Building engagement with Mike McPhie and Christy Smith

Nov 8, 2021

From mining and pipelines, oil and gas, to fishing and logging, the natural resource sector has historically had bumpy, sometimes fractious, relationships with Indigenous communities where projects occur. But, insist Mike McPhie and Christy Smith, it doesn’t have to be that way.

In their forthcoming book Adversary to Ally (Spring 2021), they draw on their unique perspectives and experiences to offer a new way forward for the resource industry—one where engagement with Indigenous communities is via equal and respectful partnership.

Mike brings insights from his years in the resource industry as the founding partner and Co-Chair of Falkirk, former Chair and CEO of several global resource companies and former President and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia; while Christy, Vice President of Falkirk’s Indigenous and Stakeholder Relations group, brings two decades of experience in facilitating reconciliation and decolonization in the resource sector, informed by her life experience as a proud K’ómoks First Nation matriarch.

We are thrilled to be working with Mike and Christy on this important title, in which they will share their insights, knowledge, and calls to action for an industry that is ready for change.

“It is our view that the resource sector can be a powerful ally in advancing the recognition of rights, and supporting economic and community well-being.”

Which three words best describe you?
Mike McPhie: Driven, curious, changemaker.

Christy Smith: Indigenous, leader, changemaker.

What is your book about, and why did you want to write it?
MM: Adversary to Ally is about how those in the resource sector can be allies with Indigenous people. It is written for leaders, and those wanting to lead, to have the tools, perspective, and understanding of how to build meaningful and resilient relationships with Indigenous communities. It is our view that the resource sector can be a powerful ally in advancing the recognition of rights, and supporting economic and community well-being. This book is intended to provide a pathway, through advice, insights, and stories, for this to happen.

CS: Our book is about engaging in a good, trauma-informed way to move the resource sector from a colonial to a decolonial approach. It is about relationships and Indigenous perspectives, and the ways in which we can bridge differences through listening, transparency, equity, and patience. The resource sector is perfectly poised to enact real change, financial reconciliation, and start the process of deconstructing systemic racism. There is an opportunity at this moment to be part of a better future.

What is the last book you enjoyed reading?
MM: Value(s): Building a Better World for All by Mark Carney.

CS: Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta.

“Partnerships and relationships are always more successful and enduring than suppression and domination.”

How has your industry changed over the course of your career?
MM: The way the industry has had to respond to demands for public accountability is the greatest change, I believe: accountability for the strength and integrity of their relationships with communities; accountability for the response to the major environmental challenges of our time, including climate change. And there is a much greater recognition that, to be successful, the industry must face change or risk being able to continue doing business.

This industry has had to modernize and embrace the challenges and opportunities associated with climate change, Indigenous rights, improved governance, and greater levels of scrutiny for their actions and performance. That has changed business practices, the diversity within the industry, environmental performance, and expectations of society and shareholders. We are only at the beginning of this journey, but there is no doubt about the direction in which the resource sector must travel if it is to succeed in the future.

CS: The resource industry has changed by leaps and bounds. You didn’t have to do much engagement when I started in the industry, and now it’s all about engaging! There continue to be more and more females in mining although, in the C-suite, women—and especially BIPOC women—continue to be underrepresented. Strides are being made. Building relationships with Indigenous communities is now more about understanding diversity, interactions, values, listening, adaptation, and building capacity. The resource sector is beginning to see the value in Indigenous traditional knowledge and ecological awareness, and stewardship. Partnerships and relationships are always more successful and enduring than suppression and domination.

What surprises people the most about you?
MM: That, being a resource industry person, I really care about issues of Indigenous rights, sustainability and the health and well-being of the Earth’s ecosystems.

CS: That I am an Indigenous woman and highly educated.

What is your personal motto?
MM: There is no dress rehearsal; this is our life, so we need to make the most of it.

CS: You have two ears and one mouth for a reason: listen, breathe, and only speak if what you have to say is relevant—not to hear your own voice.

How would you like to be remembered?
MM: As a good father, partner, mentor and friend. And, as someone who made a difference trying to make the world a better place.

CS: As a kind, loving mother, and a strong Indigenous leader and changemaker.

Where do you find inspiration?
MM: I find it in anyone who shows gratitude for what they have and tries to make a difference, whether big or small.

CS: On the land, where things feel like honey. I also find inspiration in my children, family and friends.