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Working with Indigenous groups

For more than 30 years, TC Energy has been engaging with Indigenous groups. We recognize Indigenous groups as rightsholders who have a distinct relationship to the land. We understand that our business activities have the potential to affect these groups in tangible ways. Through collaboration and open communication with Indigenous groups, we strive to earn their respect and trust to establish and grow positive long-term relationships.



Our approach to Indigenous Relations

Our Indigenous Relations team engages early and often with potentially affected Indigenous groups to understand their interests, identify opportunities, respond to their concerns and facilitate participation on our projects. We identify and create opportunities that support these groups through education and training, community legacy, scholarships and engagement with Indigenous contractors and businesses. Through collaboration and open communications with Indigenous groups, we strive to earn their respect and trust to establish and grow positive long-term relationships.

Our Indigenous Relations policy, strategy and guiding principles inform our work with Indigenous groups. Read the Indigenous Relations section of our Corporate Responsibility Report or learn more below.

A decade-long partnership

In 2008, the Osage Nation became the first U.S. Tribal group to partner with TC Energy as we began consultation on the Keystone Pipeline System, which has now safely transported energy for over eight years. Since then, we have continued to collaborate with the Osage on initiatives such as the cultural preservation programs.

Watch our video to learn more about our long-standing partnership or read the full story here.

We bring value to our relationships with Indigenous groups through the following ways:


Community legacy

Throughout North America, our engagement team plays an important role in our community legacy work with Indigenous groups.

We support community-led initiatives tailored to support local priorities, including safety equipment and programs, emergency preparedness, Sundances, Pow Wows, Métis festivals, breakfast programs, cultural/language preservation, Elders programs, use of
traditional plants, and medicine.

Education and training

From safety tickets to trades and environment training, we help community members build the skills required by industry. We also build community capacity through initiatives such as scholarships, upgrading, life-skills and employment programs.

Indigenous Relations business engagement

We strive to engage community leaders and businesses to help them understand and align their capacity and capabilities with our project requirements and qualifications.

Related documents

Indigenous Relations Commitment Statement

Indigenous Relations Policy

Indigenous Relations Strategy

Guiding Principles

Corporate Responsibility Report


We continue to build on over 30 years of engagement with Indigenous groups. We are committed to building and maintaining long-term relationships with Indigenous groups based on respect, trust, open communication and recognition that many of our activities occur on traditional lands.

We are committed to providing business, employment and training opportunities to the Indigenous groups on whose lands we build and operate through all phases of our projects.

We work collaboratively with Indigenous communities and businesses to create mutually beneficial relationships based on a principled approach to commercial opportunities. Many opportunities are made available during construction, through our general contractors.

Visit our Vendors' page to sign up as a registered vendor.

We believe in Indigenous employment and training programs and work with Indigenous groups to identify training opportunities that will provide long-term mutual value. We also have a robust Indigenous legacy scholarship program, along with other trades and leadership scholarships. Learn more by visiting our scholarships page.

We support Indigenous group participation within the regulatory process through a variety of means, including resourcing capacity funding to enable the review and feedback for project information. This can include Traditional Land Use information, map review or community meetings. On certain projects, capacity funding has supported the Indigenous group in meeting capacity needs to respond to our projects. Where conditions emerge from the regulatory process, we aim to involve Indigenous groups in activities that result from regulatory conditions.

TC Energy supports the participation of Indigenous groups within the regulatory process, including resource capacity funding that enables the review of project information and community meetings. On certain projects, capacity funding has enabled the Indigenous groups to hire additional staff assigned to our projects. Where conditions emerge from the regulatory process, we also do our best to involve Indigenous groups in activities that result from regulatory conditions.

Our engagement leaders throughout North America play an important role in our community legacy work with Indigenous groups. We engage with communities to develop community-led initiatives that are tailored to support local needs.

Our asset system spans many geographies and is multi-generational, just like our commitment to supporting positive, long-term relationships. Learn more by visiting our Apply for Funding page.

In Canada, the duty to consult always rests with the Crown, and is driven by the fiduciary obligations of the Crown to Indigenous people under treaty and under law. The duty arises whenever the Crown is making a decision that has a reasonable possibility of adversely affecting the exercise of Aboriginal and Treaty rights, as protected under s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The nature of the duty to consult depends on the seriousness of the potential impact and the strength of the claim. It operates on a sliding scale, starting with providing simple notice of the activity (e.g., building a pipeline), and ending with “full consultation,” which includes meeting with Indigenous communities to discuss avoidance, mitigation, management or accommodation of potential adverse project effects.

The Crown cannot delegate the duty to consult to industry, but it can decide to delegate procedural aspects to fulfil its duty, as proponents are often in the best position to address Indigenous groups’ concerns. TC Energy calls carrying out this delegated duty “engagement,” to distinguish it from consultation.

In the U.S. and Mexico, the government has not delegated procedural aspects of consultation to project proponents. In the U.S., given the government-to-government relationship, the federal government handles all aspects of consultation, including determining which communities it will consult, defining consultation guidelines, and reaching agreements with communities when required. Project proponents are permitted to support the government or regulatory agency(s) activities with Indigenous groups, but accountability for consultation remains with the government.

In Mexico, consultation with Indigenous groups is the responsibility of the federal government, and is led by the Secretaría de Energía (SENER).

TC Energy identifies Indigenous groups through a combination of desktop research, regulators’ guidance, the company’s own operating experience, including past projects in the region, existing agreements with Indigenous groups, and an established network of contacts with Indigenous groups in the project area. TC Energy also considers the project’s proximity to Tribal reservations in the U.S., First Nation reserves in Canada, asserted traditional territory of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous settlements and communities. In addition, TC Energy engages with any Indigenous group that self-identifies as a potentially affected party to understand their interests, the nature of their concerns and to determine the most appropriate method of engagement going forward.

