Life on Little Bay Island sounds like a dream from a fantastic time. For the 54 residents who call this island their permanent home, this place is a haven. A place where you can leave your house unlocked to return and finding all still in order. A site where the local shop owner often relies on an honesty system in his shop with a jar with small change and the trust that all will pay what they took. It is an undisturbed life, away from the hustle and bustle of civilization. A place where many generations have built their dreams, but this is all coming to an end now. From 31 December, services and transport to the island will be shut down.
The community of Little Island has had a long and quite happy existence that centred on the once-lucrative fishing industry. Now they are part of the statistics of remote villages being shut down due to the province’s relocation policy. This is aiming at getting communities out of these remote areas and in return, residents receive some government compensation.
Little Bay Island is based in Newfoundland. Both Newfoundland and Labrador are currently struggling with ageing communities that face significant difficulties in getting access to much-needed health care, utilities and even the internet. 75% of the 37.5 million inhabitants of Canada stay within 100 kilometres from the US border in the South. This piece of land makes up 4% of the Canadian territory. Thus 75% of the population stays within 4% of the country, and this makes the remote areas even more so and much harder to service. Therefore the relocation policy was introduced to be able to resettle those people to more accessible locations, and in return, they would receive compensation from the government.
The policy was initially invented in 1953 as the financial burden of servicing these remote locations became too much. Since then, more than 300 outposts have been relocated. Often the experience was one where residents felt manipulated to resettle through the use of coercion. Today the process requires that at least 90% of the residents in that specific location need to vote in favour of the process. Although many do then vote in favour, this is done in fear that they will be deserted along with their remote location if they don’t.
Ted Grimes is one such resident, stating that the history of generations of his family is engraved on the island and you can’t take it all with you. Neither do they want to leave, but they can’t afford to be left behind either. Hence they opted to accept the government’s offer, and he took as many memories as he could with him to his new home — a cottage in the small village of Lewisport. The town has 3 400 people which is a far cry from the 54 on Little Bay Island, but at least he should be able to find some peace in his new home.