Cenovus president and CEO Alex Pourbaix prepares to address the company’s annual meeting in Calgary, Wednesday, April 25, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Cenovus pledges $50 million to build Indigenous housing in Alberta

Oilsands producer earmarks funds for six northern communities near its oilsands operations

Indigenous leaders say they hope other companies will follow the lead of Cenovus Energy Inc. after it pledged to give $10 million per year over the next five years to support housing in six northern Alberta communities near its oilsands operations.

The money is needed because her community’s housing resources are stretched to the limit and government funding is inadequate to address a growing population, said Shirley Paradis, a councillor for the Beaver Lake Cree Nation.

“Our communities are growing. Every day, there’s a new child being born to a new family,” she said at an event in Calgary to announce the initiative.

“With the funding we receive from the federal government, we’re capped. … It forces some of our members to relocate.”

A video highlighting the plight of a family living in a small, rundown house in Conklin shows scenes that are all too common in the region, said Cenovus CEO Alex Pourbaix.

He said the idea for the housing fund came to him a little over a year ago on a tour of the small Indigenous village just northeast of the company’s Christina Lake steam-driven oilsands operations.

“We drove around Conklin and I have to say I was just absolutely horrified by some of the living conditions that people were being forced to live in,” he said.

“We’ve been neighbours with these communities for decades. We’ve done well by it and we hope they’ve done well. This is … about seeing these communities in a time of need.”

The Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation has experienced a big dropoff in revenue from its businesses because of a lack of activity in the surrounding oilsands industry, said Chief Vern Janvier at the event.

“Our revenues in our nation have dropped to a third of what they were six years ago,” he said.

“For our communities, it’s huge for us to be able to access this much money to build housing for us with no strings attached and that’s a whole new concept for me.”

The other four communities to get funding include the Chard Metis (Local 218), Cold Lake First Nations, Conklin Métis (Local 193) and Heart Lake First Nation.

Cenovus says the $50 million is expected to be used to build about 200 new homes, employing local people who will gain experience and training in the process and may eventually go to work in the oilsands.

The program could be extended by five years with another $50 million if it meets Cenovus’s performance expectations, Pourbaix said.

Cenovus pledged earlier this month to spend $1.5 billion with Indigenous businesses over the next 10 years, in addition to $3 billion spent there since the company was formed in 2009.

The oil and gas industry says that six per cent of the people it employs identify as Indigenous and that the oilsands sector between 2013 and 2016 procured goods and services at a rate of about $1.8 billion per year from Indigenous businesses.

READ MORE: Indigenous shelter users leave sooner, return more often, federal study finds

Dan Healing, The Canadian Press

Indigenous Housingoil and gas

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Human remains found in Maskwacis

The Maskwacis RCMP Community Response Unit and General Investigative Section are investigating… Continue reading

Homeschool play to take audience for a ride

Ponoka Thespians showcase a feud, a twist and a wedding

Bridges, Bobtail are county’s big projects in 2020

Paving and replacing pair of bridges are scheduled for the summer

Chamber receives update from Ponoka County

CAO speaks on items of interest over the past year

Patients to take hit as doctors’ deal killed

Cuts may force Ponoka clinic to make changes, makes recruiting harder

Fashion Fridays: Tammy’s big makeover

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

MPs to examine privacy implications of facial-recognition technology used by RCMP

The MPs will look at how the technology affects the privacy, security and safety of children

Winners and losers in Alberta’s 2020 budget

UCP government has tabled a new 20-per-cent tax on vaping devices and liquids

‘Finer focus on job creation:’ Alberta government files red-ink budget

Projected deficit of $6.8 billion on revenues of $50 billion

Explicit Greta sticker linked to Alberta company draws outrage

The sticker includes the logo of Red Deer-based X-Site Energy Services

Share Now, formerly Car2Go, leaves Canada with valuable data in changing market: expert

Vancouver was its largest market in North America, with more than 300,000 customers

What’s happening: Coronavirus forges on, as world hunts solutions

Japan closes all elementary, middle and high schools until spring holidays in late March

RCMP to stop providing security for Prince Harry and Meghan

Public safety minister says RCMP has been helping UK police intermittently since November

Canada’s 13th coronavirus case confirmed as husband of 12th patient

More than 81,000 cases of COVID-19 have occurred since the virus emerged in China

Most Read