Page header GoodFish Lake

Photo provided courtesty of Goodfish Lake Development Corporation

Aboriginal Relations

“It’s a real rubber-hits-the-road organization. We’re talking wholly-owned companies that employ Band members daily. It’s provided a philosophy of a community and a nation working towards interdependence," says Sandy Sanderson, CEO of GFLDC.

Working with local communities: Goodfish Lake Development Corporation

‘Wearing blues’ is a common phrase at Syncrude. The durable blue coveralls donned daily by employees stand as a basic piece of personal protection, and  a symbol of commitment between Syncrude and the Aboriginal community, Goodfish Lake.

Since 1978, the Goodfish Lake Development Corporation (GFLDC) has manufactured or dry cleaned these high-quality protective coveralls worn at Syncrude’s sites. Goodfish Lake is located in the Whitefish Lake First Nation, just northeast of Edmonton, Alberta. They travel daily to Fort McMurray to pick up the soiled coveralls used at our site. Those are then trucked down to Goodfish Lake for cleaning and returned to Fort McMurray when clean for use.

“It’s a real rubber-hits-the-road organization. We’re talking wholly-owned companies that employ Band members daily,” explains Sandy Sanderson, CEO of GFLDC. “It’s the main economy and for a lot of people, the only place to work in Goodfish Lake. It’s provided a philosophy of a community and a nation working towards interdependence.”

The Corporation began in 1977 as a dry-cleaning company serving the oil sands, and within a couple of years of launching, it branched into garment manufacturing. Now employing 90 people in a community of about 2,000, Goodfish Lake has diversified considerably, reaching into several sectors – from manufacturing and construction to agriculture and food services.

Some people working at GFLDC have been manufacturing sewing for over 30 years through these coveralls. “It’s allowed them to become professionals at manufacturing top-shelf coveralls,” explains Sandy. “You see pride in the community. People are proud of the services they’re providing.” 

Through its dry cleaning methods, every three months GFLDC recycles 25 to 30 barrels of hydrocarbons from the coveralls that can get dirty with some oil. One of the Corporation’s greatest achievements was attaining the ISO 140001 certification in 2007, making it the first Aboriginal business in Canada to earn that internationally recognized environmental certification.

Sandy says Syncrude needs to be commended for going the extra mile to not only support a First Nation, but also being stewards with them in terms of environmental commitment.

“We at Syncrude are proud of our long-standing relationship with Goodfish Lake and the services they provide. Not only are they supporting development and growth of their community, the garment they produce is the highest quality in the industry,” says Doug Webb, Aboriginal Business Liaison.

The Corporation has a presence in its local Fort McMurray location, Protective Clothing Supplies Ltd.

The community-minded company splits its profits between three trusts: 50 per cent to local schools, 40 per cent reinvested back into the company and 10 per cent to an education endowment fund.

“We are proud of our commitment to Aboriginal business and the economic prosperity it brings,” says Doug.  “This allows the businesses to grow and as a result, their communities and the members within benefit.”

Syncrude has invested more than $2 billion in local Aboriginal-owned companies and is committed to the development of local Aboriginal businesses.

Syncrude aims to respect Aboriginal cultures

Syncrude aims to respect Aboriginal cultures and traditions and is proud to be one of Canada’s largest employers of Aboriginal people. We continue to work toward providing greater opportunities for Aboriginal participation in our company through business development initiatives, and through education and skills development programs that open the door to rewarding careers.

Our Aboriginal relations commitment

Our Aboriginal relations commitment focuses on six key areas: corporate leadership, community development and capacity building, employment, business development, education and the environment. Among our performance highlights:

  • We are recognized with Gold Level accreditation by the Canadian Council of Aboriginal Business (CCAB) in their Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program. We are the only oil sands operator to achieve this level.
  • We are one of the largest private-sector employers of Aboriginal people in Canada. Of our total workforce, around 9% are of self-declared First Nations, Métis or Inuit descent.
  • Total cumulative spending with Aboriginal-owned businesses is over $2 billion.
  • Syncrude has permanently reclaimed over 3,400 hectares of land with another 1,000 available for revegetation. Aboriginal Elders and community members provide input on our reclamation through regular meetings and annual tours.
  • Syncrude and the Fort McKay First Nation co-manage a herd of wood bison grazing on land reclaimed from mining operations. The ranch has been in operation for 20 years.
  • Syncrude was the lead funding organization for a trades preparation and skills upgrading program at Keyano College. Called the Syncrude Aboriginal Trades Preparation Program (SATP), it was available in Fort McMurray, Janvier, Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan. The 29-week program included a four-week work placement at Syncrude, and has now been completed.
  • The Fort Chipewyan rotational employment program provides employees with free accommodation for the duration of their shift at Syncrude and free air transport to and from Fort Chipewyan. The program has been in place for over 30 years.
  • Each year, Syncrude produces a review of its Aboriginal relations commitments, called Pathways. The publication also profiles many local and national success stories from the Aboriginal community.