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Trent Zacharias: Guiding Indigenous inclusion initiatives

The “Us” in Cenovus

Trent Zacharias with dancer, Johnson Desjarlais at a Pow Wow on the Heart Lake First Nation.
Trent Zacharias with dancer, Johnson Desjarlais at a powwow at Heart Lake First Nation.

October 2021 – Trent Zacharias, Director of Community and Indigenous Affairs at Cenovus Energy, has always been passionate about understanding the history and culture of Indigenous peoples.

“As a kid, I remember reading history books about the Indigenous people in our area and having long talks with my grandfather about who they were and how they lived off the land,” says Trent. “This fueled my desire to know more about the people that lived on the land long before me, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, set my path from an early age.”

Trent began his career in the forestry industry and worked alongside a colleague who created an Indigenous business development program. Their offices were next to each other and the more Trent learned about the positive relationships industry and Indigenous communities could develop together, the more he wanted to pursue Indigenous affairs as a career. Fast forward to today, Trent is now responsible for Cenovus’s engagement with local and Indigenous communities, as well as our community investment partnerships and employee giving programs.

“We have a responsibility to work closely with neighbouring Indigenous communities and meaningfully include them in our business. And we know that part of this responsibility means understanding the history and culture of Indigenous peoples,” explains Trent. “I love finding opportunities to bring communities and the company together and challenging the narrative that Indigenous peoples are opposed to oil and gas development. Communities near our operations want to know about our environmental practices and that we will listen and respond to their concerns. But at the same time, they see tremendous opportunity in our industry and want to be a part of it.”

Part of Trent’s role is helping guide Indigenous business development, consultation and inclusion initiatives such as our Indigenous awareness training for staff. He also manages our benefit agreements with Indigenous communities and helps implement our Indigenous Housing Initiative.

One of Trent’s career highlights has been seeing his team launch a training program with Portage College as part of our Indigenous Housing Initiative this past year. The program helps community members build skills that will support the construction and maintenance of homes.

“It has been incredible to see the program come together and to see the pride and excitement in my team as they witness the successes and passion of the students,” says Trent. “By providing hands-on training, community members will have a chance to develop their skillset so they’re better able to pursue employment opportunities in the future. It’s very rewarding to be a part of.”