'Man camp' threat to Mi'kmaw women unchanged since MMIWG inquiry, say advocates
'I don't care what jobs come . . . my entire core tells me that this is wrong,' says We'koqma'q chief
A Mi'kmaw chief and advocate for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls is taking a stand against a proposed $13-billion liquid natural gas plant and work camp in Nova Scotia.
Final investment decisions on the Goldboro LNG project, being developed by Calgary-based Pieridae Energy Ltd., are expected by June 30. The project would require a 5,000-person work camp to build the plant on the province's eastern shore, around 50 kilometres from Paqtnkek First Nation.
Annie Bernard-Daisley, chief of We'koqma'q First Nation and former president of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, said she's concerned that resource extraction projects still pose the same threats to Indigenous women outlined two years ago in the final report of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG).
The report drew a link between the resource extraction industry's transient worker camps and violence against Indigenous women and called for industry to consider the safety of Indigenous women in project planning and mitigate risks.
Bernard-Daisley said while she's worried about the project's environmental impact and the stress it may put on nearby communities, the potential harm to Mi'kmaq "tips the scale" for her.
"It's very well documented that these camps increase risks to our public, who are already at a higher vulnerability," she said.
"When you look at other camps in the rest of Canada . . . there's nothing that can compare. I don't care what jobs come, what money comes, my entire core tells me that this is wrong."
Mi'kmaw communities stand to earn millions from contracts for service delivery at the camp. In a June 4 news release, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs said the group will monitor concerns in the event the project moves forward without their participation. Pieridae is also seeking guidance from the female chiefs on how to mitigate safety concerns.
Bernard-Daisley points to data on human trafficking in Mi'kma'ki/the Atlantic region to highlight why she believes sexual violence against Mi'kmaq could be unavoidable if the project is green-lit.
"It's been two years since [the report] was released," she said.
"If there was any substantial movement surrounding [work camps] across Canada, perhaps my mindset would have been changed, but I've seen no movement. Why are we left to determine the criteria that's going to build a safer 'man camp?'"
Pieridae working to address concerns
In an emailed statement, Pieridae spokesperson James Millar said the company is working with Mi'kmaw communities and hopes "to also include the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association as we look for solutions to address concerns related to the issue."
Millar said Pieridae is preparing information sessions, culturally relevant awareness training, camp safety and security protocols and a "REDress" installation at the entrance to the camp.
Pierdae currently has "policies in place that are strictly followed, including ones such as our Code of Ethical Conduct," he said.
The decision to move ahead with the project will involve Goldboro LNG potential business partners, including the German company Uniper, which has a 20-year contract to receive half of the project's total gas product.
A spokesperson for Uniper said the company is a customer of Pierdae's, and is "not really a big part" of the project's development. The spokesperson deferred questions about the safety of Indigenous women to back to Pierdae.
Denise Pictou Maloney, a former employee of the MMIWG inquiry and a family member affected by the issue, said the oil and gas industry needs to change its approach.
"There's a lot of talk about safety and protections for staff [at the work camps], but the social responsibility is not there," she said.
"I think that we don't have to quantify it by saying 'this many' lives will be lost and then it's a crisis. One woman being impacted by this is too much."