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A plan for First Nations to access equity for major projects

Cheslatta Carrier Nation Chief Corrina Leween speaks to media at the First Nations Major Projects Coalition event in Prince George Tuesday. Bill Phillips photo

The Cheslatta Carrier Nation wanted to buy into TC Energy, the company for which Coastal GasLink is constructing a natural gas pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat.

The First Nation participated in a commercial auction to purchase a portion of the 65 per cent equity  sale by TC Energy  for the pipeline project.

“The Cheslatta were squeezed out of this opportunity because the cost of capital available to First Nations in the commercial markets were uncompetitive,” said Chief Corrina Leween. “This experience underscores a large problem facing many First Nations on a variety of projects all across Canada.”

Access to capital to become part owners in large industrial projects is a problem that the First Nations Major Projects Coalition has some answers to. All that has to happen is for Ottawa to listen when it develops a new national benefits sharing framework for major projects in indigenous territory.

First Nations Major Projects Coalition chair and Dawson Creek First Nation Chief Sharleen Gale. Bill Phillips photo

“Equity ownership represents an opportunity for all members and their members to finally take their place in the mainstream Canadian economy,” said Sharleen Gale, chair of the First Nations Major Projects Coalition and chief of the Dawson Creek First Nation. “If done right, a national benefits sharing framework focused on true partnership and co-development and projects could work to ensure that indigenous interests are kept at the forefront of project development.”

To that end, it made eight recommendations to the federal government at the end of a two-day industrial engagement event in Prince George Tuesday.

  • Leverage available tools within the federal fiscal framework to establish a program designed to support indigenous groups with access to capital (such as loan guarantees) for a wide variety of resource projects.
  • Ensure maximum flexibility of those tools and programs to be able to support indigenous groups with ownership objectives over a wide variety of project dynamics and assets classes.
  • Develop and sustain an indigenous major projects capacity fund to support indigenous communities with professional advice and counsel necessary to undertake independent due diligence on projects. Thereby, establishing a composition for informed decisions about participation and benefits in major projects at both the First Nations leadership and community level.
  • Engage with indigenous nation and indigenous organizations on the development qualifying criteria to define the size and scale of major projects and determine how the national benefits sharing framework would support indigenous involvement in those projects.
  • Engage with indigenous nations and indigenous organizations that have direct experience participating in the commercial aspects of major project development on the design of the national benefits sharing framework.
  • Establish joint engagement and collaboration with industry and institutional sectors to support First Nations equity ownership across all sectors in the context of indigenous rights and reconciliation.
  • Work with First Nations to design the appropriate mechanism that ensure benefits flow to community level priorities.
  • Ensure that benefits are established in a setting that confirms a rigorous and robust environmental review process that adheres to standard adopted by First Nations communities.

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