Social Licensing in major resource development projects

Governments and corporations can no longer develop natural resources without particular care or attention to jurisdiction, environmental impact, and Indigenous rights or concerns. Most importantly, Canadian governments now have a legal duty to consult and accommodate Indigenous peoples impacted by any major resource development. Major resources development corporations are also now proactively engaging with these Indigenous communities to gain a “social license to operate” (SLO).

Obtaining a social license is not a legal requirement for a major resource development project, and there is no standardized framework that explains what "social licensing" actually looks like on the ground. This makes it difficult for industry to know if they do indeed have a SLO. And now a social license is considered  to be essential requirement to getting  project approvals in a timely and cost-effective manner, and to avoid expensive and ongoing issues.

Siomonn Pulla set out to clarify how various sectors involved in major resource development in Canada understand what gaining a SLO means and looks like and, specifically, the relationship between the SLO and Indigenous rights. In particular, his research explores the “grey zone” between the governments’ legal duty to consult and accommodate and the practice of indigenous engagement at the heart of Industry’s attempts to obtain a SLO.  

By interviewing across the parties involved in major resource development projects, Pulla will build a picture of the places where the meaning of SLO is shared by each group, and where it diverges. Ultimately, he hopes to explore whether these engagement processes might have a positive effect on the projects and project outcomes, and ultimately help to foster reconciliation in Canada.