Nfld. & Labrador

McCallum votes on resettlement: 'It's a dying community'

People in the isolated Newfoundland community of McCallum, which has just six children, are choosing whether to stay or move.
Only 85 people live in McCallum, and rely on either ferry or air service to travel anywhere else. (Submitted by Colleen Kelly)

People in the isolated Newfoundland community of McCallum were voting Monday on whether they want to resettle.

There are only 79 adults and six children living in the southern Newfoundland village, which is only accessible via ferry or air.

Linda Hennessey says some residents of McCallum are nervous about relocating. (Linda Hennessey)

The town last voted on resettlement in December, with 74 per cent of people in favour. The law requires 90 per cent of the town to vote yes for government to provide the $270,000 in resettlement funding.

Linda Hennessey, a member of the town's resettlement committee, said  that with the town's aging population, resettlement is crucial.

"It's unfortunate, but it's a dying community," said Hennessey. "The majority of our population are seniors over 50 years old. They need to go for medical reasons."

The community does not have a hospital or doctors. Instead, a nurse flies in every two weeks. In order to get to a hospital, residents must travel 14 miles by ferry, and then another 45 minutes by car - a two- or three-day event that often requires costly accommodations.

"It's not just like getting in your car and going to the doctor," said Hennessey.

'Living the way that we're living'

McCallum also has a 12.5 per cent unemployment rate.

"It's just unfortunate that the taxpayers and government are paying out so much money for services for the community to thrive," said Hennessey.

"If the residents could move forward then the people who are living here now could go to work and contribute to the economy in a positive way, instead of sitting here and living the way that we're living."

Change is hard for anybody. When people don't know about what's out there I guess it could be scary and that could be what's holding them back- Linda Hennessey

Residents of the 90-person town of Nippers Harbour voted overwhelmingly to resettle two years ago, but the Newfoundland and Labrador government refused to provide funding. Hennessey said that the high costs associated with the McCallum ferry service makes it much more likely that the government would support her town's resettlement wishes.

But Hennessey is not hopeful that the town will get the 90 per cent vote in favour. She says that many residents have lived in McCallum all their lives and are frightened of going anywhere else.

"They're really not aware of what's out there. They're just comfortable living their own lives," Hennessey told CBC Radio's CrossTalk Monday.

"Change is hard for anybody. When people don't know about what's out there I guess it could be scary and that could be what's holding them back."

"I don't think it's going to change, but we're not going to give up the fight. We're going to continue on and we're going to let the government know that we're not giving up on this."