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Creating partnerships with Indigenous communities

Author(s): Richard J. King

Dec 16, 2022

Many public and private sector organizations across Canada are interested in developing productive and profitable relationships with Indigenous communities. Recent court decisions, ESG initiatives and federal legislation have led to more mutually beneficial partnerships while easing some of the barriers to the developing projects on Reserve lands.

In the video below, Osler partner Richard King highlights recent significant partnerships and the driving factors that bring Indigenous communities and businesses in Canada together.


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Video transcript

RICHARD: Hello, I am Richard King, National Co-Chair of the Regulatory, Indigenous and Environmental Group at Osler, based in Toronto.

Many public and private sector organizations across Canada are interested in developing productive and profitable relationships with Indigenous communities as investors, partners and employers.

In many cases, these mutually beneficial partnerships represent a new era of economic opportunities for Indigenous communities and businesses operating in Canada

Recently, there have been some significant partnerships come to fruition that involve First Nations groups and our clients.

Some of these examples include:

The Senakw project: a 6,000-unit residential development on Squamish First Nation lands in Vancouver will be the single largest development on First Nation Reserve lands in Canada.

The East-West Tie line: This 450-km electricity transmission line recently came into service along the north shore of Lake Superior in northern Ontario. The project was developed by NextBridge Infrastructure, a partnership between affiliates of Enbridge, NextEra Energy Canada and OMERS infrastructure with Indigenous ownership.

To better understand what is driving these exciting partnerships, we can point to several factors at play:

Duty to consult obligations – As a result of a pair of Supreme Court of Canada decisions in 2004, project developers are now required to consult Indigenous communities about proposed new projects. In many cases, this has led to collaboration among proponents and host Indigenous communities – resulting in these communities sharing in the project benefits and in some cases, taking a co-ownership role.

ESG initiatives – We have also seen governments and companies establish Indigenous procurement strategies. The most notable of these is the federal government’s commitment established at the end of 2019 for at least 5% of federal contracts to be awarded to businesses managed and led by Indigenous peoples.

For projects on Reserve lands, the federal government has passed two laws that have eased some of the barriers to the development of projects on Reserve by making them more financeable, and amenable to partnerships with non-Indigenous companies:

First, the First Nation Lands Management Act, which allows First Nations to establish their own land codes and regulatory regimes governing on-Reserve development, eliminating the regulatory gap that plagued efforts to develop on Reserve. An example of this is the Nigig wind farm in central Ontario. And,

Second, the First Nation Commercial-Industrial Development Act, which allowed for First Nations to partner with the province to allow for certain provincial laws to be applicable on Reserve.  The Senakw housing project in Vancouver is a good example of this.

Developing partnerships between private and public sector organizations and Indigenous communities across Canada are increasingly an important part of doing business in Canada.

To find out more about these and other issues related to partnering with Indigenous communities, please reach out to learn more about how Osler can help your organization.