Course:CONS200/2023/Gender-based violence in British Columbia’s tree planting industry

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British Columbia has planted more than one billion trees since 2018, with 301 million trees planted in 2021, and over 1.1 billion trees planted since 2018, by the efforts of thousands of tree planters. The province's tree-planting industry is based on replanting harvested areas and the affected area by wildfires and pests and aims to fight against climate change, increase the carbon capture capacity of the forests, and support biodiversity and wildlife habitat[1]. Gender-based violence is a health threat to women worldwide. Linked to devastating mental health outcomes such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, all nations must address gender-based violence with urgent force[2]. Moreover, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to Gender-based violence when it occurs in conflict-affected settings[2]. In BC’s Tree planting industry, female workers contribute to over 40 percent of the working force[3]. However, gender-based violence has become a severe issue in BC's tree-planting industry due to various factors. According to the anti-violence advocates, there is at least one person in each planting tree camp in every season who receives sexual harassment[4]. In British Columbia's tree-planting industry, gender-based violence has been a serious issue that significantly impacts workers' safety and well-being.


Traditional Indigenous Territories

Canada has relied on extracting natural resources from Indigenous territories, and the forestry industry in BC remains a major goal of the province's resource project[5]. The tree planting industry - Tree Canada, in regions including British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, works with First Nations as a partner with their communities. Since 2005, Tree Canada has worked with more than 17 First Nations communities to plant more than 1 million trees on their traditional territories, with a goal of planting more than 1.2 million trees by the end of 2022. These partnerships aim to restore forests and ecosystems for the benefit of local communities and wildlife while respecting Indigenous peoples' natural spaces and forestry needs[6]. Forestry in British Columbia has been shaped by three processes(political, economic, and historical) that prioritized financial capital and settler-colonial enclosure over sustainability.

Professional Male-dominated Labour Contractors

British Columbia's tree planting industry has undergone major changes, moving from the state's governance responsibility to private companies. Women played an important role in early reforestation efforts but were eventually phased out by male-dominated labor contractors[5]. Alani Caruso, who has nine years of tree planting experience, encountered sexism from some male colleagues while working at a male-dominated tree planting camp. Despite her experience, she was seen as unskilled or tough because of her gender, which she felt was unfair and wanted to be treated equally regardless of gender[7].

Insufficient Sustainability Strategies without Regulation

Little oversight in replanting trees is seen as a low-cost duty, which results in insufficient reforestation rates. Such strategies are insufficient to address the ecological damage caused by deforestation. British Columbia is a site of rigorous neoliberal policy experimentation, prioritizing capital growth over social environmental health and leading to deregulation policies[5]. However, reforestation is seen as a cost-minimizing practice with little oversight, resulting in insufficient replanting rates and insufficient sustainability strategies. The tree planting company's contract was awarded on the basis of the lowest bid model[5]. Reaching tree planters in remote and scattered camps is challenging due to geographical difficulties and some contractors deliberately denying access to organizers. However, some contractors may be changing their hostile stance. Experienced workers are leaving, and young and inexperienced are gaining[8].

Current situation

General description

Gender-based violence, which encompasses marginalization, oppression, harassment, or violence, has permeated workplaces, campuses, and communities worldwide, driven by intersecting systemic processes that include patriarchy, capitalism, cisheteronormativity, white supremacy, and colonialism[9].Despite the growing need for reforestation work in response to extensive deforestation and escalating climate catastrophe, the tree planting industry remains largely underregulated and understudied. Recent studies and reports have shown that sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination are widespread and endemic in the industry. Women, transgender, and non-binary workers are particularly vulnerable to violence and harassment due to their gender identity or expression, and they often experience marginalization and discrimination in terms of employment opportunities, working conditions, and remuneration. Furthermore, the industry's culture of hyper-masculinity, long hours, and remote work conditions exacerbates the risk of gender-based violence and exploitation. Despite the growing awareness of this issue, there is a lack of regulation and accountability in the industry, and survivors face significant barriers to reporting and seeking justice. As a result, the industry continues to perpetuate a toxic and unsafe work environment for workers of all genders. Industry leaders have acknowledged that sexism is a prevalent and pervasive issue, and recent reporting has revealed widespread sexual assault and harassment as endemic to the field. A feminist analysis of the gendered power dynamics within tree planting is necessary to comprehend the perpetuation of these harms and thus explore possible remedies[10].

