Listening and learning from traditional knowledge

Enbridge's L3RP Aboriginal engagement is focused on 'active listening'


It’s an unheralded aspect of communication, yet a key part of Enbridge’s Aboriginal engagement approach on the Line 3 Replacement Program.

Today, the oral portion of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) hearings on Enbridge’s proposed Line 3 Replacement Program began in Winnipeg. This week in the Manitoba capital, and next week in Calgary, Aboriginal groups will be giving oral traditional evidence on their communities’ connection to the land—and its fundamental importance to their culture and way of life.

Enbridge is committed to meaningful and respectful dialogue with Aboriginal groups and communities, and over the past two years, in advance of NEB project hearings on the Line 3 Replacement Program, we’ve met with more than 150 Aboriginal groups and communities—some of whom have Reserve lands as far as 300 kilometres from our Line 3 pipeline right-of-way.

In fact, the Aboriginal engagement program for our Line 3 Replacement Program represents the most extensive, comprehensive and innovative outreach to Aboriginal groups in Enbridge’s history.

“We are genuine in our interest in engaging Aboriginal groups and communities in ways that respond to their individual preferences and priorities,” says Jody Whitney, Enbridge’s manager of Aboriginal relations on the Canadian prairies. “This includes in-depth discussion of traditional land use patterns, respect for cultural protocols and engagement that is focused on ‘active listening.’ ”

Two days ago, at Sagkeeng First Nation’s Turtle Lodge, about 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, representatives of Manitoba First Nations gathered in ceremony and to hear the reading of The Great Binding Law—the product of several months’ work and dedication by elders representing the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

It was our honor to accept an invitation to the event, which included a sharing of the experiences and sentiments from elders and traditional knowledge keepers, in particular on the importance of protecting the land. The event also included pipe and water ceremonies, singing, a feast—and a positive, respectful atmosphere for sharing.

“We were invited to attend, and we were at Turtle Lodge to listen and learn from their traditional knowledge,” says Kim Brenneis, director of Enbridge’s stakeholder and Aboriginal engagement in Canada. “We were honored to be part of such an important occasion.”

Another facet of our ongoing engagement with Aboriginal communities relates to economic opportunities. Enbridge is committed to providing training and employment to members of Aboriginal communities, and creating meaningful opportunities for Aboriginal businesses.

This includes:

Saturday’s ceremony at Turtle Lodge followed closely on the heels of a traditional land blessing ceremony conducted earlier this month at Enbridge’s Cromer terminal in Manitoba by Pine Creek First Nation leaders and elders. Enbridge wholly welcomed the blessing ceremony as an enhancement to existing measures designed to ensure the safe and respectful construction and operation of the L3RP.

“We hope events like Turtle Lodge and the land blessing ceremony,” says Whitney, “reinforce Enbridge’s commitment to ongoing engagement in a manner that acknowledges and respects Aboriginal culture, protocol and connection to land.”