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B.C. to monitor new LNG work camps for potential impacts on Indigenous women says MLA Mitzi Dean

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VANCOUVER—The provincial government is committed to monitoring LNG worker camps to mitigate the negative impact the camps may have on local Indigenous women and girls, says Mitzi Dean, the parliamentary secretary on gender equity. Two new camps, which will house construction workers for the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project in […]


‘We’ve already been having discussions with LNG Canada and setting very high expectations from them around making sure that there’s safety not just in the work camps but in community around the work camps as well,’ Mitzi Dean, parliamentary secretary for gender equity, said.

VANCOUVER—The provincial government is committed to monitoring LNG worker camps to mitigate the negative impact the camps may have on local Indigenous women and girls, says Mitzi Dean, the parliamentary secretary on gender equity.

Two new camps, which will house construction workers for the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project in Northern B.C., are scheduled to open this summer, one near the town of MacKenzie and the other near Fraser Lake.

“We’ve already been having discussions with LNG Canada and setting very high expectations from them around making sure that there’s safety not just in the work camps but in community around the work camps as well,” Dean said, in a sit-down interview with Star Vancouver during the Women Deliver conference.

The Coastal GasLink pipeline is supported by many but not all First Nations people along its route. If construction is completed, it will transport natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to LNG Canada’s export terminal on the coast in Kitimat, B.C.

The new camps come as the national inquiry on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls released its final report, which among other things, highlighted that worker camps often result in higher rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls, Two Spirit and LGBTQ people in camp and in neighbouring communities.

According to the report, “this increased rate of violence is largely the result of the migration into the camps of mostly non-Indigenous young men with high salaries and little to no stake in the host Indigenous community.”

“Industries that create ‘boom town’ and ‘man camp’ environments are implicated in increased rates of drug and alcohol-related offences, sexual offences, domestic violence and gang violence, as well as sex industry activities in the host communities. These occurrences disproportionately impact Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people,” the report continues.

Specifically, Dean said the province will be tightly monitoring “any incidents that might be happening” as a result of the camps and taking appropriate followup action. Dean also said engagement with nearby Indigenous communities will be part of the strategy to mitigate potential violence against Indigenous women.

“We’ll be making sure that there’s details in (our strategy) that are effective on the ground, for example making sure that there’s genuine engagement with elders, engagement with community.”

But, Dean said that it’s still a work in progress.

“We’re still working on the details of that, and this is a cross-ministry initiative and it’s taking a lot of work getting people together and with LNG Canada as well,” she said.

The two camps combined are expected to house about 350 people when they open, and up to 1,900 during the “anticipated peak” in late 2020, according to a statement from the company that will be running the camps, Horizon North.

Construction of the pipeline is expected to create between 2,000 and 2,500 jobs.

The MMIWG report also notes that generally speaking, for Indigenous women working within camps and the resource extraction industries, there are higher rates of workplace racism, sexual harassment and violence.

“(Work) camps are also often far from law enforcement and, therefore, are largely unpoliced,” the report reads.

LNG Canada and Horizon North were not available for comment at the time of publication, however according Horizon North’s corporate social responsibility statement, published to its website in May 2019, it is “committed to timely and meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders,” including Indigenous communities.

According to the statement, it is also committed to addressing and monitoring its activities with particular care for the health and safety of its employees, the environment and the communities in which it operates. Drugs and alcohol are also prohibited on its sites, according to a related statement on the website.

LNG Canada states on its website that it is committed to investing in the social needs and infrastructure of the communities where it operates.

According to earlier reporting, LNG Canada has signed agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along its path. However the hereditary clan chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation say the project has no authority without their approval and have protested the project vigorously with blockades and checkpoints.

In April, Likhts’amisyu clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation announced it would be setting up a long-term blockade to prevent pipeline construction.

The pipeline will also have environmental impacts. If completed, it will cross more than 1,000 waterways in the Peace, Fraser, Skeena, and Kitimat river watersheds, including waterways home to at-risk fish species, according to the assessment report prepared by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office.

While Coastal GasLink determined that the majority of the water crossings were at low to medium risk for negative impacts, 51 water crossings were identified as high risk for negative impacts to fish and fish habitat.

In addition, operation of the pipeline will result in between 0.3 million tonnes and 3.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions measured in carbon dioxide equivalents. That’s roughly the same as emissions from between 71,700 and 760,900 cars over the course of year.

Ultimately, the Environmental Assessment Office concluded that the various measures included in the environmental approval mean the project would not pose “significant” risk to the environment.

With files from The Canadian Press, Cherise Seucheran and Ainslie Cruickshank.

Tessa Vikander is a Vancouver-based reporter covering identity and inequality. Follow her on Twitter: @tessavikander

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