Protesters take to Route 430

Juris Graney
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More than a dozen Black Duck Cove shrimp processing plant workers blocked Route 430 on Wednesday with plans for rolling strikes until shrimp is stopped being trucked off the Northern Peninsula. — Photo by Juris Graney/The Northern Pen

Black Duck Cove shrimp processing workers have vowed to continue to block Route 430 every day until fisheries minister Clyde Jackman stops the practice of trucking gulf shrimp off the Northern Peninsula.

More than a dozen women set up a picket line across the highway at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, just south of the Port Saunders branch, to air their anger and concerns for their future at the Quinlan Bros. facility.

Waving placards bemoaning the transport of shrimp and other seafood products away from the Northern Peninsula, the group said last year they were starved of work because shrimp that could have been processed was trucked instead to plants in other parts of the province.

Wednesday more protesters from New Ferolle’s embattled multi-species plant were also expected to descend on the scene, boosting the numbers significantly and giving the group the ability to blockade the road 24 hours a day.

Protest organizer Michelle Dredge and Black Duck Cove’s United Food and Commercial Workers Union executive board fisheries representative warned last year that this kind of action would take place.

“We warned them,” she said. “We told them that if they want to truck shrimp off the Northern Peninsula we would stop them.”

“Our futures, all of our futures, are at stake here, and if they think they are going to truck raw material off this peninsula they’ve got another thing coming. This is war and we’re not taking any prisoners.”

Before the RCMP arrived around 4.15 p.m., the women stood shoulder to shoulder across both lanes of traffic, preventing vehicles from moving freely.

They asked drivers to sign a petition in support of their cause — including St. Barbe MHA Wally Young who was snared in the roadblock.

When trucks appeared on the horizon, the women’s resolve strengthened and they waved down drivers to stop. Those carrying seafood were corralled off the highway into a nearby parking lot at a former service station, where they waited.

By 8 p.m. they had snared three trucks — one carrying fresh crab to Cottle’s Cove, another carrying frozen caplin from St. Anthony and another transporting crab to an undisclosed location.

Keeping the peace

RCMP Const. Ian Jarvis said the trucks had more than 100,000 pounds of product that was eventually allowed to leave shortly after

9 p.m., adding their role was to keep the peace and direct traffic.

Despite the fact none were carrying shrimp, the protesters’ message was still the same.

“If it’s landed here it should be processed here,” said Millie Dredge, another protester.

“This has got to stop. The government is killing the Northern Peninsula and we are going to take a stand. … We’re not going to take it anymore.”

Just six boats are expected to serve Black Duck Cove’s shrimp plant this season, meaning there will be just one shift of workers, Michelle Dredge said.

“That’s just one shift, one shift is about 60 or 70 people. What’s the good in that?” she said.

“People up here are being treated like second-class citizens and we’ve had enough.”

Ralph Payne, chairman of the New Ferolle multi-species plant, was on hand to share his support and promised more protesters.

“It’s a disgrace how the people of the Northern Peninsula are being treated by this government,” he said.

“This is about people’s ability to put bread and butter on their tables. This should never have been allowed to happen.”

Dredge said the reinstatement of processing protection for Northern Peninsula shrimp plants, which was shelved during the raw materials sharing debate in 2005, should take place immediately.

Speaking from Brussels where he has been attending the European Seafood Exposition, Fisheries Minister Clyde Jackman said he would speak to the women when they stopped protesting.

“I will not bow down to threats and I will not engage in discussions while they block traffic on the Northern Peninsula,” he said.

“The harvesters have only just started harvesting this week, so we don’t know what prospects there are and for the past few years, despite what some of the people have said, the Northern Peninsula processes more than its average share of shrimp.”

Jackman said OCI, whose Port Union plant will not operate this year, would “in all likelihood” process that shrimp at their Port au Choix plant.

That won’t help Black Duck Cove, he said.

“It’s still the Northern Peninsula,” he said.

“I can’t decide what a particular company is going to do with their plant.

“The company operates as a business and they make business decisions therefore I can’t force an owner of a plant to process.”

Last June, workers at the Barry Group-owned Anchor Point shrimp processing plant held protests after their plant missed the start of the shrimp season by more than three weeks.

No one from Quinlan Bros. returned the Pen’s request for an interview.

The Northern Pen

Organizations: Quinlan Bros., United Food and Commercial Workers Union, RCMP Port Union Barry Group

Geographic location: Northern Peninsula, Black Duck, Port Saunders St. Anthony Brussels Port au Choix Anchor Point

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Recent comments

  • Gerry of Pouch Cove
    May 07, 2011 - 01:51

    the same thing is hapening here in northern NB. When I posted to Chatham in the early 90's, there were many mills along the Miramichi River. Now, I'm retired in my wife's hometown just outside Bathurst (not far from the Miramichi). No mills, & the large one in Bathurst is being torn down for scrap. But I see large 18 wheel flat-beds still coming out of the woods every day here loaded to the gills with wood being transported to be procesed down south or across the big atlantic pond....& unemployment is high in atlantic Canada because...??

  • Dave
    May 06, 2011 - 11:01

    Please tell me that the RCMP are not going to allow civil disobedience to be the norm in this province any more.What an example we are setting for our children!

  • Dave
    May 06, 2011 - 10:58

    Please tell me that the RCMP are not going to allow civil disobedience to be the norm in this province any more.What an example we are setting for our children!

  • Don
    May 06, 2011 - 10:25

    Let them block the road. You will see how fast they will open it when the NLC stores run out of booze and beer.

  • Randy
    May 06, 2011 - 10:12

    What's on Jackman's menu in Brussles today i wonder..How can he sit in some fancy restaurant,and hear about nl fish being shipped to his buddies in nova scotia to provide work for them,while his home province need the work..This government is now full of morons,and jackman tops them all

  • apple
    May 06, 2011 - 09:51

    Jackman is right, the govt can't tell a company where and how conduct its business affairs. Ms Dredge and her followers got face reality.

  • JT
    May 06, 2011 - 09:32

    Perhaps the road should be torn up, then these idiots won't have anywhere to protest.

    • Roland Winters
      May 07, 2011 - 16:44

      JT's comment just goes to show the ignorance and arrogance of some people. This is why the Northern Peninsula gets no respect. These people on the peninsula are very hard working individuals, who want to have a right to make a living off the Natural resources which originate in THEIR area. Seems fair enough to me.