Industrial Camps in Northern British Columbia
The Politics of ‘Essential’ Work and the Gendered Implications of Man Camps
This place and gender-based paper arises from bearing witness to, and critically engaging, the heightened vulnerabilities that a global pandemic (COVID-19) brings to the geographies of so-called northern British Columbia (BC), Canada. We consider how vulnerabilities in northern geographies are produced through layers of coloniality and racialized extractive-capitalism and then, subsequently, how those heightened vulnerabilities are ignored and disregarded in support of corporate interests. We explore the risks and gendered nature of industrial camps—or ‘man camps.’ By focusing on man camps, we demonstrate how, by continuing to operate during a pandemic and in regions where people have pleaded for them to shut down, man camps are environments that amplify physical, environmental, health, and sociocultural risks. We also outline how man camps further subject northern communities to corporate colonial violence, especially by ignoring many Indigenous leaders’ demands for camps to close. Using anti-colonial and place-based analytical lenses and methods in critical feminist iterative discourse analysis, we also draw from statements by health workers, Indigenous leaders, and media articles to highlight the predicted spread of the virus across northern BC geographies. The paper interrogates how and why extractive facilities, and the man camps they rely upon, are deemed essential services despite extractive facilities relying on transient workforces housed in industrial camps that had (predictable) COVID-19 outbreaks. Importantly, we celebrate voices (often of women-identifying Indigenous activists, matriarchs, and front-line workers) tirelessly calling for attention to the gendered and racialized impacts of industrial ‘man camps.’
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