The prevalence of mineral exploration and development in the Yukon has had a significant influence on shaping Yukon society as we know it. The telling of Yukon history often begins with the years just prior to the Gold Rush, as if newcomers and gold seekers arrived in an uninhabited land. The values and attitudes of the gold seekers reflected the values that informed the larger process of colonization happening throughout Canada.
The Yukon Status of Women Council (YSWC) has been working to address the impacts of mining on Yukon women and girls for the past two decades. In 2001, - over 20 years ago - the YSWC co-produced “Gaining Ground: Women, Mining and the Environment” with the Yukon Conservation Society. This publication was unique in that it involved an expansive literature review, case studies, community, and individual interviews, as well as integration of the discussions that happened at the “Gaining Ground” gathering hosted in September of 2000. Fifty-six women from across the Yukon whose lives were directly impacted by the mining sector were invited to discuss mining, women, and the environment.
Aspects of what we heard back then echo what we are hearing now: “Industry offsets its responsibility by blaming violence on the individual, but many industries contribute to violence through promoting a ‘drinking culture’ or an exploitative one and this translates to an ethic of exploiting women.”
We know that the Yukon has one of the highest rates of domestic violence per capita in the country. We also know that Yukon women and girls experience sexualized violence at an extremely high rate. There is substantial evidence of the correlation between resource extraction and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S+ people. Work camps, or “man camps,” associated with the resource extraction industry are implicated in higher rates of violence against Indigenous women at the camps and in the neighbouring communities.
This is a result of:
Disconnection between Workers and the Community
An influx of migrant workers, largely non-Indigenous young men with high salaries often have little to no stake in the surrounding community.
Boom Town Economics
Boom town economics create “man camp” environments that result in increased drug and alcohol-related offences, sexualized offences, domestic violence, and gang violence, as well as sex industry activities in the host communities.
Limited Social Infrastructure and Supports
Systems of support are strained in rural and remote areas with limited social infrastructure (i.e., policing, health, and mental health services).
Barriers to Inclusion
There is an inequitable distribution of, and access to, the benefits from industry, particularly for Indigenous women, girls, and LGBTQ2S+ people. Indigenous women also face significant barriers to participation in the extraction industry due to the often hypermasculine and hypersexualized work environments, resulting in elevated rates of workplace racism, sexualized harassment, and violence against them, often without opportunity for recourse given the remote and unpoliced nature of camps.
High Cost of Living
There is greater inflation and increased cost of living in host communities as a result of boom town economics. Shift work and isolated locations also deter women from participating in these industries and when they do, they are often employed in lower-paying jobs, further increasing their economic insecurity and inequities.
KC, L. Literature search for risk assessment framework for community response to gender-based violence in mining communities. Yukon Status of Women Council and Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women. 2021.
Moodie, S., Mason, A., & Moorcroft, L. Never until now: Indigenous and racialized women's experiences working in Yukon and Northern British Columbia mine Camps. Liard Aboriginal Women's Society. 2021.
WHAT'S GOING ON IN THE YUKON?
Assumptions and Risk Omissions within the System
The Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the Yukon Placer Mining Act uphold the mythology and lore of mining as inherently good for the economy and, therefore, mineral exploration should not be hampered by land-use constraints.
Mining is a Prioritized Industry
The shutdown of most industries except mining during the early COVID pandemic demonstrated the extent of this ingrained belief. As a result of the disrupted tourism industry, Yukon’s third most prominent industry following government and mining, the government placed increased emphasis on pushing mining activity forward.
Few Communities are Equipped to Deal with the Impacts
However, the often rural and remote communities surrounding mining operations have few resources and insufficient infrastructure to respond to the increased rate of gender-based violence that results from mining.
Our Regulatory System is Falling Short
Our regulatory systems have fallen short in assessing the extent of threat in their formal decision-making around the environment and socio-economic impacts of extractive industry. This results in the operating conditions - the set of rules that mining companies must abide by in the Yukon - lacking appropriate provisions to protect and prevent violence against women and girls.
The already high rates of gender-based violence in the Yukon, combined with the scale and urgency with which the government is promoting mining to build back the economy and the lack of resources available to respond to violence in rural and remote communities, are a cause for significant concern for many women’s groups.
The linkage between extractive industry and gender-based violence is well documented. Thus, the Yukon Status of Women Council considers gender-based violence a significant socio-economic impact that should be considered in all decision-making around extractive industrial development.
CALLS TO ACTION
Educate & Support - Continue to raise awareness about the impacts of gender-based violence and its associated risk at all levels, and provide adequate tools and services to tackle it
Disaggregate data - Maintain a good record of and publish data disaggregated by gender, race, income, location, age, and education so that advocates and services agencies can identify intersectional issues that women and girls experience in the mining community and support better plans, policy, and action to prevent gender-based violence in mining sectors
Dedicate the budget - Request the mining companies to allocate a budget to prevent gender-based violence, train their upper and lower management and all employees on gender and intersectional issues, and appoint a gender team/gender specialist responsible for gender and violence issues in small- and large-scale mining projects
Promote a Zero-Tolerance Policy - Require adequate internal policies & practices from companies that promote a zero violence tolerance
Monitor - Set up an effective monitoring system for tracking women's health and gender-based violence issues in mining communities
Reduce Vulnerabilities from a Holistic Approach - provide women and girls with alternative opportunities to earn a healthy livelihood in mining areas and support women and communities with health and childcare options
These calls to action evolved from a scope of the literature that we commissioned in partnership with the Canadian Institute of the Advance of Women (CRIAW), authored by Luna KC in 2021.
RECENT ACTION & PUBLICATIONS
(2021) Never Until Now
Never Until Now report was released by Liard Aborigional Women’s Society in collaboration with the Yukon Status of Women Council. The report described Indigenous and Racialized Women's Experiences Working in Yukon and Northern British Columbia Mine Camps. The project was a response to calls from Kaska Elders, advocates, community members, service providers and women mine workers as well as the linkages drawn in the final report from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry (MMIWG 2019) between the ‘man camps' that emerge from extractive industry activity and the increased dangers posed to Indigenous women at the camps and in neighbouring communities.
(2021-2023) Gender-Based Violence Assessment Matrix
Gender-Based Violence Assessment Matrix is being developed as a response to the Never Until Now project to enhance mechanisms of accountability in Yukon’s extractive industry through the Yukon Environmental and Social Assessment Board (YESAB) process.