In their own zone

Thou­sands of Labrado­ri­ans il­le­gally set their clocks to the wrong time

The Southern Gazette - - Editorial - BY JAMES MCLEOD

TRANS-LABRADOR HIGH­WAY – Two signs flank the Trans-Labrador High­way, roughly 65 kilo­me­tres north of Port Hope Simpson, telling trav­ellers that it’s the ex­act spot where the New­found­land Stan­dard Time zone ends and At­lantic Stan­dard Time be­gins.

In ev­ery pos­si­ble sense, the signs are ut­terly mean­ing­less.

There is no cell ser­vice, no way to con­nect with the out­side world. It’s more than an hour’s drive north to Cartwright, and nearly an hour to Port Hope Simpson to the south, along a dusty gravel road.

Any­body who in­sisted on chang­ing their clock at that ex­act spot would need to be a stick­ler for tech­ni­cal­ity, but tech­ni­cally, you’d be wrong to change your clock at all.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter of the law, Labrador shouldn’t have a sep­a­rate time zone.

All of Labrador should be ob­serv­ing New­found­land Stan­dard Time, and for the past 82 years, thou­sands of res­i­dents of the Big Land have been fla­grantly break­ing the law ev­ery time they set their clocks.

The Stan­dard Time Act is quite straight­for­ward: “Time in the prov­ince shall be reck­oned as 3 1/2 hours later than Green­wich mean so­lar time.”

The Act gives for­mal, le­gal ef­fect to the fa­mous lit­tle quirk of the prov­ince: New­found­land Stan­dard Time is the only halfhour time zone in the Amer­i­cas.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment could rec­og­nize Labrador’s tra­di­tional ob­ser­vance of At­lantic Stan­dard Time if it wanted to. The law says that cabi­net can make reg­u­la­tions “pre­scrib­ing, where nec­es­sary, the ap­pli­ca­tion of a time zone other than New­found­land Stan­dard Time to a part or por­tion of the prov­ince.” The thing is, the cabi­net has never both­ered to make reg­u­la­tions ac­knowl­edg­ing the ex­is­tence of Labrador and the fact that ev­ery­body liv­ing north of Black Tickle cus­tom­ar­ily ob­serves At­lantic Stan­dard Time. No shock

Trent O’Brien, mayor of L’anse Au Loup and pres­i­dent of the Com­bined Coun­cils of Labrador, said it’s not a shock that Labrador might have been for­got­ten. “The laws of the leg­is­la­ture seem to be dif­fer­ent when ap­plied to Labrador any­way,” he said. “When it comes to en­vi­ron­men­tal, when it comes to road qual­ity, when it comes to trans­porta­tion, you know, what’s ac­cept­able in Labrador seems dif­fer­ent in a lot of ways.”

Speak­ing to the Tele­gram, O’Brien stressed that he was only speak­ing for him­self, be­cause the Com­bined Coun­cils of Labrador have never dis­cussed the time zone is­sue at a meet­ing.

The er­ror has ex­isted in the law go­ing all the way back to 1935, when the Com­mis­sion of Gov­ern­ment passed the first New­found­land Stan­dard Time Act.

The orig­i­nal law for­mal­ized Day­light Sav­ing Time and de­clared that, ex­cept for the sum­mer months, all ex­pres­sions of time “in New­found­land or its Depen­den­cies” would be reck­oned as 3 1/2 hours later than Green­wich Mean Time. The “Depen­den­cies” are gen­er­ally thought to mean Labrador.

The law has been up­dated sev­eral times over the past 82 years, and in 1987, the gov­ern­ment added a sec­tion that said the cabi­net could pass reg­u­la­tions mod­i­fy­ing the time zone.

But no reg­u­la­tions were ever passed, mean­ing that thou­sands of Labrado­ri­ans con­tinue to flout the will of the leg­is­la­ture ev­ery time they set their clocks. Labrador West MHA Gra­ham Letto was a lit­tle bit taken aback when the Tele­gram asked him about his scofflaw con­stituents.

“That’s news to me. That’s all I can say to that. If that’s the case, then I guess we need to get leg­is­la­tion in place that makes it le­gal,” Letto said.

Re­spon­si­bil­ity for the is­sue falls to Municipal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ed­die Joyce, be­cause his de­part­ment for­mally has cus­tody of the Stan­dard Time Act.