List of gender-based violence in British Columbia’s tree planting industry:

  1. Sexual assault and harassment
  2. Discrimination based on gender identity or expression
  3. Marginalization of women, transgender and non-binary workers
  4. Culture of hyper-masculinity in the industry
  5. Long working hours and remote work conditions, which exacerbate the risk of violence and exploitation
  6. Lack of regulation and accountability in the industry
  7. Fear of retaliation or blacklisting for reporting incidents of violence or harassment
  8. Barriers to reporting and seeking justice, including lack of trust in the legal system, inadequate policies and training, and victim blaming.

Statistics and women's feedback

  1. More than 70 planters, almost all women, documented their experiences of harassment and sexual violence through an online survey for tree planters.[11]
  2. A woman victim claimed that “During my second year of planting I was raped. It took me a long time to tell anyone, took two years to tell management, I tried to pretend it didn’t happen, tried to shrug it off because that is the mentality around planting, to shut up and plant. In looking back I let a lot of things slide before the actual event because I did not want to make a scene.”[12]
  3. In a 2018 survey of tree planters by the B.C. Federation of Labour, over 80% of women surveyed reported experiencing sexual harassment or assault, with 43% experiencing physical assault.[13]
  4. According to WorkSafeBC, between 2012 and 2016, there were 27 accepted time-loss claims for work-related sexual assaults and other sexual harassment in the forestry sector, including tree planting.[14]

Impact of gender-based violence[15]

The impact of gender-based violence on the individual level is significant. Survivors of gender-based violence in the tree planting industry experience trauma, anxiety, and depression [10]. They may also face barriers to career advancement and unequal treatment [10]. These negative consequences are exacerbated by the hyper-masculine culture of tree planting. According to Walby and Evans-Boudreau, Women tree-planters in Canada face a paradox: they defy gender norms while being stuck within a culture of masculine domination[12]. This oppressive condition not only hinders women and gender-diverse individuals from gaining equal footing, but also bolsters antiquated gender roles and reinforces the alienation of these individuals. This issue is compounded by the lack of trauma-informed policies and basic protocols for handling harassment exacerbates the harm experienced by survivors [10].

Gender-based violence in British Columbia's tree planting industry also has a significant impact on society as a whole. As previously mentioned, the industry is under-regulated and understudied, making prevalent and pervasive sexism an issue [10]. In such an environment, gender-based violence manifests itself from sexual harassment to physical assault, creating a hazardous working atmosphere for women and those who identify as nonbinary. This not only affects the individuals directly impacted but also has broader societal implications. In particular, gender-based violence can perpetuate unequal relationships of power between men and women that stem from relations of power in our society[13]. This inequality can lead to increased risks of sexual-based and gender-based violence, child marriage, and unwanted pregnancy, further marginalizing those already at risk of poor health and perpetuating healthcare disparities [14].

Overall, gender-based violence in the tree planting industry is like a wildfire that is both under-regulated and left unchecked. It spreads quickly, destroying anything and anyone in its path. The repercussions of this brutality have consequences for not only those who are its victims but also the broader society. It creates and sustains a power dynamic in which men hold dominion over women.


