2. Overview of the English-speaking community of the Lower North Shore
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The Lower North Shore is located across from the western coast of Newfoundland where the Strait of Belle Isle opens into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, stretching from Blanc-Sablon (at the Labrador border) to Kegaska (opposite the eastern tip of Anticosti Island.) This is a sub-region of the provincial Côte-Nord administrative region. Fourteen communities are spread along 400 kilometres of rugged coastline, and in most cases accessible only by ferry, plane or snowmobile (in winter.) The two easterly municipalities, Bonne-Esperance and Blanc-Sablon, are connected by road to southern Labrador with a ferry to Newfoundland. There are two principal Innu communities located in La Romaine and Pakuashipi.
For thousands of years, the plentiful resources of the Lower North Shore attracted different peoples seeking fish, whale, seal oil and fur. Starting about 9,000 years ago, the area was settled by the Inuit and Innu followed by Basque, French, and English settlers. In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier sailed along the Lower North Shore and proclaimed it “the land God gave to Cain.” In the 1760s, Britain gained control of North America, and British companies took over many of these trading posts. Bilingual fishing merchants from the Jersey Islands arrived to set up industrial codfish processing plants, which drew in new waves of settlers. The biggest and most recent wave of settlement came from Newfoundland in the 19th century. These newcomers introduced Newfoundland traditions and contributed to the unique cultural mix of the Coast, which is today predominantly English-speaking with a significant proportion considered to have a Métis heritage.
Once considered boundless, the cod stocks that initially attracted so many settlers and fishers to the region collapsed in the 1990s, and a moratorium on cod fishing was declared by the federal government in 2003. Although the stocks are currently renewing, the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery has resulted in significant socio-economic dislocation in the region. While residents are shifting to other economic activities out of necessity (other fish species, non-timber wildlife resources such as wild berries, and eco-tourism), many have had to migrate temporarily or permanently for employment elsewhere. This remote region has witnessed a significant decline in population over the last few decades, and it is estimated that approximately half of the region’s adult population leaves the Coast at some time during the year to secure employment.10
The collapse of the region’s main economic activity has also resulted in the out-migration of youth, who have few employment opportunities within the region, and an increase in social challenges related to the unstable economic situation, such as substance abuse and the burden of caring for the elderly. The entire problem is compounded by the lack of a coastal road, which makes transportation expensive and uncertain due to the region’s geography and often harsh weather conditions. The communities of the Lower North Shore therefore face a double challenge in terms of sustainable development and enhanced vitality.
The demographic profile was drawn from the Minganie- Basse-Côte-Nord census measurement area.
According to the 2006 census, the population whose first official language spoken is English is 3,500 representing 80.0% of the total population of the Lower North Shore area (consisting of Blanc-Sablon, Bonne-Esperance, Saint-Augustin, Gros-Mécatina andthe Côte-Nord-du-Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent).
Nearly one in five members of the Lower North Shore English-speaking community is below the age of 15 while 13% are over the age of 65, which is quite similar for the area as a whole (which is not surprising given that Anglophones make up a large majority of the population.)
Origins and migration
Although there are virtually no immigrants, some 18% of the English-speaking population of the Lower North Shore area report that they were born in another province of Canada according to the 2001 census.
According to the 2006 census, the English-speaking community of the Lower North Shore has had relatively low rates of language shift. Some four in five Anglophones on the Lower North Shore declare knowledge of English only and the rate of bilingualism is 20% as compared to 69% for the English-speaking population of the province.
Unemployment rates are quite high in the Lower North Shore areas where there are concentrations of Anglophones. In 2001, the rate was well over 30% for the English-speaking Lower North Shore population and as high as 60% in, for example, Bonne-Esperance. As a consequence, the incidence of Lower North Shore Anglophones receiving government transfer payments was well over 30%, considerably greater than the rates for Anglophones elsewhere in the province and with respect to the overall provincial average. These statistics reflect a high dependence on seasonal work in the fishery and out-of-region employment (construction, hunting and fishing camps, etc.).
Generally, the English-speaking communities of the Lower North Shore have been witnessing a slow but steady decline in population that is marked by three predominant demographic features (comparative to the overall population of the region): there is a higher proportion of seniors, the level of bilingualism is lower than in other English-speaking communities (reflecting the isolated nature of many Lower North Shore communities), and there is a higher level of unemployment that results in seasonal and temporary migration in search of work.
