Imperial’s Indigenous consultation and community relations program is focused on building relationships and maintaining ongoing dialogue with Indigenous leaders and community members by recognizing and valuing traditional practices, decision-making processes, cultural activities and languages.
While our aim is to start conversations early in our project planning to allow enough time to consider feedback and collaborate on mitigation measures, it is the relationships developed and connections made over time that allow us to meaningfully share ideas and mutually beneficial opportunities.
In 2021, conversations and engagement with Indigenous communities in the Cold Lake, Alberta area lead to some unique opportunities, including a few grounded in forest lifecycle management.
As part of our commitment to restoring the land to a state that allows for the continued exercise of Indigenous rights and cultural practices, Imperial collaborated with Wood Environmental to host tree-planting workshops for some of our Indigenous community partners: Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation; Elizabeth Métis Settlement; Fishing Lake Métis Settlement and Cold Lake First Nations.
The tree-planting workshops were designed to bring western science and Indigenous knowledge together in one forum, enabling transparent two-way sharing. We know we have a lot we can learn from Indigenous culture and experience on the land.
These workshops covered foundational tree planting skills, along with additional culture training that included dendrochronology (determining a tree’s age) and lessons on pine stripping for subsistence and functional uses.
On the other end of the forestry lifecycle, Imperial, at the request of Indigenous neighbours, expanded the donation and distribution of salvageable timber to benefit eight different Indigenous groups within a 200-kilometre radius of our Cold Lake operation.
Salvageable timber is wood collected from both operational tree clearing and site clean-up that is not merchantable, and common species include white poplar and aspen. These donations were meaningful because they support Indigenous ceremonial practices and Indigenous youth training programs.
Ontario pipeline project inspires inspector-in-training program
In 2020, Imperial began a two-year construction project to proactively replace about 63 kilometres of our Sarnia products pipeline to ensure the continued safe and reliable delivery of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from our Sarnia Refinery to our largest fuels market – the Greater Toronto Area.
Imperial engaged and worked with four First Nations, on whose traditional territories the pipeline was being built, prior to and during the construction process. In addition to actively incorporating traditional knowledge in our project scope and planning process, there was a joint interest for meaningful participation in the construction phase of the project.
After consultation with the communities, Imperial worked with the project’s inspection contractor to set up a pipeline construction inspector-in-training program. Participants from Six Nations of the Grand River and the Haudenosaunee Development Institute followed a 13-month-long training program toward becoming certified craft inspectors.
The program’s goal was to build a solid understanding of client and regulatory specifications along with standard construction practices. By the end of the program, participants took on active roles as inspectors responsible for daily progress and quality measurement reporting of our project.
Not only did this program give our Indigenous stakeholders an inside view of modern pipeline construction and associated safety and environmental values, it provided an opportunity for potential career paths in the pipeline and construction industries. For Imperial, the training program helped build out needed local capacity and provided our team with a diversity of views and cultural understandings that improved our project execution.