Mi'kmaw opponents of Goldboro LNG say workcamp could be unsafe for women
No consensus from Mi'kmaw chiefs on the issue
Some Mi'kmaq say the plan to build a liquified natural gas plant in rural Nova Scotia — which would require a 5,000-person workcamp — poses an unacceptable risk to women's safety and should be stopped.
Ducie Howe is among them.
The Mi'kmaw activist and water protector from Sipekne'katik First Nation said she does not support the proposed $13-billion Goldboro LNG plant on Nova Scotia's eastern shore, and she wants Mi'kmaw chiefs to withdraw from a deal to service the workcamp.
"They're talking about, 'Oh, it's going to fuel the economy for a couple of years.' But what is the cost?"
Howe said she's worried Mi'kmaw women would endure harassment and violence at the hands of workers living at the Guysborough County camp — a worry that's based on a reported link between resource projects and a spike in violence against Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people.
The phenomenon was documented in the final report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), released in 2019.
The report's authors said governments and the resource industry need to do a better job of considering how resource projects could impact Indigenous women and children.
'Bringing a man camp ... is a bad idea'
In addition to Howe, CBC spoke with women from the Mi'kmaw communities of Millbrook and Acadia, as well as the head of a local Indigenous women's advocacy group, who all said decision-makers have given paltry consideration to women's safety when it comes to the Goldboro LNG project.
Bernadette Marshall, the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association interim president, said she's afraid that "what's going on out west" will be replicated in Nova Scotia.
The MMIWG report outlines cases of gender-based assault, abuse and harassment tied to resource projects in the prairies, British Columbia and the territories.
"I'm very concerned because at this time we have so many native women missing, and bringing a man camp close to our communities is a bad idea," Marshall said.
"I'm hoping that the chiefs of Nova Scotia ... realize what the impact is going to be."
Consensus lacking among Mi'kmaw chiefs
Opponents of the project have asked the 13 Mi'kmaw band chiefs to walk away from a $720-million deal with Pieridae — the company behind Goldboro LNG — to build and service the workcamp. The deal is split 51 per cent to 49 percent, respectively, between the 13 Mi'kmaw bands of Nova Scotia and Calgary-based Black Diamond Group.
Black Diamond would build and rent the facility — to be called Lukowinuo'kuom Lodge — while the Mi'kmaq would be responsible for catering and cleaning services.
Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack recently suggested to his fellow Mi'kmaw chiefs that they accept the concerned women's call and renege on the partnership with Black Diamond.
In an interview last week, Sack said he received some support from other chiefs but he was unclear on the status of the Black Diamond partnership.
Conversely, Tma Francis, interim chief of Paq'tnkek First Nation, said he believes the best way to ensure the workcamp is safe is to be part of it.
"The safety of our women and children is important to us. And not just our people but all women and children, regardless what race you are," Francis said.
"This project is going up with or without us … I'd rather have our people at that table helping make the decisions, telling their concerns right at the board meetings."
Francis said an advisory committee of female chiefs will lead the effort to make the camp safe. Of the 13 Mi'kmaw band chiefs in Nova Scotia, four are women. CBC tried to reach them all for comment but was only able to speak with We'koqma'q Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley.
Bernard-Daisley declined to answer most questions, including whether she would be participating in the advisory committee, but she said: "I'm very concerned for the safety of our people with a camp coming to our territory."
Questioning the consultation process
James Millar, a spokesperson for Pieridae, said the company is addressing the concern about a potential spike in violence and harassment against women.
He pointed to the advisory committee of female chiefs, which he said "will provide guidance and insight into the best practices for the safety of workers in the lodge and the communities surrounding the lodge."
Millar also highlighted ongoing consultation between Pieridae and the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs through the Kwilmu'kw Maw-Klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO), as well as consultation with some individual band chiefs.
"We meet weekly and discuss all matters such as the one you highlight," said Millar.
Howe said she doesn't believe her point of view has been represented at those meetings, in part because the band of which she is a member, Sipekne'katik, is no longer part of the assembly.
"And the other thing is the Indian Act chiefs do not represent all of the people that are title holders to this territory and this land," Howe said.
"Just because they talk to a few chiefs, that's not consulting. I was not consulted."
In an emailed statement, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs said it has been clear with Pieridae that the recommendations from the MMIWG inquiry must be followed.
"Everyone connected to this project shares a fundamental concern for the protection of Indigenous women and girls," the statement said.
The assembly said it is working with the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association and that an upcoming women's forum will deal specifically with this issue.
"Detailed steps are being undertaken to provide effective security at, and controlled access to, the lodge," the assembly's statement said.
Deadline looms for Pieridae
Meanwhile, Pieridae is trying to attract investment for the project and has set a decision deadline of June 30.
The company has been lobbying the federal government for a $925-million contribution. Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin has said he supports the project, but the province will not chip in any money.