Town in limbo

Lit­tle Bay Islands faces more wait­ing for re­set­tle­ment res­o­lu­tion, de­spite re­cent steps for­ward

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY SARAH LADIK

Res­i­dents of Lit­tle Bay Islands are one step closer to know­ing the fate of their com­mu­nity.

After months of back and forth over who qual­i­fies as a res­i­dent and can there­fore vote on the re­set­tle­ment ques­tion, those who ap­pealed the de­ci­sion on their sta­tus have been get­ting their an­swers.

“The com­mu­nity is still di­gest­ing it,” Coun. Chris Weir told The Cen­tral Voice Oct. 24. De­spite his po­si­tion on coun­cil since 2014, he was not deemed a full-time res­i­dent of the com­mu­nity in the orig­i­nal as­sess­ment, re­leased in Fe­bru­ary. He learned the de­ci­sion had been over­turned around the same time as oth­ers in the com­mu­nity got their own re­sults, Oct. 15.

De­spite this step for­ward, how­ever, Weir says the process is still tak­ing too long.

“I still think it’s a de­ba­cle, I re­ally don’t know what the gov­ern­ment has done here,” he said. “It’s an is­sue that should have been re­solved many, many months ago, put clo­sure to the fact. It hasn’t been done. It seems like they’re drag­ging their heels on it, and I’m not sure why they’re drag­ging their heels on it.”

Past v. present

The saga of the po­ten­tial re­set­tle­ment of Lit­tle Bay Islands has made head­lines for years.

Me­dia the likes of The Globe and Mail, The Na­tional Post and The New York Times have made the trek to the is­land in Notre Dame Bay – a mere 30-minute ferry ride from Pil­ley’s Is­land. The Cen­tral Voice made its own pil­grim­age in early Septem­ber.

“What’s hap­pen­ing in New­found­land is re­ally no dif­fer­ent than any­where else,” said Ray Flynn, a sum­mer res­i­dent of the is­land who has lived in many prov­inces over the course of his life. “In New­found­land, it was the fish­ing. This was a ma­jor fish­ing cen­tre, but after the war, ev­ery­thing changed and it’s been go­ing down­hill ever since.”

Lit­tle Bay Islands has about 120 homes, though some stand empty. There used to be more scat­tered through­out the is­land’s coves, but as time wore on and fish­ing was no longer sus­tain­able as a purely fam­i­lyrun op­er­a­tion, peo­ple moved into the town, clus­tered around a pro­tected har­bour.

The 2016 cen­sus recorded 61 res­i­dents, though last year less than 40 stayed over the win­ter. There are only a hand­ful of res­i­dents un­der the age of 60.

The gov­ern­ment is of­fer­ing $250,000 for a sin­gle per­son, and up to $270,000 for a fam­ily, to re­lo­cate. As a re­sult of a pol­icy change in 2016, this would not see the gov­ern­ment take pos­ses­sion of peo­ple’s homes, but rather is meant to help peo­ple start some­where else.

Flynn is orig­i­nally from Har­bour Main but mar­ried two women from Lit­tle Bay Islands and now spends his sum­mers there with his sec­ond wife, Doris Tucker, in her brother’s for­mer house. They too had ap­peals filed for their res­i­dency sta­tus. He also has lit­tle faith in the gov­ern­ment com­ing to a speedy de­ci­sion when it comes to re­set­tle­ment.

“Peo­ple like Doris and I, it don’t mat­ter a lot to us be­cause we come in the sum­mer, we go down south in the win­ter, and we got a home in St. John’s,” he said. “The sad part is there are a number of el­derly peo­ple who don’t have a ve­hi­cle of their own, and health care is a ma­jor prob­lem. Just to go to Spring­dale on the ferry, if you have to get a taxi it’s $70, just to go to the drug­store.”

In the Oct. 2015 vote that fell half-a-per­cent­age shy of the 90 per cent re­quired for re­set­tle­ment, Flynn cast a bal­lot in favour of the mea­sure. Not for him­self, he said, but for his friends and neigh­bours.

“If they ever did an­other vote, I’m not sure which way I’d go,” he said.

Though they do have a house in St. John’s, in Par­adise to be pre­cise, Tucker knows where she calls home.

“That’s not par­adise,” she said. “Lit­tle Bay Is­land is par­adise.”

SARAH LADIK-THE CEN­TRAL VOICE

Lit­tle Bay Islands was set­tled in 1825 and was once a bustling com­mu­nity of more than 500 peo­ple.

SARAH LADIK — THE CEN­TRAL VOICE

Doris Tucker serves tea and treats to visi­tors to Lit­tle Bay Islands who stop by her house.

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