After the global pandemic was declared in mid-March due to COVID-19, it was a difficult moment when Indigenous Relations team members realized they couldn’t spring into action, load up a truck with supplies and deliver it to the communities they work closely with.
In the past, it was natural to offer hands-on support during the recovery phase after a natural disaster or crisis affected Indigenous groups living near or along our projects and operations.
When floods severely affected Siksika Nation east of Calgary in 2013, once it was safe to do so, employees came together to pack and deliver boxes of new bedding and towels to give to families who had lost their homes.
Jeff Burke, the Indigenous Relations Director, says, “Our Indigenous engagement leads especially have such strong ties to these communities and it’s been an emotional experience for them that they cannot help in person this time because of social distancing.”
However, the inability to offer hands-on support did not affect their outreach efforts.
“The very next day, after we transitioned to work from home, our team members were all talking about how this was going to affect the Indigenous groups we work with,” says Jeff. “Everyone wanted to immediately reach out to see how they were doing and ask how we could help.”
Within the first two weeks of the pandemic being declared, the Indigenous Relations team had proactively reached out to all Indigenous groups who live near or along our operations and projects in Canada and the U.S. – more than 200 groups in total.
Beyond discussing how to best continue engagement given current limitations, team members reached out to their contacts to see how the company could best support the communities through the pandemic.
Many groups requested funding to help with immediate needs, such as food, general supplies and transportation support, while others still needed to conduct assessments of their communities and said they would reach out for support when they were ready.
Mel Garner, Manager of Canadian Indigenous Relations, whose team led efforts to reach out to Indigenous groups in Canada, says she hopes that the offer to provide funding support for immediate needs to each of those groups can help keep them healthy and safe.
Manager of Canadian Indigenous Relations
She says her team is committed to staying in close communication with Indigenous groups and will continue to offer support as their needs and priorities evolve throughout the pandemic.
Since March, TC Energy has provided more than C$500,000 of financial support – and is committed to offering more than C$1 million to Indigenous groups in Canada and the U.S. to support their identified needs during the pandemic.
Many Indigenous groups have not only expressed appreciation for the monetary support – but also for the kind gesture of reaching out to see if they’re doing alright.
Mel says, “What we have learned is that this is not just about sending money to Indigenous communities during a disaster, but to offer our friendship and listen to their real needs and assist them in securing those needs.”
We've been busy at TC Energy working on meaningful ways to respond to COVID-19. We are committed to supporting those most vulnerable in our communities and to date have donated more than C$2 million to our local non-profit heroes. We aren't done yet – learn more about how you can join us to support relief efforts.
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