Engaging with Aboriginal communities
Our oil sands projects are located near several Aboriginal communities. We work closely with these communities in a variety of ways, including:
- Consulting through the entire life cycle of the project
- Procuring products and services from their businesses
- Providing community investment funding
- Supporting employment and training programs
We also work to build lasting relationships with our neighbouring Aboriginal communities through commitments outlined in formal long-term community agreements.
Agreements provide certainty for the communities and for Cenovus as we develop our projects, which is an advantage for everyone, particularly in this low oil price environment. The agreements help both parties address a number of key aspects of the relationship, including consultation, engagement, community investment, economic and business development, issues resolution and other items of interest specific to each community. One of the founding principles of our agreements is that they commit us to a certain level of engagement and investment with the community throughout the lives of our projects. That commitment helps the communities plan for their future knowing that Cenovus will continue to support them regardless of market conditions.
We’ve signed agreements with nine Aboriginal communities around our oil sands operating areas. Our focus now is to work with those communities to implement the agreements. As part of the implementation, we meet with each community several times per year to ensure we’re living up to what we said we would do and to discuss any concerns they may have.
Building lasting relationships
December 2015 marked the five-year anniversary of our long-term agreement with the Conklin community. Conklin is a Métis community about 20 kilometres from our Christina Lake and Narrows Lake projects. Cenovus was the first company to sign an agreement with the community.
9 long-term agreements
Signed to-date with Aboriginal communities in our operating areas that help guide our relationsips with them today and in the future. Three of these agreements were signed in 2015.
Demonstrating our commitment to Aboriginal businesses
Cenovus endeavours to procure goods and services from local providers whenever possible. Given many of our closest neighbours are Aboriginal communities, we work hard to maintain good relationships with local Aboriginal businesses. This approach has helped us meet our labour needs and also support local economic development. Our industry is currently facing many economic challenges associated with low oil prices. While this has impacted our planned capital expenditure overall for 2016, working with Aboriginal businesses will continue to be a priority for Cenovus. Since 2009, we’ve spent $1.8 billion doing business with Aboriginal companies.
Working with Aboriginal businesses
Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation, located near our Christina Lake operations, is one of the neighbouring communities we have been working with for over 10 years. One of the community’s largest businesses, Swamp Cats, has been providing us with earthworks services for our road and well pad construction in the area.
We have built a strong relationship with Swamp Cats, leveraging a joint commitment to continue to grow and build the performance and capability of the company. Cenovus and Swamp Cats meet regularly to review contract proposals, assess construction performance and share ideas on improvements in civil earthworks industry practices and procedures. The joint effort of Swamp Cats and Cenovus demonstrates a strong commitment to building a long-term relationship that benefits both of us.
Providing employment opportunities for local Aboriginal communities
Our Employment Bridging Internship Program gives us an opportunity to work closely with Aboriginal communities and organizations near our operating areas in northern Alberta to identify internship candidates who are interested in working toward a career in the oil and gas industry. This unique program provides training and paid work opportunities for eligible Aboriginal participants. In early 2016, two participants began their internship at our Foster Creek oil sands project.
Supporting post-secondary education for Aboriginal students
At Cenovus, we embrace the opportunity to contribute to the strength and sustainability of the communities in our operating areas. That’s one reason why we provide support for post-secondary education for Aboriginal students living in the communities where we operate.
Each year, we offer up to 10 new scholarships for Aboriginal students who are pursuing a full-time degree, diploma or certified trade. These scholarships are valued at $3,500 each. In 2015, we awarded 20 scholarships in total, including renewing nine scholarships for students continuing in their programs.
Shelby Merchant, a Local Community Relations Analyst at our Foster Creek project, received the scholarship when she was in university. The scholarship helped Shelby complete her post-secondary education and eventually led to her accepting a position at Cenovus.
Aboriginal business spending
Our total Aboriginal business spend went down in 2015 because our overall company capital spend was reduced. However, due to our focused efforts to support Aboriginal businesses, the percentage of total business spend with these companies increased in 2015. Since 2009, we have spent more than $1.8 billion on goods and services supplied by Aboriginal businesses.