What can we do to help industry build relationships and advance projects with Indigenous partners?
If government has connections with Indigenous groups in an area where industry is active, they need to do the introductions. People can't talk to each other if they don't know who to talk to. Making sure that there are strong communication links happening between groups will be critical in ensuring knowledge transfer and collaboration
I agree with the post above - the government has a role to play when it comes to effective communication which is essential to help build meaningful relationships. Acting as a coordinator and bringing the right players together early is fundamental. However, a lot of smaller companies might be the first ones to initiate dialogue. They need to be equipped with the right tools, so they know what steps they should and shouldn't take. Engagement toolkits and knowing how to navigate would be very beneficial.
The government should compile best practices from all over the world and show how these could be replicated in Canada. Many companies and communities have built effective relationships together. Gleaning what worked and perhaps examples of what didn't would help industry plan appropriately.
While the above comments provide a valuable macro view of government's role as an ecosystem mediator - service provider, I suggest the following more direct response to the challenge of engaging First Nations communities with the extractive sector. Many mining firms allocate CSR budgets, yet have difficulty accounting for the positive impacts of these interventions. Take a portion of these budgets - pooled and/or on a per project basis, and distribute them via a Dragon's Den-like impact investing event, where community members themselves present a business or development plan that they have identified as a 'need'. Government can assist from arranging such interactions, to contributing to issues of scale should an idea promise a wider potential impact.
There is a need to change the nature of the dialogue between Indigenous communities, developers, government and other stakeholders, from an adversarial relationship to one of mutual trust and benefit. Indigenous communities should be helped and encouraged to engage with industry and encourage them to work in their regions to develop resources for mutual benefit. It is already an extremely difficult, long-term and costly business, and encouragement from local residents will have a significant impact on bringing industry to work in any particular area, and thereby provide many benefits to those communities, during early stage exploration all the way through to production. No one benefits if work in any area does not take place. Government focus with respect to northern communities should shift more toward helping them to bring industry into their areas, and thereby have a greater stake in the overall process.