Contributed file photo of B.C. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

UBCIC adds voice to concerns of pipeline ‘man camps’

Critics say the ‘hyper-masculine’ camps increase risks of violence against women

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is adding its voice to Indigenous concerns of Kinder Morgan “man camps” along the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, citing hyper-masculinity and potential risks to women.

UBCIC announced Friday it voted unanimously last month to endorse the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society and the Tiny House Warriors’ Women’s Declaration Against Kinder Morgan Man Camps.

Related: National Energy Board rules that Kinder Morgan can start work in Burnaby

The union took aim at “a hyper-masculine industrial camp culture, which can result in increased risk of sexual harassment, assault, increased levels of violence against women in sex work and hitchhiking and increased levels of child care and gender inequity.”

“The health, safety and security of our communities and land is paramount. Canada has contradicted their commitment to a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples,” said Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, secretary-treasurer of the UBCIC.

“It is not only our women and children and risk, these man camps put all women, youth and children at risk in those communities neighbouring these camps.”

Related: Cautious optimism on lifted wine ban at B.C. Wine Institute

The issue of the Kinder Morgan pipeline has heated up in recent weeks, after Premier John Horgan proposed a moratorium on increasing shipments from the Port of Vancouver until a study has been conducted on the effects of bitumen in water.

To that, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s response was to cut off B.C. wine supplies from Alberta, stoking fears of an interprovincial trade war. That quickly cooled after Horgan put the question of the moratorium to the Supreme Court of Canada, leading Notley to halt the B.C. wine ban.

But for Indigenous communities, including UBCIC, the question of the pipeline has not been one of provincial jurisdiction, but one of free, prior and informed consent, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Related: Notley uncorks B.C. support for wine ban

“These man camps represent a serious threat to our Peoples, our women, our two-spirits, our children, our lands, the wildlife, the salmon and the environmental integrity of our waterways,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC president.

“The UBCIC will never permit such trespass against Indigenous peoples. Our lands and our communities have been continuously ravaged and pillaged for the ‘national interest,’ we will do whatever it takes to stop the Kinder Morgan Expansion.”

UBCIC vice-president Chief Bob Chamberlin said the issue is one that extends from something more systemic and broadly felt than just the pipelines.

“The hyper-masculine culture of these work camps contributes to the crisis of murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls that currently grips this country,” Chamberlin said.

“With failure of our system to provide justice for the murders of Colton Boushie and Tina Fontaine, our trust in the ability of this government and the Canadian justice system has been severely undermined. The construction of these man-camps, in close proximity to our communities, is unacceptable.”

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