Many of the women surveyed in a new Pauktuutit report expressed satisfaction with their mining careers, but there is a desire for equal pay and more protection against sexual harassment.

Pauktuutit’s report urges mining companies to take a zero-tolerance policy with those guilty of sexual harassment by firing them and reporting their actions to the RCMP.
image courtesy of Pauktuutit

The 25-page report concludes with five calls for action:

  • hiring more Inuit women in supervisory, managerial, and human resource roles;
  • revising policies and practices around sexual harassment and violence;
  • providing employee training that is both robust and relevant;
  • improving social, cultural and emotional support services in the workplace;
  • ensuring offenders are held accountable and face real consequences, both within
    the company and the community.

The examination of these issues is based on surveys of 29 Inuit women in Arviat, Baker Lake, Salluit (Nunavik) and Inuvik (NWT). More than half of these women said they experienced “repeated events of sexual harassment and violence in the workforce,” such inappropriate jokes, unwanted touching and emotional abuse – sometimes as frequent as every shift. After facing these offensive incidents, some of the women said they left the job, others stayed because they needed the income and still others indicated that they felt safer if the offender no longer worked alongside them.

“The women surveyed repeat the call for development of robust workplace policies that address gender- and Inuit-specific impacts related to workplace sexual violence and harassment,” the report states. “Their specific suggestions from this study identify a number of explicit strategies for communities, companies and government to take forward … The women who participated in this study indicated they want to see decisive action taken by operations in the North to improve the experiences of Inuit women working in the resource extraction industry.”

Pauktuutit urges mining companies to take a zero-tolerance policy with offenders by firing them and reporting their actions to the RCMP.

The study also found that Inuit women are “often supporting large households” with salaries that are lower than men and non-Indigenous women.

Pauktuutit recommends hiring more Inuit women in positions such as human resources, management and supervisory roles. It also suggests improving on-site services like childcare to offset social disadvantages and economic insecurity that confronts some Inuit women in the resource industry.

However, many of the survey respondents expressed a sense of fulfillment from their careers in the mining industry, which allows them to provide for their families.

“They report a variety of emotions as they work, chiefly happiness, pride, and feelings of resilience and safety,” the report states.

Other recommendations in the document include: having another woman present when reporting issues or incidents of sexual violence and harassment in the workplace; enabling flexible work schedules and rotations so employees — particularly Inuit women — can better balance familial responsibilities; offering more Inuit-specific support services to employees in the workplace, such as mental health, grief support, healing programs, counselling services, and an on-site social worker; providing all support services in Inuktut and within Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit traditional knowledge) and making cultural-safety training available to all employees.

In response to the Pauktuutit report, Agnico Eagle, the largest mining company in the territory, sent Nunavut News a statement outlining its efforts to address some of the issues raised. The company has a zero-tolerance policy regarding violence, harassment and sexual harassment. This policy is regulated through disciplinary actions that can lead to dismissal, it stated.

Agnico Eagle adopted a diversity and inclusion policy in 2018 and also implemented mandatory Civility in the Workplace training to “set clear expectations” for how all employees must conduct themselves on and off the job.

All of the miner’s work sites have collaboration committees with “diverse representation” and other tools to support a positive work environment, Agnico Eagle stated. There’s also a cross-cultural component in the leadership development program “to help supervisors lead in a culturally sensitive manner.” This, too, involves scenarios that educate on how to handle workplace harassment.

As well, a human resources Inuit agent is assigned to each work site to support Inuit employees.

In regards to pay rates, Agnico Eagle stated that Inuit women aren’t paid less than their non-Inuit co-workers or men.

“The salary and work conditions of all our employees are based on the work experience and education level without any regards to gender or ethnicity,” the company wrote. “It’s important to mention that all of our hourly employees have all the same hourly rate based on their position. The same thing applies to salaried employees.”

The company maintains an evaluation grid at its operations across Canada that sets out levels of job titles, work experience and educational background.

It was also noted that women comprised 16 per cent of Agnico Eagle’s workforce in 2019, up from four per cent in 2009. Inuit women represent eight per cent of the total workforce.

“We are constantly working to mitigate systemic barriers to participation and advancement of women in the mining industry in Canada, notably with a focus on eliminating barriers that impact Inuit women at our sites in Nunavut,” the company wrote.

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