EDMONTON – Sara Wheale is one of the people Justin Trudeau spoke about in Argentina. One of the people who have "social consequences" when they arrive in the countryside to work at construction sites.
"There are gender effects when you are building construction workers in a rural area," Trudeau said a panel on the G20. "There are social consequences because they are mostly male construction workers. How do you customize and adapt to them? That's what the gender objective in GBA-plus budgeting is all about."
The Prime Minister's comments began a controversy among the workers in the Alberts oil industry and, on Tuesday, Wheale announced on Facebook that she had decided to resign from her youth council.
Wheale, 23, is a heavy equipment operator and heavy truck driver. She is also a local councilor in Brazeau County, southwest of Edmonton. In 2017, she was appointed to the youth council, a non-partisan group that exists to advise Trudeau and his government on issues facing young Canadians.
In her letter of departure to Trudeau, dated December 5, she points out that she is one of the few young women working in the oil industry.
"What I can say is that they are not bad people! In fact, they are the first people I would call if I needed something," she wrote. "They are my friends and family. Many of them I'm not related to, but when you spend more time with the people you work with than your own family, they become your family."
Wale spoke to the National Post on Wednesday why she quit.
Why did you leave?
I am one of these construction workers who enter these rural communities. It's my whole society. It is kind of our world – we are one of the societies that bring people to work on our infrastructure projects, such as pipelines and highways. So it was a question of how to deal with this? And what should I be comfortable with? What decision can I live with in the end? And that was the decision I had made. I talked to some employees before sending the letter and it was the best way I could support my community and the people I felt I represented and could live with the decision.
Was the last straw?
Yes, there have been many things – and I've been more than happy with the conversation with the prime minister and other government councils too – but that's one of those things I'm one of these. I have sat around the table and tried to advocate and give the first-hand experiences about it, trying to show the rest of the country that may not be so knowledgeable about it, how it is. And I thought you knew I was doing a pretty good job and then it happened and I got back pretty much. I was a bit heartbroken. I felt that it was just not appropriate and lacked much knowledge; It did not depend on the real experiences of the people. I was really disappointed with it.
Do you think white collar politicians do not understand many Canadians?
It would be nice if the vitality world would be willing to understand us a little more. Even if they only took the time to understand, to walk a mile in our shoes once in a while, and actually sit and have a real conversation about how it is.
Have you heard from Trudeau?
I have not heard directly from the Prime Minister directly.
Why did you decide to publish your letter in public?
I had a lot of people asking what I was planning to do.
To me it was completely rude and disrespectful to say something publicly (when I submitted it). I wanted to give the prime minister time to review the letter, and if he would comment, he could, if he chose not, he did not choose it was good. But there is a certain degree of respect, and to me it would be respect for the prime minister and his schedule and all that. I wish he would have the opportunity before I actually told someone.
I did not think it would be removed as it is now. It was more or less just to let everyone know. It's a public council, we were publicly appointed for it, so I do not think it's something that the public should not be aware of.
How has your family reacted?
They are very supportive to me. My dad has its own oilfield construction company for about 30 years. He is an oil field consultant, so they are very supportive of my decision and they understand why I did, and they are happy to make this decision as I did.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.