A letter from a fisherman's daughter

Read a letter by a woman who says her father was jailed for trying to keep replacement workers from boarding an OCI trawler in Bay Roberts last week.

By Kelly Slaney

I'm writing you today to talk about something that I hope people all over our province hear.

I'm the daughter of one of the men that stood proudly for six full days fighting for what he and many other families across Newfoundland believe in: keeping their jobs.

Kelly Slaney, 25, of Point May, on the Burin Peninsula. (Courtesy Kelly Slaney)

First of all, I just wanted to say how proud I am of him and what an amazing dad he's been and I wanted to let him know we support and respect him.

My dad spent his entire life since he was 18 years old — "only a baby," as most would consider — working for the fisheries.

Today my dad is almost 60 years old and suddenly his job has been ripped from his fingers. It's the only work he's ever known.

He missed watching his children grow while he left his wife week after week, month after month, and year after year to do his duties at sea and make sure his children weren't hungry and were given the necessities of life. We never had fancy things growing up, but my sister, brother and I were well taken care of.

No one, except the brave soul that's spent part of his life at sea, know the hard work that those men do aboard those boats.

I remember so clearly as a small child, "the baby of the family," not long after dad got home from a fishing trip, my father sitting us kids down and showing us a video he had taken while being out to sea for a trip. Freezing temperatures, icy decks, high seas, storms and hours and hours everyday, for sometimes 40 days straight, standing on their feet.

Isaac Slaney, 59, has fished for four decades. (Courtesy Kelly Slaney)

Of course they rested too. I'm not trying to convince you they are superheroes but what I'm trying to say is that not any man can do the work he's done for the past 42 years.

When dad would talk about the importance of working hard, and providing for his family, and making sacrifices, and the value of a dollar, I didn't quite understand.

Seeing the videos once made me realize well enough the importance of a dollar and how hard those men worked to make one. 

That was enough for me to have the respect I have for my father today. Knowing how hard he's worked to raise his family and today have all that taken from him has literally made me sick.

As a small child I also remember every trip he made. Standing in our living room window watching him pass our front lawn making his way to the car to leave with his sea bag on his back. When I saw that bag, I knew dad was leaving and he would be gone for a very long time.

I was too young to understand why he was leaving and why he would leave for so long and not come home. I say a very long time because as a child, two weeks or sometimes longer seemed like an eternity.

I just returned from Alberta because my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Mom has undergone surgery, and has been required to take medications to fight infections. We are still unsure and won't know until she sees a cancer specialist if she is going to require treatment, what stage the cancer has reached, or if it's travelled anywhere else.

As stressful as that is, it don't make things any easier or any less stressful to know what OCI has done to my dad and all his shipmates.

This week, we found out that dad and all his shipmates aboard the Newfoundland Lynx are going to have their medical benefits cut. It honestly scares me to think of what will happen if my mom has to go to St. John's for a full month to undergo treatments.

What scares me even more than that is the fact that a company can close their doors on such honest, hard-working men. Men that have made a multi-million dollar company rich! Not giving it a second thought what this is doing to families like mine, and what kind of situation the company has put us in.

This is only my family's story. It's not easy going to bed at night and trying to sleep thinking about how much other families will lose too.

Still there is a thought that crosses my mind that almost makes me evil. The thought that this company continues to get away with it and go home at night and sleep in a nice warm bed and not give it a second thought sends shivers of rage down my spine!

What can I do? Nothing! I don't hold the power of change in my hands.

Dad is almost 60, and last week was the first time he ever saw the inside of a jail cell. For what? Fighting to keep his job? Is that some kind of a sick joke? 

I have always been so proud to call myself a Newfoundlander. Since all this has happened, it made me take a few steps back and take a better look at the picture.

If our government continues to let those kind of things happen, Newfoundland will some day go under.

The question is: Who's going to be man or woman enough to step forward and make a change and once again make us proud to be Newfoundlanders?

Thank you all for taking the time to read this and may God bless every man that braves the open sea for a living. Let's not sit back any longer and let companies like OCI destroy what put us Newfoundlanders here in the first place. It's time we all fight back.

We may be a small province, but by God we are a strong one. Way to go men. Stand your ground and don't back down.