Mining exploration and mining are currently advanced as “the way forward” in the socio-economic development of the Nunavut Territory. This report examines an as yet unexplored dimension of these activities: the impact of mining activity on Inuit women & families in Nunavut Territory. The focus of this case study is the women of Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), the only inland community of Inuit in Canada.
How has the Meadowbank gold mine impacted Inuit women and families living in Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), Nunavut Territory? To answer this question, research was conducted in 2013 by Pauktuutit, the National Inuit women’s Organization, in partnership the School of Social Work, University of British Columbia with support from the Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique, Montpellier France.
Link to research study
The research reported on here is qualitative. Results are based on information from a one-week workshop using popular education techniques. The objective was to train Inuit women as researchers and to hear their concerns. The content was used to develop a questionnaire. Focus groups were conducted. Interviews were conducted with education, social service and other iii professionals. Quantitative research is now being conducted in the community using the questionnaire. The results will be the subject of another report.
Inuit were 24.7% of the mine workforce as of December 2012. Women are 11% of the total workforce of 673, and nearly half of the Inuit workforce. Inuit women comprise about 60% of the women working at the mine. Many of the positions held by women are in housekeeping, laundry and kitchen work. Some women are, however, part of the truck haul operation. Inuit
women are more likely to be temporary employees and hold unskilled jobs. The research reveals the nature and extent of the impacts experienced by women. These are consistent with and elaborate upon observations made by others in examining the role of women in the mining industry internationally. An extensive literature review is part of this report.
Women noted that a range of services need to be in place before or at the time that mines go into operation. They noted that meeting these needs ‘after the fact’ is inadequate. They recommended more assistance be directed to mine employees—both men and women—having problems with substance abuse and that the current dismissal policy be re-evaluated to include warnings and help in dealing with these problems.
Women identified the lack of resources for the development of alternative, ‘in-community’ employment opportunities as a problem. Royalties paid to KIA need to be accessed to develop alternatives, with a focus on the needs of women. Women also expressed an interest in, and need for financial literacy training. Women want to know more about money; how money works, how ivit can be used, how to budget and manage it wisely. They also identified a need for life skills training. Researchers noted that both workshop participants and community informants did not seem to be adequately focused on mine closure and the effects this will have on women and the community.
Women reported impacts affecting their children. The capacity of women to participate in mine employment is affected by inadequate daycare facilities. School attendance has been affected for those families employed at the mine. Child care by Elders with limited physical capacity to supervise children, by an older sibling or by relatives affects school attendance. Women asked for changes to day-care in the community. More resources, services and facilities need to be directed at youth.
The research suggests that the high rate of absenteeism at the mine and its effects on operations is a result, with respect to the employment of Inuit women, of women’s needs not being addressed in the community. Difficulties with children and relationships, as well as responsibility for other family members, affect the capacity of women to fully participate in mine employment.
Women reported that their treatment when they became pregnant was not consistent with the mine’s legal obligations.
Women reported incidents where they were harassed and treated with disrespect by Qablunaat miners. They reported incidents of racist and unacceptable behaviour. More needs to be done by Agnico-Eagle to orient employees to gender issues, Inuit culture and social history, with programs and opportunities designed for the purpose, by Inuit.