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Finding the “Win-Win” in Major Project Agreements

Mar 08, 2017
Christopher Duschenes
Director
Northern and Aboriginal Policy,
Centre for the North

Lessons From Indigenous Groups and Industry Proponents

Over the past 30 years, major project agreements (MPAs) between Indigenous communities and natural resources companies have become the cornerstone of successful development projects in Canada. It is increasingly clear that without MPAs, the likelihood of major projects proceeding is significantly reduced and that partnerships between Indigenous communities and industry are now the norm, not the exception. Corporate and Indigenous community leaders emphasize the need of having MPAs to build trust, improve certainty, and establish joint economic development opportunities. MPAs can now be found from coast to coast to coast across the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples. In the mining sector alone, more than 400 agreements have been concluded between Indigenous groups and project proponents since 1995.

Given the growing importance of MPAs, The Conference Board of Canada’s Centre for the North (CFN) initiated research to gain a better understanding of the context and elements that form the basis of successful agreements. On March 6, 2017, our report on this issue was released, and it can be downloaded free of charge.

The report documents critical success factors, common obstacles, and challenges that Indigenous groups and proponents need to be mindful of at different phases of major project agreement-making—from early-stage negotiations to long-term implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. For Indigenous groups, the report provides insight into how to navigate potential and expected developments. It also suggests ways that Indigenous governments and businesses can work together to leverage the opportunities presented by major projects, transforming time-limited financial benefits from exhaustible resource development into long-term legacies for their communities.

For industry proponents, the report demonstrates how a corporate focus on building and maintaining healthy relationships with Indigenous groups will enhance the likelihood that the major project will reach the operational stage. Through successful negotiation and implementation of an MPA’s terms and conditions, proponents can establish and maintain the social licence required to effectively develop their project.

The balance of power around natural resource development is shifting and Indigenous communities are increasingly becoming key players in major economic development projects across Canada. An equitable sharing of the natural resources wealth of the country is a meaningful and significant element of reconciliation. Encouraging this trend is a “win-win” for everyone.

Please distribute the report widely, and we encourage you to provide us with your feed-back. All Centre for the North reports are available free of charge.

Learn about becoming a member of the Centre for the North.

Related Webinar

Major Project Agreements and Indigenous Communities: Finding the Win-Win
The Conference Board of Canada, February 28, 2017


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