Those at a recent rally urged all levels of government to prevent “man camps” from coming to Squamish through the extraction industry at a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls event.
The event was held at O’Siyam Pavilion on the evening of Oct. 4, with over 100 people in attendance. Numerous municipal councillors and the mayor came to the event to light a candle before heading to their regular council meeting. Member of Parliament for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country, Patrick Weiler, was also in attendance.
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) youth and speaker at the event, Jazmyn Williams, said her current biggest concern is the “man camps” that are proposed to be in or near Squamish.
“I think that's the biggest threat to Squamish right now,” said Williams. “These are people that are far from home and who don't know us and will likely not care about our Indigenous People.”
Williams also said she felt upset when asked about the progress that has been made regarding the violence towards Indigenous women and girls.
“It’s really saddening,” she said. “It’s really heartbreaking that this is something that is still happening, that continues to happen; that happens to my family.”
FortisBC said in a statement that they have engaged with local First Nations, the District of Squamish and community members and are incorporating feedback into their work camp planning.
FortisBC's work camp, for a pipeline that would support the Woodfibre LNG export facility on Howe Sound — is proposed to be located on Power House Springs Road just beyond the Mamquam River bridge and accessed via Mamquam Forest Service Road.
“We have been engaging on this proposal since 2019 to ensure the temporary workforce lodge is operated safely and responsibly, with a focus on the safety of vulnerable groups,” reads the statement.
Evidence of violence towards Indigenous women and girls around the resource extraction industry was highlighted by the June 2019 final report for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
In part, the report said: “Work camps, or ‘man camps,’ associated with the resource extraction industry are implicated in higher rates of violence against Indigenous women at the camps and in the neighbouring communities.”
One of the organizers for the MMIWG event, Justice For Girls, brought several representatives to speak about the proposed work camps.
“The biggest concern that we have right now is in relation to the proposed man camps that Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC have proposed,” said Sue Brown, the director of advocacy and policy with Justice For Girls.
“The risks that they present to the safety of Indigenous women and girls in particular, but all women and girls have not been properly assessed,” Brown said. “They haven't put together cogent, reasonable mitigation strategies.”
FortisBC said its work camp is meant to contain all basic needs for the workers, such as food, basic medical, exercise and recreation facilities, to reduce the impact on the community.
Furthermore, FortisBC said they will institute a worker code of conduct, which will include topics such as drug and alcohol use, respectful behaviour and after-hours conduct. They will limit where and how much alcohol workers can consume, retain 24-hour security, have a no-visitors policy plus mandatory Indigenous cultural awareness training.
“Any incidents related to public safety will be immediately referred to the RCMP for independent response or investigation. Any workplace disciplinary matters will be handled by FortisBC in conjunction with our contractors,” said FortisBC. “We are also required to monitor and report on the effectiveness of the mitigations in place to create a safe environment at the lodge. Mitigation measures will be modified if they are not working as expected.”
FortisBC previously held a community meeting in June 2022 in an attempt to address concerns about the proposed work camp for the Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre Gas Pipeline project, which at the time included other residential concerns such as traffic and environmental impacts.
FortisBC published a document regarding the questions from the Valleycliffe meeting on the project’s website.
As for the Woodfibre LNG work camp, currently, the B.C. government is reviewing the proposed floatel plan, said Christine Kennedy, president of Woodfibre LNG.
“Once approved, and in compliance with strict regulatory requirements, Woodfibre will ensure that the community has access to information about the floatel,” said Kennedy in a statement.
The proposed floatel for Woodfibre LNG would be located approximately seven kilometres from town and only accessible by boat, said Kennedy. The floatel concept resulted, in part, from the negative community response to an on-land work camp.
“Floating housing was chosen because of its minimal impact in the community and is supported by the Squamish Nation,” said Kennedy.