Decades of rampant resource development in northeast British Columbia, Canada have put the lives and safety of Indigenous women and girls at risk, Amnesty International said in a new report.
According to the report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, resource development in northeast BC is straining the social fabric of communities: the influx of transient workers in the resource sector has driven up local prices for essentials such as housing, the extensive loss of land has eroded the health and wellness of Indigenous communities by making it harder for families to maintain traditions like hunting and gathering plant medicines, and there is increased competition for childcare, making it difficult for women without access to higher wages to leave abusive relationships.
Northeast BC has one of the highest violent crime rates in Canada, in part caused by binge-drinking and drug abuse among some resource sector workers.
And yet diminished access to social services is placing Indigenous women and girls at increased risk of harm, while denying them the protection and support they need, writes Amnesty International in a statement on the report’s release.
“Unbridled resource development in this region is creating an environment where Indigenous women and girls are confronted with levels of extreme violence that are shocking and pervasive, even when compared to the already-deplorable level of marginalisation this group confronts in Canadian society more broadly,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Regional Director for Amnesty International.
“The fact that these deeply troubling realities are not being addressed and prioritised when policy makers take decisions on resource development is a grave and troubling failure on Canada’s part.”
Despite repeated warnings from government ministries, independent researchers and Indigenous peoples’ organisation for more than 30 years, federal and provincial authorities have failed to sufficiently mitigate the impact of resource development on the rights of Indigenous women and girls in the area, Amnesty charges.
“It is stunning that the federal and provincial governments have still failed to ensure human rights are properly protected before development projects are approved,” said Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada (English).
Northeast BC is home to some of the most intensive resource development anywhere in Canada, including thousands of oil and gas wells and a third major hydro-electric project, the Site C dam, is now under construction – despite the global downturn in the energy sector.
“Some resource projects, like the Site C dam, simply shouldn’t proceed because the harm that is being done to Indigenous peoples cannot be justified,” said Alex Neve.