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Vol. 4, Issue 2 - April 2015
FemNorthNet newsletter header image
New Look for the FemNorthNet  Website!

The CRIAW website (and FemNorthNet sub-site) spent most of this winter getting a much needed facelift. Over the last couple of weeks we've added the finishing touches and we're proud to announce it's finally ready to be shared with all of you!

As of today, you can visit our new website and check out the new features including our revamped publications section.


The Building Links Among Women Project Documentary - Coming Soon!


Women of Building Links hold up the Labrador Flag near Muskrat Falls.
Women of Building Links hold up the Labrador Flag near Muskrat Falls.

New clean energy technologies are slowly shifting Canada away from its reliance on fossil fuels, which environmentalists tell us is a good thing. But FemNorthNet asks "what about the unintended consequences of clean energy projects on communities?"


This April, join the diverse women of Building Links (from Nova Scotia and Labrador) as they gather to learn about the impacts of the "green energy" source that will feed the new Maritime Link. Visits to Muskrat Falls, which will be silenced as the Lower Churchill River is dammed to produce hydroelectricity, and to nearby communities prompts the women to ask serious questions about how changes to the landscape will affect lives now and into the future. Is there a way to harness clean energy sources with fewer impacts on local peoples' identities and cultures?


Watch for the release announcement for "The Building Links Among Women Project" documentary on our website and social media feeds. We'll be hosting official screenings in Halifax, Happy Valley - Goose Bay, and Nain - so plan to join us if you're in these communities!

Transforming Thompson - FemNorthNet's Feedback on the TEDWG Process and Action Plans

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One of our partner communities, Thompson, MB, has been going through a process of rebranding and strategy creation to help strengthen their community and diversify and grow their regional economy. Led by the Thompson Economic Diversification Working Group, the action plans and final report resulting from community consultations and sub-committees were released in 2013. FemNorthNet members reviewed the process, outcomes, and recommendations to provide feedback on what was done well in addition to ways to improve engagement with and representation of marginalized groups, including diverse women.


The "Critical Reflections on Economic Planning in Thompson" report is now available on our website - check it out!

Collaboration for Social Action: Thoughts from Union Leaders, Aboriginal, and Northern Women


A painting of the forms of four women in the sky, melding into the moon. Three geese fly in front of the moon.
Still frame from the short film "Geese".
A new series of short videos explore outcomes from our 2014 workshop: "Women from Unions and Northern Communities Joining for a Sustainable Future". Being released online this Spring, these videos explore the importance of diverse women's relationships, roles, and collaboration in protecting our most valuable assets (the land, water, and communities) in the midst of rapid economic restructuring and resource development in Canada.


Interested in hosting a similar workshop in your region? A report evaluating the structure and outcomes of this workshop will be available in late Spring 2015. Stay tuned!

Empowering Northern Women: A Workshop Framework


Following our report on Women's Leadership in the North and interviews with northern women leaders, we're releasing the framework being used in Thompson, MB to encourage women to empower one another and themselves. A series of workshops allows women to first explore their identities and then receive tools for strengthening their economic outlook and participation in community development.


The framework will be released later this Spring. Watch for it on our new website!

The six women recognized for their work to increase breast cancer screenings in Thompson pose for a photo together.
The six women recognized for their work to increase breast cancer screenings in Thompson. Photo credit: Thompson Citizen
Six women from Thompson are being thanked for their insight into how to improve breast cancer screening and diagnosis outcomes for Manitoba First Nations women . Although there is a mobile screening van to reach remote, northern communities, very few First Nations women were open to being screened. The women from Thompson were involved in producing a toolkit that includes information about the importance of being screened for breast cancer as well as information about how to access these services.


