To the Editor,
While many Valley businesses have been shut down – or greatly decreased in income – with no end in sight, Valemount residents might have noticed the surge in new people as noted in the April 9th Goat. Out-of-town workers have expanded local populations by nearly 200 – geometrically increasing the Robson Valley’s risk of COVID-19’s community spread.
Similarly, but in regards to ongoing Coastal Gaslink Pipeline work, The UBIC’s (Union of BC Indian Chiefs) open letter to our governments stated that “overbroad classifications of ‘essential service’” allow work to continue on the Wet’suwet’en Yintah. “With the urgency to move materials comes the associated movement of people and spillover risks to every person and community they interact with delivering supplies to the project.”
Northern Health’s former Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David Bowering, stated in an open letter to Provincial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that “We need to immediately shut down the industrial work camps in our region,” and “The camps are and will be COVID-19 incubators placing the workers, the host communities, and the home communities of the workers at unacceptable risk.”
Apart from this issue, I have nothing but praise for the way Dr. Henry has handled B.C.’s crisis. However, quoting again the UBIC’s letter: “Corporate exceptionalism can not become a pandemic response strategy for the Governments of B.C. and Canada.” The Tete Jaune intersection digital sign reads: “COVID-19 Stay Home Avoid Gathering” Apparently, corporate exceptionalism is indeed rampant in the North.
This valley’s population has many at-risk, and aging people. The Robson Valley’s capacity to dispense acute care or extended support is quite limited. The chronic underfunding of healthcare in B.C. and Canada is showing itself bold and clear with the outcry over N95 medical masks. But that is small potatoes compared to the lack of medical infrastructure in many northern communities.
Are stockpiling pipes, clearing right-of-way, and building work camps essential to our collective well being during the virtual public lockdown of a provincial State of Emergency?
With a 600- to 900-person Trans Mountain ‘man camp’ scheduled on the near horizon for Valemount, there is a pressing need for public input.
It is up to us to demand that Northern B.C.’s (and our Valley’s) very limited medical personnel, supplies, and infrastructure are not put under undue strain due to the increased risk from industrial out-of-town workers.
Locate the petition: change.org, use search words: “remote work camps.”