance the polarization, uncertainty and character of Canada’s business environment with Aboriginal people’’

For further information:
Media Relations
Norm Vocino
Calvin Helin
Chairman and President
Tel: 604-644-8810

Dave Tuccaro:  A Brief Bio of an Aboriginal Business Elite

Mr. Dave Tuccaro is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Fort Chipewyan and is the president and CEO of seven successful companies.
Dave’s personal commitment and the purpose of these companies is to “Create opportunities for aboriginal people at every level of education and every level of employment.”
The foundation for these businesses began in the oilsands region of Fort McMurray a quarter century ago. Although Dave’s businesses are now spread throughout Western Canada, Neegan Development Corporation Ltd., NTS Ltd., Tuc’s Contracting, WPS Ltd. and Tuc’s Rentals form the core of Dave’s businesses and are based out of the Fort McMurray area.
Dave is very active in the aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities. He has sat on the Board of the Regional Health Authority, the Alberta Chamber of Resources, the National Task Force on Aboriginal Development Financing, and contributed as a member of the National Task Force on Oilsands Strategies. As well, he spearheaded the formation of the Northeastern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association (NAABA), and acted as President for many years.
Dave is currently chairman of the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation and a past director for 2 years. He has also co-chaired the 2004 Arctic Winter Games Committee. Dave contributed as a board member of ‘Careers: the Next Generation’ where he contributed in the fields of youth and employment.
In April 1998, Dave was honored with his inclusion as one of Financial Post Magazine’s “Top 40 under 40”. An award reserved for our country’s most influential leaders.
In March of 1999 Dave was recognized as a recipient of the coveted National Aboriginal Achievement Award for his contribution in the area of Business and Commerce, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a member of the aboriginal community.
Venture Magazine, also honored Dave in their July/August 2000 issue, as one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People.
Dave sat as director of the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) and helped it through a successful launch phase and early development.
In November 2002 Dave was awarded the “Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II”. This medal is awarded to Canadians who have made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens, community or to Canada over the past 50 years.
In 2005, Dave was featured in ‘The Century’ edition of Alberta Venture Magazine’s 100 Entrepreneurs who built the Province, listed as one of the 10 most influential entrepreneurs of the decade 1995-2005.
In both 2008 and 2009, Dave was a finalist for the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Prairies Region.

Posted on February 5, 2013, in Indian Act Indians, Mining, Oil & Gas and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Every nation has such people. They say ‘it takes all kinds’, but I have me doots.

  2. Thunder Sky Waiting

    ….when the colonized become the colonizer….the Indian elite are quickly beginning to form powerful alliances with industry and government against the indigenous peoples themselves.

    ….with each passing day, it is looking more and more as though if THE PEOPLE hope to stop the insane destruction of our world by exploitive mining industries it will require us to stop the exploitation imposed by the ELITE including the Indian elite.

  3. amazing article you gots here, thanks for sharing it!

  4. Malcolm Sam Robinson

    Just have to say, wow! Shocked that this is even up for discussion with all the opposition towards the pipeline(s). But then again it is all about money and even a lot of our best first nations people will eventually bend. I certainly would not put that past my or our band that they to will have a change of heart in this disturbing matter. Fish does have and oily content but hey no worries there will be plenty of oil to go around once we have our first disaster.

  5. This is a MAJOR setback. And Mr. Helin…Lawyer, has written a book about native spirituality. CRAZY contradictory. DON”T BE FOOLED! It’s boils down (the oil and the BS to greed) No Pipelines!

  6. Aboriginal Business ELITE?
    Is that how the new sell out phase is going to be coined?
    Does that replace the sub human status that natives across this land are coined under?
    Will going into oil and gas make us smarter, better people to get along with?
    Do we get out of the poverty when it is our resources, lands air and waters that are being used against us?
    Will the propaganda change throughout Canada?
    Will the indian act be replaced?
    Will the natives bubbles of protection enable to live lives unseen in 148 years on our coast?
    I would love to expose the thoughts of the eliter to the new elite just so they can wake up and realize gov and industry are using them too.
    Oh yes I forgot with all the blocks in our way, we will all of a sudden be a great addition to lands we belonged to already, racism will be gone, a whole new shining light will present itself.
    We natives wont be hounded by rcmp any longer.
    Our children will no longer suffer in the care of strangers
    oh yes and natives wont have to rely on a depleted trust fund that sticky fingers could not stay out of….yes all is coming up roses.
    forget about the destruction to the whole planet.
    forget about pollution.
    forget about tankers in our waters.
    forget about the whales at risk.
    forget about life….natives are too subhuman to want better.
    The natives have never wanted better and are willing to now live in pollution that doesnt come naturally to our area. yes, i need to bend over for the aboriginal business elite as they are better than this subhuman. I have no name, no culture, soon no traditional foods, nothing but a dependance on my betters to show me the way to hell on earth!

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