So I finally got to meet Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau when he popped into the 18th Street Tim Hortons location on Thursday. It was part of a quick trip to Brandon to help further boost the Liberals’ surging popularity in the region.
It was his second trip here during the byelection nomination process and he told me he plans to come back a few times, all depending on his schedule as Parliament resumes next week.
In the photo above, I’m posing with Trudeau on the left, and newly minted Brandon-Souris Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale, who won the party’s nod the night before to fly the Grit flag in the yet-to-be-called byelection.
Having worked with many politicians in a previous life — and having met many, many more in my career as a journalist — I was very impressed with Trudeau. He worked the room with ease and charm, and everybody was willing to speak with the politician with that rock star status. People wanted to be photographed with him. Trust me, that doesn’t happen with all pols. (COLIN CORNEAU)
Dinsdale, shown in a file photo, says he wears bowler hats in memory of grandfather George Dinsdale, a former Brandon mayor and MLA. (BRANDON SUN)
Sun photographer Colin Corneau gave Dinsdale — a bright, quirky media executive — a new “hat” at the Liberal nomination meeting Wednesday night. (COLIN CORNEAU)
The all-day workshop was "a closed event for pre-registered participants; however, members of the media will be provided an interview opportunity with facilitator Lindsay Marsh between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m."
Staged by the City of Brandon’s Community Services Department, the Safe Harbour: Respect For All event on Oct. 3 promised "a vision in action: providing opportunities for businesses, institutions, agencies and municipalities to create respectful, welcoming workplaces and communities."
But wait, in case you weren’t moved to action by that rather random collection of words, here’s a few more: "Safe Harbour is a commitment to diversity that helps increase the resilience of organizations by increasing their community profile as diversity leaders."
Yup. I don’t understand it either.
Safe Harbour is the national diversity initiative of the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of B.C. (AMSSA)
And as it was a slow news day, we sent a reporter to the 30-minute "media opportunity" and even one of our brightest journalists came back shaking his head.
And while he tried his best to report on the event in a way that would make readers A) want to read the story and B) get something out of the story, I still didn’t have much of a clue what was going on — even after a professional and experienced reporter tried to make sense of it.
But that’s what happens when you try to package and market politically correct nonsense. It’s what happens when a common-sense approach about dealing with workplace conflicts is perverted into something rather beyond the pale.
It just doesn’t make sense. Even when a professional communicator tries to explain it.
Here’s some of the gobbledygook from AMSSA on Safe Harbour:
• Equitable Treatment for All: Welcoming all clients and/or customers in a respectful manner. If a concern is expressed regarding a lack of respectful treatment, employers and staff take steps to address it.
• An Immediate Safe Place: Providing an immediate safe refuge for someone experiencing discrimination in or near the worksite, which may include a place to sit, a glass of water, a phone to use and access to a list of service providers in the community.
• Prepared Employees and Worksites: Preparing all managers and staff to implement these commitments.
Good bloody grief.
What the heck is a "safe refuge?" And how does a manager of a business know exactly what form the discrimination "in or near the worksite" took? And maybe the person "experiencing discrimination" is just hypersensitive, or an activist looking for any excuse to cause some trouble?
But yes, offer them a seat and a glass of water.
Oh, and a phone.
So the Sun story explained that the City of Brandon has sought the help of a Vancouver-based training program to help local businesses and institutions create a more welcoming community for newcomers and marginalized citizens.
The workshop at the Riverbank Discovery Centre attracted representatives from 15 Brandon institutions, including Brandon University, the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba and Westman Immigration Services.
Only one local business owner attended the seminar.
So places that are already bending backwards to be politically correct to newcomers were there to learn some new positions.
And places that likely could use some sensitivity training weren’t there.
A city spokesperson said in her invite to the media that the workshop was for pre-registered community participants "who are training to become Safe Harbour providers in our community."
Back to the Sun’s story.
"A lot of businesses say that they struggle to recruit and retain aboriginal people for example, but how hard is it to be an aboriginal person in the workplace when you’re the only one?" asked diversity training facilitator Lindsay Marsh. "Their cultural needs may not be met."
Yeah. But there was one business, Lindsay.
But here’s the kicker from our story — once businesses and institutions complete the workshop, they are given door stickers to advertise themselves as an immediate inclusive and safe place.
Wow. A sticker. Like doors in Brandon leading into institutions or businesses aren’t already plastered with a multitude of stickers: some promoting something; others ordering people away if they smoke; some saying push; others saying pull.
It’s all so confusing at times.
I think I need a place to sit and a glass of water.
But as a middle-aged white guy, will somebody offer me one?
Clearly, Brandon and many, many other communities in Canada need to continue to find ways to deal with the influx of immigrants.
They’ve come here from oppressive or poor or simply bad places to make a better life in Canada.
Many are here to do the jobs many Canadians turn their noses up at.
Most workplaces already have various codes of conduct that address the many heads of the harassment snake — from sexual, to physical and racial.
There are already well-established and activist support groups for many minorities and special interest groups.
But the touchy-feely Kumbaya approach is simply an avoidable, politically correct embarrassment.
And I still haven’t got that glass of water.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 12, 2013