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Amnesty International links violence against Indigenous women to resource development

A new report from Amnesty International has found that women in northern B-C have been negatively impacted by resource development. A survey of 300 women in Fort St. John found that 78 per cent per cent had experienced violence, including 93 per cent of Indigenous women. Helen Knott grew up in the Prophet River First Nation and says she’s seen the change in her community.

“Indigenous women like myself have been calling for attention to the violence that we know to be connected to large-scale projects such as Site C and resource extraction. The violence that manifests is what we as Indigenous women witness, what we experience, and what many continue to live through.”

The report, titled Out of Sight, Out of Mind, looked at the strains that resource development have put on First Nations and Métis health and wellness. It also examined how influxes of transient workers drive up local prices for housing and food. Campaigner Jacqueline Hansen says they found men earn almost twice what women make, and few women have access to high paying resource jobs.

“The gender gap is almost twice the national average, and such income inequalities and much lower incomes for women overall also serve to increase a women’s chance of experience violence.”

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Hansen adds that economic insecurity makes it hard for a woman in a violent relationship to leave. Amnesty also refers to patterns of binge-drinking and drug abuse among some resource workers as contributing to the high rate of violent crime. However, fellow campaigner Craig Benjamin says the blame doesn’t lie directly on resource workers.

“When you have a community… and those people who come in are disproportionately young men and they are disproportionately from that same demographic where there’s a greater incidence of violent crime, then inevitably, the risk of crime increases.”

Amnesty is pushing for gender-based analysis to be part of reviews and approvals of resource development projects, along with the suspension of all permits relating to the Site C dam on the Peace River. Another recommendation is to increase RCMP resources in the region and develop an Indigenous cultural competency program.

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