Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/12/2018 (548 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer knows political correctness when he sees it. Lamentably, in his rush to condemn it, he sometimes forgets to pay attention to facts.
Recently, Mr. Scheer lustily condemned comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the recent G20 summit in Buenos Aires. During a news conference, Mr. Trudeau talked about the negative social consequences that accompany mostly male construction camps in rural or remote regions.
"There are gender impacts when you bring construction workers into a rural area," Mr. Trudeau said at a news conference at the G20.
Mr. Trudeau was assailed for his comments. The Toronto Sun newspaper lambasted Mr. Trudeau for an unacceptable "smear" on blue-collar workers. Sarah Michel, a waitress from Grande Prairie, Alta., posted a video defending the men who work in the oilpatch.
But none of those attacks matched the vitriol of Mr. Scheer’s official Twitter feed. "This is political correctness at its most ridiculous," he posted. "The impacts of construction workers building things are prosperity and strong families. They should be celebrated, not demonized.
"I guess when you inherit family wealth you have the luxury to make such idiotic statements."
In the rush to condemn Mr. Trudeau, however, his detractors seemed to have forgotten to do one thing: a simple Google search would have found countless stories, studies and official government inquiries from all over the world describing the phenomenon Mr. Trudeau mentioned.
In 2017, a report from two British Columbia First Nations, supported by the provincial government, linked pipeline construction "man camps" to higher rates of sexual assault, family violence, substance abuse and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases.
Similar studies have found the same negative social consequences across Alberta’s oilpatch. And in western North Dakota’s oil fields, over the past three years authorities have been combating one of the most successful, and reportedly profitable, commercial child sex rings in North America.
Manitobans hardly have to look east or south to find similar stories.
This past year, Manitobans learned about the legacy of racism and sexual violence that accompanied Manitoba Hydro work camps in northern Manitoba, crimes that remarkably had never been reported to police.
When you consider this extensive body of evidence, it certainly seems fair to ask Mr. Scheer and others who share his perspective how they would explain the sexual violence that erupts whenever large numbers of men are stockpiled in work camps in rural or remote locations.
Still, did Mr. Trudeau unjustly tar all construction workers with the same negative brush? There are no doubt many good men who work in these construction camps, men who never indulged their darkest fantasies simply because they were bored and lonely.
However, as is the case with almost all forms of sexual violence, the men who harm women benefit when good men do nothing to stop the crimes committed by their fellow workers.
A reputation is a valuable commodity, and all of us should be allowed to defend our reputations against spurious attacks. However, common decency dictates that we must never put the issue of reputation above the safety and well-being of human beings who are exposed to systemic violence and abuse simply because of their gender.
On the other hand, if you work hard enough at ignoring the plight of the women who have the misfortune of working too close to man camps, you have the luxury of making idiotic statements.
Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.