As climate change is rapidly warming the Arctic, greater access to the region is leading to increased resource extraction activities in the North. While mining, oil and gas industries can provide significant economic opportunities for Inuit, there are also human, environmental and social costs associated with these activities that must not be ignored. Pauktuutit believes there is a great need for more comprehensive social analysis that includes an assessment of the potential impacts—both positive and negative—that resource extractive activities have on Inuit women.
In 2007, Pauktuutit’s Board of Directors passed a resolution to explore the impacts of resource extraction activities in Inuit regions. In particular, they were concerned about the sexual health of women who live near mines. Statistics show that Inuit already face eight times the national average for sexually transmitted diseases and infections (STD/STIs) and having large numbers of transient workers in communities near mines only increases this risk for Inuit. Pauktuutit held the first national conference exploring the impacts of resource extraction on Inuit sexual health in 2008. This conference created a forum for community members, service providers and industry stakeholders to identify and discuss how to mitigate the negative impacts of resource extractive activity while maximizing the potential economic opportunities for Inuit families. Since then, Pauktuutit has been participating more actively with researchers, community organizations and key stakeholders to ensure that Inuit women’s voices are heard in relation to resource extraction activities.
Together with the National Aboriginal Heath Organization (NAHO), Pauktuutit has co-established the informal network called the Women and Extractive Industries in Canada’s North (WEICN). This work involves developing working relationships and sharing information with a number of other organisations, community stakeholders, academic institutions and independent researchers to examine the issues specific to women in the North. For the past year, Pauktuutit co-chairs meetings to share key information on this important issue.
Resulting from Pauktuutit’s interest in doing more work in the area of Inuit women and resource extraction, Pauktuutit received a small grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) to develop a larger proposal around mining. This proposal, submitted in February, 2012, seeks to do conduct a gender-based analysis (GBA) in the Baker Lake mine. Specifically, if this project is funded, the research will form an initial GBA, gather the perspectives of Inuit women of all ages in order to assess the direct impacts that resource extraction has on this segment of the community.