In the past, Thompson has had a bad reputation for high crime rates . However, between 2010 and 2014 Thompson's crime rates have dropped off significantly . What changed, you ask? Well, Thompson RCMP officers realized that they couldn't "arrest their way out of the [crime] problem" and decided to try a new approach to dealing with offenders: give them "housing first". This mantra is at the heart of " Project Northern Doorway ", which focuses on providing chronic offenders with a stable living situation where they can receive help and counselling. A joint partnership between the RCMP, City of Thompson, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba Housing, the Thompson Homeless Shelter, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and the Northern Health Region, Project Northern Doorway is helping to strengthen the Thompson community.  
Wabush Mine. Photo credit: The Telegram
Labrador West has officially entered another period of economic "bust". Housing and rent prices have plummeted and food bank use is increasing . In spite of a new hospital, the city is also experiencing a shortage in doctors . Paul Davis, Premier of Labrador, recently reassured residents of Labrador West and area that they would weather the downturn in iron ore production and the economy would pick up again.


Some hope lies a little further North at the Voisey's Bay nickel mine. Vale, the corporate operator of the site, has been exploring potential for construction of an underground mine, which could double the workforce at Voisey's Bay. The engineering study to determine the cost of an underground is set to wrap up next month and a  decision by the Vale Board of Director is expected in June.


In the meantime the delayed timeline for completion of a new nickel ore processing facility in Long Harbour, NL is Vale's primary concern. The company was able to strike an amendment to the Voisey's Bay Agreement with the NL government allowing them to export additional nickel concentrate to Ontario and Manitoba for processing. In return, Vale will pay the NL government $200 million in compensation and add $30 million to their community fund. But Nunatsiavut, whose Land Claim Agreement includes Voisey's Bay, were not consulted about the amendment and are demanding answers from the NL government 


The"Kindness Connection" is a new program starting in Happy Valley - Goose Bay to distribute backpacks full of essential items to the homeless and hidden homeless. FemNorthNet member Denise Cole has been central to the program's creation and says the partners involved are focused on meeting people "wherethey are", rather than asking them to come into an office to get help. This program emerges as the affordable and transitional housing squeeze in Happy Valley - Goose Bay tightens - a local boarding house was gutted by fire last month and a  40-room boarding house was lost last April. Although the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. has been looking for a new shelter location since early in 2014, there is no indication a suitable spot has been found. The housing pinch has prompted local women to actively participate in the pre-budget discussions in NL, raising concerns about the amount being spent on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project while key social programs, such as affordable housing and shelters for women fleeing abuse, are in high need and underfunded.


A group of Shippa Innu people form a blockade along the snow-covered Labrador highway.
Dozens of Pakua Shipi Innu from the Quebec Lower North Shore demonstrated their frustration over the Muskrat Falls project in early March by establishing a selective blockade on a section of the Trans-Labrador Highway. Photo credit: The Labradorian

The Muskrat Falls project is causing tension with Quebec Innu as well. Innu have been staging protests on the road leading into the project's construction site in response to not being adequately consulted by Nalcor about the path of a transmission line that will run through their territory. They are asking the company to ensure Innu members are provided with jobs and training as compensation for use of their land. Nalcor has not responded and Astaldi, the construction company operating the site, has been sending workers home early to avoid anticipated Innu protests and road blockades.


Back in Happy-Valley Goose Bay, local women have joined the call for a full national inquiry into murdered and missing indigenous women in Canada. A vigil was held on February 14 to remember Loretta Saunders (an Inuk woman born and raised in Happy Valley) and Bernice Rich (an Innu woman from Sheshatshiu), both murdered. The local event preceded a much larger vigil in Ottawa on March 5 and the release of a damning report from the UN. The report states that the Canadian justice system has failed to protect Aboriginal women and systemically violates their rights.


The Mushuau Innu - The Story Continued...


Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

In our holiday newsletter we shared with you a series by APTN about the Mushuau Innu , relocated from Davis Inlet to Nunatuashish in northern Labrador in response to the socioeconomic tragedy unfolding in their isolated community. This month The Globe & Mail published an in-depth feature documenting the changes the community has experienced in the decade since leaving Davis Inlet. Check it out!



There's been a lot of change in Alberta recently, and although FemNorthNet is not directly partnered with an Albertan community we have been following the way economic restructuring and resource development is impacting communities in Alberta's North. This month we bring you a special feature on Alberta - exploring the impacts of the gendered wage gap and taxation on Albertan women, as well as how changes to the Live-In Caregiver Program are affecting Albertan foreign workers.