2.2 Community resources
As members of a historic community, Lower North Shore English-speaking residents have developed considerable community resources. The community hosts a varied and active cultural life encompassing theatre, visual arts, music, heritage attractions and museums, news media, sports, educational institutions and more.
Arts and Culture
- Museum Centre, St-Paul’s River
- Michael Osborne (artist)
- Littoral School Board
- One high school (St-Paul’s River)
- Seven combined high school/elementary schools
- One elementary school (Old Fort Bay)
- Two community learning centres
- Two adult education centres
- One daycare, six sub-daycares
Health and Social Services
- Lower North Shore Coalition for Health (LNSCH)
- Seven Centres locaux des services communautaires (CLSCs)
- Table Régionale Intersectorielle sur la Promotion, la Prévention et les Services en Milieu Scolaire (TRIPP)
- Centre de réadaptation pour personnes alcooliques et toxicomanes (CANAL)
- Television – two community television cooperatives (Chevery, Blanc-Sablon)
- Radio – three community radio stations (CFTH-Harrington Harbour, CJAS-St-Augustin, CFBS-Blanc-Sablon); CBC, Quebec Community Network
- Print – Coastar (quarterly), Chevery News, Mecatina News, Coastal Breeze (quarterly)
- Lower North Shore Fisherman’s Association
- Multi-species Fisherman’s Association
- Inshore Traditional Fisherman’s Association
- Harrington Harbour Fish Co-op
- Centre Aquaculture Côte-Nord (La Tabatière)
- Tourisme Basse-Côte-Nord
- Three local tourism committees
- Centre local de développement (CLD)
- Société d’aide au développement de la collectivité (SADC)
- Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ)
- Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)
- Junior Rangers
- One 4-H Club
- Carrefour Jeunesse
- Two youth centres (La Tabatière, Blanc-Sablon)
- Summer youth camps (5)
- Scouts Canada (Chevery, Harrington Harbour)
Social & Religious
- Lower North Shore Women’s Coalition
- Fourteen church groups
- Chevery Women’s Group
- Anglican Diocese
- Catholic Diocese
- North Shore Deanery
- Whiteley Museum (St-Paul’s River)
- Middle Bay Interpretation Centre
- Roswell Interpretation Centre (Harrington Harbour)
- Providence Island Interpretation Centre
- Jos Hébert Museum (Tête-à-la-Baleine)
- Monseigneur Scheffer Museum (Blanc-Sablon)
- Traditional Skills Network, Quebec Labrador Foundation
- Oral History Project, Commission Scolaire du Littoral, Coasters Association
- Inter-community hockey tournaments
- Local sports and leisure committees
- Two indoor arenas (Blanc-Sablon, St-Augustin)
- Harrington Harbour Seniors Home
- Meals-on-Wheels (Chevery)
- Local Table for Seniors
- Comité de solidarité de services adaptés (Chevery)
- Domestic Aid Co-op
- Coasters Association
- Community Economic Development & Employability Committee
- Quebec Labrador Foundation
- Regional Development Council
- Nordik Express (maritime ferry)
- Air Labrador
- Quebec Provincial Airlines
- Route 138 snowmobile trail
- Apollo ferry (Blanc-Sablon-Ste-Barbe, Newfoundland and Labrador)
- Barge, helicopter, taxi boat services
2.3 Best practices by target sector
For the purposes of this study, English-speaking Lower North Shore participants chose four priority sectors. This section presents highlights of initiatives considered best practices or success stories in terms of fostering community vitality.
In the 1960s, the Quebec-Labrador Foundation installed community swimming pools to teach the children of fishing families how to swim, since most fishers never learn to swim in the cold ocean water. This tradition led community organizations on the Lower North Shore to hold summer camps to increase the recreational and learning opportunities available to youth. These camps began about 20 years ago, providing opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable in small, geographically isolated villages–and fulfilling a need where many parents have to leave their community in summertime for seasonal employment away from the Lower North Shore.
The Junior Canadian Rangers are part of the Canadian Rangers, which provides a military presence in sparsely settled northern, coastal and isolated areas of Canada. The Rangers complement other components of the Canadian Forces, which would not be convenient or economical in areas like the Coast. The Junior Rangers program seeks to strengthen remote and isolated Canadian communities through a practical youth program that embraces culture and tradition, and promotes healthy living and positive self-image through traditional and life skills important to these communities, especially outdoor survival. The Junior Rangers program is offered throughout the Lower North Shore.
