Recent outbreaks in energy project work camps pose additional risk to nearby communities with limited health-care resources

VANCOUVER — The David Suzuki Foundation is calling on the federal and provincial governments — and their chief medical officers — to close all resource extraction project work camps in Canada (especially those near rural and Indigenous communities), to help protect communities from COVID-19.

Three weeks ago, the Foundation sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all provincial and territorial premiers outlining the rationale for the request. Two weeks ago, the letter was sent to all chief medical officers. With recent coronavirus outbreaks at sites like the Site C megadam in B.C. and Kearl Lake in Alberta, the Foundation is now calling on government to act before affected communities are put at further risk.

“Given the uncertainty around the spread and containment of COVID-19, as well as the risk of additional outbreaks in isolated communities, we must apply the precautionary principle and put these work camps’ operations on hold,” Foundation CEO Stephen Cornish said. “For the health of everyone involved, let’s get these workers the financial support they need, and help get them safely home.”

While most companies have made voluntary decisions to reduce the number of workers on site, major projects — including the Trans Mountain pipeline, Coastal GasLink pipeline, Site C and more — still have hundreds of workers onsite. As of early April, more than 1,000 workers were at the Site C camp in northern B.C.

“It’s past time to close these work camps. It’s a common sense precaution, in line with what health officials are asking all Canadians to do right now,” Foundation Western Canada director-general Jay Ritchlin said. “Given the traumatic history between settlers and Indigenous nations when it comes to introduced diseases, there is also a moral duty for Canadian governments to act, in line with their commitments to reconciliation.”

In B.C., local mayors, nurses, the B.C. Building Trades Council, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the former chief medical health officer for Northern Health in B.C. have all also called for the camps to be closed. The Foundation’s letter states, “Putting the lives of some Canadians unnecessarily at risk today for the sake of infrastructure and economic benefit tomorrow is at best unwise and at worst unethical.”

Last week, the Foundation also submitted a series of short- to mid-term recommendations for how government can invest in a “green recovery” from COVID-19 — protecting and restoring the natural environment while also creating jobs and reinvigorating the Canadian economy.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation, 604-356-8829,