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Aboriginal People

Our Challenge

Some Aboriginal people living in the oil sands region fear potential health impacts and have concerns about environmental impacts of oil sands development.

Our Actions

Alberta is working directly with Aboriginal communities to conduct studies, collect data and monitor changes in the environment. Alberta has committed to build the most comprehensive environmental program in Canada. A new arm's-length environmental monitoring agency will focus on what is monitored, how it's monitored and where it's monitored to understand cumulative effects and environmental change, while coordinating monitoring of land, air, water and biodiversity.

Download PDF about Aboriginal People and the oilsands

Working with Aboriginal People

The oil sands industry provides careers in a variety of professions, including emergency response. Photo courtesy of Syncrude Canada Ltd. Alberta’s First Nations Consultation Policy on Land Management and Resource Development helps ensure resource development is balanced with a respect for Treaty rights. The policy is currently being reviewed with input from First Nations, industry and municipalities.

Feedback from Aboriginal people is a vital component of the Land-use Framework, providing a voice for Aboriginal people in the province’s regional land use planning.

The Protocol Agreement on Government-to-Government Relations is unique to Alberta and ensures the Premier, Ministers and Grand Chiefs meet together regularly to collaborate on progress and planning.

Alberta’s Aboriginal Policy Framework has been guiding the government-wide approach to Aboriginal relations for more than 10 years, ensuring Aboriginal perspectives and priorities are considered in provincial policy and programs.

Aboriginal People in the Region

An estimated 23,000 Aboriginal people live in Alberta’s oil sands areas, with 18 First Nations and six Métis Settlements located in the region. Thousands more live off-reserve and off-settlement.

Health Impacts

Most recent data (2007-2011) indicates that overall rates of cancers in Fort Chipewyan are within the expected range based on Alberta cancer rates.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health agrees with the findings of the Royal Society of Canada expert panel that there is insufficient evidence to link the incidence of cancer in Fort Chipewyan to oil sands operations.

Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Health Services, and Alberta Aboriginal Relations, in partnership with Health Canada, continue to monitor exposure and cancer incidence data in the community.

Involvement in the Oil Sands Industry

Fort Chipewyan, Alberta Aboriginal people are benefiting from oil sands projects. In 2010, there were more than 1,700 Aboriginal employees in permanent oil sands operations jobs in northeast Alberta. This figure does not include construction-related jobs.

Many major oil sands companies have Aboriginal employment policies to recruit local residents. About 10 per cent of the oil sands workforce is Aboriginal.

From 1998 to 2010, Aboriginal-owned companies secured over $5 billion worth of contracts from oil sands companies in the region. This includes $1.3 billion in 2010 alone.

The Fort McKay Group of six companies, completely owned by the Fort McKay First Nations, works extensively with oil sands companies, resulting in more than $100 million in annual revenue.

Aboriginal interests are also protected through the government's 20-year strategic plan Responsible Actions: A Plan for Alberta's Oil Sands.