‘WE HAVE THE DATA. THIS IS HAP­PEN­ING’

B.C. Pre­mier John Hor­gan tells Starmetro the Prime Min­is­ter is right to weigh the so­cial and gen­der im­pacts on ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties where work camps are es­tab­lished

StarMetro Vancouver - - FRONT PAGE - KEVIN MAIMANN With files from Emma Mcin­tosh and Alex Mc­k­een

Link be­tween ru­ral work camps and vi­o­lence against women is real: Ex­perts thes­tar.com/van­cou­ver

“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

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.

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.”

Tracy Por­te­ous, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the End­ing Vi­o­lence As­so­ci­a­tion of B.C., also stud­ies com­mu­ni­ties where re­source ex­trac­tion hap­pens.

She said it’s true that most men don’t com­mit vi­o­lence, but a large enough per­cent­age do that com­mu­ni­ties need strate­gies to pre­pare when a pre­dom­i­nantly male work­ing camp is about to move in.

“Let’s say you have 1,000 new guys brought into a camp. The vast ma­jor­ity of those guys don’t com­mit vi­o­lence, but you do have a pop­u­la­tion of men who are pre­dis­posed to com­mit­ting vi­o­lence ... all brought into that town at the same time,” she said.

A 2014 study by the End­ing Vi­o­lence As­so­ci­a­tion noted ser­vices to ad­dress vi­o­lence against women and girls in Fort St. John, B.C. were “non-ex­is­tent or op­er­at­ing be­yond ca­pac­ity” when an in­flux of work­ers ar­rived. In 2012-13, the com­mu­nity’s sole anti-vi­o­lence coun­sel­lor had 130 women re­ferred to her.

Por­te­ous said work­ing men be­ing un­der stress, away from their fam­ily, sub­jected to peer pres­sure and us­ing al­co­hol and drugs can con­trib­ute to the like­li­hood they will abuse women in the neigh­bour­ing com­mu­nity.

Mean­while, a glut of work­ers with high in­comes for longert­erm projects can re­sult in an “ac­com­mo­da­tion squeeze” that pushes out the poor­est res­i­dents as they can’t keep pace with com­mu­nity-wide in­fla­tion, dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect­ing women and girls.

B.C. Pre­mier John Hor­gan said Tues­day that the PM is right to weigh the so­cial and gen­der im­pacts on ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties where work camps are es­tab­lished.

The con­ver­sa­tion is rel­e­vant to his prov­ince, where a $40-bil­lion LNG Canada project prom­ises to bring up to 10,000 to the small ru­ral com­mu­nity of Kiti­mat, many of whom will be housed in work camps.

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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