Life and death interrupted

Robin Levinson
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Lack of ferry service causing problems for residents of Rencontre East

Becky Gillard boards the helicopter shuttle with newborn daughter Paige. — Photo by Krystal Gillard/Special to The Telegram

For weeks, residents of Rencontre East have been without ferry service, making the remote little village in the Coast of Bays even more isolated.

The community of 140 people has no major roads connecting it to the rest of the province, and usually relies on a ferry to reach basic services like hospitals and grocery stores in neighbouring towns.

But the regular ferry, the MV Northern Seal, is out of commission for annual repairs. And the backup ferry, the MV Marine Voyager, is not expected until later this month. Instead, a helicopter shuttle service is running six days a week.

Unlike a ferry, the 1978 Long Ranger helicopter cannot transport many goods — passengers may bring only one bag each. And the helicopter needs calm weather to fly, which can be rare on the windswept Coast of Bays.

Becky Gillard, nine months’ pregnant, was hoping the ferry would be back up and running by her due date July 10 to take her to hospital in Burin.

But her baby had other plans.

On June 29, at about 10 p.m., Gillard went into labour.

“I was panicked because there was no way to get back (to hospital),” Gillard said.

Since the helicopter shuttle service doesn’t run in the evening, she had to rely on a longliner — typically used for farming salmon — to bring her to a doctor in Harbour Breton.

“You can’t imagine what it was like being in labour and being in a longliner,” Gillard said.

“It was not comfortable,” Gillard said.

She arrived at one in the morning, and Paige Gillard was born around 3 a.m., healthy and happy. Mother

and child then travelled to Grand Falls-Windsor, to stay overnight in a maternity ward.

On Monday, July 2, Gillard boarded a helicopter with baby Paige, headed home to Rencontre East.

Despite the roaring of the chopper, Paige slept soundly in her mother’s arms.

“I think I was more panicked then she was,” Gillard said.

Although the town is able to keep its daily rhythm almost normal with the helicopter shuttle and grocery deliveries on longliners, it’s the life-and-death surprises — like Gillard’s pregnancy — that strain the fragile system.

When John Caines got a call from his mother at about 5 a.m. Monday, June 25, he learned that his father, Reginald, had died in his sleep. The loss of his father was tragic, but the lack of ferry service turned a family’s sorrow into a logistical nightmare.

With no undertaker in town. The family needed to get the body to the funeral home in Harbour Breton. Caines’ father’s body would have to go in the helicopter, and after waiting almost eight hours, the helicopter finally arrived.

But the three-seater cockpit couldn’t accommodate the stretcher, so Reginald Caines’ body, zipped into a body bag, was strapped into a passenger seat.

“Stuff like that hurts.” Caines said. “It’s like a movie you see.”

There was no room in the helicopter for family members, only the mandatory RCMP escort, the funeral director and the pilot. So Caines’ sister met her father’s body in Harbour Breton, and she was the one who put the body back on a longliner to ship to Rencontre East for the funeral service that Thursday.

Transporting their father’s body was difficult, but the hassles didn’t end. Without a ferry to take them, many family members had to miss the service. Caines personally had to shuttle about 25 people on his small, open boat, in order to get them to the service on time.

Instead of comforting his mother, he was going back and forth along the bay, making five trips in total.

“This is ridiculous, right?”

After finally putting his father’s body to rest, Caines said that he’s fed up with the province’s lack of care for the community’s residents. He and many other members of the community have complained to officials, but they feel their complaints are falling on deaf ears.

“It’s almost to the point where they’re saying, ‘just put up with it,’” Caines said.

Tracey Perry, the MHA for Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, just returned to the area from the House of Assembly. She said she’s pushing to get the service running again as soon as possible, and appreciates the residents’ patience.

The Department of Transportation and Works said the backup ferry, MV Marine Voyager, should be making runs this weekend. The MV Northern Seal should be ready July 17.


Organizations: MV Northern Seal, RCMP, Department of Transportation and Works

Geographic location: Rencontre East, Bays, Harbour Breton Burin Grand Falls Fortune Bay La Hune

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Recent comments

  • Felicia
    July 14, 2012 - 23:31

    Rencontre East is a beautiful place with lots of friendly people, As a child i spent lots of time there and the best part is isolation. Resettle? Why would anyone want to resettle from such a beautiful place? That would not help anything. Put a higway"? No that would just ruin the community. All these residents are asking is for some respect, and a ferry. How hard is that?> For all you smart asses with your remarks you have everything handed to you in life and dont know or understand how to make a living on your own., These residents work hard for what they do and how they live, its HOME to them. Show some respect and support them.

