William's Harbour residents agree to relocate, says province

Residents of the small Labrador community of William's Harbour have unanimously voted in favour of relocation.

Entire Labrador community on board with decision to move

As of the 2016 census, William's Harbour, a small community in Labrador, had only 15 residents. (Google Maps)

Residents of the small Labrador community of William's Harbour have unanimously voted in favour of relocation.

In a news release Tuesday, the provincial government said the vote means officials can now undertake the process of taking control of permanent residential and commercial proprieties and begin transferring payments to residents of William's Harbour to help them transition to another community.

The province said it will cost approximately $4 million to complete the relocation. But it said it will result in saving about $7.9 million over the next 20 years. 

"We have worked for some time with the residents of William's Harbour on this process and are pleased to see it moving forward," said Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment Eddie Joyce in the statement. 

The provincial government received a request to relocate the community of William's Harbour more than four years ago.

The threshold for the relocation process to proceed with relocation is 90 per cent.

According to Statistics Canada, just 15 people lived in the community last year. 

Town pushed for relocation

Cartwright - L'Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster said the move to relocate William's Harbour is a reflection of its aging demographic. 

"You have a handful of people left on an island in the middle of the ocean," she said. "There's no medical services there."

Cartwright MHA Lisa Dempster says residents will still have the option to return to the community once they move. (John Pike/CBC)

The decision to leave was community initiated, she said, and not at the behest of the government. 

"I'm sure there's many mixed emotions for these people over the next number of weeks, as they prepare to leave what has been their lifelong home," said Dempster.

She said residents will have the option to return to the community, to pick berries or get fish in the summertime, by applying for a five-year permit once they relocate. 

"I'm really pleased with that and I hope there's some consolation in that for the residents as they prepare to leave and head out to spend winters in a neighbouring town," Dempster said.

Residents ready

Town resident Bill Larkham has lived in William's Harbour for each of his 76 years. 

He said the decision to leave was expected, and many of the town's residents are getting older.

In this file photo, Clifford Russell and Bill Larkham of Team Williams Harbour are seen practising for the Labrathon ahead of the 2016 Labrador Winter Games. (Alyson Samson/CBC)
"We're starting to get out of it. We're all up in age and that. It's gonna be tough."

There are no doctors or nurses in William's Harbour.

Larkham plans to move with his wife to nearby Port Hope Simpson, where his son lives. 

He said he'll miss looking out at the ocean each morning.

With files from Chris O'Neill-Yates