Women face more violence, lower wages as a result of resource development in B.C., Amnesty report finds

Far from reaping the benefits of natural resource extraction, women pay a high social cost that includes lower wages and a greater risk of violence and homelessness, according to an Amnesty International report released Thursday.

Published on: November 3, 2016 | Last Updated: November 3, 2016 10:00 AM PST
The report, called Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind, focuses on northeastern British Columbia, which has been a hotbed of oil and gas exploration and is where the $8.8-billion Site C hydroelectric dam is being built.
For all women in that region, the income gap with men is almost double the national average, and the number who experience some form of violence is far higher than other parts of the country.
Poverty law advocate Sylvia Lane is quoted in the report as saying: “Many women are just one argument with their spouse away from being on the streets.”
Salvation Army Captain Sheldon Feener is also quoted. He described resource development as “a terrible blessing.”
“There’s great money. But there’s so much strain on the family. It’s tough on those who aren’t in the camps – the wives and the kids,” Feener says.
Amnesty found that aboriginal women are faring even worse. They are bearing the brunt of the violence, low wages and the accompanying problems associated with high housing and food costs.
The report says governments should conduct a “comprehensive and systematic assessment of social service and infrastructure needs” with the goal of better matching services with needs.
It notes that because decisions are made on a project-by-project basis, there is no attention paid to the cumulative social impacts of resource development projects.
Despite the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a raft of court decisions, Amnesty also says there has been inadequate consultation with and compensation for First Nations whose lands are both directly and indirectly affected by such projects, as well as a chronic underfunding of social services on First Nations reserves.
Resource development has fragmented the landscape, destroyed habitat and disrupted First Nations’ ability to hunt, fish and gather traditional plants, the report says — and no project will have greater impact than Site C, which will flood 100 kilometres of the Peace River valley.
Even before Site C construction began, this region attracted international attention because of Highway 16, known as the Highway of Tears because at least 21 women and girls have gone missing or been murdered along it.
The region’s per-capita crime rates are twice that of Vancouver; one in five cases heard at the Fort St. John courthouse are related to domestic violence. The region also has the highest rate of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths in B.C., as well as one of the highest reported number of drug offences.
Amnesty’s report is based on two years of research that included reviewing previous reports and studies as well as interviews with more than 100 indigenous and non-indigenous people, including those who work in the resource and social services sectors as well as RCMP officers and provincial, federal and local officials.