Wiikwemkoong member named to Canada Energy Regulator committee

Wiikwemkoong citizen Kaella Marie Earle, an engineer, is on the first Indigenous advisory committee of a federal Crown corporation. photo by Peter Power

OTTAWA – The Canada Energy Regulator is working towards establishing a better relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada and has established an Indigenous Advisory Committee in a first for a federal Crown corporation. Among the nine inaugural appointees is Wiikwemkoong engineer Kaella Marie Earle.

Ms. Earle will be familiar to readers of The Expositor for her work with students at the Youth Centre in Wiikwemkoong in creating a hydroponic garden while she was studying at Laurentian University. Ms. Earle is currently employed as an engineer-in-training at Enbridge Gas Inc. working in engineering construction, system improvement where she manages construction of natural gas pipeline projects.

“I am pretty excited and a bit surprised,” admitted Ms. Earle, who had applied for the position on the advisory committee through a posting on the social media site LinkedIn. “A friend saw the posting and said ‘this looks like something you would be interested in’,” she recalled. When she investigated the posting Ms. Earle concurred. “I discovered it aligned with my values.”

What she didn’t know when she applied was just how significant the role is.

“There are only nine people for all of Canada,” she said. “We sit lateral to the board.”

Under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) must establish an advisory committee for the purpose of enhancing involvement of the Indigenous peoples of Canada and Indigenous organizations in respect of CER-regulated pipelines, power lines and offshore renewable energy projects as well as abandoned pipelines.

The Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) is described as an integral part of the CER’s formal governance structure and works directly with the board of directors. According to its outline, the establishment of the IAC is a key part of the CER’s commitment to advance reconciliation. The overarching mandate of the IAC is to advise the board on how the CER can build a new relationship with Indigenous peoples.

The IAC plays a key advisory role to the board on how best to enhance the involvement of Indigenous peoples and organizations in respect of CER-regulated infrastructure and other matters, noted Ms. Earle. The IAC does this by facilitating the integration of Indigenous perspectives, knowledge, teachings, values, use of the land and water, oral traditions and world views to enhance the involvement of Indigenous peoples in regulation of CER-regulated energy infrastructure.

“Protection and safety of the land, Anishinaabe culture and people are always top priorities in my mind as a new committee member of the CER and it’s my firm belief that our culture will be the key to mitigating climate change and other environmental issues associated with the energy industry,” Ms. Earle explained. “The energy industry needs Indigenous people, so building up a relationship in a good way is really important.”

Ms. Earle is also co-chair of the Indigenous Inclusion Committee at Young Pipeliners Association of Canada, “providing strategy for the inclusion of Indigenous peoples in our organization as well as educating young pipeline professionals about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada (specifically genocide and other oppression) and Indigenous cultures,” she notes. 

“I was part of a design team in YPACxAvatar, designing an app that will be used for the energy industry to better connect and communicate projects with Indigenous peoples, assist in making consultation easier and more meaningful for both parties, and champion Indigenous businesses (actionable economic reconciliation).”

Ms. Earle’s first meeting was only a couple of weeks ago, where she said she was impressed with the commitment restated by federal Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan. “I have a really good feeling,” said Ms. Earle, adding that the move to establish the IAC reflects concrete action that is “an important part of reconciliation.”

The energy sector has historically had an adversarial relationship with Indigenous peoples, she noted. “The only way to fix that is to include Indigenous people—this is setting a good example.”

Ms. Earle also said that she was impressed by the positive response of the storied Chief Harvey McLeod of the Upper Nicola Indian Band, who has been a staunch advocate for Indigenous peoples. “He said ‘I know I am a part of the circle now’,” recalled Ms. Earle.

The IAC is led by a chairperson selected by the IAC. Its membership reflects Canada’s diversity of Indigenous communities, languages, genders, geographies, skills and expertise. Three IAC members are appointed directly by national Indigenous organizations: Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The nine members in addition to Ms. Earle are: Mary Delorme, CEO of the Imagination Group of Companies (named one of Canada’s 100 most powerful women); Judy Gingell, elder of the Yukon Kwanlin Dun First Nation (first female chair of the Council of Yukon First Nations); Upper Nicola Indian Band Chief Harvey McLeod, director of the BC Assembly of First Nations; Nuka Olsen-Hakongak, co-president of the Nunavut Law Student Society; Stó:l Seabird Island Band Tribal Chief Tyrone McNeil, standing chair of Union of BC Indian Chiefs; Scott Patles-Richardson, founder of Indigenous Financial Solutions, a First Nations-owned company focused on economic development for Indigenous communities across Canada; Pasqua First Nation Chief Matthew T. Peigan, member of the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee for the Enbridge Line 3 Replacement Project; and Marci Riel, senior director of Energy, Infrastructure and Resource Management at the Manitoba Metis Federation. 

Ms. Earle holds an advanced diploma in chemical engineering technology from Cambrian College and a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from Laurentian University.

She describes her career goal as weaving her Indigenous cultural values into her engineering work in a way that will lead the oil and gas industry to a lower carbon energy future.

Ms. Earle delivers regular speaking engagements at conferences to advocate for Indigenous people and women in energy and mining, is the director and founder of Maamiwi Gibeshiwin Indigenous cultural training and allyship retreat and is a delegate on the Nuclear Waste Management Organization Indigenous council of youth and elders.

Ms. Earle encourages Indigenous people to reach out to her to engage in conversation about their concerns and ideas. “I want to make sure I am able to bring as much to the table as I can,” she said. The best way to reach Ms. Earle is through a message on LinkedIn.