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Working with Indigenous groups

2021 Reconciliation Action Plan

For more than 40 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.

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. By working together and ensuring open communication 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. Learn more below.

Commitment made in 1970s to Indigenous engagement while planning pipeline projects in northern Canada
First formal Native Employment and Business Opportunities Policy adopted in 1982
Indigenous awareness training sessions offered to employees and contractors since 2001

Our guiding principles

The following principles guide our engagement activities with Indigenous groups:

  • Recognizing the unique connection Indigenous Peoples have with the land and their community governance.

  • Ensuring meaningful and respectful engagement with Indigenous groups, as early as possible, using a principled approach.

  • Achieving regulatory certainty using a pragmatic approach in the jurisdiction where we are building or operating.

  • Building innovative project strategies, reflecting engagement and regulatory outcomes that are defensible, commercially reasonable and community led.


TC Energy strives to be a leader in the delivery of energy in a safe, responsible and sustainable manner, ensuring we are positioned to maximize long-term value creation.

For investor-related information:
Environmental, social and governance

Our strategy


Engaging Indigenous groups

TC Energy believes mutual success is anchored in relationships based on trust and respect. It’s what we do every day. We demonstrate trustworthiness through our actions.


People and contracting

We bring value to our relationships with Indigenous groups through project‑specific and long‑term career and business opportunities.


Community legacy

We conduct ourselves as partners committed to forging collaborations that result in lasting, positive change for both the company and Indigenous group.


Project participation

Participation agreements are one way we work with Indigenous groups potentially affected by our activities to acknowledge their unique governance, relationship to the land and legal standing.

Deepening our understanding

Providing employees and contractors with a deeper understanding of the history, cultures and traditions of Indigenous peoples is essential for successful engagement with Indigenous groups.

We offer a multi-tiered approach to our Indigenous Awareness Training Program. In 2020, we began developing new mandatory annual company-wide training that focuses on educating all employees, contractors and members of the Board of Directors on the history and cultures of Indigenous peoples in North America, with training to be rolled out in 2021.

Since 2001, we have offered – and continue to provide – additional training modules open to all interested employees and contractors. The training includes region-specific histories, cultural practices and hands-on experiences such as smudges and sharing circles led by Elders, as well as online and in-person workshops on our policies and engagement expectations.



Our Indigenous Relations policy, strategy and guiding principles inform our work with Indigenous groups. As we adhere to health authority recommendations on COVID-19, we follow the lead of the Indigenous communities we are working with. Where they are engaged and willing, we are continuing to progress project engagement with Indigenous groups in a variety of ways: electronically, by telephone and virtually wherever possible. We have adjusted timing to allow Indigenous groups to first set themselves up safely and to adjust to working remotely from their home offices. While we want to continue engagement (and have been able to do so), our initial outreach following physical distancing guidelines was to ask how we could support Indigenous communities’ response to and needs around COVID-19. Within the first two weeks of working from home, we had reached out to over 200 Indigenous groups.

We are also exploring other methods with Indigenous communities to effectively engage with them while respecting physical distancing guidelines. We had planned many field-based initiatives that are being altered to ensure the health and safety of our staff, contractors and Indigenous communities. These initiatives include open-houses, helicopter fly-overs and field-based job opportunities for community members with our environmental consultants. We continue to speak directly with the Indigenous communities to best understand modification or rescheduling of these activities.
Further, we are working in collaboration with Indigenous communities who have established access restrictions to their Reserve, Settlement lands or Reservation, to ensure that TC Energy cooperates with their COVID-19 protocols and procedures. COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of staying in close communication with Indigenous groups and assessing their evolving needs and priorities while the pandemic continues.

For more information on how we are maintaining safety at our project worksites, visit our COVID-19 information webpage: https://www.tcenergy.com/covid-19

TC Energy’s Indigenous Business Engagement Program is intended to support the development of strong independent Indigenous businesses over the long term, in our industry and others. We have increasingly heard from Indigenous vendors and suppliers about their desire to create sustainable business models that will allow their business to grow and flourish independently of any particular customer. We understand and support this desire to diversify. Our objective is to support these independent businesses with consideration of the capacity of those businesses relative to TC Energy needs. In addition, the Indigenous Relations Business Engagement team supports onboarding and contract management activities to ensure our actions support positive outcomes for these businesses. Many Indigenous vendors and suppliers have shared that our collaboration has helped them develop permanent long-term partnerships that are relevant beyond the oil/gas sectors.

TC Energy recognizes that many Indigenous vendors we work with face the same challenges as other business owners to maintain positive cash flow during these challenging times. To this end, we support onboarding of Indigenous vendors to ensure thorough understanding of TC Energy and our Prime Contractors’ invoice submission requirements and the accuracy and completeness of invoices prior to submission. In addition, the Indigenous Relations Business Engagement team supports timely payment of invoices, negotiation of change requests and resolution of any disputes that may arise and have taken steps to be sure we are monitoring these proactively.

TC Energy’s Indigenous Relations teams proactively reached out to over 200 Indigenous communities across our Canada and U.S. footprint in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic to inquire into their well-being and let them know that TC Energy will provide support. We immediately offered support to communities based on their identified needs, such as food, medical supplies, transportation and medical services. We continue to engage to learn about evolving community needs and we intend to continue providing meaningful support to help respond to their identified needs.


We continue to build on more than 40 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.

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.

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’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 in Canada.

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 2019, more than 230 employees and in-house contractors participated in Indigenous awareness training sessions specific to their country. In addition, more than 400 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.

In 2020, we enhanced our program by developing training for all employees and contractors, which provides education on the history and culture of Indigenous groups within Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

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, responding to, and striving to resolve all issues and concerns raised by Indigenous groups with whom we engage.

TC Energy implements the Indigenous engagement program to develop and strengthen relationships with interested communities, and to foster productive dialogue throughout asset lifecycle.

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, such as capacity funding agreements and funding for Traditional Knowledge studies.

In 2019, we entered into a total of 87 agreements with the 46 Indigenous groups we were engaging on 16 projects we had under development in Canada.

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