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National Benefits-Sharing Framework — Four pillars

Our four pillars

In the spring 2022, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) began conducting engagements with Indigenous partners, industry, and provinces and territories to identify the potential scope of a National Benefits-Sharing Framework (NBSF) and associated measures to improve access to affordable capital. Based on these initial conversations and feedback we received, four pillars emerged as focus points for a national framework: capacity, inclusion, partnerships, and economic benefits. These pillars are interconnected and aim to address the various barriers preventing Indigenous Peoples from fully benefiting from the natural resources sector.

Pillar 1: Capacity

Capacity is about Indigenous partners having the right supports and capabilities to evaluate whether proposed natural resources projects are in the best interest of their communities, and the means of establishing the conditions to participate in and benefit from projects (including skills training, technical resource access, and support from government and other partners).

As part of earlier discussions, Indigenous partners shared that their communities often lack the long-term financial, legal, statistical, and environmental expertise to undertake early and robust assessment of project impacts or to lay the groundwork to maximize their ability to benefit from the employment, business, and investment opportunities that a project provides. Discussions with Indigenous economic development experts and Indigenous industry groups also emphasized that capacity supports are key to the success of existing and potential Indigenous access to capital measures.

Pillar 2: Inclusion

Inclusion is about supporting Indigenous Peoples to meaningfully participate in a safe natural resource sector. Building an inclusive sector is foundational to ensuring equitable benefits for Indigenous Peoples. Through both Phase I scoping discussions on the NBSF and numerous existing reports, Indigenous Peoples have expressed that greater inclusion could be fostered through meaningful participation in decision making, greater safety of work sites, and assistance in the removal of systemic barriers that limit their opportunities to meaningfully participate in the natural resource sector.

Under this pillar, NRCan will be exploring solutions to address barriers to Indigenous inclusion, consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act. In Phase I, we heard from various partners that several inclusion gaps remain. First, Indigenous Peoples could be better represented in decision-making roles, including corporate boards of directors. Second, there is a need to take stock of how environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards can encourage the inclusion of Indigenous considerations. Third and finally, more needs to be done to ensure safe, secure, and equitable resource development for Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people at all stages of resource projects.

Pillar 3: Partnerships

Partnerships is about creating an enabling environment to establish a common understanding, shared practices, and effective supports to develop and strengthen meaningful partnerships between Indigenous groups, industry, and governments in the natural resource space. In Phase I discussions, we heard both a desire for a common approach to benefits sharing and a need for flexibility to adapt to the unique circumstances of Indigenous communities and projects across the country.

While emphasizing differences among projects and regions, Phase I discussions highlighted the need to foster a more supportive environment for strong partnerships between industry and Indigenous communities. Although there are many instances of Indigenous communities and industry striking innovative partnerships, Phase I identified a strong need to ensure there are effective policies, practices, and institutions in place to facilitate stronger and more equal partnerships. Suggestions included identifying best practices or common norms for communities and industry to collaboratively advance projects that bring benefits to Indigenous communities, in alignment with the objectives identified in UNDRIP. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of supporting Indigenous-led institutions to share knowledge and experience among communities and facilitate partnerships with current and prospective project proponents. Although every project is different, establishing and implementing publicly available best practice protocols could help foster more consistent and higher quality benefits-sharing opportunities.

Pillar 4: Economic benefits

Economic benefits refer to the range of avenues through which Indigenous communities receive direct and indirect financial, employment, and procurement benefits from natural resource projects. Many Indigenous communities have emphasized the importance of economic benefits from natural resource projects on their territory in advancing economic reconciliation and self-determination. During Phase I discussions, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders confirmed the importance of the natural resources sector as a major economic driver in Indigenous communities and emphasized key barriers to drawing economic benefits from the sector, particularly a lack of access to affordable capital.

Indigenous partners have indicated that the economic benefits received through existing agreements are sometimes uncertain and require associated capacity to effectively negotiate and implement agreements with industry. They have also stressed the need to balance economic benefits throughout the project lifecycle. Engagement under this pillar will seek to identify shared opportunities to generate consistent economic benefits from natural resource projects for Indigenous Peoples, communities, and businesses.

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