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Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation, left, Mark Little, president, Upstream with Suncor, centre, and Chief Archie Waquan of the Mikisew Cree First Nation sign a certificate of closing at a ceremony in Calgary on Nov. 22. (Supplied by Wil Andruschak, Postmedia Content Works)

Shannon Sutherland-Smith
Postmedia Content Works

Suncor’s business partnerships with First Nations communities are evolving as transactions become more significant and complex, but also more collaborative and respectful.

A recent agreement that saw two First Nations communities — Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation — partner with Suncor by purchasing an equity stake in the East Tank Farm Development was a milestone for everyone involved.

The Suncor-operated midstream facility, which is now operating in the Wood Buffalo Region, provides bitumen storage, blending and cooling capacity as well as connectivity to third party pipelines to markets.

In the fall of 2016, the two First Nations announced their intention to purchase an equity stake in the project pending financing.

Andrea Decore, vice-president of commercial, strategy and corporate development for Suncor, who worked on deal from its inception, says relationship building formed the foundation for the deal.

“We worked hard to create a more collaborative atmosphere where we share opportunities that might be of interest, but we also share our concerns and challenges as well,” she says.

“We asked for their opinions and listened. We wanted the entire process to be open and transparent.”

When the partnership was announced last fall, Chief Jim Boucher of the Fort McKay First Nation said the deal was representative of the mutually respectful relationship that had been built between his community and Suncor.

“Fort McKay First Nation has been engaged in the oilsands business for over 30 years, and we have the ability to build and maintain sustainable relationships with our neighbours,” he said at the time.

“This is an investment that will endure for the long term.”

One of the appealing elements of the deal was the opportunity to be engaged in a project that would provide stable income that’s not as susceptible to fluctuations in the markets.

Most importantly, it laid the groundwork for how to move forward together when undertaking business negotiations, Decore

“This has been a journey and involved building trust over several years where we were honest and forthright with each other,” says Decore.

“This project demonstrates that First Nations communities can participate in development in a significant way that will positively impact the futures of their communities.”


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