Camps’ link to sex as­sault is real: ex­perts

Re­searchers say most work­ers are non­vi­o­lent, but that Trudeau’s com­ments about risks are fair

StarMetro Calgary - - COVER STORY - KEVIN MAIMANN

Remote work camps are linked to in­creased vi­o­lence against women and it’s a prob­lem we need to ad­dress, ex­perts say.

Con­ser­va­tive lead­ers slammed Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau over the week­end for com­ments he made to a gen­der equal­ity panel at the G20 sum­mit in Ar­gentina, in which he talked about “gen­der im­pacts” that ac­com­pany large in­fras­truc­ture projects.

“There are gen­der im­pacts when you bring con­struc­tion work­ers into a ru­ral area. There are so­cial im­pacts be­cause they’re mostly male con­struc­tion work­ers. How are you ad­just­ing and adapt­ing to those?” he said in a minute-long clip cir­cu­lated on so­cial me­dia.

Al­berta’s United Con­ser­va­tive Party Leader Ja­son Ken­ney and fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive Party of Canada Leader An­drew Scheer both slammed Trudeau, char­ac­ter­iz­ing the com­ment as an at­tack on male work­ers.

Ken­ney tweeted that Trudeau thinks male con­struc­tion work­ers “can’t be trusted,” and shared a Facebook post from some­one iden­ti­fy­ing as an oil­field worker’s wife who said Trudeau’s com­ments are “ab­so­lutely in­sult­ing” to work­ers and their fam­i­lies.

But sev­eral re­searchers say that while it’s not all work­ers, there is a link be­tween camps and vi­o­lence against women.

“When there’s a large-scale in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment, when there’s con­struc­tion camps that are co-lo­cated, we have doc­u­mented in­creases in the rates of sex­ual as­sault, the rates of sexualized vi­o­lence, the rates of pros­ti­tu­tion, the rates of sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tions,” said Gin­ger Gib­son, di­rec­tor of the Fire­light Group, which does re­search in Indige­nous and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in Canada.

Fire­light’s 2017 re­port cites a 38 per cent in­crease in sex­ual as­saults re­ported to RCMP dur­ing the first year of con­struc­tion on an in­dus­trial pro­ject in Fort St. James, B.C.

It also notes a “sharp in­crease” in sex traf­fick­ing in Fort McMur­ray and Grande Prairie, at­trib­uted to the rise in “in­creased in­come of young men, so­cial iso­la­tion from fam­i­lies and re­la­tion­ships, and the hy­per­mas­cu­line con­text of camps.”

Jean L’Hom­me­court of Fort McKay First Na­tion, a com­mu­nity near sev­eral oil­sands work camps north of Fort McMur­ray, said she has seen crime fol­low the re­source ex­trac­tion in­dus­try in north­ern Al­berta.

Some work­ers will go into the bush to drink and have par­ties, scar­ing women away from for­mer fish­ing spots.

Oth­ers will threaten com­mu­nity mem­bers, L’Hom­me­court said.

Once, she said she opened the door to her late mother’s trap­ping cabin and found a group of men had bro­ken in.

“I go out on the land out there to do some heal­ing … now I never go out there with­out my gun if I’m by my­self,” she said.

Though the men left that day with­out threat­en­ing or hurt­ing any­one, L’Hom­me­court has had to aban­don the cabin — she said peo­ple kept break­ing in, smash­ing win­dows and kick­ing in the door.

Gib­son notes her re­search has also doc­u­mented many ben­e­fits work camps can bring to nearby ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties. When an en­ergy com­pany build­ing a pipe­line near Hud­son’s Hope, in north­east­ern B.C., in 2015 de­cided to bar work­ers from leav­ing the camps and in­ter­act­ing with neigh­bour­ing res­i­dents, it sparked complaints from some busi­ness own­ers who hoped to reap eco­nomic ben­e­fits from the pro­ject.

More at thes­tar.com/ed­mon­ton

With files from Emma McIntosh and Alex Mc­K­een

“WE HAVE DOC­U­MENTED IN­CREASES IN THE RATES OF SEX­UAL AS­SAULT, THE RATES OF SEXUALIZED VI­O­LENCE, THE RATES OF PROS­TI­TU­TION, THE RATES OF SEX­U­ALLY TRANS­MIT­TED IN­FEC­TIONS.”

Gin­ger Gib­son, di­rec­tor of the Fire­light Group

STARMETRO

Syn­crude’s Mil­dred Lake fa­cil­ity north of Fort McMur­ray, Alta. A 2017 Fire­light Group study noted a spike in sex traf­fick­ing in Fort McMur­ray and Grande Prairie, at­trib­uted to “so­cial iso­la­tion from fam­i­lies and re­la­tion­ships, and the hy­per-mas­cu­line con­text of camps.”

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