Indigenous group acquires minority stake in 'historic' pipeline deal

Several indigenous communities have banded together and acquired a stake in multiple Enbridge pipeline projects, the province announced last week.

On Wednesday, Sept. 28, the provincial government announced Enbridge Inc. has signed a deal to sell a minority stake in seven pipeline projects in the Athabasca region, worth $1.2 billion, to 23 Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 First Nation and Métis communities.

The deal is the largest energy-related Indigenous economic partnership in North America. The new group of First Nation and Métis communities, known as Athabasca Indigenous Investments (Aii), is made up of Cree, Dene, and Métis communities in the northeast region of Alberta.

The group was formed specifically for the purchase of the 11.57-per-cent stake in the pipeline.

Chief Greg Desjarlais of Frog Lake First Nation said the deal marks the beginning of a new path for Indigenous people in the region.

“For too many years First Nations and Métis communities … we didn’t have the ability or seed capital to get in these projects,” Desjarlais said.

The investment will create opportunities for the communities involved, Desjarlais said, allowing them to send their people to school and to improve the quality of life for community members.

“Today investment means we have a very important seat at the table and the seat cannot be ignored or overlooked,” Desjarlais said.

The purchase was backed by the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC) which supported the communities to buy into the pipelines with a $250-million loan. The AIOC was formed as one of the United Conservative Party’s election platform promises and is a provincial Crown corporation.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the purchase is a historic deal.

"This is the single largest Indigenous transaction in the natural resource sector in the history of North America."

The deal is expected to bring in more than $10 million annually to the First Nation and Métis communities in the partnership.

For Enbridge the deal is part of its reconciliation action plan, which was released earlier this year, and will help fulfill its goals of economic partnership and inclusion.

The model rolled out last week will be a part of other future energy infrastructure development plans, said Enbridge CEO Al Monaco.

Justin Bourque, president of Aii, said the deal is another milestone of the evolution in reconciliation between Indigenous communities and industry.

The two groups have had a relationship for decades, Bourque said, and it hasn’t always been great, but Bourque said he is looking forward to seeing the evolution of those relationships moving forward.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette