Our path towards Reconciliation and prioritizing Indigenous leadership

For nearly 35 years, the Pembina Institute has worked with industry and all levels of government, including Indigenous governments, to help build a clean...

For nearly 35 years, the Pembina Institute has worked with industry and all levels of government, including Indigenous governments, to help build a clean energy future that protects our climate, and the cities and communities we live in. Equity is one of the Institute’s core values and we believe that good climate and energy policy must also be good community policy. Yet we realize an increased effort is necessary on our part to truly live out these values. This is especially evident when we consider how our work as a national organization on the front lines of climate change is impacting Indigenous Peoples in what is now called Canada.

Indigenous communities in Canada — especially those in remote and Northern regions — are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and are already experiencing negative impacts to their land, culture and way of life as a result of these changes. Two centuries of colonial policies, laws and suppression of Indigenous Peoples have created the ugly realities of intergenerational trauma and racism that continue to overpower Indigenous voices and rights. 

In our work to reduce carbon emissions and pollution to the land, water, and air, we believe in taking a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to advancing effective policies and regulations. We advocate for solutions that build resilient, healthy communities and provide a just transition away from fossil fuels. We recognize that Reconciliation efforts with Indigenous Peoples are vital to healing the past so we can work together to ensure a healthy future for the land and all living beings. We must also acknowledge that we are still a largely non-Indigenous organization, and enhance our understanding of what role we need to play in supporting leadership, sharing our policy expertise, and upholding the principles and frameworks of reconciliation so we can move further towards positive, inclusive, and effective action.

Thanks to strong voices of Indigenous leadership asking all of us to address and confront our shared history, there is a renewed momentum in Canada towards the notions of reconciliation and decolonization, encouraged in part by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), and Canada’s Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As a result of these works, awareness among Canadians has increased over recent years, and in parallel we are witnessing a strong resurgence of Indigenous voice, culture and leadership. In addition, the Government of British Columbia passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act into law in November 2019 — the first province in Canada to do so.

Many of these Indigenous leaders and champions are now taking bold steps to place themselves at the forefront of climate action, and to power their communities with renewable, local energy sources. There is much that all Canadians can learn from the wisdom, experience and momentum being demonstrated in Indigenous communities, which have existed sustainably on the land we call home for thousands of years. In order for us to successfully transition to a clean economy, we must look to the Indigenous community for leadership and guidance.

We have worked with Indigenous communities throughout our history, supporting energy literacy, capacity building, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Moving forward, our work is becoming more focused on encouraging policies that strengthen local clean energy initiatives, shift colonial policies and practices that restrict self-determination in Indigenous communities, and support energy autonomy in these communities. This will be a long journey, but we are taking the first steps. We are currently in the second phase of our efforts over the past year to advance our own reconciliation process. Our Reconciliation Working Group, in collaboration with our Indigenous strategist, is developing a Reconciliation Action Plan for the organization, working closely with our staff and board of directors.

We will continue to listen, engage and deepen relationships with Indigenous communities on the energy issues we work on. We will take direction from guiding documents such as UNDRIP and the TRC Principles of Truth and Reconciliation, as well as from Indigenous Peoples and communities that we work directly with. We will strive to be in right relations with First Nations, Inuit and Métis in this country, and ensure our focus on climate and energy incorporates Indigenous rights and issues into our processes and strategic thinking. Ultimately, recognizing the critical role and placement Indigenous People have in our shared history and future, we aim to make the Pembina Institute a strong and beneficial voice of allyship with Indigenous Peoples as Canada continues its path towards a clean energy future.


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