Positive and sustained relationships are essential to ensure successful project outcomes. In fact, according to Independent Project Analysis, an important best practice is an Integrated Project Team. The public attention to recent Oil Sands related projects in northern Canada is an example of the need for projects to effectively engage local communities early and to seek out opportunities to make all project stakeholders successful. Aboriginal communities are an often overlooked part of a project's execution plan and its long term success.
Success in remote locations means project objectives must be aligned with local cultures, traditions and social values. In the past, the economic benefits of a project were the primary driver of community alignment with development. Today economic development, while important, must align with the needs of Aboriginal societies. Because the underlying resource reserves are very large, project benefits may need to be realized over two or more generations.
An Aboriginal Engagement strategy has been developed and implemented with Aboriginal communities most affected by northern energy, mining and infrastructure development projects. A core part of this strategy is to have corporate values and policies committed to open, positive, long-term and sustainable relationships with Aboriginal communities most of whom in this paper are in northern Canada. This paper will discuss ways of effectively engaging Aboriginal communities to align their traditional and cultural lives with the socio economic benefits of northern development. This contributes to the ongoing well-being of the community over the life of the project.
Aboriginal Engagement must start well ahead of the project's Permit to Build. This facilitates appropriate engagement with Aboriginal communities to fully understand the traditions, culture and underlying social and economic structures so that subsequent agreements realize both community and corporate benefits, and to craft relationships respectful of both aboriginal and corporate values. In the case of large projects, a company may need to engage with several communities. Successes and progress in implementing this strategy will be covered, as will ongoing application of the process to adapt to unique community needs for others.
The numerous challenges faced by Aboriginal communities in the face of northern industrial development will be discussed, including the unique project opportunities afforded to them. Engagement and empowerment of Aboriginal youth through education and skills will also be covered in light of expected labor shortages, particularly in the construction industry.