The Trans Mountain Expansion Project can bring Aboriginal workers meaningful opportunities to share in the prosperity of Canada’s natural resource sector according to Bruce Dumont, President of Métis Nation British Columbia.

Dumont noted that Métis history is closely tied to natural resource development in Canada — beginning with the fur trade in the 1600s. In Fort Langley, one of the earliest European settlements on the West Coast, Métis were active entrepreneurs in an early BC resource industry — the barreling and export of salmon.

Today, there’s a larger contingent of young Metis people relative to the non-Aboriginal population — and the resource sector is considered a good source of well-paying and secure employment, he said.

“We’ve always been a part of the resource sector in British Columbia and across Canada. Our family did a head count a while ago. There are 16 tradespeople — welders, pipefitters, plumbers, instrumentation technicians, steamfitters. And that’s a common pattern with Metis, whether you are mining or pipelining. Where I was born the majority of guys are still working pipeline. That’s their stock in trade,” Dumont said.

In an earlier story, Dumont said there’s a public misconception that the pipeline expansion is widely opposed by Aboriginal groups. (Trans Mountain has letters of support from more than 40 Aboriginal communities along the route).

MNBC and Kinder Morgan Canada have signed a Mutual Benefit Agreement regarding the Project. The agreement includes a commitment to environmentally responsible resource development and consultation about Métis interests and concerns along the right-of-way during construction and subsequent operation of the pipeline.

Dumont said MNBC recognizes that resource developments may involve risk. But he added that risks can be mitigated with advanced technology, compliance with Canada’s high environmental protection standards and strong regulation through agencies such as the NEB.

“People in most communities, including Metis, have differing views about resource development,” Dumont said. “But you have to have the conversation. Resource development has been and will be a huge source of the economy in British Columbia.”

MNBC represents 36 Metis communities across BC, delivering a wide range of social and economic programs and services on behalf of 14,000 provincially registered Metis and a self-identified community of 70,000.

Although Métis do not have traditional lands or reserves, the Supreme Court of Canada in 2016 formally accorded them the same status as Canada’s other Aboriginal Peoples, the First Nations and the Inuit.

“We have specific entitlements for traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering food,” Dumont said. “Historically, we were not accorded the same recognition as First Nations and the Inuit, so we’ve had to find other ways to survive.

“Probably the majority of our people have depended on resource development as skilled tradespeople. That’s where we go. We move with the work.”

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project is one of about 50 resource-related projects MNBC is actively reviewing.

“There are benefits from the resource sector but we also have responsibilities as stewards of the land,” Dumont said. “Projects such as TMEP must be done carefully and thoughtfully.We have to look after our land, but we need resource development. We have to figure out how to do it all.”