Understanding Consultation and Engagement with Indigenous Peoples in Resource Development

  • Brendan Boyd
  • Sophie Lorefice


Canada’s legal system has repeatedly ruled that the Crown has a duty to consult with Indigenous Peoples when approving and shaping resource development projects that are located on their land or could infringe on their rights. But the duty to consult means different things to Indigenous groups, government and industry. Different understandings among stakeholders, in particular Indigenous groups dissatisfaction with consultation, has often led to court challenges of project decisions. Recently, the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the federal government’s approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline project in 2018 has attracted the attention of politicians, media and the public. Legal challenges have also occurred over smaller, yet still important, activities and decisions, where Indigenous communities and organizations find formal consultation processes, and the overall approach to engagement taken by industry and government, to be lacking. While these represent a small portion of the total number of cases where the legal duty to consult has been triggered (Newman 2017) they have an outsized impact on the relationships and level of trust between Indigenous Peoples, industry and governments. Finding ways to resolve these conflicts and improve relations can contribute to reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples, non-Indigenous Canadians and the Canadian state and is essential to the future of Canada’s natural resource industries.