‘Everybody wins’: Line 3 replacement in Canada has maximized Indigenous participation

Enbridge project points the way forward for Indigenous communities and resource companies

“Building strong, trusting relationships with Indigenous communities, over time, is a precondition to doing business.”

Al Monaco, CEO of Enbridge, was writing to mark the annual celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day, but his words certainly reflect the approach and successful outcome of the Line 3 Replacement Program (L3RP) in Canada.

Construction of the Canadian portion of the largest capital project in Enbridge’s history was completed on schedule in May and it represents a large step forward – not only for Enbridge but for the relationships between resource companies and Indigenous peoples and society in general.

“I’ve seen the evolution of our approach to relationships with Indigenous people move beyond regulatory requirements to more of a partnership, which I believe has really shifted things for us,” says Leo Golden, Vice President, Line 3 Project Execution. “It’s incredible how much we can achieve by working together as equals and focusing on win-win partnerships.”

“As important as the installation of new steel is to maintain the safety of this essential pipeline,” Golden adds, “so too is the unprecedented level of Indigenous engagement, inclusion and economic participation achieved during its construction.”

Before proceeding with projects, he says, it’s critical to seek meaningful consultation and build respectful relationships focused on a full lifecycle approach from conception and construction through to operations.

The L3RP in Canada was Enbridge’s largest engagement effort to date – comprising 154 Indigenous communities as far as 300 kilometres from the pipeline right-of-way. A total of 98 Indigenous communities or groups were ultimately signatories to cooperative agreements covering things like Traditional Land Use, procurement, training and employment opportunities, environmental stewardship and construction monitoring.

Maximizing Indigenous participation through a variety of proactive means was also critical to overall project success. Examples include the use of Indigenous brokers to recruit and identify job candidates in their regions, and a progressive supply chain process that required prospective bidders to detail their plans for Indigenous inclusion in their Request for Proposal submissions.

“At Enbridge we know that it takes a community to build a pipeline,” says Golden. “And we are very proud of the outcomes that would not have been possible without the strong support of Indigenous community leaders and the more than 1,100 Indigenous men and women who helped build the Line 3 replacement pipeline in Canada.”

Indigenous project spending, including labor and contracting, capacity building and community sustainability initiatives tallied more than $400 million, including $116 million in wages to Indigenous workers who comprised 20% of the pipeline workforce.

In addition, a major effort was made to set up Indigenous workers for success beyond the L3RP through training and education that provides opportunities to realize long-term, sustainable benefits. Over three years, a total of 260 Indigenous men and women graduated from Enbridge’s Pipeline 101 training-to-employment program which, as the name implies, gives students the important skills needed for pipeline and similar industrial project work.

“The pipeline we’ve built together is safer and will continue to provide economic benefits for Canada, including safeguarding Canadian jobs,” Golden says. “And Indigenous individuals, businesses and communities benefit in the short term from construction and longer term through increased capacity, job experience, training and sustainability initiatives.

“In such a scenario,” he concludes, “everybody wins.”

(TOP PHOTO: A total of 260 First Nations and Metis participants graduated from Enbridge's Pipeline 101 training program in Western Canada.)