​The top eight insights for oil and gas companies about building relationships with First Nations

Each year, through the various presentations, panel discussions and questions from the floor, the Indigenous Conference on Energy and Mining provides a wealth of advice for companies that seek practical guidance on building a relationship with First Nations—and, conversely, for First Nations looking for economic opportunities.

Here are eight highlights from this year's session:

Chief Roland Willson, West Moberly First Nation

“If you want to work with First Nations, you have to be involved. It’s not just a matter of coming in to have a chat and leaving. You have to get involved. We have to trust who we are talking to.

“From a First Nations perspective, the nation has to make a decision. I don’t know how many times we have come to the line without making the decision, only to watch the opportunity go by. So the community has to decide. It has to avoid paralysis by analysis.”

Trevor Haynes, chairman, president and chief executive officer, Black Diamond Group

“Be patient. Be very clear on what you’re looking to accomplish and what values, in terms of the framework, you’re looking for.

"We don’t need to be partnered with every community. A few great partnerships are great for our business. So we look at those situations where we have good alignment, where we have trust and where we like the people that we’re going to spend time doing business with. Everything falls into place from there.

“If you’re looking to build a sustainable partnership, it’s going to require investment from your company. It’s going to take resources and time and travel. It’s not just pounding together an agreement and saying, ‘Great! Now let’s move on.’

“If you get it right, it’s great. But remember, it’s not a business-to-business relationship. It’s business-to-community. Communities are made up of many people. Each of these communities has different factions within it. Not everybody is going to love what you do. So you have to be willing to accept that as well.”

Chris Insley, Member of the New Zealand Deep South (Antarctic) National Science Challenge Maori Advisory Panel, 37 Degrees South Limited

“When you talk to indigenous people, you’re probably going to sit there and shudder because they’ll be probably talking about all sorts of things at once while you will probably want a very narrow discussion about a pipeline.

"They’ll be talking about jobs, housing and education. And that’s the way it is. These things are all interconnected and interrelated. You can’t have a very narrow and shallow discussion. If you do, you will struggle…. You are going to have to take a much more holistic view.”

Michael Binnion, president and chief executive officer, Questerre Energy

“If you go around the world, the Anglo-Saxon culture is not the most common one…. Most people around the world want to know first, ‘Who can I trust?’ And then we can talk about business. Anglo-Saxons believe they can trust the court system, so let’s make a deal. But that’s unusual around the world. Most First Nations that I’ve talked to want to start with ‘Who can I trust?’”

Susan Targett, executive vice-president, Seven Generations Energy

“While having dinner with a couple of the chiefs from the First Nations that we work with, our CEO happened to ask them…. ‘Do you think of yourselves as First Nations first, or do you think of yourselves first as Canadians?’

"It was really interesting because they didn’t even take a second to respond that they’re Canadians. We’re all Canadians. So when you look at the dialogue of pipelines, where we need to go to access those markets, it becomes a different conversation because it’s not us and them. We’re all in this.”

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