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Syncrude: Strengthening the Community – A company committed to enhancing livelihoods in the Wood Buffalo Region

By on October 15, 2020 0 752 Views

As one of Canada’s largest and longest-running oil sands operations, Syncrude Canada Ltd. has played an active role in the growth of the Wood Buffalo region’s communities for more than 56 years.

Whether it’s helping with emergency efforts with recent events like the spring flood in 2020 and the 2016 Wildfire or providing millions of dollars in funding to local social profit organizations to enhance everyday living, Syncrude has been committed to the region’s residents since its inception.

“Syncrude is a local company committed to building a strong and vibrant place to live and work,” said Will Gibson, Syncrude spokesperson. “Our commitment to the region is deeply rooted in the company’s history, and Syncrude is proud to support the communities where our employees work and live.”


Building Community Relations

Syncrude contributes an estimated $6 million annually to community projects in the Wood Buffalo region through its Community Investment Program.

The program’s mission is to help improve the livelihood of its residents by assisting in a wide variety of community interest areas, including education, environment, health and safety, science and technology, Aboriginal and community development, arts and culture, and recreation.

Their assistance is provided in many forms including direct funds, materials, equipment or employees’ time and expertise for projects.

“Syncrude looks for opportunities to showcase our community and highlight all the features that make this a great place to live and raise a family. In the past 20 years, we’ve donated $84 million with some notable examples,” Gibson said.

Employees are also offered incentives for volunteering in the community and receive grants for the social profit agencies they assist through the Good Neighbours Program. In 2019, Syncrude distributed $440,750 to 99 social profit groups, after 260 employees and retirees volunteered more than 11,800 hours.

Syncrude also holds a province-wide annual fundraising campaign with the United Way. In 2019, its employees helped raise more than $2.3 million. It included a corporate donation contribution of $530,000 to communities throughout Alberta. Fort McMurray’s United Way received $500,000, and $15,000 went to to Edmonton and Calgary.


Supporting Health & Wellness

For decades, Syncrude has been promoting and supporting the health and wellness of the Wood Buffalo region by providing funding and facilities to improve the community. The Northern Lights Health Foundation has been one of its main organizations to support due to its essential services in taking care of the region’s residents.

“Having access to health services here in Fort McMurray helps attract and retain people. Syncrude is a longstanding supporter of the Northern Lights Health Foundation, contributing more than $6.5 million in donations and event sponsorship since 1988,” Gibson explained. “This includes two million to help support four new Minimally Invasive Surgical Suites at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.”

For community wellness support, Syncrude supports numerous indoor and outdoor recreational facilities to increase the quality of life. It included a $750,000 donation, over three years, to the Syncrude Aquatics Centre at MacDonald Island Park, which started in 2010. In 2020, Syncrude renewed the sponsorship to provide $750,000 from now, until 2030. It also sponsors various MacDonald Island events like the Canada Day festivities and the Craze.

In 2006, Syncrude announced a $2.5 million donation to build a clubhouse at the Syncrude Athletic Park, an outdoor recreation complex in Timberlea with soccer pitches, a skateboard park, baseball diamonds and a cricket ground.

Syncrude also showed support to the Keyano College Foundation with an $800,000 donation, of which $500,000 went to the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre. Syncrude recently renewed the naming rights to the facility, which includes a basketball court, indoor soccer pitch and a fitness facility. The Centre is on the grounds of Keyano College, and it’s actively used by its students, staff and the general public.


Investing in Education and Learning

Syncrude puts investing in the future of the Wood Buffalo region at its forefront. By supporting educational initiatives, the company believes it enables residents to grow up here and take advantage of the career opportunities available in the oil sands.

And as the world adapts to more futuristic technology, Syncrude helps support today’s children and youth with multiple opportunities for grant funding, program expansions and technology centres within the region.

In 2011, Syncrude announced a $1 million donation to Father Patrick Mercredi High School’s Science and Technology Centre to help build new labs for engineering technologies, instrumentation, electrical and power engineering, IT networking, health and forensic science, recreation & fitness and environmental science.

The labs provide hands-on learning opportunities to give students an advantage in applying for post-secondary training and apprenticeships.

For more than a decade, Syncrude has expanded educational opportunities at Keyano College by providing a $5-million donation for program funding in 2008. Nearly $2 million of it went towards the Syncrude Aboriginal Trades Preparation Program.

The donation also supported the construction of Keyano’s state-of-the-art Oil Sands Power and Process Engineering Lab, which opened in 2014. Some of the funding also purchased a mobile-equipment simulator to train heavy equipment operators in Aboriginal communities across the region.

In October 2019, Syncrude celebrated achieving three billion barrels of production by supporting education initiatives in the community.

It included a machining program within the Fort McMurray Catholic School Division, a non-destructive apprenticeship program with CAREERS: The Next Generation and an e-learning program with the Fort McKay First Nation and an education training program with the Misikew Cree First Nation.

