By Amanda Claudia Bos
The Plan Nord 2.0 plans to create new jobs in the mining industry in the territory above the 49th parallel. Because the mining sector is predominantly a masculine environment, this brings questions about how the Plan Nord will benefit women. The Féderation Interprofessionnelle de la Santé du Quebec states that a study on mining in Labrador shows that significantly less women than men enter the mining field and therefore get lower paid occupations, while men often have stable functions (2012, para 6). In Pimatisiwin Gibson and Jason Klinck state that the small number of women that work in the mining sector usually faces “sexist views that limit career advancement.” (2005, p. 133) Furthermore, they state that “the burden of shift rotation stress and addictive problems that mine work causes in men is passed on to women through abusive relationships, increased conflict, and an abdication of household and child rearing responsibility.” (2005, p. 133)
According to the Féderation, the single parent rate is much higher for aboriginal women, nineteen per cent, than for non-Aboriginal women, eight per cent para. 5) .This in combination with their income, which is often lower than that of men, is problematic in light of a foreseeable increase inliving costs that often is the result of a mining boom. (Martin & Marcadet, 2013, p. 13) The Féderation warns for an increase in prostitution because of these financial conditions: “marginalized and victims of discrimination, they find themselves on the streets, impoverished by an inadequate social security net and reduced to selling their sexual services to escape a too large economic insecurity.” (para. 7). Thibault Martin also argues that “an increase in prostitution is anticipated.” (Martin & Marcadet, 2013, p. 13). Aurelie Arnaud, a Femmes Autochtones du Québec representative also shares this concern as she states the mining industry entering the northern territories will have serious consequences for women such as “prostitution as a result of increased demand and violence against women.” (Velasquez-Buritica, 2012, para. 17) More recently, Virginia Wabano, the president of the Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association also notes that the industry unwillingly causes “increases in negative behavior . . . in regard to large-scale development like camps, prostitution, sexually-transmitted diseases, alcoholism, drug abuse, and violence” (Kaur, 2015,para. 9)
Because the socio-economic consequences of the Plan Nord seem to affect women significantly, it is important to consider the role of women in the decision-making process of the Plan Nord. Wabano states that “women feel left out of the consultation processes that are conducted in communities. These consultation processes are usually geared to reach leaders of the community, and there’s also some exclusion of some groups, such as women and youth.” (Kaur, 2015, para. 14) Aboriginal women now predominantly maintain occupations in the field of education, health and social services. Apart from these occupations, many are also politically involved. Martin & Klinck state that “Inuit women comprise 45% of the municipal councilors in Nunavik, which is much higher than the rest of Quebec.” (2013, p.13) They note, however, that because these women predominantly participate politically in the socio-educational field, they do not have much political influence in the decision-making process of the Plan Nord, in which mostly men occupy higher, politically, valued positions (Martin & Klinck, 2013, p. 13).
The gendered political sphere of the decision-making process thus is not in line with the socio-economic consequences aboriginal women in the Plan Nord territory face. Arnaud argues that aboriginal women are in the political sphere, but are not actually involved in negotiating the implementation of projects connected with the Plan Nord (Velaszquez-Buritica, 2012, para. 16). The discrepancy between the role of aboriginal women in the decision-making process and the socio-economic consequences these women face is an important aspect of the Plan Nord 2.0 to consider.
Fédération Interprofessionelle de la Santé du Quebec (FISQ). (2012) The Breakdown: the Plan Nord, Aboriginal Women.
Gibson, G., &Klinck, J. (2005). Canada’s Resilient North: The Impact of Mining on Aboriginal Communities. Pimatisiwin: A Journal of Aboriginal and Indigenous Community Health,3(1).
Kaur, J. (2015, March 30). Mine Your Own Business. McGill Daily.
Martin, T. & and Marcadet, J. (2013). Background Paper: Plan Nord Forum May 2 and 3, 2012, Québec City.
Velasquez-Buritica, J. (2012, February 15). McGill Professors and First Nations Leaders Debate Plan Nord.McGill Daily.