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Report On Business About one-third of aboriginal Canadians don’t trust oil and gas companies: poll

Band councillors from the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation hold aloft a two-row wampum belt during a hearing by the National Energy Board in Toronto on Oct. 16, 2013.

CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

About one-third of aboriginal Canadians say they have no trust in oil and natural gas companies, or energy executives, as a source of information on energy issues, according to a new survey from the University of Calgary's School of Public Policy.

Using a scale of zero to 10, where zero is "not at all trustworthy" and 10 is "very trustworthy," 26 per cent of those surveyed gave oil and natural gas companies a rating of five or higher. Energy company executives received a score of five or higher from 24 per cent of respondents, according to Professor Michal Moore.

About one in four of those surveyed also said they have zero trust in the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers or the federal government, the study found. At the same time, CAPP had a trustworthy score of five or higher from 28 per cent of respondents, and Ottawa had five or higher from 37 per cent.

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Mr. Moore said the "cross-section" of 300 aboriginal and First Nations people who were surveyed online and by telephone last July also indicated they are more concerned about the environment – and the related effects of energy projects – than Canadians as a whole. However, the percentage of aboriginal Canadians opposed to the construction of oil and natural gas pipelines near their community drops if the projects help fund education or social programs.

"Support for oil and gas pipelines is tied to the financial benefit to the community," concluded the survey, which was released Thursday and also looked at respondents' self-stated "knowledge of energy issues."

The professors in charge of the study based their questions around key themes such as "energy well-being is part of our economic and cultural heritage," and "improving energy 'literacy' will be successful only if we understand the gaps, and then work to fill them."

The study comes the same day that Doug Eyford – Ottawa's special envoy on West Coast energy infrastructure – warned Ottawa that the federal government must take action to improve relationships with First Nations in British Columbia and Alberta, or risk the viability of energy projects on the West Coast.

In an interview, CAPP president Dave Collyer said "trust is largely about relationships."

"To the extent that there is not trust, and not effective working relationships, yes, that's an important issue that we (the industry) need to be mindful of," Mr. Collyer said.

"The Eyford report today reinforced the fact we've got to do a better job engaging. That does not mean it's going to be easy to resolve the issues."

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