Project 46: Cenovus Energy: A Leader in First Nations Reconciliation

Student Name(s): Jenna

School: Edmonton Islamic Academy

Grade: 4


Research Topic / Main Questions:

I am researching Cenovus’s Indigenous Housing Initiative. Some questions that I will explore are: What is Cenovus’s Indigenous Housing Initiative? Why is it necessary to provide housing support? How does helping others improve the community?

Why did you choose this topic:

I chose this topic because I enjoy studying social studies. In December, I read about a news story that my teacher, Mr. Gee, shared with me. We were studying the Boreal Forest region, and we read about Cenovus’s housing initiative in social studies. I became interested in this event because helping people in need is part of my religion. Helping other people gets you good deeds also known in Arabic as Hasanat. I became inspired by Cenovus’s act of kindness. In Canada, we have The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but having a company, such as Cenovus Energy, helping our community members experience equality is amazing.

Please summarize your experience in researching this project?

I gathered my research from the school library, and I also used my chromebook visiting different websites and video links about Cenovus. I summarized the main ideas in my research. I found the CBC and CTV News websites useful. Mr. Gee, also helped me by contacting Cenovus’s head office in Calgary for an email interview. I created 3 interview questions that I wanted to ask Cenovus about their housing initiative. This is the first time that I conducted an interview with a company. This was my primary source in my research. I would like to thank Mr. Trent Zacharias, a Director in Community and Indigenous Affairs Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement at Cenovus Energy, for participating in my email interview. I appreciate the opportunity to ask him directly about Cenovus’s initiative on helping First Nations communities. The first hand data provided me with valuable insights. I really felt Cenovus’s sincerity in helping First Nations communities. I also read a statement from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He said “We know what is needed is total renewal of the relationship between Canada and Indigenious people”. (Statement by Prime Minister on release of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 2015) Exploring a new relationship between Canada and First Nations guided my research. Two books that anchored my research are On Our Street: Our First Talk About Poverty by Dr. Jillian Roberts and Jaime Casap and Look Where We Live! A First Book of Community Building by Scot Ritchie. These books taught me the importance of having compassion. I also designed a painting for my Heritage Fair project.

Cenovus Energy is a large oil and gas company. In January 30, 2020, Cenovus announced that they are donating $50,000,000 to 6 northern Alberta First Nations communities. These communities are: Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Chard Metis (Local 218), Conklin Metis (Local 193), Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation, Cold Lake First Nation, and Heart Lake First Nation. First Nations communities in Northern Alberta are facing challenges such as overcrowded homes which are unsafe. This initiative is especially important now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Living in overcrowded homes where people can’t self-isolate put everyone’s lives at risk. In northern Alberta, there is also a lack of affordable housing around the oilsands industry. For decades now, many members of the First Nations community are still recovering from hardships they experienced in residential schools. Celebrating Orange Shirt Day on September 30 is just the beginning of the healing process. This initiative is huge because 50 million dollars is a lot of money. Cenovus plans on building about 200 homes for these northern communities. Cenovus could possibly extend the initiative for 10 years and 100 million dollars if everything goes well.

Even though we are in a global pandemic with COVID-19, Cenovus has made strong progress with their Indigenous Housing Initiative. In 2020, they built 12 homes, and in 2021 they are aiming to complete construction for 40 more homes. Every new house matters because they are giving a chance for families to be safe and to be together.

How did you personally connect to this project?

I am a Muslim. I pratice Islam. Islam means peace. In September, I studied Orange Shirt Day and the negative effects from residential schools. In November and December, my grade 4 class led a school-wide Winter Clothing Socks and Mittens Drive for the less fortunate. We collected over 800 mittens and socks for the clients of Boyle Street Community Services. These learning experiences have taught me some important lessons. Learning about the past helps you make better decisions for the future. As well, we are stronger when we work together. I was sad to learn about the lack of affordable housing for so many First Nations families in northern Alberta. Some families even live with mold in their homes. The more I read and studied about Cenovus’s northern Alberta housing initiative, the more I realize that I can make a difference by sharing this story with a larger audience such as my classmates and the Edmonton Regional Heritage Fair. Sharing this story promotes the “Power of Hope” which can give many people the inspiration to overcome challenges. During this COVID-19 pandemic, many are facing huge challenges across the world. Lots need emotional and moral support.

What are your conclusions about your topic?

Cenovus’s commitment for supporting First Nations communities is inspiring. They are making a difference in our community. The evidence is there with their actions of helping First Nations with housing in northern Alberta. They have plans to construct over 40 homes in 2021. Cenovus’s Indigenous Housing Initiative is a challenge and reminder that we can all help shape the future by working together. Studying history is more than just memorizing facts and dates. It helps us prepare for the future. We can make history with our actions. In my email interview on April 12, 2021, Mr. Trent Zacharias said, “Working with Indigenous communities, and supporting reconciliation is something that every Albertan and Canadian can do. Every effort matters. Whether it’s taking time to better understand Indigenous people or culture, acknowledging the traditional lands where we live, work, or go to school, or building homes such as Cenovus did, we can all do our part.” I hope this initiative inspires other companies or individuals to care more about each other. Thank you Cenovus Energy for accepting my interview and being part of my research. Congratulations for being a leader in First Nations Reconciliation.