Newfoundland tradition of working away from home reverses amid Alberta's downturn

Newfoundlanders have been leaving from home to work for generations, but all that is changing. With the workforce looking towards an uncertain future, people in the area tell us how they're handling the economic downturn from documenting the phenomenon to bucking the trend of working abroad.
Newfoundland workers were once part of the tradition of leaving home for employment, but with Alberta's downturn they're coming home unemployed. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)
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Newfoundlanders have been travelling away from home to work for generations, but all that is changing. With the workforce looking towards an uncertain future, people in the area tell us how they're handling the economic downturn from documenting the phenomenon to bucking the trend of working abroad.

Oil rig in Mortier Bay. (Elizabeth Hoath/CBC)

Harold Murphy is the mayor of Parker's Cove, but during his time as school principal he was one of the few men left in town, meaning his wife, Elizabeth, also went against the grain. Mobile workers have been the norm in the region for so long, that it's not uncommon for husbands and fathers to be gone for six to eight months at a time. With her husband at home, Elizabeth is in the minority. 

Crystal Hann with husband, Travis, and three-year-old son, Camden. (Elizabeth Hoath/CBC)
It's such a norm now that we're just used to it. It's always about he'll be home for this, but he won't make it to this... What it does is it just leaves everything up in the air. It's a big sacrifice, but at the same time the bigger sacrifice is doing it for your family to give your family a better life.- Crystal Hann 

Even as one of the few unaffected by the struggles of working away, Elizabeth has just completed a research project for the local heritage committee on the commonplace phenomenon of mobile workers in the region. 

Sandrine Jean, assistant professor of anthropolgy at Memorial University, is also interested in studying the impacts of working abroad and what that does to the families left behind. One of those families is Crystal Hann's, and while her husband is currently unemployed, she's bracing herself for when he finds himself back in the mobile workforce.

If you can relate to the separation of families because of mobile work, let us know.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.