Acting on our Ideals
Aboriginal & Native American Relations
TransCanada is proud to count dozens of Aboriginal communities and Native American Tribes among our neighbours, and to work side-by-side with many individuals of indigenous ancestry. Our formal Aboriginal Relations Policy, which recognizes the legal, social and economic realities of Aboriginal communities across Canada, is based upon the principles of trust, respect and responsibility. We are working with tribes in the United States following the same principles.
As a company, we are committed to respecting cultural diversity. Sometimes, this manifests itself in recognition of the spiritual importance of traditional lands and particular cultural remains. This year, for example, we worked closely with a number of communities to identify, investigate and protect elements of their cultural heritage that lay along proposed rights-of-way. When we were building our Bison Pipeline Project in Montana this summer, an archaeological site of Native American religious significance was discovered, protected and recorded with the assistance of tribal members. In southern Alberta, we participated with Blood Reserve elders and youth in a traditional land use study that documented both traditional and current use of the land and its resources.
Each year TransCanada holds training sessions for our employees and contractors that are designed to broaden awareness, understanding and acceptance. We also host an annual Aboriginal Awareness Week. Held in June this year, it focused on the complex situation of indigenous women.
Whenever possible, we try to ensure that our projects build capacity in Aboriginal and Native American communities. To that end, we frequently hire indigenous individuals and contract services from indigenous businesses. In 2010, TransCanada spent $31.1 million on such contracting and hiring in Canada alone.
We also support educational and specialized training initiatives that can lead to permanent jobs. For example, our Keystone Pipeline Project was the impetus behind the Maskwachees Environmental Monitor Training program, a five-week introduction to environmental sciences that saw the participation of both youth and elders. In northeastern British Columbia, our Horn River Project enabled four youth from the Fort Nelson First Nation to take part in a two-month program to build their forestry and environmental skills. Members of several Aboriginal communities in northwestern Alberta found employment on our North Central Corridor Project as well.
TransCanada’s success with direct Aboriginal hiring and training for employment has been responsible, in part, for independent recognition of our company as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. In addition, 2010 saw more than 500 senior business leaders salute the efforts of Art Cunningham, TransCanada’s senior policy advisor on Aboriginal and Tribal relations, for his tremendous contribution to advancing indigenous peoples’ employment during the last 20 years.
Whether through traditional culture initiatives, education and training programs, direct job creation, or the fostering of indigenous contracting, TransCanada respects the uniqueness and diversity of indigenous cultures. In northeastern British Columbia, where our company is considering several major projects, we asked Phil Fontaine, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, to facilitate a workshop with Aboriginal groups and other community leaders that focused on reconciling economic sustainability with traditional and cultural practices. Our project team members came away with many new insights into the interests and concerns of local communities and the challenges they presented to our projects. We believe our project planning process will be much better as a result of this commitment to meaningful community engagement early in the planning process.
Sometimes, our respect for local communities requires us to make difficult corporate decisions. Such was the case this year in northeastern Alberta, where our company and ATCO Power have spent five years studying development of the renewable hydro-electric potential of the Slave Rapids just south of the Northwest Territories border. While that potential is significant, its development depends on reaching agreement with local communities. When, after many months of discussions, we were unable to resolve outstanding differences with the members of Smith’s Landing First Nation, TransCanada and ATCO Power announced that they would not proceed with the project. It was the appropriate response.