Aboriginal Peoples are important to Suncor (PDF), as many of our operations touch traditional lands.
We are duty-bound under Canadian law to consult with Aboriginal communities affected by our operations, and over the years we believe we have fulfilled our obligations.
Progressive Aboriginal Relations
Though our engagement practices are well regarded in industry, we know there’s room for improvement. That’s why we’re turning to an independent third-party to help us assess our Aboriginal relations approach and identify areas of improvement.
Enter Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR), a reporting program from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business that supports and certifies progressive improvements in Aboriginal relations across several industries in Canada, including oil sands.
The need for industry to go further was highlighted in 2013 when Douglas Eyford, Special Federal Representative on West Coast Infrastructure, gave to the Prime Minister his report Forging Partnerships, Building Relationships (PDF). Eyford noted that building trust and advancing reconciliation are important factors in improving the relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and the federal government, and industry, by fostering inclusion through employment and business opportunities, can support this process.
What steps are involved in PAR certification?
First, to obtain PAR certification, we have to report performance in four areas over three years: employment, business development, community engagement, and community investment. Consultation, as a legally required component of our development, is not a separate performance area. However, we expect that improved performance in the four main areas will in turn improve our relationships, establish trust and enhance communications with Aboriginal communities. This will support management of the regulatory aspects of our business.
Second, PAR helps highlight best practices within Suncor. The data gathering and reporting offers an opportunity to share best practices from different parts of our business. It also helps us identifying gaps and problems, for example, inconsistent or ineffective practices, or where a more formal process might be necessary to improve our performance.
Third, PAR builds in external validation. Once we have submitted our report, a verifier reviews our application, including talking to some of our Aboriginal stakeholders to get their perspective on our performance. Then an independent jury of Aboriginal business people reviews our application and decides how good they think we have been.
While a performance certification from a reputable reporting program such as PAR is worthwhile, the bigger prize is getting invaluable feedback and ideas on how we can do better.