Indigenous Relations

Corporate Responsibility

Indigenous Relations

We often work on, or are in close proximity to, traditional Indigenous land. We value our Indigenous neighbours and meet regularly with these communities to discuss issues that matter, working to build and maintain positive relationships in a responsible and meaningful way. Through mutual understanding, respect and cooperation, we strive to maintain strong relationships. Learning about traditional cultures, wildlife and how the landscape has changed over the years is part of our long-term commitment to these communities to further enhance our practices.

Canadian Natural's responsibilities and commitments when working with Indigenous communities are outlined in our Indigenous Relations Policy.


Canadian Natural regularly consults with Indigenous communities across our Western Canada operations, where we seek different perspectives and ideas to address issues and opportunities. We seek input regarding proposed development plans through ongoing proactive two-way and have established formalized processes to support our work with Indigenous communities. 

Consultation work is an ongoing dialog process that is completed in accordance with a development plan that meets provincial or federal consultation requirements. Canadian Natural’s senior management also plays a role in our consultation efforts through leadership meetings and reporting. 

When developing a project-specific consultation plan, Canadian Natural works with each Indigenous community to understand its individual consultation and public engagement needs and requirements, along with provincial or federal jurisdiction. 

Canadian Natural adheres to the following engagement and consultation objectives:
  1. Through proactive two-way communication, develop a process to collect meaningful input regarding ongoing and proposed development plans.
  2. Work together with communities to ensure a timely and successful regulatory application process.
  3. By acknowledging, and where appropriate, incorporating input from communities, work to continuously enhance responsible operations (i.e. mitigating environmental, health, and safety concerns).
  4. Identify and address issues and concerns in an efficient and timely manner.
  5. Collaboratively identify opportunities for mutual benefit in the areas of community investment, education and training, employment, and business development. 

Through the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canadian Natural supports the federal government’s decision to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a framework for reconciliation in Canada, along with implementation of its principles in a manner that is consistent with the Canadian constitution and law. On areas that are relevant to the oil and natural gas industry, Canadian Natural will be a constructive, thoughtful partner while a framework for reconciliation is developed.

Celebrating Indigenous cultures

Understanding Indigenous history, and celebrating the diverse traditions of Indigenous cultures, plays a significant role in helping build long-lasting relationships. Attending/supporting Indigenous events are great opportunities to support many of our stakeholders and be a part of broad reaching and deeply meaningful gatherings. 

For example, we support the Grande Prairie Aboriginal Circle of Services (GPACOS), a group that works with many organizations to strengthen services for Indigenous people in the area. Its mission is to find solutions that honour and respect the traditions, heritage, values and beliefs of the Indigenous community. 

For more highlights of how we engage with Indigenous communities, read our 2020 sustainability report.

Historic and cultural sites

When developing new projects, we recognize environmental, historical and cultural aspects associated with operating in or near those areas, and work very closely with the respective administrative authorities, following our corporate statement regarding the environment. Our approach includes:

  • Title search — this identifies ownership of the lands for proposed development, as to whether or not our proposed development is on crown land, freehold land, in a provincial or federal park, etc.
  • Review of the provincial “Listing of Historic Resources” to determine if a proposed development may affect historic or cultural resources, including archaeological and paleontological sites, Indigenous traditional use sites of a historic resource nature (burial, ceremonial sites, etc.), and/or historic structures.
  • If the proposed development falls on provincial or federal park lands, we work closely with provincial parks or Parks Canada to determine steps involved, including Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as required.
  • If the proposed development falls on any historic lands identified in the listing, we work with provincial culture and tourism authorities, and perform Historic Resources Impact Assessments with professional archaeologists as required.
  • In some cases, we are required to consult with Indigenous Communities for development on these lands.
  • In all cases, efforts are committed to minimizing our footprint.

Archaeological approach to mine planning

The Albian mines are surrounded by significant archaeological sites, including Quarry of the Ancestors and Creeburn Lake. More than 9,000 years ago, ancient people used to visit these areas to obtain Beaver River Sandstone for tool-making, to trade and to hold cultural ceremonies. The discovery of the Quarry of the Ancestors is one of the most important archaeological finds in northern Alberta and is of cultural importance to surrounding stakeholder communities. It is protected under government legislation. If artifacts or cultural material is discovered, work is stopped and Canadian Natural’s Environment Department is immediately contacted to ensure the integrity of these findings.

Traditional knowledge in our reclamation practices

Canadian Natural incorporates traditional knowledge into our reclamation and closure plans for our oil sands mining and upgrading operations. To gether with the Fort McKay Community Advisory Group, we developed and implemented traditional protocols for tree planting, which include private Smudge Ceremonies and the teachings of Tobacco Blessings with Fort McKay Elders prior to tree planting on the Albian and Horizon sites.

Fort McKay Métis Elder and Fort McKay First Nation Cultural & Special Events Lead with Canadian Natural staff during a Traditional planting protocol ceremony held at the Muskeg River Mine in August 2019.

Stakeholder Engagement in Development of Compensation Lakes

Canadian Natural and Indigenous communities work together to support social, cultural, economic and environmental goals, including traditional ways of life, and share best practices and traditional knowledge.

Canadian Natural started developing the first compensation lake of its kind in the Athabasca oil sands region in 2008. Horizon Lake (also known as Wãpan Sãkahikan in Cree) is an 80-hectare lake developed in close consultation with local people. It is home to thousands of fish that could sustain up to twice the fisheries habitat that will be disturbed during the life of the mining operation.

“Our consultations with Indigenous stakeholders have covered everything from the design of the lake to the fish population and vegetation, including those of traditional importance,” said Bob Dunn, District Landman, Horizon.

Over the years, we have worked with Fort McKay First Nation to establish and harvest rat root on the lands around Horizon Lake, which is used for medicinal purposes. Indigenous stakeholders continue to visit the lake to receive updates on its development and to stay informed on issues related to our operations, including tailings management and biodiversity.

Research is ongoing to increase our knowledge of the lake, enhance fish monitoring techniques and further improve habitat for arctic grayling, a ‘species of special concern’ by Alberta’s Endangered Species Conservation Committee.

At Albian, we are monitoring the ecological development of Oskăhtakaw Sākāhikan Jackpine Compensation Lake Gunna Teoway and ‘Mrs. T’s Lake’. The naming of the lakes stems from a collaborative process with local stakeholders from the Fort McKay Community Advisory Group. Mrs. T’s Lake, for example, was named after Elder Mary Tourangeau, who has spent much of her life in the area trapping and teaching her family.

The lakes are developing into a productive and diverse environment for fish and fish habitat. Compensation Lakes are required by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and are an important and significant example of responsible development of Canada’s oil sands. 

Find more information on cutting edge science used for aquatic monitoring in the lakes in our 2020 sustainability report.


Aerial picture of the stakeholder pavilion and Horizon Lake.