On June 21, 2021, the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN) joins the rest of Canada in celebrating the heritage, diverse cultures and achievements of Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day and National Indigenous History Month, we sat down with Steve Saddleback, Director of the National Energy Business Centre of Excellence (NEBCE) at the Indian Resource Council of Canada (IRC), to discuss the importance of Indigenous representation within the energy sector.
Steve is a Treaty 6 member from the Samson Cree Nation of Maskwacis, Alberta, and currently resides in the city of Calgary which is located in Treaty 7 territory.
He is also one of CRIN’s first Steering Committee members who continues to leverage and guide the network to build meaningful inclusion of Indigenous peoples across Canada’s oil and gas innovation ecosystem and energy transition work.
Steve’s emphasis is on collaboration and working with the oil and gas industry to balance economic development with protecting and supporting the environment and its peoples.
“When [IRC] initially got involved, there was only a few hundred members. The growth of CRIN has been fantastic to be a part of,” he says. “It’s so refreshing to sit in and listen to the folks involved and see the determination and leadership to not only have Indigenous involvement but to ensure that Indigenous involvement is meaningful.”
CRIN’s governance and leadership infrastructure currently includes four Indigenous members across the Board and Steering Committee bodies, and several Indigenous businesses among the membership. “That representation at all levels of CRIN, and to actively seek it further, is something that really stuck out for me because that is how we fundamentally have Indigenous communities’ input,” says Steve.
Growing diverse participation continues to be a priority for CRIN, and that our 2,600 members across seven technology theme areas and 19 stakeholder sectors are encouraged to implement as well. Every CRIN member signs a social contract when they register, agreeing to 12 principles that provide the foundation upon which we collaborate, including diversity and trust.
Energy systems and social justice are interconnected
We all share and currently live on lands where Indigenous communities thrived, carried out plentiful and rich livelihoods, doing business by means of trade, since time immemorial.Honouring Indigeneity and incorporating traditional knowledge systems within oil and gas is a crucial part of Reconciliation. That’s what we’d like to remind our members on National Indigenous Peoples Day.
Collaboration among oil and gas, cleantech development and Indigenous peoples can ultimately provide solutions for social justice, like clean drinking water for First Nation communities. “Energy has long been a mechanism, a tool, and a crucial piece of the puzzle to solving those larger challenges,” says Steve.
Reflect on the past, learn and create a positive way forward, together
“For myself, as a residential school survivor and a day school survivor, it’s important to recognize that we are in challenging times,” says Steve. “Let’s take the opportunity and take this time to both acknowledge our past, acknowledge the truth of things and use this as a learning opportunity to find paths forward in a positive way. To tell stories, to share in those growth opportunities, to collaborate, and to write a different future.”
The best way for individuals and organizations within the CRIN network to create that future is simply to reach out, says Steve.
“Don’t be scared and don’t be shy. Reach out to First Nations communities, reach out to your neighbours. Let’s continue to break down those walls.”
This article was written by Alexandra Millar. Alex would like to acknowledge that she is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Kanien’keha:ka First Nation, keepers of the Eastern Door of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Tiohtià:ke, the land many of us call Montreal, has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst nations. We recognize and respect the Kanien’keha:ka as the traditional keepers of those lands and waters on which Alex is honoured to write this piece, and she is grateful to be able to facilitate communications and connections across Turtle Island.