Chief Billy Morin

In Conversation with Chief Billy Morin

Chief Billy Morin has championed new business partnerships in Carbon Capture, Hydrogen, Gas and Utilities for his nation and local first nations – projects that require over $1 billion in total investment. He has been a strong advocate for working together with all governments, sectors and Canadians, as was the original spirit and intent of Treaty Six.

Chief Morin now champions indigenous entrepreneurship and setting the path for the next chapter in reconciliation for Canada and indigenous peoples.

We’re pleased to have Chief Morin speak at our upcoming International Best Practices Forum being held in Vancouver from October 12-14, 2022.

About Chief Billy Morin

Chief William (Billy) Morin | Former Chief, Enoch First Nation; and Managing Director, Axxcelus Capital Advisory

Chief William (Billy) Morin Nahtokitopi (Sacred Rider) Wapikihew White Eagle was elected as the youngest Chief in Enoch Cree Nations modern history in 2015 and served three consecutive terms as Chief. Chief Billy’s tenure as Chief was defined by true Reconcili-Action inside and outside his home First Nation. Chief Morin helped to champion a resurgence in Nehiyaw Cree language, culture and identity in Enoch; symbolized by his nation reclaiming its traditional Cree name Maskekosihk (Land of Medicines). This language and identity have formed the foundation for all other things in Billy’s time as Chief, including most fittingly, winning the RFP to build the first orthopedic surgical center on and owned by a First Nation in Canada – a project rooted in the Land of Medicines.

Furthermore, Chief Morin has championed new business partnerships in Carbon Capture, Hydrogen, Gas and Utilities for his nation and local first nations – projects that require over $1 billion in total investment.

Finally, Chief Billy has been a strong advocate for working together with all governments, sectors and Canadians, as was the original spirit and intent of Treaty Six. This culminated with his appointed as Grand Chief of the 17 First Nations of the Confederacy of Treaty Six in 2020; a position responsible to be the voice for the collective Chiefs. Chief Morin now champions indigenous entrepreneurship and setting the path for the next chapter in reconciliation for Canada and indigenous peoples.

Complete Transcript

Caroline: Hi everyone. Today I’m chatting with one of our speakers at the upcoming Canadian Leadership Congress International Best Practices Forum being held in Vancouver at the Fairmont Waterfront from October 12th to 14th. Chief Billy Morin joins me. He was elected as the youngest chief in Enoch Cree Nation’s modern history in 2015, and served three consecutive terms as chief. He’ll be joining us at the Forum to share his experiences working with the energy sector as part of our panel on Indigenous communities in Canada’s energy transition. Welcome chief.

Billy Morin: Greetings all my relations, Caroline and everybody.

Caroline: Excellent. Tell me, what has the relationship historically been like between Indigenous communities and the energy industry, and has it been changing?

Billy: Yes, thanks for the question. I can take that in several different directions, but I have to say, overall, very paternalistic, very one-sided, very undefined, and very ignorant. And that’s various players in the question itself: that’s federal governments and provincial governments and private sector. With industry and First Nations, historically, we are under a federal jurisdiction, so a lot of oversight from there, not a lot of self-determination in making decisions.

Again, I think there’s so much opportunity in terms of what we do going forward. In our history, my great-great-grandfather was chief in the 1950s.

There’s an oil and gas boom. I think, where the exceptions are real, because we’re right in the heart of Leduc No. 1, Alberta, and it provided a lot of opportunity and wealth for the nation, but it also brought some historical, I’d say, indifferences and injustices with the industry itself. Again, you didn’t get to the full potential of looking at Indigenous rights.

I do see that changing, though. Over the last 10 years, the Tsilhqot’in case of 2014 add this era of reconciliation, the move to ESG. First Nations are a true catalyst in being a part of that. I think the industry in Canada…provincial governments are starting to take notice in terms of the changing dynamic. I was on a recent trip to Bay Street, and one of the big five banks told me, “It’s right there in one of our mission statements.” Maybe not directly in business statements, but the investment statements that no economic reconciliation without Indigenous ownership.

