Chief urges Indigenous business leaders to support Trans Mountain pipeline

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam was the keynote speaker at the Arctic Indigenous Investment Conference in Yellowknife.

Chief Allan Adam was the keynote speaker at the Arctic Indigenous Investment Conference in Yellowknife

Chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, Allan Adam, says not to 'flounder' the investment opportunity the Trans Mountain pipeline presents. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Chief Allan Adam might be best known for his resistance to oilsands development, but on Thursday in Yellowknife he told Indigenous business leaders they should support oilsands developments like the Trans Mountain pipeline if they want to be successful.

The chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation was the keynote speaker at this week's Arctic Indigenous Investment Conference in Yellowknife.

The conference aims to highlight Indigenous development corporations and business as well as support economic growth by creating new relationships, advancing partnerships and creating new contacts across the Arctic.

"I have been at the table with AFN [Assembly of First Nations] and always hear stories about [the] 1800s ... when [treaties were] signed. Why can't we tell stories about when we signed the great deals from 2018 and made prosperity happen for First Nations?," he said in his keynote address.

"The opportunity is before us. Don't flounder it."

Not everyone agrees

Not everyone at the conference was swayed by Adam's opinions, however.

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus says he's concerned about the environmental impacts of oilsands development. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus agrees with Adam that industry needs to do better at negotiating with First Nations, but he also has concerns about the environmental impacts of oilsands development.

"The danger of expanding the tar sands — and this is why we are opposed to it, one of the big reasons — is that they develop the tailings ponds, which have toxic chemicals in them, and those leach in to the environment, expanding into the water system, which comes north to us."

Erasmus also noted that Dene in the N.W.T. have not been included in any resource revenue discussions when it comes to oilsands development.

In his address to delegates, Adams said the pipeline is good for all First Nations and all Canadians.

"If we want to be successful, we have to work together and come together," he said. "This is in the national interest of Canada."

The second annual Arctic Indigenous Investment Conference runs from Aug. 8 to 10.