Agnico Eagle commits to review of employee programs in wake of Pauktuutit study
"We sincerely believe that Agnico and Pauktuutit want to achieve the same goals"
Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. says it will undertake a third-party review of its employee programs to ensure the welfare of female Inuit staff who work at its Meadowbank mine in Nunavut.
The company hopes to find an organization in Nunavut to carry out a review of programs, such as employee grievance mechanisms, accommodations for female employees and its induction process — which calls for zero tolerance for discrimination, violence and drugs and alcohol.
“If there’s any doubt that these programs aren’t effective, we want to respond to that,” said Agnico Eagle spokesperson Dale Coffin. “It’s an evolving process.”
Agnico Eagle is responding to issues raised in a recent report published by Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, called The Impact of resource extraction on Inuit women and families in Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake), a community of 1,700 located 110 kilometres from the mine site.
The report contains some disturbing anecdotes from local women, alleging discrimination and an increase in substance abuse, sexual harassment and violence on and off the mine site since it went into operation in 2010.
The Pauktuutit report also suggests that wealth produced by the operation is not being properly distributed throughout the community.
Although those allegations don’t necessarily blame Meadowbank’s owners, Agnico Eagle, the report made a number of recommendations.
Pauktuutit’s report suggested Agnico Eagle create a women’s committee; address addiction on site and in Baker Lake; support the financial literacy of its Inuit staff; and, give more prominence to Inuit culture and language on site.
The company said they are taking the report seriously and reviewing it in detail.
“We sincerely believe that Agnico and Pauktuutit want to achieve the same goals,” Coffin said, “that we provide a safe working environment for our employees and we are contributing positively to the social and economic well-being of the communities where we operate over the long-term.”
Coffin pointed to many programs that are already in place to address employee and community concerns, including Meadowbank’s Siijaq group, which serves as an Inuit employee support program.
Agnico Eagle says it organizes visits with elders from Baker Lake to the mine site, while the Kivalliq Inuit Association’s Inuit impacts and benefits agreement coordinator is scheduled to visit Meadowbank on a monthly basis.
Pauktuutit’s report also identified strains in family relationships caused by mine employees leaving home to work the two-week on, two-week off schedule at Meadowbank.
The IIBA coordinator position is also designed to provide support in the communities, Agnico Eagle noted. For example, as part of Meadowbank’s Siijaq program, the IIBA coordinator is meant to be working on a family network program for Baker Lake families with a relative employed at the mine.
The KIA has yet to respond to the report; its website lists the Meadowbank IIBA coordinator position as vacant.
Agnico Eagle says the regional Inuit association is also responsible for establishing the Community Economic Development Fund, negotiated in the IIBA.
Women in the Pauktuutit report expressed concern that the fund has yet to reach the community of Baker Lake. When it does, the report noted, women want a say in how it’s spent.
The many issues explored in the report were first raised by Inuit women during a workshop on resource extraction that Pauktuutit attended in 2012.
Securing a grant from the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Pauktuutit brought in researchers from the University of British Columbia’s department of social work to host workshops in Baker Lake and train local women to carry out community research.
In 2013, Agnico Eagle said it agreed to collaborate on the project and hosted a research team at its Meadowbank site in February of that year.
As of March 1, Agnico Eagle said there were 68 Inuit women working in permanent positions at Meadowbank, making up nine per cent of the mine’s permanent workforce.