Greens call out oil and gas companies for ignoring pandemic safety measures in work camps

March 26, 2020

OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada is calling for a review of work practices in British Columbia’s oil and gas sector during the on-going COVID-19 crisis.

Work on projects such as Coastal GasLink (CGL), the Site C dam, LNG Canada and the Trans Mountain pipeline(TMX) continues, with workers being flown in and out. Green MPs say that these employees, arriving from all over Canada and housed in close quarters in on-site camps, could be seriously jeopardizing their own health as well as the health of nearby Indigenous populations.

Paul Manly (MP, Nanaimo-Ladysmith), who visited Wet’suwet’en territory during the standoff with the RCMP in January, noted that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have suspended their community consultation regarding the Coastal GasLink project, to comply with the health authority. The communities are in lock-down and are keeping non-members out.

“Air Canada flights have been suspended but the Smithers airport remains open for emergency medical evacuations and charter flights including charters for workers. The Terrace Kitimat airport remains a revolving door for workers coming in from all over the country,” Mr. Manly said.

“This is a major threat to northern Indigenous communities. How is it possible that CGL, TMX, LNG and Site C can get an exemption during a health crisis like this, when Canadians are being ordered to self-isolate and maintain physical distance? Oil and gas workers continue to be flown in and out of these communities, potentially carrying in a deadly virus. And it’s been noted that the RCMP are still rotating personnel in and out of Wet’suwet’en territory. Many of these communities are woefully underserved when it comes to essential services including healthcare. This has to stop.”

On March 18 2020 the B.C. Building Trades Council issued a Statement calling for the scaling down of some major construction projects that house large numbers of workers in remote camps. Executive director Andrew Mercier said: “We need to flatten the curve and alleviate pressure on the rural health care systems.”

“This is a crisis in the making,” said Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “It’s unconscionable that Coastal GasLink would seize a moment when the process of Wet’suwet’en internal consultation and governance in response to the agreement achieved with the federal and provincial governments is on hold due to COVID-19, to push forward with construction. It’s also a blatant disregard for the explicit recommendations from our chief medical officers. Putting employees and vulnerable Indigenous populations at risk cannot be tolerated.”

On Monday, doctors and mayors in British Columbia’s East Kootenays expressed concern that the Teck Resources camp near Elkford that houses hundreds of employees could be a major risk to spreading COVID-19 in the region. Muskrat Falls, the large hydro project in Newfoundland and Labrador has said it is scaling down operations to protect the safety of labourers and the surrounding communities.

“We are navigating uncharted territory with this pandemic,” said Green Party Interim Leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “Indigenous communities are too often on the front lines of these mega-projects. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that all populations are adequately protected, and not subjected to unnecessary risk. Like every other sector of industry and commerce, large megaprojects will be affected by the economic hardships of this crisis. But financial interests cannot take precedence over human lives.”

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Rosie Emery

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