Work camp for new BC energy project raises safety concerns for Indigenous women and girls


Groups advocating for the rights of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) say they are concerned that a major fossil fuel project in Squamish, British Columbia, poses safety risks to women in the community.

They call on the province to do “due diligence to protect Indigenous women and girls.”

Major construction of Fortis BC’s Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre LNG high-pressure gas pipeline project is scheduled to begin in 2023. The companies have proposed a temporary work camp for about 600 workers this year to house the workforce, considering of the local housing crisis.

The project would provide 50 kilometers of new gas pipeline between Coquitlam and Woodfibre LNG in Squamish.

Sue Brown, a lawyer and director of legal advocacy at Justice for Girls, says very little research has been done by governments and companies on the impact of these camps on local Indigenous communities.

« A lot of the evidence that’s been collected has been collected by the communities themselves, » Brown told CBC show host Stephen Quinn. The first edition.

Karen Vecchio, chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, says there is a lack of research on the impact of resource extraction companies on Indigenous women and girls.

She says the committee is working on its third study focusing on the MMIWG and the resource sector and will release a report with its findings and recommendations for the federal government by the end of the year.

« We recognize that there are gaps, and that’s one of the reasons for doing this study. One of the most important things we need to apply to these projects are community impact statements. »

In 2019, a national inquiry into the MMIWG called on resource industries and regulators to consider the safety and security of Indigenous women and girls and the link between labor camps and sexual violence.

Vecchio says communities with resource extraction businesses are often isolated and remote with no resources available.

« They don’t have the infrastructure for hundreds and sometimes as many as 1,000 people coming into the community. »

Increase in sexual assault rates

A 2017 study by the Firelight Group in northern British Columbia looked at rates of sexual assault in communities like Fort St. John, where resource extraction industries were present, and found an increase 26% in the first year of operation.

Brown said another Northern Health study found a 22% increase in sexually transmitted infections in northern communities where resource extractive industries were present.

« The information that has been gathered here and abroad is that there is absolutely no doubt that there is a connection between sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse and these camps. »

Following consultations with Squamish First Nation, Woodfibre LNG said it has submitted a proposal to the province for a floatel instead of a work camp – floating accommodations that would be located seven kilometers from Squamish near the site of the project across Howe Sound.

“The choice of floatel was made at the request of the community and is supported by the Squamish Nation. We are currently in the approval process with the Government of British Columbia,” said Rebecca Scott, Director of Communications for Woodfibre LNG.

She says the float will only be accessible by boat and was chosen for its minimal impact on the Squamish community and the Sea to Sky corridor.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Fortis BC said community engagement in 2019 showed temporary housing was the preferred option to house the workforce needed for the Eagle Mountain gas pipeline project.

« The full-service lodge will meet all the needs of our workforce, providing food, basic medical care, and exercise and recreation facilities. This will reduce the impact on housing availability. and local services, » said Zaneta Ewashko, Communications Advisor for Fortis. .

She says everyone in the workplace will receive mandatory Indigenous cultural awareness training and must follow a worker code of conduct that outlines topics such as drug and alcohol use and respectful behavior after working hours.


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