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Alberta - June 21, 2018

Canada has been inhabited for more than 40 000 years by indigenous peoples, which includes First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. Canada’s indigenous peoples share many similarities but have distinct heritage, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs. On June 21, we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day and recognize the contributions and cultures of indigenous people in Canada.

Find out how you can participate in storytelling, presentations, feasts, drum circles, pow-wows, and traditional songs by visiting here

Ever struggled to fit a round peg in a square hole and wondered why it didn’t fit? It’s a simple comparison, but many organizations in natural resource development, including in the energy industry, have felt similar frustration for decades when it comes to working with indigenous peoples—and vice versa.

The AER is working to try to change how things are done.

Last year, we released Voices of Understanding to teach us about the importance of indigenous decision-making circles and worldviews to help ensure that indigenous voices are reflected in our own decisions. This new awareness is a journey that is shaping the AER’s understanding of how to include indigenous people in the work we do as a regulator and how to build better relationships with them.

“With the AER, we were both learning at the same time,” says Rose Crow Shoe, a Blackfoot Elder and long-time collaborator with the AER. “You may not understand it right away, but it will come. Listen to the smudge and allow it to take control of the process.”

Meaningful conversations

National Indigenous Peoples Day:

  • First recognized in 1996 as National Aboriginal Day.
  • Renamed National Indigenous Peoples Day by the Government of Canada in 2017.
  • The name Canada comes from a St. Lawrence Iroquoian word “Kanata,” which means village or community.
  • Celebrated nationally every June 21
  • June 21 is the day of the summer solstice and is the longest day of the year with about 12 hours of sunlight
  • There are National Indigenous Peoples Day events across Alberta. Visit here to learn more.

At this year’s Regulatory Excellence Global Summit, the AER invited elders from Treaties 6, 7, and 8 to participate in an indigenous engagement panel discussion as part of the international agenda.

“Including an indigenous component in the summit was paramount for us to demonstrate that we are committed to working with our indigenous partners,” explains Kim Blanchette, vice president of the AER’s Communications and International Relations Branch.

"The objective of the summit is to share expertise with the global regulatory community, and we feel that showcasing our work in this space speaks volumes.”

The panel featured Blackfoot Elders Rose Crow Shoe and Dr. Reg Crow Shoe, Cree Elder Patrick Daigneault from Prince Albert – lle a la Crosse (a small community in Northern Saskatchewan), and Doreen Healy, a member of the Blood Tribe in Southern Alberta and the AER’s indigenous engagement specialist and resident elder.

The panel discussed the differences between traditional indigenous worldviews and western worldviews, and that two systems need to find common ground for decision-making that is based on mutual respect and understanding.

The panelists also noted that the key to success is including indigenous voices early in any conversation, building trust from the beginning, and having that trust be the foundation of the relationship.

Indigenous engagement panelists Dr. Reg Crow Shoe, Elders Rose Crow Shoe, Patrick Daigneault, Doreen Healy, & Jennifer Wells, VP, Alberta engagement with the AER.
Indigenous engagement panelists (L-R) Dr. Reg Crow Shoe, Elders Rose Crow Shoe, Patrick Daigneault and Doreen Healy, and Jennifer Wells, VP, Alberta engagement with the AER.

It’s no secret that we (i.e., western organizations) don’t always get it right. In fact, Doreen Healy admitted that the AER realized “we didn’t do a very good job—we dropped the ball the first time around but we are committed the second time around and we will do a good job. Our Indigenous and Stakeholder Engagement branch is very committed to the Voice Of Understanding process.”

During the 90-minute discussion, panel members noted that often organizations come to the table without considering First Nations or Métis objectives or how both sides can benefit from a project, not just one side.

On the flip side, the participants agreed that things are moving in a positive direction; both indigenous people and industry are learning important lessons about how to create culturally and ethically safe spaces for conversations.

Reg Crow Shoe leads a traditional blessing.
Dr. Reg Crow Shoe leads a traditional blessing.

When it comes to regulating the energy industry, one of the important parallels between the western system and the oral system is understanding how the rules are made, Daigneault said.

“It’s a beautiful conversation that we’re able to be a part of. I’m looking forward to the future, for myself, and my children, and my children’s children.”

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