    July 10, 2012 - 10:52

    First of all they should get a new ferry anyways cause the northern seal is just a bit fit to break down all together. its not fit to be on. the prices over there are redicoulas , its to EXpensive and they should have better plans. its just a place i wouldnt want to be. there are more options elsewhere than it is over there.

  • Christopher Collis
    July 07, 2012 - 22:03

    First of all. Whoever wants to down-talk Rencontre East can keep their mouth shut. Resettle????? Why dont you resettle all the other towns around Newfoundland with small populations like Rencontre that US from Rencontre also pay tax money for them to have a road and the money that helps keep that road useable for the people from them communities to use. Its really easy for someone not from Rencontre to say resettle or move. Try living there. Its home. No one wants to leave home. Its a beautiful community with very friendly people and beautiful scenery. Who wants to leave that. When the goverment knew that the ferry had to go on refit, they should have that secopnd started to get something togeather for Rencontre instead of a helicopter. Ive had my atv in Bay Largent now for weeks along with others with no way to get them home. The goverment should have had something there so us from Rencontre could get their atv's, motors, freight etc... back to the community. Im here in BAy Roberts now fishing. When we get back in from a trip at the crab of any other thing, we will have two or maybe three days to get home. I went home a little over a week ago and there was fog. I had a 6 hour drive to Pools Cove. The helicopter wasnt running because of the fog. I had to get my uncle to come to Pools Cove and pick me up. I was home for three days and had to leave again. There was fog that day too so i had to get My uncle to bring me to Pools cove so i could come back to work. If the goverment would have got their head out of their a** they would have had a ferry there and people like me wanting to get back home for a couple days would not have to worry about the fog. Thats all I have to say right now. But I say this once again. People who down talk Rencontre. Shut up and think about the people, Not yourself!!

    • KR
      July 08, 2012 - 19:31

      When my tax dollars are paying for a ferry so you can get your atv home to ride in the woods, I believe I have the right to make a comment. These communities were ok 50-60 years ago when there was no roads and everybody got around by boat. Isolation was accepted. When there are 5 people left, do you want your tax dollars to pay for the ferry?? When there is nobody left, do you want to pay for a ferry so your buddy can ride his atv once a year. At some point, it doesn't make sense to have a ferry. We just have a difference of opinion as to when that point is reached.

  • torina
    July 07, 2012 - 09:49

    all i can say is "oh my god",we are isolated ,not stupid!!!!!

  • Jessica
    July 07, 2012 - 08:52

    So, Kevin, who does help support your ass then?

  • Darryl Fizzard
    July 07, 2012 - 00:11

    The cure for this is get the whole community to stop paying your taxes and create your own form of transportation locally and form yorown typ eof tax system what are they gonna do. POWER TO THE PEOPLE. REPRESENT UR CONCERNS . THIS IS UNBELIEVABLE IN THIS DAY AND AGE. PUT IT IN EVERYNEWSPAPER NATION WIDE. SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE GREASE

  • Kevin Power
    July 06, 2012 - 23:40

    Jeff, you do not support my ass! If as you say you pay $3,000 per week in taxes, you have sufficient income to buy a helicopter and a ferry of your own. Go for it buddy! Get real!

    • Jeff
      July 07, 2012 - 10:57


  • Jerry Baker
    July 06, 2012 - 23:10

    I grew up in Rencontre East, and very proud to say so. I moved away of my own free will. When I lived in Rencontre, it was my expection that a ferry or coastal boat would always bring food, fuel, building materials, and mail etc. Although I now live in Terrenceville, I still have expections, that I will receive services that I am entitled to as a tax payer, in NL-Canada. Some such services, are those of mail delivery, snow clearing, highway maintenance, police patrols, hospitals, and education. My family and friends that still live in Rencontre East contribute to the economy of NL. It is very sad for anyone to think that these ferries have to be profitable. There are many isolated towns on the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador....and Canada fornthat matter, what are we supposed to do, kick all of these people out of their homes because it costs tax payers money? $15,000,000.00 for a NL caribou study, don't hear anyone whining about that though.

  • Jerry Baker
    July 06, 2012 - 19:51

    I think some of the ignorant comments posted are by people who don't know much about government spending. How much does the government spend annually to maintain a highway into a town with fewer than fifty people....I don't know, and it does not matter, it is the governments responsibility. These people complaining probably get bent out of shape when the snow plow is ten minutes late in the winter months. These comments really outrage me, people are loosing sight of the situation. And as for resettlement, well....I guess well have to shut down most of Labrador, and most of the South West coast while we're at it. Yes Jeff, I pay a good dollar in taxes as well, and I'm sure its helping these mouthpieces as well. They probably don't even work, unlike the people in Rencontre, that work VERY HARD for a pay cheque. Maybe they should sit down and read the Canadian Constitution.