Joyce said he’s not sure whether the gov­ern­ment will act to fix the law and make Labrador’s clock-set­ting habits le­gal.

Joyce said the power of tra­di­tion might carry more weight than the power of the law. He said there are records go­ing back to the 1800s which in­di­cate that Labrado­ri­ans ei­ther ob­served At­lantic Stan­dard Time or lo­cal so­lar time, based on con­ve­nience.

“With tra­di­tion, and over what — 150 years of ob­serv­ing the time zone in Labrador — would that have any cred­i­bil­ity? We’ve been ob­serv­ing this as part of our cus­tom, why would we change it?” Joyce said. “I mean, that’s some­thing you can ask legally, but I know that if I’m in Labrador for a meet­ing, and the meet­ing is at 10 o’clock, that’s 10 o’clock Labrador time.”

Lawyer Will His­cock said it’s un­likely that there’d ever be se­ri­ous le­gal con­se­quences to come from a half-hour dis­crep­ancy be­tween the let­ter of the law and the ac­cepted lo­cal prac­tice.

But he said if there was ever any con­fu­sion, and that halfhour time dif­fer­ence mat­tered, it could get tan­gly.

“I think it would be a very in­ter­est­ing ques­tion, hon­estly, and I don’t think it would nec­es­sar­ily be an easy one for the courts to get around, in that the time is a mat­ter of the let­ter of the law,” His­cock said.

“If it arose, I think the courts would be trapped by the let­ter of the leg­is­la­tion. You know, that is the role of the leg­is­la­ture: they set the laws.”

This isn’t the first time in the prov­ince’s his­tory that peo­ple have cho­sen to rebel against the gov­ern­ment when it comes to clock-set­ting.

The pro­vin­cial archives con­tain many ref­er­ences to the fact that some out­port com­mu­ni­ties chose to ig­nore Day­light Sav­ing Time.

In 1937, Change Is­lands res­i­dent Will A. Taylor wrote to the gov­ern­ment com­plain­ing that his em­ployer would not put for­ward the clocks un­til June, and set them back in Septem­ber, de­spite the fact that the gov­ern­ment man­dated Day­light Sav­ing Time should run from May un­til Oc­to­ber.

“If it is a law, I don’t see why cer­tain peo­ple should be al­lowed to beak that any more than I am al­lowed to break some other law,” Taylor wrote.

Ap­par­ently, Taylor got no sat­is­fac­tion, be­cause five years later, he wrote to the gov­ern­ment again, this time with the added con­ster­na­tion of Dou­ble Day­light Sav­ing Time. At the time, the gov­ern­ment in New­found­land was con­cerned about Ger­man bomb­ing raids, so there were black­out reg­u­la­tions at night. The gov­ern­ment adopted an ex­tra hour of Day­light Sav­ing Time so there would be more day­light in the even­ings, mak­ing it eas­ier for peo­ple to go about their busi­ness.

Taylor wrote an­other let­ter to the gov­ern­ment, clearly fu­ri­ous that he was miss­ing out.

“I work in a mer­can­tile es­tab­lish­ment and they have gone back to the slow time,” Taylor wrote to the De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs in 1942.

“If this is a War Mea­sure Act and is law, I don’t see why some should use some time and some more an ex­tra hour faster. Will you please let me know if this is a com­pul­sory law, or if peo­ple in the out­ports can use what­ever time they wish?”

Taylor likely wasn’t happy with the re­sponse he got from the gov­ern­ment.

“Stan­dard Time has been im­posed for the du­ra­tion of the war prin­ci­pally for the pur­pose of fa­cil­i­tat­ing in­dus­try and con­struc­tion work gen­er­ally, es­pe­cially in places where black­out ar­range­ments ap­ply,” a let­ter from the Com­mis­sion of Gov­ern­ment said.

“There is no penalty for non­com­pli­ance with the re­quire­ments of the Act. All con­tracts are, how­ever, sub­ject to Stan­dard Time.”

PHOTO BY JAMES MCLEOD

A sign on the side of the Tran­sLabrador High­way tells peo­ple to change their clocks be­cause they are of­fi­cially en­ter­ing At­lantic Stan­dard Time. The sign is wrong, be­cause legally all of Labrador should be ob­serv­ing New­found­land Stan­dard Time.

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