Rising Star Proud To Be Gay, Indigenous In Industry That Hasn’t Always Welcomed Diversity
As a gay Métis man, Gregory John has faced his share of personal and professional barriers, but he continues to overcome them and now heads a successful company that focuses on Indigenous economic development.
The Rising Star is CEO and founder of Four Peaks Business Development Ltd., a company built around creating opportunities for Indigenous people in the energy sector.
Gregory is also responsible for Indigenous content with the Canadian Energy Centre, a role focused on raising the profile of Indigenous people in the Canadian energy sector.
Gregory, who has a British father and a Cree Métis mother, didn’t always strongly identify himself as an Indigenous man until he worked for the former Nexen Inc. with its stakeholder relations and Indigenous affairs group in 2008.
“That job helped me identify with my Indigenous background,” said Gregory, who also has a twin brother named Gavin.
The job also convinced him that the energy business was the sector he wanted to be a part of, which led him to work for TC Energy Corporation and for the Coastal GasLink and Keystone XL projects.
What he has since learned is that a majority of Indigenous people want to be involved in or currently working with the sector.
“We hear about the opposition (to the oil and gas sector) among Indigenous people, but that is not what I have observed," said Greogry. "There are 250 First Nations in B.C. and Alberta and there is a diversity of opinions among them. In my role, I’ve been able to see that opposition is often about how the company (involved in a project) has built relationships.”
With 13,000 Indigenous people working in the energy industry, it is the largest single employer in Canada of Indigenous people – something most Indigenous people know and appreciate, he said.
Since founding Four Peaks in 2017, Gregory has worked with about 200 Indigenous groups including leading Indigenous engagement for Project Reconciliation, one of several groups pursuing Indigenous ownership of Trans Mountain Pipeline and Expansion Project.
While the financial and other challenges experienced by the Canadian oil and gas industry have certainly affected his career, Gregory launched his company in 2017, when the industry was struggling.
Gregory moved into his parents’ basement and cancelled his cellphone plan for almost two years to save money while he was starting the business.
“I look at the downturn as a humbling experience, and now with COVID-19, I view this as is just another day for energy, which makes us the best positioned to lead the way for the Canadian economic recovery – we’re ready,” he said.
Gregory said he has been fortunate to have had many good mentors including Janet Annesley, senior vice-president of corporate affairs with Husky Energy Inc.
“Janet has been a mentor for me as there are still barriers for some people in achieving leadership roles in energy, in particular, women and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour)," said Gregory. "Despite those barriers Janet has made space for herself at the leadership table of one of Canada’s largest energy companies – to me that is inspiring and motivating.”
Gregory holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Calgary and is pursuing an MBA.
“I’m proud of being a gay, Indigenous man in an industry that hasn’t always welcomed diversity,” he said.
He is also proud of being involved in the Canadian energy sector, which he sees leading the world in environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), and in responsible development of resources.
“We have allowed a false narrative to characterize what we do. In 10 years I know we’ll be a global leader in responsible energy development with broad global demand for our resources.”
As for his personal role in that future, Gregory plans to stay right where he is.
“I love Calgary,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to live abroad, but I’m attracted to the entrepreneurial and innovative nature of the city, plus… my job in this city is not yet done.”
The 2020 Class of Rising Stars is brought to you by Fluor Canada.
Since 1949, Fluor Canada has been involved in the engineering, procurement and construction of a wide range of energy related projects that are spread across the Canadian landscape. Fluor provides local, regional and international clients with full-service capabilities, which include economic evaluations, conceptual engineering, feasibility studies, program management, detailed engineering, procurement, transportation and logistics, modularization, fabrication, direct-hire construction, construction management, commissioning, start-up, operations and maintenance.