  • David
    July 06, 2012 - 18:38

    this is a story about several things -- not the least of which, a family who had to put their deceased loved one in a body bag, sit him up, seatbelt him in, and wave goodbye. yet others from away, from the safety of their home computer, insist on making it about the spending of tax dollars -- are there not other places for you angry people to do that? shame on you.

  • Nena
    July 06, 2012 - 17:07

    For the record, there are plenty of things I don't want my tax dollars going to but you really don't get a choice so it's absolutely ridiculous to complain and in this case, suggest resettlement due to same. Rencontre East is not a community where people live off the land and depend on other people's tax dollars to provide them with the necessities of life; residents have jobs both in and out of the community...they work hard and support the community (and other areas) in all possible ways. It seems that many comments here are being made prematurely and based on assumptions rather than by those who know the area, the people, and the situation.

    • STACI
      July 06, 2012 - 19:08

      rencontre east should NOT be ruined with a road. i rather not be attached to a headache.. i like living in a beautiful quite community , where a lot of people come to visit because they like the view, the people and the quietness. this is what rencontre is.

  • xv
    July 06, 2012 - 15:16

    losing the ferry is serious, If something as simple as Tim Hortons in the bigger towns was taken away it would be the end of the world!!!!

  • Brandon
    July 06, 2012 - 12:13

    People who live in Rencontre, such as myself, this is one downfall has affected everyone. Yes we will have our ferry back soon, and i cant wait for that date to come. We aren't asking for a highway, that would ruin our name of "isolated and loving it". With a ferry, our lives couldn't be any better, but with this helicopter, everyone knows what we have had to deal with. The government had plenty of time to get a replacement ferry, knowing that our ferry (MV Northern Seal), was going for her repairs on refit. People in Rencontre East are not going to resettle ..and the suggestion of closing it down?.. well that's just ridiculous. Its our home, its a place we love, and being human beings, like everyone else on this island, we want the same quality service as everyone else, and just as much attention. Small communities such as Rencontre East are being forgotten and shoved aside.

  • Chris Dyke
    July 06, 2012 - 12:06

    First off, I live and work in this community that some of the ignorant and snobish people would eagerly close all the doors to our homes. Yes it is true that we choose to live here, but how is that different than any of the people that choose to live in the big towns and cities. We are not asking for the world as some people would believe, we only want the nesecities of life that we all deserve. I work and pay my taxes the same as anyone, maybe some of the people that are screaming resettlement cant say the same thing. It was only last year that it was all over the news when the Metro busses stopped running, people were outragged with that and rightly so because they needed them, but for the most part they were inconvinented and not stranded as we are. Also dont people relize that our tax money helps pay for the highways which we dont use much, why should some of everyone elses pay for the ferry that we need for the simple things like healthcare and food.

  • Ken Collis
    July 06, 2012 - 11:27

    People may say that all this costs a lot of money. Well, yes it does. The Federal Government knew this as well, so the cheque that went to the province in exchange for taking over the federal responsibility for three small ferries in the early 1990’s was $56,000,000.00. This money was used at the time to balance the provincial budget that year, so we helped out in the provinces bad times. We only want to be treated with respect now that the ‘good times’ have arrived.

    • H
      July 06, 2012 - 12:04

      Residents of Rencontre pay their taxes, they are not exempt. Some people comment here like the money for the services provided for Rencontre are coming from their own pockets. They don't expect any more than what is needed and right now that is a fully operational ferry service to get them out of the community and get them back home, on a proper schedule. It must be so nice to just throw the word resettlement out there and think its so easy. People have roots here, families, homes..... Until you have experienced what it's like to live in a town like Rencontre East you cannot even begin to imagine what it's like to have such a sense of community, no, FAMILY. . If people wish to move, they have their own free will and can do so. And for those who have and think it's okay to bad mouth a place they once called home, in my opinion, is an utter disgrace. Some people just don't get it and are too close minded to even try to.

  • Kevin Power
    July 06, 2012 - 11:25

    I do not wish to sound callous, but this is a free country. People can chose to live whereever they like for whatever reason. However, they should not expext that the taxpayers (the rest of us who don't live in outports) to provide all of the services that are offered in larger centres. If it is a priority to a person to have those services close at hand, no one in our free society will stop them from relocating to where those services are clustered. It is time in our more mature society that those who choose to live in remote areas stop expecting the rest of society (government paid for by the rest of us taxpayers) to babysit them through life!

