Forging partnerships with diverse communities is key for project success. In Canada, seeking out thoughts and ideas from Indigenous communities brings in unique perspectives. Purposeful engagement is when a team takes the time to gauge the public’s interest in a project. Researching the availability of and training local Indigenous businesses for any phase of a project is an important first step in forming community ties and advancing projects.

Over the past 10 years, our company has spent $16 million partnering with 30 Indigenous firms that have strong ties to tribal lands. Implementing programs and policies geared toward keeping jobs local and encouraging economic stimulus in the region with projects under construction also offers a financial benefit for communities.

Increasing Awareness

Bringing together diverse perspectives is not only beneficial for the socioeconomic impact on a community but also crucial to understanding the needs unique to a culture before project implementation. By striving to seek out those impacted by projects local residents — companies can better understand a region. Examples of this increased awareness could include anything from identifying and marking trees considered sacred to performing a land blessing before beginning construction.

Specifically, the Chinook Power Station team in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, sought to build relations with the local First Nations. Throughout the execution of the Chinook Power Station project, more than $9 million went to several local First Nations through a combination of direct subcontracting, alliances with other subcontractors and craft labor participation. Additionally, the Chinook Power Station team collaborated with various First Nations through development and training of craft workers as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach to local First Nations students.

Investing in the Future

While it is incredibly beneficial for companies to partner with businesses in communities for the improved cultural awareness, an investment today in the local workforce is also an investment for tomorrow. Bringing projects to Indigenous communities can help reduce the unemployment rate through the creation of local jobs and improve the economic outlook for the region.

Additionally, by sponsoring scholarships and providing apprenticeship and training opportunities to support educational goals, large companies are giving back to those who will become part of our future workforce. Indigenous communities are often an underrepresented part of Canada’s population, and it is vital to partner and give back whenever possible. Diverse perspectives are critical for successful project outcomes.

For purposeful strategic partnerships with Indigenous communities, Burns & McDonnell not only continues to invest in communities by hiring local residents for jobs, but we also joined the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business to better understand how to serve the region. Collaborating with Indigenous communities lays the groundwork for long-term partnerships and project success.


Identifying an ideal solution to fit an electric utility’s specific need is a complex task. From coordinating outages to utilizing virtual tools, discover how community engagement is a top priority for successful project teams.

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Ayo Oladiran is a project manager and environmental practice lead at Burns & McDonnell with extensive experience working throughout the project life cycle.