Valemount is a beautiful place. My husband lived in Valemount, at the trailer park, for more than six months when the last pipeline job went through. Our boys and I stayed for almost four months. We came to love the town and the people. Valemount was relatively welcoming back then but some still weren’t sure. They didn’t trust the pipeliners in their community. The country wasn’t locked up in a global pandemic. People were free to move about and still some/many had reservations. It wasn’t long before people started to recognize and appreciate the boost to the local economy by the shadow population. They worked there, lived there, spent there and played there. Some stayed there. They were generous with their tips and fundraising for charities. My husband lived in Jasper for about a year and they weren’t welcome in the beginning either. When people give them a chance they quickly learn how valuable the shadow population is, especially during the shoulder seasons in tourist towns. When the pipeline pulled out of Jasper the local newspaper had a full page write up thanking them.
Speaking as a wife of a pipeliner for 20 years my heart breaks for those in a camp situation or non camp for that matter during this challenging time as a country. These workers/shadow population would love nothing more than to support your town. Unfortunately none of them want to deal with rejection or eye rolls or the feeling of not being welcome. This time around is nothing like the last because of the pandemic. If they socialize more and support more they run the risk of being problematic should an outbreak occur. Keep in mind that an outbreak can be a couple of cases. They don’t want to be blamed. Many are away from their families, their loved ones. They would love to have a good meal and a few pints, pick up some groceries etc. Some will make the choice to drive to another town (on a day off) that may be larger and they won’t be so recognized in their personal vehicles. They don’t want anyone making a fuss over them, either good or bad.
We can’t turn on the tv without public health telling us to keep our circles small with the same cohorts and not to venture outside of that. In many ways, these workers are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They don’t want to upset anyone. Plus their employers don’t tolerate bad reviews or complaints from locals. If that occurs, you can be sure someone will lose their job and be sent home.
Being that same wife who traveled with her husband and kids all over I’ve heard it and seen it all. While the majority of folks are kind and welcoming there are always those whispers in the local shops like you are taking something or doing something wrong by just being there. It’s different for the travellers just passing through. For those living there for an extended period of time, ‘the talk’ starts. It’s nice to walk into that grocery store and be greeted with a smile and not a what in the hell are you in here for?
So, even if you have reservations and want to keep your safe distance please be kind. The last thing that any of these workers want is to upset anyone.

Marlean McLean
Flinton, Ontario