2.3.2 Health and social services
Lower North Shore Coalition for Health
The Coalition was established in 2005 as part of the Health and Social Services Network Partnership Initiative (HSSNPI) sponsored by the Quebec Community Groups Network and managed by the Community Health and Social Services Network in Québec City. The organization brings together the main community and institutional stakeholders concerned with access to English-language health services, including the Coasters Association and the Centre de services de santé et sociaux de la Basse-Côte-Nord (CSSSBCN). Its role is to carry out community health profiles and foster partnership projects such as the Voices and Choices program for encouraging healthy lifestyles with teenagers.
Another outcome of the HSSNPI project, the Telehealth program provides information and training sessions via video conference to health care professionals throughout the Lower North Shore at the regional health centre and local community service centres (CLSCs). Given the geographic isolation of most of these locations, the Telehealth program is an important communications service between communities and with resources off the Coast.
Lower North Shore Food Guide
Responding to the seasonal availability and generally poor quality of fresh foods, which are both impediments to a healthy diet on the Lower North Shore, the Coasters Association produced a food guide in 2006 to promote healthier lifestyles among the population. The guide contains useful facts and recipes based on local food resources, drawing on recommendations of the Canada Food Guide.
2.3.3 Community renewal
Quebec Labrador Foundation (QLF)
The first QLF programs began in 1961 along the Quebec North Shore and Labrador coasts with volunteers travelling to remote communities to help residents protect their environment, preserve their natural and cultural heritage, build local leadership, and develop sustainable economies. Programs focus on environmental health, biodiversity conservation, place-based education and training, culture and heritage development, river and land stewardship, tourism development, and water safety. In addition, the founder of QLF conducts a rural ministry and administers a scholarship program for young people seeking academic degrees. As part of the program, interns and associates from colleges and universities in Canada and the United States now work with local staff to deliver programs and conduct activities at the community level. The QLF has been a bedrock of development activities in the region for four decades.
Community learning centres
Part of a three-year initiative funded through the Quebec-Canada Education Entente, this pilot project supports the development of a group of community learning centres (CLC) to serve as hubs for English-language education and development in their respective communities and to offer models for future practice. Three community learning centres are located in schools along the Lower North Shore (Chevery, La Tabatière and St-Paul’s River), providing educational and support services for the broader community in partnership with various agencies, which pool their resources and share responsibility for service delivery. Given the lack of road and communications infrastructure, such institutions are extremely important to the availability of educational and complementary services, from pre-school to career training.
2.3.4 Economic development
Coast Fest 2008
While the major celebrations of Samuel de Champlain’s founding of the first permanent settlement in North America will take place in Québec City during the summer of 2008, the Lower North Shore is capturing some of this promotional and tourism wind in its sails with the Coast Fest. The Lower North Shore was visited by the Vikings and European fishermen well before Champlain, and claims to be the first port of call by Jacques Cartier in 1534 during his epic voyage. The region is investing a great deal of energy in heritage and eco-tourism activities as an alternative economic sector, and the quadrennial Champlain celebrations are an opportunity to bring much needed attention to the natural resources of the area.
Non-timber forestry resource development
The major assets of the Lower North Shore are tied to its natural resources. With the demise of the fishery, community organizations have been investigating other avenues for sustainable economic development. One of these involves exploiting non-timber resources, such as wildberries (found in abundance), exotic mushrooms and seaweeds. Currently, assessment studies are underway to determine what potential these natural resources have as an alternative economic activity.
While the English-speaking communities have been much less involved in the cooperative movement in Quebec, which has been a major motor of rural and regional development over the last century, the communities of the Lower North Shore are actively looking at these socioeconomic structures as a means to revitalize economic activity. A cooperative to provide domestic aid to seniors has already been created, and assessment studies are being carried out to establish a northern greenhouse cooperative (a spin-off of the food guide project) to increase the supply of locally produced fresh vegetables.
10 Coasters Association, 2007, anecdotal evidence from community members.
11 Since not all data from the 2006 census were available at the date of publication, data in this section are from the 2006 census unless otherwise specified