Report documents ‘degrading’ treatment of Indigenous women in mines in Yukon and British Columbia

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She had a ritual, which consisted of loading and reloading a shotgun in front of a group of men.

The message seems clear enough: Stay away.

“I slept with it right next to my bed, sometimes right in the bed next to me, and had my bear spray right there too,” said the anonymous woman who is quoted in a new report documenting the experiences Indigenous women and women of color in mining camps in the Yukon and northern British Columbia

Commissioned by the nonprofit Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, the report titled “Never Until Now” states that women are often given menial and low-paying jobs in the mines because of their gender – and these are those very roles that often compromise their personal safety.

“The study demonstrates the colonial ethics of mining the mining industry by revealing the degrading ways in which Indigenous and racialized female mining workers are treated, both in the workplace and in the conditions in which they live in the camps.” , indicates the report.

“This discrimination thwarts decent working conditions and jeopardizes women’s personal safety and the longevity of workplace safety.”

The report is largely based on interviews with 22 women – about half of whom belong to Yukon First Nations – between October 2020 and March 2021. Workplaces include hard rock, exploration, place, surrender camps. in condition and field monitoring located in five mining districts: Watson Lake, Mayo, Dawson City and Whitehorse in the Yukon, as well as northern British Columbia

One participant compared working in an isolated mining camp for an extended period of time in Alcatraz, the former US federal prison.

“That’s what we called it because you have to cross the river and come back to get out, then we have to turn off all the lights at about 11 o’clock, and there is no barbed wire at which point the cold river is, ”she told the report’s authors.

“They want change”

Ann Maje Raider, executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, told CBC women have had problems in the mines for decades, but this is the first time those problems have been compiled in a report.

Ann Maje Raider, executive director of the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, said Indigenous and racialized women must guide policy making in mining. (Liard Native Women’s Society)

“Something has to be done,” she said. “This is the reason why the women trusted us to interview them, because they said they wanted change and they didn’t want to see other women come after them going through the same things they did. . “

The report indicates that 73 percent of those surveyed had experienced sexual and racial harassment, discrimination and violence. Almost two-thirds of the women polled said there was no way to file complaints or that the process was “unclear, unknown or that they did not feel safe to report.”

Fifty-five percent of participants said they did not feel safe at camp.

Spokesmen for the Yukon government and the Yukon Chamber of Mines did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Gaps still exist”

Participants pointed to economic insecurity in Yukon’s mining sector as one of the limited employment opportunities, according to the report, which added that many respondents worked as cooks and housekeepers. More than half of those polled say they have never received promotions. A minority of participants said they worked as environmental stewards and heavy equipment operators – examples of higher paying jobs.

Almost all respondents reported working at least 60 hours per week, with only 27 percent of participants reporting receiving overtime pay. Thirty-six percent of respondents said their salary was proportional to the number of hours worked.

“Participants reported poor working conditions, such as the concentration of women in overworked and underpaid work ghettos, high rates of harassment and discrimination, and fear of or experience of rape,” the report said. report.

While the majority of respondents said working in the industry improves financial security, 32 percent said the industry does not provide financial security, mainly due to low wages that extend for long hours.

“Indigenous and racialized women isolated in a male work environment are underestimated and have limited opportunities for advancement, scholarships and training,” the report said, adding that less than five percent of workers in half of the mines interviewed identified themselves as women.

Where from here?

The report includes several recommendations, such as the inclusion of indigenous women in the creation of policies, laws and strategies aimed at ensuring the safety of women and defending their social and economic rights.

“The women would feel safer if, you know, they had a few elders there,” said Carla Boss, an Indigenous woman from Lower Post, B.C., who helped interview some of the women, “from so that the people of our land know the power of our language, our culture and the way we operate. “

The report also calls for the creation of women’s support groups in mining camps, which could offer recourse to women in potentially dangerous situations and “identify improved management responses with clear timelines and procedures for reporting, investigating and respond to complaints of harassment, discrimination and violence. , indicates the report.


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