Thursday, November 01, 2007

Return Of The Work Camps II

An excellent article from the Guardian on Fort McMurray reminds us that homelessness is not just an urban issue for Calgary and Edmonton but a way of life for construction workers, the folks who did not protest at the Leg last week. Work Camps have returned to Alberta, not unlike the old Relief Camps for unemployed workers during the dirty Thirties or the internment camps of WWI which built the Banff and Jasper national parks. The difference is of course these camps are full of volunteer wage slaves.

For many, purpose-built work camps provide the best solution, and are often the only option for the blue-collar workers needed to build the sites. The work camps are small towns in their own right - Suncor's Borealis camp, the largest such facility in North America, sleeps 7,500, as does CNRL's Horizon camp - but with few of a small town's compensations. The only plus is a negligible commute. It's a short walk from Syncrude's Mildred Lake camp to the refinery. The long, low trailers are surrounded by barbed wire and sandwiched between, on one side, belching silver towers and pipes, and on the other a highway and seas of mined-out sand. Inside the trailers, men in dressing gowns wander down interminable, hospital-bare hallways; the rooms are cells, maybe 7ft by 14ft, furnished with a small single bed. Men - it is usually men, though there are some women, in separate facilities - can spend anything from a few days to years living in these rooms. A Somali cab driver who worked as a security guard at one of the camps told me they all developed coughs. "And their faces started to look like they were made of rubber."

H/T to Galloping Beaver


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