Developing strong relationships with First Nation communities is an essential part of any resource development project – and your team needs to work together with First Nations at the earliest stage of developing a plan.
Avoiding common mistakes
There are a number of First Nations consultation resources available to help your organization get off to a good start when planning your engagement with rights-holders.
Bob Joseph, President of Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., wrote a great post on the Working Effectively With Aboriginal Peoples blog about the common mistakes made when consulting with First Nations.
Joseph outlines 12 blunders companies make that can throw the consultation process off the rails, including:
Failure to start engagement at the earliest stage of your project
Introducing your company with a full set of plans is not a good way to initiate a relationship. Contact the community early and maintain a consistent communication system.
Sending the wrong person to represent your company
Don’t send someone who considers First Nation consultation a means to an end. Also, don’t send a junior person to meet with the Chief, especially in the initial meetings.
Having a revolving door of people representing your company
If there is a change in the consultation point person for the project, ensure the replacement person is fully up to speed before they go to the community.
Joseph cautions that there is no one-size-fits-all process for productive and effective consultation. Each project and each Nation has specific needs that must be taken into consideration when planning the consultation process.
Consultation and mining
A well-known resource has been recently updated by the Association for Mineral Exploration of British Columbia (AME BC).
The Aboriginal Engagement Guidebook: A Practical and Principled Approach for Mineral Explorers was updated in May 2015, and is directed towards prospectors and early-stage exploration projects.
The intent is to provide broad-based and pragmatic recommendations for working constructively within an ever-changing area of law, public policy, governance and business practice.
The guidebook includes the following:
- A summary of Indigenous history in B.C. and recent developments in government/Indigenous relations
- An overview of constitutional protection of Indigenous and treaty rights in Canada, and the legal principles of the Crown’s Duty to Consult
- Guidance on aboriginal engagement at different levels of exploration activity
- Recommended practices for carrying out effective Indigenous Engagement including building positive and effective relationships, and approaching engagement as a continuous process.
Contributors to the AME BC resource echo Bob Joseph’s caution that every project is unique and every First Nation that is affected by a project will have different expectations and different experiences. Therefore the book is presented as guide rather than a how-to.
Engaging First Nations is important to the success of an exploration or mining project. To be effective, engagement needs to be done early and often. Even if both parties don’t agree, you can agree to talk through your disagreements. Start early and keep at it and allow your relationship to evolve.
An infographic created by our team here at SustaiNet aims to help visualize some of the key elements of a First Nations engagement strategy.
One strategic dynamic that stood out for us while conducting our research was how important it is for organizational engagement teams to be acutely aware of environmental concerns and traditional land uses, which are essential for effective communication with First Nations.
Image: Jonathan Combe under Creative Commons 2.0
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