Oilsands benefit First Nations
Protestors show ignorance of reality of oilsands development
By Joseph Quesnel, Winnipeg Sun, January 31, 2014
Aboriginal peoples benefit from oilsands development. That was the one reality missed by protesters at a recent lecture at the University of Winnipeg involving Phil Fontaine.
Fontaine was unable to finish his address to the crowd as he was drowned out by drumming and shouting. The University of Winnipeg has announced they will re-schedule the event.
Protesters were upset that Fontaine has accepted a position with TransCanada.
They were also protesting TransCanada’s pipeline projects.
“How dare you, Phil!” said Jo Seenie, one protester at the event. “On your own people? Anishinaabe people? How dare you sell us out to work for the enemy that’s destroying this Earth?”
The enemy? Destroying the Earth? Really?
The data shows that Aboriginal peoples have benefitted from oilsands development to the tune of billions of dollars.
According to one report by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, there were more than 1,700 Aboriginal employees in permanent operations jobs in the oilsands industry in 2010.
During the past 14 years, Aboriginal companies have earned more than $8 billion in revenue through working relationships with the oilsands industry.
In 2011 and 2012, oilsands companies contributed more than $20 million to aboriginal communities in the Wood Buffalo and Lac La Biche regions (where the oilsands are located) for school and youth programs, celebrations, cultural events, literacy projects and other community programs.
Wood Buffalo and Lac La Biche Aboriginal companies performed more than $1.8 billion in contract work with OSDG member companies in 2012.
The Fort McKay Group of Companies (FMGC), which works extensively with oilsands companies through its six limited companies, brings in more than $100 million in revenue annually and is completely owned and controlled by the Fort McKay First Nation.
Shell alone, as a single operator of the Athabasca Oilsands Project, has spent more than $1.25 billion with Aboriginal contractors since 2006.
All of this does not include all of the scholarships and bursaries that are made available to Aboriginal students through oilsands producers.
Those are educational opportunities provided to First Nations and Metis students in some of the most remote communities.
Clearly, when it comes to the relations between Aboriginal communities and the oilsands developers, we are only hearing one side of the story.
There is also scant evidence that the oilsands represent a threat to the air, water or soil quality of the affected regions. First Nations along the pipeline’s route must also be consulted and accommodated, so they will benefit in the end.
Besides the great disrespect shown to Fontaine by not allowing him to speak, these protesters showed a profound ignorance of how Aboriginal peoples already benefit from oilsands companies.
The only images we see are of protesters drumming and holding placards. We almost never see images of the many Aboriginal peoples who work in the oilsands. They are a silent segment of the population that go about their day quietly earning a living. No one is providing them with a megaphone to air their views.
It’s sad because the oilsands are a convenient target these days, despite their minuscule contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Ill-informed celebrities gallivant around Canada and all over the world protesting the oilsands, while ignoring worse polluters.
Perhaps during Fontaine’s re-scheduled talk at the University of Winnipeg, someone will be able to tell the complete truth about Aboriginal peoples and the oilsands.
— Joseph Quesnel is a policy analyst with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. http://www.fcpp.org
* Warrior Publications Note: Aside from his pro-industry stance and minimizing of the environmental impacts of the Tar Sands, Quesnel brings up some interesting numbers in regards to Aboriginal collaboration in the oil and gas industry, especially by band councils in the region.
Posted on January 31, 2014, in Indian Act Indians, Oil & Gas and tagged Fort McKay First Nation, Fort McKay Group of Companies, Phil Fontaine, Tar Sands, TransCanada. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.