Land & Sea: Gaultois in 1981, a town on the brink

Land & Sea first visted Gaultois in 1981, when the Lake Group announced the closure of the fish plant, nearly a decade before FPI closed the plant for good.

In hindsight, was this the decision that sealed the town's fate?

There are no cars in Gaultois. In 1981, walking was the way to get around. (CBC)

Over the past few weeks, CBC has been looking at the issue of resettlement through the lens of the people in Gaultois. The population of the town peaked in the 1960s at almost 600 residents. Now, it's hovering at less than 120.

The CBC's Terry Roberts visited the town in November and found the people there demoralized; most of the women at the weekly dart league raised their hands in support of resettlement when asked.

So what happened to the once proud and bustling town of Gaultois?

CBC has a long history of filming in the remote town. Land & Sea first visted Gaultois in 1981, when the Lake Group announced the closure of its fish plant and again in 1990 when FPI closed the plant for good.

The harbour in Gaultois was filled with dories and rodneys in 1981. (CBC)

Those two Land & Sea documentaries featured many of the same people and painted a picture of the political, business and personal decisions that ultimately led to a town's death.   

This archival episode of Land & Sea is from 1981 when the unexpected decision by the Lake Group threw everyone out of work, causing great uncertainty. In hindsight, that closure set in motion the demise of Gaultois.

First settled by the French in the 1700s, Gaultois was a customs house for St. Pierre and Miquelon as well as a whaling station.

During post-Confederation resettlement drives, Gaultois absorbed families from many nearby smaller communities, thriving and surviving largely because it had its own fish plant.

That changed for Gaultois in 1981, and history repeated itself nearly a decade later.

In many ways, Gaultois represents the challenges faced by many rural communities that were settled in out-of-the-way places where land resources might be scarce, but ocean resources were plentiful and provided for a way of life that relied on hard work.