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Energy: Natural resource development is a key source of First Nations prosperity

  • Median wages for Indigenous Canadians working in oil and gas were over three times the median for all sectors in 2020.

Montreal, August 17, 2023 – Economic reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations goes hand in hand with natural resource development, but such development is too often blocked by the federal government, according to a study published by the Montreal Economic Institute.

“For many First Nations, economic reconciliation means reaffirming their autonomy and self-reliance,” says Krystle Wittevrongel, senior policy analyst at the MEI and author of the publication. “When Ottawa stands in the way of resource development projects with First Nations partners, it effectively stands in the way of First Nations prosperity.”

Dale Swampy of the National Coalition of Chiefs defines economic reconciliation as a proper strategy for solving on-reserve poverty.

The median annual income of Indigenous Canadians working in oil and gas was $144,000, according to the latest census. This compares with an all-sector median of $46,800.

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of self-identified Indigenous people living in rural areas or on reserves support natural resource development, according to a 2021 Environics Research poll.

The MEI study explains that Ottawa’s obstruction of large oil and gas and pipeline development projects has a negative impact not only on Canada’s overall prosperity, but also more specifically on the prosperity of its First Nations.

“When Ottawa blocks multi-billion-dollar projects with First Nations partners, such as Northern Gateway or Frontier, it stands in the way of their prosperity and self-reliance,” explains Wittevrongel. “Talk of economic reconciliation is cheap, and Ottawa’s repeated decisions to stand in the way of such projects shows a clear lack of commitment to the concept.”

This MEI study can be consulted here.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank with offices in Montreal and Calgary. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.

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