Contrary to popular belief, many Indigenous communities and leaders are embracing the opportunities that exist in Canada’s natural resource sector. This includes a growing number of First Nation leaders who are exploring ownership over the Trans Mountain pipeline. MLI Munk Senior Fellow Ken Coates and Indian Resource Council of Canada Chief Executive Stephen Buffalo sat down with CBC News to discuss.
“A lot of [Indigenous people] are looking to just get out of poverty,” says Buffalo. “A lot of communities still having infrastructure, housing, education issues.”
According to Buffalo, projects in the natural resource sector provide the opportunity to offset what he argues is insufficient support for Indigenous communities that are persistently lagging behind the rest of Canada economically.
While not all First Nations agree on seeking greater opportunities in natural resource development, particularly due to environmental concerns, Buffalo argues that Indigenous ownership is the best way to ensure both environmental projection and economic development.
“We all want a safe and proper environment; the environment is so key,” Buffalo explains. “But we can continue to still do some economic development and have that balance. And that’s what we need to strive for — to find that balance.”
Coates also argues that, while there may be challenges, moving forward on these sorts of projects are important. For Indigenous people, “this is not just a pipeline investment. This is an investment in the future of their community.”