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Woodfibre LNG’s Gender and Cultural Safety Management Plan sets a first in North America

The comprehensive plan to protect workers and community members from harm owes its success to the efforts of Indigenous women striving to make change
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Shayla Jacobs, Squamish Nation Elected Councillor; Deanna Lewis, Former Squamish Nation Councillor; Christine Kennedy, Woodfibre LNG president; Michelle Mungall, Former MLA and BC Cabinet Minister (left to right) at the 2024 Indigenous Partnership Success Showcase in Vancouver, B.C. Photo via Woodfibre LNG

National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada is a significant occasion to honour and celebrate Indigenous history, the numerous contributions of Indigenous peoples, and our rich Indigenous cultural heritage from coast to coast, on the lands we live, work, and play on today.

This day is especially meaningful for Woodfibre LNG, as its site is located in the unceded and traditional territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and səl̓ilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation).

From the earliest days of planning for the Woodfibre LNG project, the company has prioritized establishing deep and authentic relationships and meaningful economic partnerships with Indigenous communities. These efforts led to the establishment of the Squamish Nation Environmental Assessment Agreement, Impact Benefit Agreements with Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and səl̓ilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), and the recent approval of the Gender and Cultural Safety Management Plan.

Prioritizing gender safety and inclusion

On May 14, 2024, Woodfibre LNG set a North American first by establishing a formal, comprehensive plan to protect workers and community members from physical, mental or emotional harm. This Gender and Cultural Safety Management Plan is the first-of-its-kind in the Canadian resource industry and has been designed to ensure a workplace culture free of violence, bullying, intimidation or abuse. It owes its success to the many brave efforts of Indigenous women and community members striving to make change informed by the difficult historical and present experiences of Indigenous peoples across the country.

This work stemmed from acknowledging the history of industrial development in Canada and its impacts on Indigenous communities, including women. These were documented in the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and the federal Standing Committee on the Status of Women’s report, Addressing Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls in the Context of Resource Development Projects. These initiatives demonstrated historical ties between both transient workforces and resource extraction industries and violence towards women, specifically Indigenous women.

Establishing a gender safety advisory committee

In 2022, Woodfibre LNG began developing programming to prioritize gender safety and inclusion in the workplace, in worker accommodations and in the community. In the Spring of 2023, Woodfibre LNG became the first project in any sector to fully adopt the Calls for Extractive and Development Industries, resulting from the National Inquiry, and to invite Indigenous women to participate in implementing related programming. Having Indigenous women at the core of this initiative is key given the historic marginalization of Indigenous people in Canada.

“The participation of Indigenous women in developing gender and cultural safety programming has been vital in ensuring that our initiatives truly meet the concerns and needs of the Squamish Nation and other Indigenous peoples. Beyond their guidance, the active involvement of Indigenous women in training our workforce on gender violence has provided real insight to our employees and creates a more genuine learning environment,” says Christine Kennedy, president of Woodfibre LNG.

A Gender Safety Advisory Committee was established, made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, with the mandate to provide direct input on gender safety and related programming, policies and procedures and take a role in implementing related recommendations. The committee has guided Woodfibre LNG in establishing important pillars of its Gender and Cultural Safety plan including:

  • Mandatory, in-person cultural awareness and gender safety training delivered by Indigenous trainers for all staff, contractors and suppliers.
  • A foundational Worker Code of Conduct, establishing requirements for respectful behavior and zero-tolerance for bullying, harassment and discrimination.
  • Dedicated positions to champion gender safety and economic inclusion, including Indigenous Floatel Cultural Manager positions, an Indigenous Workforce Development Manager to support, attract and recruit local Indigenous employees, and an Indigenous Business Advocate role to pursue opportunities for Indigenous-owned businesses to work with Woodfibre LNG.
  • Providing training in personal safety and risk identification for women and girls in Squamish and working with local organizations to support programs for women, with the intent of leaving a legacy of reduced vulnerability and increased personal confidence and security.
  • A four-year research project that will collect and assess data related to gender-based violence, allowing Woodfibre LNG to continually improve and create future best practices for resource projects.

“Participating in this initiative has been an honour,” says Toni Dumais, a member of the Gender Safety Committee, “It symbolizes a transformation in resource development from being primarily consumer driven to one that includes social responsibility. This shift fosters growth and empowerment for all involved.”

Reconciliation in action

To date, more than 1,000 of Woodfibre LNG’s staff, contractors and suppliers have received in-person cultural awareness and gender safety training.

By investing in expanding workers’ understanding of harassment and violence and supporting programs that aim to prevent violence, Woodfibre LNG is taking crucial steps in the journey of reconciliation with the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation and other Indigenous nations.

For more information on Woodfibre LNG’s reconciliation initiatives, visit woodfibrelng.ca.