Things are changing in the right direction, but we’re still, I would say, hoping to take it to a new level here in Canada.

Caroline: I want to talk to you a little bit about what’s changing, and why you think Indigenous communities are really key to Canada’s energy transition.

Billy: In the last couple years, maybe it’s more than a couple of years, like a decade, the 2014 Tsilhqot’in case, make a suit a couple of years ago challenging Bill C-69. Treaty rights, again, have historically been recognized by the Canadian Constitution. These rights and these unique aspects of Indigenous relationships with Canadian law and Canadian land do exist. In the era of reconciliation, they’re becoming elevated in the discussion of society in Canada.

The Tsilhqot’in case recognized that not just Reserve Lands, the small plots of lands that we live on, but the traditional territories, which cover basically all of Canada, are vast tracks of B.C., Western Canada, all the way to Nova Scotia. They’re not Reserve Lands, but they are traditional territories recognized by Canadian law that Indigenous people have rights and ownership over.

It comes without saying that with those titles and some of those legal cases, that Indigenous peoples, First Nations, Métis have a lot more say in how those lands are developed than some of the paternalistic Indian Act things and things that have been going on for the previous 100 years. Industry is forced to, for lack of a better word, move with Indigenous peoples when they develop huge projects in the traditional territory.

Now, when you go through the Supreme Court and the old-school, historic, journalistic actions come into play, that’s obviously not the best way of doing things between just two human beings at the end of the day. I look towards things like the Cascade Project here that we’ve accomplished for a government loan guarantee program here in Alberta. I look to liquid natural gas and some of the huge investments in partnerships they’ve done in B.C.

I was just scouring the website across the country yesterday and noticed that a big huge hydro project in Manitoba is set to be completed next year with 25 percent ownership of Indigenous communities. Of course, pulled back with hydro in Cree territory over there has been huge for a number of decades. As opposed to going through the Supreme Court and arguing, I think business lends its hand for the catalyst of actually having a common language and moving Canada in a direction where we can.

It’s Canada, at the end of the day. We have natural abundance of natural resources and energy. That’s our place in the world. But Indigenous peoples are being recognized as a true business partner, and business is a common language to move us forward together to meet those goals of net zero—if that’s the community’s goals and the nation’s goals—by 2050, or if it’s just highlighting ESG and smart, bigger contributions and investments beyond just the bottom line.

That’s very important, but if it’s ESG, the S for Indigenous inclusion is really going to be highlighted by how we set the business relationship going forward.

Caroline: ESG, Indigenous inclusion, what still needs to happen for this change to really take place?

Billy: I think I can’t solve this one on a panel. It’s going to take a little bit more of an education, just time and relationship building. But being an Indigenous leader, I actually see Indigenous people being their own…

The only one stopping them is themselves, but I recognize that my audience is probably not primarily Indigenous communities today, so I’ll speak to what business and investors and what the audience can do, which is non-Indigenous communities and leadership on the grassroots level. I think recognizing across the country right now land acknowledgements at sporting events and political events and social community events is nice.

Again, speaks towards how the society is changing in general for the good, for the better, but in business and investment in natural resources and ESG taking it to a new level, I think. I’ll use an example early on in our carbon capture RFP win here locally in Alberta. The provincial government mandated if you partner with Indigenous communities early on, that’s going to be one of our four or five criteria to win this RFP, not the No. 1 factor, which it was, but it’s not, but it is a factor at the end of the day.

Those companies didn’t come to us with, “This is the way we’re going to do it. You’re either with us or not.” They came to us and said, “Can we create the plan together?” I recognize that’s new for investors and new for operators and builders of large capital and energy projects, but coming early I think industries recognizing that you have to have an Indigenous engagement and inclusion plan, but coming at the start, too, as opposed to this is the way we’ve always done it, you’re either with us, and we’re just going to tell you how it is.

Getting in early is a really good thing for investors and people who are building large-scale energy projects.

Caroline: Excellent. I look forward to speaking with you more in October, and I thank you for joining us today.

Billy: Thank you. Looking forward to October as well.

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