Video

Little Bay Islands in limbo as residents await word on relocation funds

A few dozen residents in the tiny Newfoundland community of Little Bay Islands are in limbo, waiting to hear whether the provincial government will pay to resettle them all and close down the community, Reg Sherren reports.

Proposal to move tiny Newfoundland community's residents drags on despite 90 per cent approving

Residents are being offered cash to leave Little Bay Islands, Newfoundland, pitting those committed to preserving their home against those ready to abandon it. 7:39

For more than 200 years, the people living in the picturesque community of Little Bay Islands, tucked into the Northern coast of Newfoundland, have taken their living from the sea.

At one time it boasted a population close to 800 residents, with successful businesses, tidy homes and a close-knit sense of community.

But in recent years, with the closure of its fish plant and the ongoing cod moratorium, the people living there have watched their once vibrant community slowly slip away. People started to leave, looking for a future somewhere else. Stores started to close.

Today there isn’t one place to buy even a loaf of bread. Everything has to be brought across on the ferry. Medical appointments mean long, expensive drives for a population whose average age is now over 65.

So when a town councillor went to the Newfoundland and Labrador government asking about participating in its "relocation" program, a program through which the province would remove all government services in exchange for a compensation cheque, there was anticipation that this was the beginning of the end of the community. Still people resisted. Then everything changed.

The government upped the compensation to a minimum of $250,000 per household. Suddenly, support for "relocation" surged to over 90 per cent.

But it hasn’t been a happy time in Little Bay Islands. The process has now dragged on for close to two years. The government says it is only involved because it was asked by residents, and although initially rejected, the prospect of
"relocation" now appears to have the necessary support. The government also says it is still trying to determine whether paying people to move is in its best economic interest.

As I discovered — and you will watch in my video piece above — the prospect of winning what some refer to as a sort of "Irish lottery" has divided the community, and the delay in any sort of decision from government is turning sister against sister, and neighbour against neighbour.  

Some say regardless, it’s now doubtful that Little Bay Islands ever be the same.

About the Author

Reg Sherren

Reg Sherren has been introducing Canadians to the people and stories they care about for over three decades. Known for his unique story-telling abilities, Sherren is based in Winnipeg, working exclusively for The National.

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