'We want to be at the table': Indigenous leaders call for more partnerships after Enbridge deal

A major deal has been reached in Canada's energy sector. Twenty-three Indigenous communities have joined forces to buy a $1.12 billion minority stake in seven Enbridge pipelines. Heather Yourex-West explains what the historic partnership means for its Inidigenous investors.

Indigenous leaders across Alberta are calling for more partnerships with the provincial government after a “historic” economic development.

Enbridge Inc. signed a deal to sell a minority stake in seven pipelines in the Athabasca region of northern Alberta to a group of 23 First Nation and Métis communities for $1.12 billion.

The deal is the largest energy-related Indigenous economic partnership transaction in North America to date, according to Enbridge.

The pipelines included in the agreement are the Athabasca, Wood Buffalo/Athabasca Twin and associated tanks, Norlite Diluent, Waupisoo, Wood Buffalo, Woodland and the Woodland extension.

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Athabasca Indigenous Investments (Aii), a limited partnership of 23 Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 First Nations and Métis communities, will manage the investment which includes an 11.57 per cent non-operating interest in the pipelines.

Aii said the deal is expected to bring in more than $10 million annually to the communities represented in the partnership.

Enbridge said the assets are underpinned by long-life resources and long-term contracts, which provide highly predictable cash flows.

In March 2022, 16 Indigenous communities along the Coastal GasLink pipeline route signed option agreements for an equity stake in the project.

The deal is expected to close within the next month.

Frog Lake First Nation Chief Greg Desjarlais said the deal marks a new path because it will create opportunities to improve the well-being of Indigenous peoples across the province.

“First Nations weren’t the problem. We are part of the solution in this country,” Desjarlais said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“This investment creates opportunities. It’s going to allow us to send our kids to school. It’s going to allow us to send our people to treatment. It’s going to allow us to deal with the mental health crisis in our communities.

“Our people should not live in poverty on the land of milk and honey. Our milk has gone sour somewhere. We need to get back to working together.”

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Desjarlais urged the Alberta government to continue inviting First Nation and Métis peoples to have a seat at the decision-making table.

These decisions will affect the generations to come, he said.

“I support economic sovereignty. I also live off the land… We always had an economy, but somewhere down the line we were excluded,” the First Nation chief said.

“Today, the investment means we have an important seat at the table, and that seat cannot be ignored or overlooked… As the chief of Frog Lake, I have to have the foresight like many of our leaders do to look beyond the generations that are yet to come.

“This is what the Elders prophesized. We must work together and we must care for one another.”

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Stan Delorme, chairperson of the Buffalo Lake Métis Settlement, said the funding from the deal is necessary but more needs to be done.

“Hopefully other industries are paying attention at this point in time,” Delorme said.

“This is not only a historical day but also a beneficial deal… The funding is needed. Like any other community, the needs are there.”

Enbridge deal a major steps toward reconciliation: Alberta government

The Alberta government said the deal is a major step toward reconciliation with First Nations and Métis settlements.

According to Premier Jason Kenney, the “game-changing” deal makes the Alberta government a partner in Indigenous prosperity.

“This moves the talk of reconciliation to the real progress of reconciliaction,” Kenney said at a news conference on Wednesday.

“This is the single largest Indigenous transaction in the natural resource center in the history of North America.”

Chana Martineau, chief executive officer of the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corp. (AIOC), said the deal benefits all Albertans, not just Indigenous peoples.

The AIOC, a provincial crown corporation, said it provided a loan guarantee that enabled the communities to borrow the $250 million for their equity stake in the assets instead of contributing their own capital.

“The AIOC has continuously championed Indigenous prosperity and the impacts that these kinds of projects can bring to industry partners, Indigenous communities and Métis settlements across the province,” Martineau said.

Enbridge chief executive officer Al Monaco said the partnership exemplifies how Enbridge and Indigenous communities can work together.

“We’re actually doing something to ensure that we foster reconciliation in this country… If we can get this right going forward, then we have a lifetime of opportunity here,” Monaco said.

–With files from The Canadian Press.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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