'We had no say'

Brodie Thomas
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Seasonal residents feel left out of Grand Bruit resettlement decision

With resettlement looming in the isolated south coast community of Grand Bruit, seasonal residents say they feel left out of the process.

For 18 years, Jerry and Sheila Billard have spent every summer at the Grand Bruit house that once belonged to Sheila's parents.

Doug Billard looks through an old photo album with pictures of friends and family from Grand Bruit. Billard still spends six months of the year in the community and he plans to return next summer. Photo by Brodie Thomas/Transcontinental Media

Grand Bruit -

With resettlement looming in the isolated south coast community of Grand Bruit, seasonal residents say they feel left out of the process.

For 18 years, Jerry and Sheila Billard have spent every summer at the Grand Bruit house that once belonged to Sheila's parents.

They wish they had been included in the discussion about resettling.

"I feel like we were basically told to shut up and get out," Sheila said.

"We had no say - no say whatsoever."

The Billards also believe the number of full-time residents has been overstated.

"What makes me mad is they say there were 31 people there," Jerry said. "Now, I know that there hasn't been 31 people living in Grand Bruit for years."

Sheila said some of the people who had a say on resettlement actually spend less time there than they do.

"If there was no money involved in this, this never would have happened," she said.

The Billards haven't decided if they will accept the government's offer on their house. They've heard from people who were seasonal residents in Petites - which was resettled in 2007 - that the offers ranged from $5,000 to $10,000.

Jerry thinks his house is worth more than that.

"Our house is in perfect condition - all new windows and new shingles," he said.

"We even painted it this year. We have a brand new shed I paid $2,000 for a few years ago."

Sheila is even more blunt.

"It's my home and if I don't think I'll get a fair deal, I won't accept it. If they say, 'I'll give you $5000,' I'll tell them take that and shove it," she said.

Grand Bruit has many part-time residents who have family ties to the community.

Betty Maxner has been returning every summer to the house she lived in as a child. Her grandfather and great-grandfather also lived in Grand Bruit.

She said it pains her to see the community close down, but she understands the concerns about keeping it going. This summer, her husband slipped and cut his head and the ferry had to be called back on an emergency run to transport him to hospital.

Still, Maxner said she'd continue to return in the summer if there was still power being supplied to the community. However, the government has said power will be shut off, so she is arranging to have her larger possessions out before June 2010, when the ferry is scheduled to stop.

"It looks like they're putting the squeeze on everybody to get out," she said.

Liz Wright said not having a say on resettlement was stressful and confusing. She and her husband, Jim, have spent six months of the year in Grand Bruit for the past 12 years. Liz's father was born and raised in the community.

She understands why full-time residents would want better access to services, but said she wishes she had more information about what will happen next.

"Unlike the year-round residents, we have no idea of what our buyout will be," she said.

"From what we have heard in other communities, it will not be much. It is unlikely that we will be able to replace what has been taken away from us to live in another outport community."

She said for 12 years, she and her husband tried to contribute to the community both financially and socially, and they feel as much a part of the community as anyone else.

Liz said when she's talked to government officials, she's basically been advised to take what is offered and move on.

"We have no rights and no say. Why not?" she asked.

Doug Billard said he isn't going to stop visiting the community. The 76-year-old has a bad hip, but he also has a boat. He stays in Grand Bruit six months of the year, and maintains an apartment in Port aux Basques the other six. Grand Bruit is where he was born and raised.

He said the only reason he didn't apply for full-time status was because he was worried the government would tax his settlement.

He said if the power is cut off, he'll see about getting a generator if he needs to.

The Department of Municipal Affairs was contacted for a response to this story but did not reply before deadline.

Organizations: Grand Bruit house, Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: Grand Bruit, Port aux Basques

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Recent comments

  • Annio
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    From Bill Harris photos, what a beautiful place. I'm from Corner Brook, and still feel very dear for NL in all her beauty! Fight for what is yours... always!

  • Matt
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    The Billards might also want to look into the possibility of alternate power sources. Solar panels may not be cheap, but if they're being forced off the grid anyway, they'll be saving the money that they would normally spend on power.

  • Seumas
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    It's too bad when any community dies out but I agree that the permanent residents should have the ultimate say rather then the influx of summer retirees.

  • b
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    It is indeed unfortunate that communities such as this are dying, but the reality, is that there are huge cost's involved in providing services to these isolated places.

    In times where government is cutting back essential services to larger less isolated communities such as in Lewisporte, it is difficult to justify keeping places like Grand Bruit alive.

  • Annio
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    From Bill Harris photos, what a beautiful place. I'm from Corner Brook, and still feel very dear for NL in all her beauty! Fight for what is yours... always!

  • Matt
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    The Billards might also want to look into the possibility of alternate power sources. Solar panels may not be cheap, but if they're being forced off the grid anyway, they'll be saving the money that they would normally spend on power.

  • Seumas
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    It's too bad when any community dies out but I agree that the permanent residents should have the ultimate say rather then the influx of summer retirees.

  • b
    July 01, 2010 - 20:14

    It is indeed unfortunate that communities such as this are dying, but the reality, is that there are huge cost's involved in providing services to these isolated places.

    In times where government is cutting back essential services to larger less isolated communities such as in Lewisporte, it is difficult to justify keeping places like Grand Bruit alive.