Syncrude Community Snapshots

Guests gather together at the Syncrude Spring Fling on March 16, 2019. Syncrude is a title sponsor to the Northern Lights Health Foundation’s annual fundraising event. Photo by Northern Lights Health Foundation.

Syncrude’s employees and retirees can give back to social profit organizations with their volunteer time and grants. Organizations are eligible to receive up to $750 once they volunteer for a minimum of 40 hours within the calendar year. Photo by Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Syncrude employees kick-off the 2017 United Way of Fort McMurray campaign at its annual breakfast in 2017. Photo by United Way of Fort McMurray

ATOM Hawk team members of the Wood Buffalo Hockey League help out at the 26th annual Syncrude Food Drive for the Wood Buffalo Food Bank in 2018. Photo by YMM Parent

Three Young Women Receive $3,000 in Annual Scholarship Program

Girls Inc. and Syncrude Canada announced the Women of Inspiration Education Award recipients of 2020 in September 2020. Three young women from the Wood Buffalo region received $3,000 in scholarships.

Mariam Arain received the Barb Jewers Memorial Scholarship for her extensive community volunteering engagement and activism. Destiny Smorong received the Elsie Yanik Memorial Scholarship for her commitment to Indigenous community engagement. And, Reagan Morris received the Ann Dort-MacLean Scholarship for demonstrating a passion for girls and youth empowerment and gender equality.

“Syncrude is pleased to see the achievements of women who have made a profound impact in the Wood Buffalo region. This is why we are proud to support these scholarships as part of our ongoing commitment to the Women of Inspiration,” said Syncrude Canada’s Vice President of Human Resources Colleen Kearney.

For the past seven years, Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and Syncrude Canada have partnered to assist 21 young women with the award to help them pursue post-secondary education and reach their career goals. The women selected are role models for the youth in the community, who encourage them to be future leaders of an equitable society. Submissions for the 2021 scholarships will open in June 2021.

Photo: Representatives from Syncrude Canada and Girls Inc. meet with the Women of Inspiration Education Award recipients. Top row (left to right), Award recipient Mariam Arain, Jenna Hamilton of Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta and award recipient Reagan Morris. Bottom row (left to right), Destiny Smorong, Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta’s Executive Director Nanase Tonda and Syncrude Canada’s Vice President of Human Resources Colleen Kearney. Photo by Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta

A Real Toy Story

Aurora’s new mine demonstration model

Aurora’s Production training department built a new mine demonstration model for new heavy equipment operators.

Damien Alexander designed the model based on his previous experience as a mine operator. Now working in the training department, he had first-hand mining experience and understood the challenges that operators could face.

He created a modelled replica of the oil sands worksite by building a toy-like dozer, grader, excavator and shovel to scale the original mine equipment.

Damien told Syncrude it took him back to his sandbox days as a kid and hopes this will give the driver’s a better perspective of how to operate on the worksite.

“It gives another perspective than what they see from the driver’s seat and really makes the difference for operators who need a different vantage point,” he said.

Photo caption: Damien Alexander builds a training model for new heavy equipment operators in his role as a trainer at Aurora. Photo by Syncrude Canada.


Throughout the decades, Syncrude employees have unearthed dinosaurs and prehistoric fossils in its company mines. The first fossil was found on April 1, 1992. Imagine that on April Fool’s Day. Since then, more than a dozen findings have been discovered at Syncrude due to its location because the oilsands area was an interior sea more than 100 million years ago.

Syncrude’s latest find took place in the summer of 2020 after a bison skull from the Ice Age was discovered on the Aurora site. The skull is estimated to be 5,000 years old based on the size of the horn cores. It will be transported to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in the future for paleologists to examine.


By the end of summer 2020, Syncrude planted more than one million trees and shrubs making a grand total of more than 11 million planted at its reclamation sites. When factoring in the challenges of the global pandemic and spring flood, this is quite the milestone! The tree planting started on May 20, 2020, with 22 people in the program. Sixteen were tree planters and the rest were support crews who supervised and transported the trees.


  1. $84 million donated into the communities of the Wood Buffalo region.
  2. 4,700 employees work directly for Syncrude with 1,100 contractor employees.
  3. 11 million trees and shrubs now planted at Syncrude sites.
  4. 400 hectares with more than one million trees and shrubs planted at Syncrude in 2020.
  5. 3 billion barrels of production since its inception as of October 2019.
  6. Eleven dinosaur and prehistoric fossils found within the oil sands site.

About the author

Editor-in-Chief at |

Dawn Booth is the Editor-in-Chief of YMM Parent Magazine and Your McMurray Magazine. She has actively worked in the Wood Buffalo region's media industry since residing in Fort McMurray in 2007.

Her passion is writing poetry and puts it at the forefront of the community through her volunteer work as the President of NorthWord Magazine. Most important, Booth puts her family of five first, which includes her husband Ryan and their three children, Landon, Dawson and Tessa.