Resource boom harms indigenous women, girls in Peace River area: Amnesty report

Amnesty International reports that the Site C hydroelectric damn on the Peace River needs to be rescinded by the B.C. government.

A new report from Amnesty International says the resource boom in northeastern British Columbia communities is harming indigenous women and girls, and lays part of the blame on transient resource workers.

The 78-page study says policing and social services in the region – which is home to intensive natural gas exploration, forestry, mining and a major hydroelectric project – are understaffed and underfunded.

High wages for the young, male-dominated resource industry workers drive up the cost of living, which harms those who are not part of the resource economy – particularly aboriginal women, according to Amnesty.

The report says there are tens of thousands of transient workers who maintain homes elsewhere in Canada, and the work camp lifestyle can lead to what Amnesty calls “destructive and anti-social behaviours,” including alcohol and drug abuse.

“One impact is an increased risk of violence in the host communities, including violence against women,” the study’s authors assert.

Among the recommendations from the report is that the federal and B.C. governments immediately rescind all construction permits for the Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River.

 

 

New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson picked up on the Amnesty report Thursday in the House of Commons and questioned the Trudeau government’s decision to grant construction approvals this summer without providing commensurate services.

“This report is consistent with what I heard from indigenous leaders directly when I travelled to the Peace River Valley this summer,” said Malcolmson, the MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

“To make matters worse, there are no federally funded domestic violence shelters on reserve in northeastern B.C.”

Patty Hajdu, the Liberal minister for the Status of Women, responded that gender-based violence is a “serious concern” of the government and said she’s working on a national strategy to be released next year.

The report is another illustration of the sometimes competing priorities of the federal Liberal government, which has made promoting economic growth, environmental protection and resetting the Crown’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples its dominant motifs since taking office one year ago.

The Amnesty International report chronicles a compendium of conditions that adversely affect indigenous women and girls in the region of B.C. centred around Fort St. John, B.C.

The city had an official population of 20,000 in 2015, with some 40,000 more living in smaller cities and towns in the region. But with about 1,500 work camps, “the actual size of the ‘shadow population’ of temporary workers” is not well understood, says the report.

High wages for transient workers lead to stress on housing and food costs, while social services are lacking and the region is under-policed, the report details.

“Amnesty International believes that failure to adequately address the unintended social impacts of resource development contributes to the risks faced by Indigenous women and girls.”

The cumulative social impacts of all the resource development in the region need to be taken into account by governments when they make permitting decisions, says the report.

The Canadian Press