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FortisBC reps met with questions and disapproval at Squamish meeting

Many Squamish residents who attended expressed their disapproval of the work camp and project; FortisBC to supply more answers at a later date.

It wasn’t the friendliest of audiences that greeted FortisBC officials Thursday night.

On March 9, FortisBC held a public meeting at the Eagle Eye Theatre to update residents about its temporary use permit (TUP) application and take questions from the public. 

At least 100 people were in attendance, and approximately 10 to 15 people got to ask questions.

Questions from the public at the meeting touched on topics such as environmental disturbances, travel to and from the work camp, alcohol permittance, the impacts on the housing supply and affordability, and the safety and well-being of women, LGBTQ+ and Indigenous Peoples.

Vanessa Connolly, director of community and Indigenous relations with FortisBC said there would be around-the-clock security, worker orientation and a worker code of conduct that would cover topics such as bullying, harassment, consent and respectful behaviour. She also said there would be a no-visitor policy at the camp.

“We developed these mitigations with experts in this field,” she said in response to a question about how FortisBC knows these tactics will work. “We’re committed to monitoring the effectiveness of our mitigations and if we need to change things as we go, we’ll do that.”

FortisBC representatives also said alcohol in small amounts would be permitted on site.

Another member of the public asked if background checks would be conducted on the workers. 

Darrin Marshall, project director at FortisBC, said because they were working with subcontractors, the company is not legally allowed to do those checks. 

This answer was met with numerous groans from the crowd.

The TUP application that FortisBC applied for from the District of Squamish is a necessary permit to install a work camp on the Mamquam Forest Service Road near Quest University. 

The university recently announced it would indefinitely halt academic programming after April due to reasons unassociated with the work camp or pipeline project.

When asked if the buildings at Quest University were under consideration to be used by FortisBC, Marshall said it was too soon to tell.

“It’s in its early days of understanding whether or not it’s a feasible alternative,” he said.

Previously, FortisBC said it expected to have the work camp built and in operation by November 2023. Currently, FortisBC has employees staying at a local hotel since the camp is not built yet.

Near the end of January, the Squamish council voiced displeasure that the company had already begun working on the Eagle Mountain to Woodfibre LNG pipeline project without creating worker accommodations.

At the time, council voted to inform several cabinet ministers, as well as Squamish’s MLA and MP, of its concerns regarding local housing supply and affordability, community safety, labour supply and tourism.

FortisBC will provide further details in approximately a week, the moderator said. 

After the meeting ended, many people in the crowd held up signs that said, “Stop FortisBC.”