Canada, the U.S. and Mexico (the three countries within which TC Energy operates) have distinct laws pertaining to the protection of Indigenous rights and interests, as identified in Article 32.3 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Where TC Energy’s business activities have the potential to affect local Indigenous groups, our practice is to engage with these groups to understand their issues and concerns, and ensure we take reasonable steps to mitigate those concerns. By taking this approach, we adhere to and often exceed the regulatory requirements of the respective jurisdictions.


Our regulatory process focuses on working with Indigenous groups across all business lines and jurisdictions. It is informed by our Indigenous Relations commitment statement, policy, strategy, guiding principles, as well as legal and regulatory landscapes, which continue to evolve.  Regardless of what region we operate in, we aim to reach consent on our projects among Indigenous groups through early and ongoing engagement. We also strive to avoid and mitigate project-related effects on the exercise of Indigenous rights through environmental assessment and project planning. For instance, we adjusted the route for Keystone XL to avoid Ponca lands seeded for sacred corn. 

The TC Energy Operational Management System (TOMS) provides direction to establish and maintain performance monitoring to support the corporate strategy and competitiveness of TC Energy. The Indigenous Relations program establishes goals, objectives and targets in accordance with corporate guidance. Performance monitoring is one means by which the Indigenous Relations program assesses its effectiveness and guides continuous improvement. Indigenous Relations also monitors, manages and evaluates Indigenous Relations program performance through an annual management review.

The Indigenous Relations program bases its performance indicators on factors including the Indigenous Relations strategy, guiding principles, operational controls, employee and contractor training and regulatory outcomes.

TC Energy’s Indigenous cultural awareness program is delivered in three modules comprising a region-specific historical overview, a synopsis of how the Indigenous Relations program is implemented within the company and a hands-on cultural experience which is offered regularly to all staff and in-house contractors. These sessions cover the Indigenous Relations commitment statement, policy and engagement requirements, helping participants acquire the knowledge and skills needed to engage with Indigenous groups.

At TC Energy corporate offices in 2018, 156 employees and in-house contractors participated in Indigenous awareness training sessions specific to their country. In addition, 475 employees and in-house contractors participated in the many events and activities connected to Indigenous Awareness Week in Canada and Native American Heritage Month in the U.S. These sessions focused on specific aspects of local Indigenous history and culture, as well as current concerns and issues facing Indigenous groups.

Project-specific cultural awareness training is also an important element of our Indigenous Relations program. This includes development of a construction orientation module for all personnel, to ensure safe and respectful conduct in all work. These orientations include all facets of interaction, including safety, environment, and cultural awareness.

TC Energy’s approach to Indigenous Relations includes information sharing, identification of issues, and efforts to address concerns. While these proactive efforts are in part intended to avoid grievances, we have a defined process for addressing complaints and grievances that involves the following steps:  

  • Receive and record: If the complaint is readily resolvable, actions to address the issue are taken and details are recorded in our engagement tracking tool.
  • Assign: The complaint / grievance is assessed and assigned to the appropriate TC Energy personnel for further action or review. A timeline for review and follow-up action is established.
  • Acknowledge: After review, the assignee contacts the complainant to confirm the complaint, and records the discussion.
  • Follow-up: The basis of the complaint is reviewed; findings are documented and options for resolution of the issue are proposed.
  • Response: Solutions and timelines are proposed, and feedback is requested from the complainant.
  • Resolution: Upon acceptance of the resolution, TC Energy implements the agreed upon actions.
  • Close out: A complaint is closed out when no further action can be or needs to be taken.

We measure the effectiveness of our engagement approach by tracking and responding to all issues and concerns raised by stakeholder groups and Indigenous groups with whom we engage.

While TC Energy does not use agreements as a measure of success in Indigenous engagement, we do enter into agreements with Indigenous groups who may potentially be affected by our projects. In 2018, we entered into a total of 127 agreements with the 44 Indigenous groups we were engaging on 16 projects we had under development.

TC Energy makes every effort to track the overall percentage of Indigenous employment; however, this information is based on self-identification. It is not a practice of TC Energy to require self-identification by any employee or contractor. TC Energy strives to build a workforce that is representative of the demographic profile in which we operate.

TC Energy strives to maximize opportunities for qualified, competitive Indigenous suppliers with the capacity to support our projects and operations. Through education and training, and community legacy initiatives, we provide training and experience that help to build individual and community capacity to supply the goods and services that the company requires.

For many of our capital projects, the greatest percentage of spend goes toward procuring high-value items, such as line pipe, turbines, metering equipment, and sophisticated control systems. Many of these items must comply with stringent quality and safety standards, as mandated by regulations and industry best practices. TC Energy leverages a global supply chain to source these high-value, technically-complex items, which skews our spend profile toward international suppliers. Due to the capital-intensive nature of our business, the goods and services provided by local suppliers and contractors, including those from Indigenous communities, tend to account for a small percentage of our projects. As a result, comparing total capital spend with Indigenous suppliers does not reflect the true impact of contracting activities in local Indigenous communities.

TC Energy does not have specific targets for Indigenous spend, as each project and Indigenous community has unique attributes, needs and capacity. The communities in which our projects are built or our assets operate continue to evolve and change, as does their capacity to supply goods and services to our projects and operations. As such, TC Energy works with each community to understand local business capacity and priorities, and matches this to project requirements, depending on the size and type of project (Natural Gas, Oil and Liquids or Power and Storage), and its specific needs.

Need more information or have a question?

Email us at aboriginal_relations@tcenergy.com, call us at 1-855-895-8754 or visit our Contact us page for more information.