The Kamloops, British Columbia, Local 993 women’s committee has been hard at work collecting all kinds of items, from clothing to toothpaste to pillowcases, for “comfort cases” for sexual assault survivors.
“We think it’s a great way to help,” said Local 993 Assistant Business Manager Mollie Routledge, who serves on the women’s committee. “It’s been an awesome experience to see so many people pitching in.”
In many instances of sexual assault, a person’s clothes are badly torn or damaged or needed as evidence. Sometimes, the survivors simply don’t want to put them back on. That’s where the comfort cases come in.
“They’re a small piece of consolation at an incredibly difficult time,” Routledge said.
As Local 993 noted in its blog post about the cases, one side effect of large construction projects that require a lot of travelers is that spin-off jobs are created, which attract transient populations to surrounding communities. History shows that, with the influx of people, paychecks and those on the periphery seeking to profit from the boom, there is often an increase in the crime rate, including sexual assault.
British Columbia’s skilled trades are fortunate to have three major projects running concurrently for the next few years: the Site C dam in the northeast, which is ongoing; the LNG project in Kitimat in the northwest; and a hospital project in the central interior area. The total number of electricians alone is expected to be in the thousands.
“Some folks talk about ‘man camps,’ like there’s a horde of rapists or something, and that’s not it. Most of the people are just construction workers trying to feed their families,” said Local 993 Business Manager Glen Hilton. “But sometimes you do get an uptick in violence, but not necessarily from the camp workers. It is usually from transient populations following the camps seeking to profit from them, and these comfort cases are a good thing. I’m glad our women’s committee is taking this on.”
The cases are packed with items including clothes and toiletries and can be personalized for the individual in need. Committee is collecting apparel for men and women in sizes from small to XXL, as well as items like bras and feminine hygiene supplies.
“Anyone can be a victim,” said committee member Angie Camille. “We’re not pointing fingers. It could be drug-related, who knows. We just want to help and let people know that Local 993 is here for them.”
The cases cost about $100 each, said Camille and Routledge. They have received donations from groups including signatory contractor Houle Electric, Vancouver Local 213, Victoria Local 230, the Western Joint Electrical Training Society, the British Columbia and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council, the British Columbia Federation of Labour, United Association Local 170 and Pile Drivers Local 2404.
Routledge and Camille say the women’s committee, which is about five years old, is also working on other projects, including putting together an all-women crew to upgrade the electrical work at a local women’s shelter. They also held a holiday party at the shelter in December with a “Mrs. Claus” in attendance. Previously they’ve participated in the Women’s March Canada; the Cupcakes, Cocktails and Conversation event for women in the trades; and lobbying events.
On Dec. 7, the women’s committee were co-organizers for the Red Dress ceremony and a shoe memorial. The latter is to remember the women who have lost their lives to violence, for which the committee collected gently used shoes. The Red Dress ceremony, part of the Red Dress Project, is a national day of remembrance for Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Hilton says Local 993 has been increasing its efforts to recruit more women to the trade, hoping to eventually get to 20%. It’s currently at about 8%, which is well above the national average of roughly 3%.
“It’s an ambitious goal, but it’s trending that way,” Hilton said.
For questions or to donate items for the comfort cases, contact Routledge ator Camille at .