In October of 2020 Pieridae Energy, the company behind the Goldboro LNG project, announced plans to build a camp that would house up to 5,000 construction workers. Pieridae claimed Indigenous buy-in was acquired through its commitment to hire Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw companies to provide catering and cleaning services at the camp. Not so quick, say many Mi’kmaq grassroots women, including Margie Ann Cook, of Millbrook First Nation.
Our province is in turmoil with issues that affect our environment, our rights and our lives. From the denial of treaty rights to clearcutting at the peril of species at risk and the sale of a designated provincial park for profit, that’s the legacy we leave behind for our grandchildren in Nova Scotia.
Many groups, including my own on social media, voice our concerns regarding the backroom deals our province is forcing upon us. It’s so important that our voices are heard.
I worked on the original Sisters in Spirit Campaign, as a liaison for the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, and time and time again people voiced concerns about the justice system, about violence against women, about man camps and environmental impacts in and near our First Nations communities.
Little has changed. Now we hear of a proposed man camp housing some 5000 men, in close proximity to many First Nations, to support the construction of the Goldboro LNG plant. The project is set to start in two months or so. This in a province that is a known hotspot for human trafficking.
Although Pieridae, the company in question, says it is working with First Nations communities there has been zero community consent and zero community input from our grassroots women.
They claim that it will boost our economy and provide jobs, but most well-paying jobs won’t be for locals. Workers on these projects will need years of experience and the right qualifications to perform highly technical, skilled jobs involved in constructing and maintaining the huge LNG facilities that are being planned.
Here’s some quick facts.
Nova Scotia has the highest rate of human trafficking incidents in the country with 2.1 occurrences per 100,000 people.
In the MMIWG national inquiry’s final report on the widespread violence and genocide perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls, there’s a section that draws attention to a more immediate danger. It is easily overlooked, but the report finds worker camps that are part of resource development projects a threat to Indigenous women.
The report chapter in question, a “deeper dive” into a particular issue facing Indigenous women and girls, as well as 2SLGBTQQIA people, describes the connection between an influx of transient workers and higher rates of sexual assault, harassment, STIs and women entering the sex trade.
It points to rampant drug and alcohol abuse among workers housed in camps, compounded by long hours, above average pay and a tendency to “blow off steam.” Resource projects in Canada routinely draw workers from across the country and around the world.
This reality, the inquiry found, leads to a mostly male workforce that typically has no connection to local people and communities.
Of course we can’t forget about the environmental impacts of the Goldboro LNG project. Increased fracking will endanger and further strain increasingly scarce water resources.
Our grassroots women’s concerns and voices do not matter when our leaders and those in positions of power do nothing to consult us. Our women deserve better.
This project has been dressed up using fancy words like “reconciliation” with our First Nations people.
Well, putting our women in further danger because of these “man camps” is not what reconciliation looks like, and neither is excluding our voices.
Margie Ann Cook, Millbrook First Nation
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