Increase local resources for health care services and safe houses, to enhance capacity to respond to sexual assaults. Label employee vehicles with numbered decals to decrease anonymity in the local community. Involve local Indigenous communities in the delivery of cultural competency training for resource sector workers.
These are just a few of the many concrete, practical measures that women from the Lake Babine and Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nations have identified to address harmful impacts experienced by Indigenous women and girls with large-scale resource development projects and associated industrial camps situated on or near their territories. The recommendations are found in an important new report, Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps: Promoting Healthy Communities in Settings of Industrial Change.
“These industrial camps are male dominated, and the interactions with women in communities and at camps could have highly negative consequences. At the same time, Aboriginal women are least likely to participate in the benefit associated with these industrial camps.” – Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps: Promoting Healthy Communities in Settings of Industrial Change.
The report is in part the product of a powerful two-day workshop that Amnesty International campaigners Craig Benjamin and Jackie Hansen had the honour of attending last summer in northern BC. Workshop participants were not engaged in conversations about whether or not projects should proceed. Rather, conversations were focused on how to ensure the health, safety and well-being of Indigenous women and girls living in close proximity to resource sector projects and industrial camps. Critically, the second day of the workshop was attended by government and industry representatives. First Nations women, government, and industry sat around tables in small groups having informal and dynamic conversations about their concerns, and talking through practical solutions to address these concerns.
The Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps report is the latest in a growing body of studies detailing how intensive resource development, with its dependence on large numbers of short-term and temporary workers, can led to unintended negative impacts on host communities, especially when those communities are already marginalized. Critically, as this report again shows, these harms include rising levels of violence against Indigenous women and girls, combined with severe strains on the same social services that women need to escape and heal from violence.
Unfortunately, as Amnesty International documented in our own report last year, Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Gender, Indigenous rights, and energy development in northeast BC, government decision-making processes around resource development typically pay little attention to how the benefits and harms from such projects might differ radically for women compared to men.
As this report notes, “The focus of Environmental Assessment must change to ensure communities, and in particular women and children, do not shoulder the burden of impacts.”
Send a message to government that the lives of Indigenous women and girls matter in resource development decisions.