First Aboriginal-owned oil sands project could be wave of future

Blog, Environment, Joseph Quesnel

A small Metis settlement in Alberta called The Gift Lake in Alberta is set to become half owners in a joint oil venture.

The Gift Lake is located in the Peace River area of northern Alberta.

This would create the first aboriginal-run oil sands project as both parties are Aboriginal.

The Financial Post reported that One Earth Oil and Gas Inc., a private oil junior, was set to lock up a 50-50 partnership with the Metis settlement. Blaine Favel is CEO of One Earth and he is the only Aboriginal CEO in the Canadian oil industry.

A Cree from Saskatchewan, Favel is well known for his work in Aboriginal gaming and in various other business ventures. He truly is an Aboriginal mover and shaker.

Gift Lake is a community of Metis hunters, fishermen, and oil workers. The project goes beyond token royalties as the community will conduct much of the seismic and drilling work.

These kinds of ventures can really help communities acquire own-source revenues. If these revenues are invested properly they can invest in long term infrastructure and business development.

The venture also challenges the notion that Aboriginal peoples are all opposed to development, especially given opposition from B.C. bands to the Northern Gateway Project.

Indigenous communities support development- even in oil and gas- if it is on their terms and respects their value of sustainability. In practical terms, this means more environmental protections must be in place. These communities need to know the land will be available for future generations.

Companies also need to provide real lasting job opportunities to the community. Where Ottawa and the provinces could help is in ensuring that proper skills training is available to these communities.