BC Public Service’s sexual harassment policy

Human Resources Policy 11 – Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace. The policy outlines the expectations for workplace behavior, defines the roles and responsibilities for creating and maintaining a respectful workplace, and establishes resolution and complaint mechanisms for employees who experience sexual harassment.  [16]

Training and education

The BCMEA, in partnership with unions and anti-violence experts, has developed a comprehensive training program aimed at promoting safer and more respectful workplaces for all employees. With funding of $3.9 million over five years since 2019 ,from Employment and Social Development Canada's Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund, the program places emphasis on supporting populations that are at higher risk of experiencing workplace harassment and violence, such as Indigenous communities and members of the LGBTQ2+ community. Its goal is to provide training and education to raise awareness of workplace harassment and violence and equip individuals with the necessary tools to manage and prevent it.[17]

Safe People

Safe people is common for companies to appoint "safe" representatives, often referred to as planter reps or ombudspersons, who are available for individuals to speak to if they feel uncomfortable reporting incidents to management when it comes to sexual assault or harassment in their camps.[18]

Oversight of Hiring Practices

Many forest landscape projects have set targets for increasing the number of women in leadership positions within forest groups or initiatives, in order to ensure adequate representation of women in relevant decision-making bodies. These targets aim to increase the percentage of women in leadership positions to promote gender equity and diversity in forest management and governance.[19]

Special Training

One way to promote gender equality in conservation is by providing women with greater access to training and capacity building activities.[19] For instance, in the context of reforestation, such activities can help women acquire knowledge and skills related to environmental conservation, which may inspire them to pursue careers in this field. By offering these opportunities, we can support women's professional development and contribute to a more diverse and inclusive conservation workforce.[20]


Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.

Note: Before writing your wiki article on the UBC Wiki, it may be helpful to review the tips in Wikipedia: Writing better articles.[21]

  1. "A billion trees planted will benefit B.C. for generations". BC Gov News. 2021. |first= missing |last= (help)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mazeda, Hossain (2021). "Gender-based violence and its association with mental health among Somali women in a Kenyan refugee camp: a latent class analysis". Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 75.
  3. Long, Jennie (2017). "Not So Clear Cu". Gender-based Violence in BC’s Tree Planting Industry.
  4. Trumpener, Betsy (2020). "Accounts of sex assaults in B.C. tree planter camps 'deeply disturbing'". CBC News.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Long, Jennie (2017). "Not So Clear Cu". Gender-based Violence in BC’s Tree Planting Industry.
  6. Metcalfe, Bill (2020). "Stories of sexual assault at B.C. tree planting camps 'shocking but not surprising:' advocate". Victoria news.
  7. Pierce, Jaden (2018). "Tree planting is helping to redefine women's work". The Sheaf.
  8. Ekers, Michael (Summer 2010). "(Dis)Organizing Tree Planters: Labour and Environmental Politics in the British Columbia Silviculture Industry". bc studies. line feed character in |title= at position 43 (help)
  9. Crocker, Diane (2020). "Violence interrupted". Confronting Sexual Violence on University Campuses.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Long, Jennie (2017). "Not So Clear Cu". Gender-based Violence in BC’s Tree Planting Industry.
  11. Trumpencer, Betsy (2020). "Accounts of sex assaults in B.C. tree planter camps 'deeply disturbing'". CBC NEWS.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Metcalfe, Bill (2020). "Stories of sexual assault at B.C. tree planting camps 'shocking but not surprising:' advocate".
  13. 13.0 13.1 "The Cost of Doing Business: Sexual Violence and Harassment Experienced by Tree Planters in British Columbia". BC Federation of Labour. 2018.
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Sexual Violence and Harassment in the B.C. Forest Industry: An Action Plan to Drive Systemic Change". WorkSafeBC. 2017.
  15. Crocker, Diane; Minaker, Joanne; Neland, Amanda. Violence Interrupted: Confronting Sexual Violence on University Campuses.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. "What is the BC Public Service's sexual harassment policy?".
  17. "New workplace harassment and violence prevention training launched in British Columbia's maritime sector". Employment and Social Development Canada.
  18. Long, J., Rowe, J., & Shaw, K. (2022). NOT SO CLEAR CUT: Transforming gender-based violence in british columbia's tree planting industry. BC Studies, (215), 27-116.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Patricia, Patricia. "Closing gender gaps in forest landscape initiatives".
  21. (2018). Writing better articles. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].

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This conservation resource was created by Jason. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.


  1. Crocker, Diane; Minaker, Joanne; Neland, Amanda (2020). "Violence Interrupted: Confronting Sexual Violence on University Campuses".CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)