Advancing the Participation of Indigenous Peoples (Potential Area of Focus)

Advancing the participation of Indigenous peoples in natural resource development should be based on cooperation and partnership as governments and industry work to recognize and respect their rights and interests. This can build trust, lead to opportunities for Indigenous communities, and advance the process of reconciliation.

Their increased participation will also support a sustainable and competitive minerals and metals industry. For example, companies can benefit from traditional knowledge and local sources of information that improve the design of projects and provide greater certainty around access to land. More Indigenous-owned businesses can provide products and services to mineral projects or pursue or partner in mineral exploration and development themselves. Their involvement in the supply chain can help build capacity in the sector and deliver benefits for Indigenous communities.

Governments work with Indigenous peoples to improve community well-being and help individuals acquire the skills and training needed to participate in mineral development. This includes disseminating information to increase awareness and mineral literacy to help communities make informed decisions about their level of participation.

Industry also plays a major role. For example, Impact Benefit Agreements and other agreements have proven successful in securing benefits for some Indigenous communities, while establishing engagement protocols. These are contracts specific to projects or communities and define the obligations of each party in areas such as engagement, employment, training, business opportunities, environmental monitoring and management, and funding arrangements. Nearly 500 mining agreements have been signed between the mining industry and Indigenous peoples in Canada since 1974, with more than 350 signed in the past decade.Footnote 1


Some Indigenous groups and communities require support to build capacity to review and assess resource development proposals, participate in decision-making, and fairly represent their interests. This “community readiness” also relates to individuals having the skills and training to be able to take advantage of opportunities that arise from mineral development projects, such as jobs, business creation and other economic spinoffs.

There are a variety of approaches used by jurisdictions across Canada to engage with Indigenous communities. It is important to understand promising practices or drawbacks of various approaches related to participation, timing, structure of engagement, and other areas.

There are differences across jurisdictions in terms of the role of industry in Indigenous consultation and accommodation in regulatory processes to ensure that the Crown’s legal obligations are met.

Indigenous Rights Framework

The Government of Canada is committed to transforming the relationship with Indigenous peoples based on recognition, respect, cooperation, and partnership. This includes creating a new Framework to support the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights, and to realign the relationship between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The new Framework aims to contribute to greater clarity and predictability for the development and use of lands and resources.

The federal government, working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners, will create new federal legislation and policies to formalize the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights, including the inherent right to self-government and self-determination. This will also include engagement with other partners, including provincial and territorial governments, industry, academics and the general public.

The new Framework is intended to be introduced in 2018 and implemented before October 2019.

Discussion questions

  • What can we help industry build relationships and advance projects with Indigenous partners?
  • How can we advance the participation of Indigenous peoples in the industry?