Increasing The Importance Of Energy In First Nation Priorities
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
Indigenous People and communities are frequently overlooked in the energy sector in terms of business and opportunities. However, with respect to partnerships, they are rich with opportunities.
Doing business with First Nations in the energy arena can be accomplished through the building of respect, leading to prosperous entities including national and global partners, investors, and contractors.
They can also include resources that are practical, and comprehensive, managed by smaller entities as opposed to large corporations established solely by First Nations. Insightful and targeted to the energy sector, tips and gaps that represent effective community engagement in this industry are covered below:
Why is Knowledge of Indigenous History Important?
Knowing your market, no matter the industry, is integral to success in business. With respect to the first step in community engagement for Indigenous communities, knowing who you’re addressing and how they came to be in this position is vital. You may be addressing Chief and Council directly, or you may be presenting to First Nation administration and staff.
You may also have the opportunity to speak directly with community Membership – all of which are completely different audiences that require a modicum of background research and knowledge of community history. Information about significant trade routes and territories once traversed by the particular community you are addressing, not to mention treaties that addressed their livelihoods, resources, and spiritual beliefs, are a firm foundation for beginning effective engagement. Prior legal victories, residential school impacts, and any affects from past directives, policies, and engagements with Federal and Provincial governments, as well as corporations, will help to guide you in potential energy conversations. (Related: Working with Indigenous People 101)
How do you Make Energy Relevant, and a Priority?
In advance of presenting details specific to a potential energy project or investment, become familiar with the market. In this case, identify specific First Nation community priorities, identify where energy best intersects with those priority areas, and integrate energy related topics and issues into those priority areas.
There are typically five-to-ten key priorities in most First Nation communities. These can include but aren’t limited to:
· Social Issues
In order to effectively tie energy into an effective conversation with a First Nation community, knowing the priority areas of that community is a requirement. Similarly, the community representatives are more likely to be amenable to engagement if a community priority is directly linked.
Understanding How Priority Areas Intersect With Energy
Understanding energy related issues as they pertain to a First Nation is very important. As an example, with respect to housing, a community could easily benefit from a new energy efficient construction policy. In terms of economic development, relaying the fact that there are generation opportunities is a valuable component of an energy conversation. The engagement that can result from full disclosure on such initiatives is immense. And, with respect to social issues and youth, identifying the ability to work with the environment and reduce costs to households and future end-users in the process are crucial.
How Can Energy be Integrated Into Community Priorities?
An energy-conscious culture can be created by:
· Getting formal policy statements and initiatives integrated into other departments (get everyone, throughout community administration, into an energy mindset)
· Ensure the leadership and staff are delivering the same energy message
· Try to have a budget assigned to energy topics (example: the IESO ECB Program is a great place to start in Ontario) Related: Duty to Consult and Accommodate Primer: Where Do We Begin?
How to Inform and Involve Community Membership
The First Nation community membership must be aware of the energy culture priority as well…
· Work with local schools to inform children – who, in turn, become excellent advocates
· Develop a video series for social media (which can also be played at community meetings)
· Develop social media memes (which are relatable through humour,) as well as newsletter releases
· Look to integrate community webinars or possibly billboards into the energy engagement strategy