    • Jeff Sheppard
      July 06, 2012 - 14:13

      I live in Rencontre East and pay 3000 a week in taxes, just thought i through that out there. That is all. Pretty sure i support your ass too!

  • AE
    July 06, 2012 - 11:24

    I've never been there but I would rather see my tax money go towards the government maintaining our outport communities, more so than forking out $3 million for a tv show.

  • JF
    July 06, 2012 - 11:20

    It is unbelievable to imagine that some people think that it would be so easy to just resettle. Why resettle a community with so much life when all it needs is a reliable ferry service? I don't think that's too much to ask. Although I am not living in Rencontre right now, I sure as hell would love to be. That is my home and will always be my home.

  • Keisha
    July 06, 2012 - 10:51

    love how people that has never been there or no clue on the subject just immediately jump to resettlement. how would you feel if people we're telling you it's time to pack up and leave your home? and in this case, the only home the majority of residents in Rencontre has ever known. We need a ferry, we're not the only community in Newfoundland needing one. resettling every town that requires a ferry service is no solution.

    • KR
      July 06, 2012 - 11:11

      If I had to leave, I would. How many of us moved away to work, and still do it? There are other places where a ferry doesn't make sense but it comes down to numbers. When Rencontre is down to 5 people, do you want taxpayers to spend millions to operate a ferry for them? There is no place like home but sometimes you have to move.

  • KR
    July 06, 2012 - 10:48

    I have never been there but I don't see why other taxpayers have to spend possibly millions to service 140 people. If I wanted to live in a small isolated community, I would not expect other taxpayers to subsidize the cost of a ferry. Even if I was born and raised there and it was the most beautiful spot on earth, I still would not expect it. Should we resettle when the numbers are 130, 100, 50, 25 ??? Nobody wants to move from home, I don't, but there comes a time when the cost of access is too high. I wonder what the numbers are for revenue and cost of the ferry.

  • Chantal
    July 06, 2012 - 10:42

    Resettle Rencontre? Why not resettle Newfoundland and exterminate the elders and disabled while we're at it? To some people, you're only as valuable as your ability to contribute to the corporate bottom line. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

  • nina fizzard
    July 06, 2012 - 10:18

    i agree if you choose to live in a place that's supposed to be part of the province you should be treated the same as everyone else. but my opinion is they should put a road through, why not they have put it in worse places,considering how much money the gov. spends on subsudizing ferry service and now a helicopter, getting a dr. in there it shouldn't be a problem. the gov just have to stop paying it's members big salaries and pensions for doing piss poor jobs.

  • HC
    July 06, 2012 - 09:59

    I am not from Rencontre East but you can say I have family living there. My boyfriend was born and raised in Rencontre and he has recently moved back to go to work on the salmon farms out there. Having this helicopter on for as long as they have is ridiculous! This past weekend I took our son out so he could see hIs dad and other family members. I was taking a chance driving from St. John's out because I didn't know if I would actually get up or not. If they had a ferry I wouldn't of had to worry. The people in Rencontre deserve better then what the government is giving them. They work and pay taxes just as well as everyone else so why should they be treated any different.

  • JH
    July 06, 2012 - 09:53

    To those suggesting resettlement; what business is it of yours? Noone has asked for a highway resettlement is out of the question. You must of missed last years article that talked about how aquaculture has revived our community. I am willing to bet money that our quality of life is way better than yours.

  • KL
    July 06, 2012 - 09:49

    I agree with you Ken Collis, but their are hundreds of jobs & not all of them are governement. Rsettlement doesn't always mean "Moving to town". It seems that the government is essentially "Freaking Out", and have other communities out of ferry service as well, not just this particular community. It seems to me that you guys are fortunate to have something & not nothing. The ferry is on dry dock for a reason right? Because it needs to be repaired to help travel you fine folks! There's a silver lining in each cloud, keep thinking that....could be worse!

  • sarah wells
    July 06, 2012 - 09:31

    Rencontre is a beautiful town i lived there a while ago and loved it anyone that visits rencontre never wants to leave i was one of those and to anyone that suggests resettlement then you have never seen this beautiful place or met any of its wonderful people. I think the governement needs to smarten up funny how bell island gets multiple ferrys and runs and rencontre which may not be as big but is just as beautiful and important has to fight for one ferry and 3 runs a day thats insane. Give rencontre a fighting chance its well worth it.

