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This article was published 5/12/2018 (652 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.
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