Urgent Need for Action to Address Social and Cultural Risks to Indigenous Women from Industrial Camps

Indigenous women and children in remote communities face negative consequences from construction camps, including increased rates of sexual assault and violence, addictions, sexually transmitted infections, and family violence. Many of these camps already exist across northern British Columbia.

This study, initiated by community leaders in the Lake Babine First Nation with the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation, arose from urgent concerns expressed during the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission Pipeline review process, about the risks experienced by women in Indigenous communities due to closely sited construction camps.

Indigenous women are already vulnerable in small, remote communities. They are disproportionately affected by violence, poverty, and illness. The addition of new pressures, from locating temporary and permanent work camps near these remote communities, introduces a new set of risks.

The report and the work leading up to it is a demonstration of the collaborative and meaningful work between the First Nations and the provincial government to investigate this issue. This included provincial funding to support workshops and production of the report. The Province looks forward to giving serious consideration to the recommendations and working with the First Nations and others on the issues raised.

“This work is about hearing the truths, exposing the hurts and finding our way to reconciliation through action and change.” Ann Marie Sam, Nak’azdli Whut’en community leader.

Many proactive strategies to address these risk were developed through interviews with community members from Lake Babine and Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nations, along with people from government agencies and health care providers. Strategies were refined in a 27-member workshop from six Nations and the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. Betty Patrick, Hereditary Chief and Natural Resources Manager in Lake Babine First Nation, opened the workshop with the following call to action:

“Every community has a vulnerable group who are often remotely located, every single one. We women are the vulnerable ones in our community. We have been excellent crisis managers. We respond to crises very well. But we need to work on prevention now, that’s why we’re here today. For our daughters, for our grand daughters and for ourselves.”

Preventative measures are possible and effective. Dr. Ginger Gibson, lead author of the study states:

“It’s time to get serious about prevention. Lake Babine First Nation responded this summer by developing community Emergency Response Plans dealing with missing persons, sexual assault and domestic violence. It’s time other parties match these brave actions.” Dr. Ginger Gibson, Firelight Director and study lead author

The report calls on government, First Nations leadership, and industry, to recognize this very real problem and take immediate measures to address it.

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The Firelight Group is a consulting group that works with Indigenous and local communities in Canada and beyond to provide high quality research, policy, planning, negotiation, and advisory services. Our work focuses on culture, health, socio-economics, ecology, and governance to support the rights and interests of Indigenous communities.

The full report describing this study is available on the News section of Firelight’s website here.

For more information or to arrange for an interview with Dr. Ginger Gibson, lead author of the report for Firelight, please contact:

John Kelly, Firelight Operations Manager
Tel.: +1 (604) 355 6494
Email: john.kelly@thefirelightgroup.com
Website: www.thefirelightgroup.com