In October, on average, more than 200 Indigenous men and women were working for Enbridge’s mainline contractors on the Line 3 Replacement Program in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Many of these workers are among the almost 200 graduates of an Enbridge Pipeline 101 training-to-employment program that’s been running since last spring.
And out on the Line 3 right-of-way, the enthusiasm of these newcomers is interlaced with the steadiness of more experienced pipeliners like Leo Cardinal.
On the O.J. Pipelines’ Line 3 mainline welding crew, working out of the Provost, AB field office, Cardinal is respectfully known by his co-workers as Chief.
It’s a nickname he’s gone by for the past 10 years, and he takes great pride in it.
“It’s my nickname and I put it on my hardhat because that’s what I go by,” says Cardinal. “The guys are very respectful—they always ask first if it’s OK to call me that. Some people think it’s a racial slur, but it’s not to me.”
Cardinal, 42, began work on the Line 3 pipeline replacement project in early September, pre-heating welds in the pipeline between the “hot pass,” or initial exterior weld, and the two exterior fill welds.
“It’s been great working with all the guys,” he says. “They’re ‘stand up.’ And if you don’t know something, they’ll help you out.”
The feeling appears to be mutual.
“No complaints whatsoever. He’s never late for work. He’s friendly and he goes over and above the job requirements,” says Jon Myroon, a welding supervisor with O.J.
“We get quite a few visitors and tours. If he spots somebody who’s out of place or not on the crew, he’ll go over and ask them a couple of questions, get them to fill out the FLHA (Field Level Hazard Assessment) and bring it to my attention. Things can move pretty fast, so we appreciate that he’s keeping an eye out there to make sure everyone is safe,” adds Myroon.
Originally from Saddle Lake Cree Nation (SLCN), the man they call Chief now lives with his wife near Goodfish Lake, about 187 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. His cousin, Carlos Cardinal, also of SLCN, also works on the back end of the O.J. welding crew.
“He and I usually follow the pipeline together,” says Cardinal.
One the best parts about working on the pipeline, he adds, is meeting people from all over Canada—including people from communities near his home, such as Lac La Biche and the Kikino Métis Settlement.
A 10-year veteran of various industrial and trades positions—including a pre-Line 3 pipeline job that took him from Fort Saskatchewan to Fort McMurray—Cardinal says it’s great to see a growing number of Indigenous people on the job site, especially the younger generation of workers.
In early December, Leo’s crew finished the final welds in the Luseland, SK area. He’s hoping to join another O.J. crew over the next few months and relishes an opportunity to be back on the Enbridge Mainline next summer in Saskatchewan.
“It’s been an outstanding place to work,” he says. “I would definitely come back if I was asked.”
(TOP PHOTO: Veteran pipeliner Leo Cardinal meets people from all over Canada during his work on the right-of-way.)