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Sex trafficking a concern with Line 5 ‘man camps,’ Bay Mills says. Enbridge says it won't tolerate criminal or exploitive behavior among workers

Red dress in trees are used to highlight the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

The problem of missing and murdered Indigenous women is considered a crisis by tribal nations around the U.S. It’s exasperated by what Bay Mills tribal court victim advocate Liza McGahey called “man camps.”

Man camps are slang for construction worker’s temporary housing, she said. Because workers are chosen from around the nation, strangers can kidnap and coerce victims.

“People (are) coming from different regions," she said "Wherever they’re from, whether they’re running into someone online and that’s how they meet them in this area; whether they’re at a place of business; wherever they’re meeting them at, these people are going to be here, and our native community will start interacting with them.”

Enbridge Energy said employees engaging in any form of illegal or exploitive behavior is grounds for dismissal.

McGahey said sex trafficking in rural areas works different than in cities. For example, she her agency sees instances where family members groom victims into being trafficked more than cases where victims are kidnapped, she said.

"They’re not this person that’s gonna snatch you off the street," she said. "It could be your family member that groomed you into this and you’re not aware of it."

Bay Mills is instituting a plan to quickly respond to missing people that other tribes can model, she said. It was made for situations where "minutes count."

Enbridge said it has developed a human trafficking prevention plan, and requires all workers to receive training to combat human trafficking.

"We're all going to know our roles, what our key points are to this plan, and helping it run smoothly as best as we can for the family—less stress on them—so it's not a chaotic mess," she said.

Update: The previous version of this story did not include comments from Enbridge. The company's full statement is below:

Statement from Enbridge Energy
Enbridge has zero tolerance for all illegal and exploitive behavior. Such behaviors from anyone associated with our projects will not be tolerated and are immediate grounds for dismissal.

We work together with contractors and construction teams to make certain our standards and expectations are clear. Workers are required to act consistently with our policies and the law. We support all efforts by law enforcement to arrest perpetrators as well as the prosecution of anyone participating in trafficking to the maximum extent of the law.

As part of our recent Line 3 Project in Minnesota, Enbridge developed and implemented a Human Trafficking Prevention Plan in cooperation with several Tribal and State of Minnesota entities. In addition to requiring that all workers receive training prior to beginning work on the project, the plan also included development of an awareness campaign.