It is a compelling fact of geography that most resource companies in Western and Northern Canada are involved with Aboriginal issues. The areas they need to access in order to develop resources are often in proximity to Aboriginal communities or Aboriginal traditional lands. This makes a strong business case for resource companies to build positive and mutually beneficial relationships with Aboriginal communities.
The Aboriginal Programs Project is a major research initiative sponsored by the Alberta Chamber of Resources (ACR), Western Economic Diversification Canada and Alberta Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development to document the types of Aboriginal programs and practices that have been successful and the factors that have contributed to success. These sponsors recognize the value in sharing the experience of companies and other organizations in working with Aboriginal communities.
2002-2003 Phase of the ACR Aboriginal Programs Project
The Alberta Chamber of Resources (ACR) initiated the Aboriginal Programs Project in 2002 as a way for its members to share the benefits of their experiences in working with Aboriginal communities. This initial phase of the Project had two components. The first was a comprehensive survey of ACR members to obtain baseline information on the scope, nature and experience gained from their Aboriginal programs and practices. The second component involved interviews with ACR members and other organizations to identify promising approaches and document these in templates that could be used by ACR members to develop, assess and improve their own Aboriginal programs and practices.
The results of this work were presented in a Final Report (“Sharing Knowledge”) released to ACR members in July 2003. A Project website was also put in place to provide access to the programs and survey results database.
2005-2006 Phase of the ACR Aboriginal Programs Project
In 2005, the Aboriginal Programs Project launched a new phase intended to broaden participation in the initiative and provide public access to the results. For this purpose, 87 companies and other organizations have shared details of their Aboriginal programs and practices. Most of the initiatives focus on Alberta, but some are from other parts of Western Canada and the North. The benefit of working together is further exemplified by the number of non-ACR members who agreed to share details of their programs with the Project.
The result was the development of a report titled “Learning from Experience” which was released in January 2006. This was based on interviews with people who were directly involved in delivering Aboriginal programs and asking them to reflect on their experience with what works and what doesn’t. A redesigned Project website was also developed to provide public access to the Project database. The Aboriginal Project website is a gateway to the programs and practices documented by the ACR Aboriginal Programs Project, as well as to related resources and information.
The Book and website together provide a unique window on what the resource industries are doing in Aboriginal relations. Because there is no one “best” approach, the Aboriginal Programs Project was designed to catalogue and describe a variety of successful approaches used by the resource industries. The programs and practices documented by the Project should be regarded as examples to guide people who are developing Aboriginal relationships for the first time or who have Aboriginal relationships but are interested in finding new ways to do things. Ultimately, each company will take its own approach.