Widest Wage Gap in Canada Will Only Get Larger


Alberta has the largest gender wage gap in all of Canada, finds a recent report from the Parkland Institute. Albertan women only earn on average 64% of what men in the province earn (compare this to 74% for women in Ontario).


Kathleen Lahey, the author of the report, claims the gap results from two key factors: first, "the high cost of child care forces women to take on more unpaid work at home, and seek part-time employment to try and make ends meet" and second, "while Alberta has high-paying jobs in the oil industry, they are often not well-suited for women trying to raise families".


The situation is further complicated by Alberta's shift to a "detaxation" model in 2000. This model taxes every individual and corporation (excepting small businesses) at a flat 10% rate. In effect, this tax model has provided massive tax breaks to large companies and shifted the tax burden onto low-income Albertans, of which many are women. It also meant the province was relying more heavily on royalties from the oil and gas sector for provincial revenues.


With the recent drop-off in oil prices, the Albertan economy is set to lose $7 billion in these royalty revenues. As the government prepares to table their 2015 budget they have only committed to not raising corporate taxes or oil and gas royalties. So how will they bridge the revenue gap? It looks like Alberta's government will find the additional funds by increasing personal taxes, reintroducing Alberta health premiums, removing the tuition cap, and/or reducing the wages of public servants. These measures will further burden low-income Albertans and could jeopardize access to post-secondary education and healthcare. Furthermore, as the majority of public sector workers in Alberta are women, a reduction in public sector wages would again drop women's earnings overall.


What does this mean for women in Alberta's North? The high cost of living in Alberta's North due to the resource sector has been well documented. Paired with increased taxation, women will find it even more difficult to afford basic necessities, such as housing and food, especially the majority whom do not work in the mining, oil and gas sector.


The Parkland Institute report suggests there are a number of alternatives that could help reduce the gendered wage inequity in Alberta. For instance, introducing a progressive tax system with rates ranging from 8-16% (based on income) could add $1.6 billion in annual revenue. Increasing corporate tax rates could add an addition $1 billion. Changes to the tax and royalties systems would reduce reliance on fluctuating revenues from the mining, oil and gas sector and provide the stable income needed to fund programs, such as childcare, that could improve women's economic position in Alberta.

Live-In Caregivers in Fort McMurray


Another study coming out of Alberta early this year was On the Move Partnership's "Live-in Caregivers in Fort McMurray: a Socioeconomic Footprint." The report looks at live-in caregivers in the oil sands region of northern Alberta.


Part of the Live-­in Caregiver Program, these foreign nationals live in Canadian homes to provide care to children, loved ones with disabilities, and/or ageing adults. They help carry the family care burden for individuals working in the oil sector, who work the longest hours in the country and often are on rotational shifts.


Although providing a much-needed service to northern Albertan families and making many personal sacrifices (such as leaving their families to come to Canada), these caregivers receive little protection once on Canadian soil. There is little monitoring and poor regulation of the Program, making live-in caregivers vulnerable to employer abuse and workplace violations. And, although the "live-in" requirement was lifted in 2014, the federal government has made it more difficult for these foreign workers to obtain permanent residence in Canada.


Check out the report to read more about the contributions live-in caregivers make to Canadian families and our economy as well as the challenges they face and their plans for the future.


Students on Ice Arctic Expedition (July 27 - August 10, 2015) - The 15th annual Students on Ice Arctic Expedition will be a profound hands-on experience for youth to expand their knowledge in the changing circumpolar world, foster a new understanding and respect for the planet, and gain the inspiration and motivation needed to help lead us to a healthy and sustainable future. Know a high school or post-secondary student that should apply? Learn more online 


Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies 2015 Student Conference (November 5-8, 2015 at the University of Calgary) - The next generation of northern leaders and scholars are invited to attend ACUNS 2015, an interdisciplinary conference for early career scholars working on all topics related to the circumpolar north. Learn more