It’s about replacing a pipeline, but it’s also about creating independence.
When Enbridge began construction on the Line 3 Replacement Program (L3RP) in Western Canada earlier this year, Neil Sasakamoose pulled no punches on the project’s importance to the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC).
“It’s personal to us. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy, and we’ve invested our whole tribal council training and employment program just for this construction project for the past year and a half or more,” says Sasakamoose, executive director with the North Battleford, Saskatchewan-based labor brokering organization.
“It’s the important thing for us right now.”
In early August, construction began on the L3RP in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan. In Canada, the $5.3-billion project will create thousands of jobs, generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and contribute billions to the Canadian gross domestic product (GDP), in part through economic spinoffs.
Enbridge’s L3RP team has secured agreements covering 70 Indigenous communities or groups. Additionally:
For the BATC, the L3RP has resulted in a close working relationship with Enbridge.
The BATC represents the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation, Moosomin First Nation, Red Pheasant Cree Nation, Sweetgrass First Nation, Stoney Knoll First Nation, Saulteaux First Nation and Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation, and has a robust economic development program, including the First Alliance construction and employment services consortium.
With the explicit support of Enbridge, the BATC has received $430,000 under the federal government’s Western Diversification/Economic Pathways Partnership program. These funds cover development of training, skill development and safety and quality programs directed toward Line 3.
“There’s a social dependency we are battling as an organization and as First Nations people. That’s what we struggle with,” says Sasakamoose. “Major projects like this help us with two things—they give us momentum for people to go and work immediately, and they also give our people the opportunity to develop some skills that that will allow them to work well into the future.”
Through construction jobs and procurement, the BATC had already set an internal engagement target for its people on the L3RP.
“If our target is successful . . . we know the economic impact of that number. But we also know what it’s going to do back in the home First Nation,” says Sasakamoose.
“There’s momentum in our communities from the Line 3 project. People want to work. There will be revenue and income for families and households to improve their quality of life, and it’ll make the environment healthier,” he says. “And that’s what we’re trying to achieve—a healthier environment where kids grow up, and people try to make a community better.”
(TOP PHOTO: Neil Sasakamoose is the executive director with the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs.)