austin cozicar & Rob brown
What in the frac is a man-camp?
It’s a colloquial term for housing set up for temporary resource workers in an area. Depending on who you ask, some man camps come complete with gyms and four-star chefs. Others say they come with illegal drug use, rape, and sex disease.
To quote one man-camp warning poster, the camps “negatively effect, women, girls, children, low income families, Indigenous Food Sovereignty, also causing increases in rent and fentanyl use. Increase local rates of sexual assault, intimate partner violence as well as many increases in sex crimes and STI, drug and violence increases.”
Not so and nope, says Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead. He says hasn’t seen, heard, or felt any issues with camps.
“We haven’t had anything I’m aware of that has created negative social issues for us, in terms of additional burdens on health or policing or things like that. I certainly haven’t heard that, or seen that, or felt that. That hasn’t been the issue.”
Man camp is a term Jason Markusoff over at Maclean’s says Kanahus Manuel picked up at the Standing Rock protests in North Dakota.
“These man camps are the ones that are going to construct this evil pipeline, and those workers are going to bring in their rigging culture, their sex trade, violence and alcohol culture,” says Manuel, a member of the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society, writes Markusoff.
Seemingly anyone related to the industry takes some kind of exception.
“Any boomtown is gonna have, drugs, booze, fights, whores, etc. That’s what happens when there’s lots of cash to piss away. And that’s if they are staying in town,” says Delvin James Rach on Good Times in the Oilpatch recently.
Brandi Morin, News Energy and Politics with The National Observer, predicts over the next decade as many as 6,000 new energy industry workers could descend upon the northern and central regions of BC.
“The prospect of such a big influx of workers living in nearby ‘man camps’ has aroused fears of increased violence and drug use,” she writes.
Those damn dirty riggers
A “dirty rigger” culture may exist, but the reality is many are dry camps.
“Like camp attendants would let someone forcibly drag a woman through the doors and into his room. And almost every camp now is dry and oil companies are sending people home who they know are going to town and partying cause they are unfit for duty,” adds Rach.
Seems to be the case.
“Our camp was a dry camp, so that meant we had no drugs or alcohol permitted on the premises. So it eliminates some of the issues that may come about as a result. We did do from the camp, services. We did utilize a number of local services — some of them were cleaning staff, catering staff, security, they were local, as well as supplies, so we were able to utilize some local trucks, or companies that hauled water to and from,” says Brian Lieverse, Encana Senior Community Relations Advisor.
“We did have a big camp for about two to three years. At peak times, we had approximately 1,500 people staying at that camp.”
Peace camps planned
With their project update to the PRRD earlier this year, Coastal GasLink’s Kiel Giddens and Catie Underhill noted camps were part of the plan should Coastal GasLink’s proposed pipeline project from Dawson Creek to Kitimat be approved.
“Construction facilities will follow strict rules for conduct to ensure a safe and harassment-free camp environment. Our organization has a zero tolerance for anything less. We want to ensure this is done safely and done right,” says Jacquelynn Benson with TransCanada
A Chetwynd multi-use, Sukunka River multi-use and drill camp are all slated and have proposed camp locations. Documents reveal anywhere from 550 to 800 workers will be brought into the area in relation to Coastal work.
“For TransCanada, safety is paramount. It is a core principle and a critical component to the work that we do every day, and the Coastal GasLink project will be no different,” says Benson.
“The project team will work with our contractors to ensure local hiring comes first, giving priority to qualified local and Indigenous businesses in northern BC,” she adds.
Documents reveal that during construction and operation, millions of additional dollars in contracting, employment, business and tax revenues will be available for local and Aboriginal communities to support local needs such as fire and police services, school districts, hospital districts, waste management and more.
With the Peace Region’s proximity to Alberta, the area draws contractors and work who work from our provincial neighbours. This does create a unique financial problem for the region, according to the Northeast BC Resource Communities Coalition.