A significant gulf in average wages between women and men. A severe shortage of affordable housing and quality childcare. An economic development model that depends on fly-in workers, labour camps and long shifts away from home that strain family life. Serious problems of drug dependency and alcohol abuse affecting all communities. And persistent gaps in basic services and supports for families, especially single parents.
One of the fastest growing economies in Canada has drawn young workers and families from across the country to live and work in Fort St. John, BC. It has also created perfect storm conditions both to fuel violence and to deny adequate protection to those at risk.
Add to this the unresolved legacy of past violations of Indigenous peoples’ rights and continued discrimination facing First Nations and Metis persons, and it’s not surprising that that we have heard so many moving and indeed shocking stories of sexual assaults and other violent attacks, murders and disappearance of Indigenous women and girls.
It has to be said as well that virtually everyone we have talked to, from local officials to service providers to community members, have stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to ensure that the overall strains on the social fabric and the threats facing the most vulnerable are addressed. The question remains, where will be the voices of Indigenous women and girls be heard in this process?
We are enormously grateful to the many individuals, families, organizations and public officials who have made the time and often traveled great distances to speak with us over the past week. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
We look forward to the opportunity to travel to the Prophet, Fort Nelson, Doig River, Saulteau, West Moberly, and Blueberry River First Nations in the coming week to meet with elders, leadership and community members.