Business and Commerce (2003)
Mel Benson means business. Over a lifetime of achievement in the Energy sector both in Canada and internationally he’s shown that bridges between the Indigenous world and this crucial area of the economy can indeed be built. “I was committed to treating people the way we wanted to be treated,” he says of a massive multi-billion dollar pipeline project he recently helped manage in Africa. “We compensated traditional land users whether they had title or not.” That project in Chad and Cameroon – worth $4 billion – is now considered a model for the world. Even the World Bank took note of Mr. Benson’s work in the late 1990s while a senior manager with Exxon International. Before that, this member of Alberta’s Beaver Lake Cree Nation, was working his business magic right here in Canada. In the 1970s he developed industry leading policies in the area of Aboriginal employment, education and training as Esso Resources socio-economic advisor during the planning for their Cold Lake heavy oil project. In the Northwest Territories, Mr. Benson’s leadership ensured that Aboriginal involvement was maximized in the massive Norman Wells expansion project – worth nearly $1 billion – and then it was on to the Beaufort Sea development. For most of the 1990s in Alberta he headed Imperial Oil’s oilfield at Drayton Valley and again Aboriginals and the community benefited. In between, Mr. Benson designed and served as an instructor for Alberta’s first Native Studies program and has always been a leading Aboriginal and community fundraiser for projects too numerous to mention. Now a director with Suncor Energy Inc., Mr. Benson is the living embodiment of tomorrow’s success for Aboriginal Canadians – today.