  • Ken Collis
    July 06, 2012 - 09:07

    I think resettlement is a great idea. The only downside is that everyone wants to move to the St. John's area, and the only things there are government jobs. Without the area west of the overpass, you know, the part of the province where all the resourses are, there wouldn't be a need for that city at all. Then everyone would need to resettle again. It would be a vicious cycle.

  • QB
    July 06, 2012 - 09:06

    I do not agree with your comments KR my family is from there and I have spent a lot of time there over the year fine say that it needs to be resettled is a fair statement but the people there are making a living there all they are asking if for the government to provide them with a service in witch they also have to pay for that's not much to ask. If Rencontre East should be resettled then why don't they move the people off Bell Island and get them off the news crying because there ferry service is out of service.

  • Jessica
    July 06, 2012 - 08:51

    We are not asking to be resettled. There were reasons people fought against it many years ago. Just because we are a small community doesn't mean we shouldn't receive quality service. I suggest you take your opinions and shove em.

  • KM
    July 06, 2012 - 08:50

    I don't think that these people expect a highway. But they do expect a reliable mode of transportation to and from their community, and so they should. I spent three years in Rencontre when I was a little girl, it is a beautiful place, with wonderful people. I cannot blame them for not wanting to move. My dad still says that it is one of Newfoundland's most hidden treasures. How difficult is it to have a replacement ferry ready when they know the regular one is scheduled for annual service? I, for one, cannot understand this problem that seems to occur almost every summer.

  • stephanie caines
    July 06, 2012 - 08:35

    KR, I don't think anyone in the community expects a 'highway'. But they do except and deserve appropriate ferry service, which right now they do not have. Rencontre East is still a viable community with an active fishery and an aquaculture industry...If logistics of ferry servicing were more effectively planned out the community would not be experiencing such turmoil at this time. I definitely do not think this calls for resetllement , Sammy!!!

    July 06, 2012 - 08:25

    The place operates just fine when they have the ferry. Maybe we can resettle all outports & save billions on road infrastructure! One highway from PAB to Sin Jawns!!!

  • KR
    July 06, 2012 - 07:57

    Another example of a town that should close down. There are too many of them with too few people. If you live in an isolated community, you can't expect a highway.

    • guy
      July 06, 2012 - 08:34

      Obviously you've never been there.

    • amanda collis
      July 06, 2012 - 09:14

      to thos who think rencontre should be close down should get their fact straight. people grew up there all of their lives and dont want to move because its a peaceful place with lots of loving people. if you dont understand why they dont want to leave dont make a comment like that like really they are people to and yes i dont live there any more but i love the place and it will always be my home. they pay their taxes like everyone else does in this world and should be treated the same way has other town. if they did put a highway there or a better ferry that would be good. but other then that the community is suffering because of the shitty government service we have. so sorry we are not from the avalon area but we have the right to live like others and should not be pushed aside because of isolation. i know i may be comming off has a bit mad but thats because i am. i cant get home because of the chopper with my husband and 2 children because we can only bring a small bag each and if it got resettled where would home be for me. because i grew up there all my life watched people come and go but it is a commuity that deserves a bit of respect for staying there this long and working hard for what they have got because there is work there and a reason to live in this place. so please keep you stupid commets to yourself and respect the people that live there

    • Mel
      July 06, 2012 - 10:19

      Close it down? Do you think Rencontre is a business or something? Get a grip. You can't expect people to leave the houses and land they grew up in and worked hard for. No one said anything about a highway they just want the ferry service they deserve. Instead government gave them a helicopter that can't even get them in and out sensibly. People like you are what's wrong with the Newfoundland. When the time's get rough give up and leave. At least they believe in fighting for what they deserve. Keep your snarky comments to yourself.

    • ev
      July 10, 2012 - 08:12

      Do you agree with closing now bell island and ramea they are isolated

  • John
    July 06, 2012 - 07:22

    I had planned to bring a group to Rencontre to see a museum there that has been set up by a local but we had to cancel because of no ferry service. I can see the locals been frustrated because this has been going on for such a long time and I cannot understand why our local Politicians seem to do nothing but sit back and give excuses. Time to get a for a new ferry and soon. At lease have a proper replacement when needed.

  • sammy
    July 06, 2012 - 07:15

    A good case for resettlement.

    • debbie kendell
      July 06, 2012 - 08:50

      i am a former resident ofRencontre east , why resettle a community that has more spirit and fight in it than most cities . cut back on the income of the politicians salary . give Rencontre a ferry . every time i hear resettle from people who don't know what they are talking about , it pisses me off.