Top 10 reasons for Labrador to go it alone

Michael Johansen
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Something seems to be missing from the official welcome-to-Newfoundland-Labrador signs on both ends of the Trans-Labrador Highway — besides a little conjunctive word that should be between the two proper names.

Three masts fly the Maple Leaf, the Union Jack and the Golden Shaft (a pretty nickname for Newfoundland’s pennant), but nowhere is Labrador’s spruce-adorned tricolour to be seen.

Similarly, what with this, that and t’other, people living in Labrador are discovering they never really lost the strong voice they won with the New Labrador Party in the 1970s, despite some setbacks with the NLP and other regional political parties and with the Combined Councils of Labrador.

But something is still missing: an attentive audience. It’s the old, old lesson of Newfoundland colonialism: yell as loud as you want, but if they ain’t listening, they ain’t listening.

Witness Labrador MP Todd Russell’s attempts to meaningfully include Labradorians in the debate over the proposed Lower Churchill hydro development.

Until recently, the people who live closest to the resource have only been given the opportunity to discuss the project on the narrowest of premises. The dams will be built no matter what, no matter who objects and no matter what good reasons exist for not building them.

Right now, in yet another series of official hearings, Labradorians are being allowed to demand a few jobs for themselves and to poke at the project with their environmental concerns, but that’s about it.

When the big decisions are to be made, the big boys and girls in St. John’s will do the making. Thank you very much, Labradorians will be told, but no further comments are required.

However, now Labrador’s MP has asked the big question that the big folks at Nalcor are afraid to even imagine: should the Lower Churchill project not be built?

Russell’s survey, which required effort on the part of the surveyee to complete, indicated a strong dislike for the project.

Predictably, the results were dismissed as insignificant.

Likewise, Russell’s followup conference call (that amazingly attracted more than 2,200 participants) has received little or no attention outside of the region, probably because most of the callers did not agree with official plans.

This is nothing new. The Upper Churchill went ahead without even a glance at Labrador’s needs and it’s a wonder Labradorians were even allowed to vote for Confederation with Canada — a proposal that, by the way, won by a landslide north of the Strait of Belle Isle.

So here, without much further ado, is the Top 10 list of why Labrador would be better off independent of Newfoundland. Conveniently, Points 10 to 6 all share the same description: if Labrador is independent, Labradorians and not Newfoundlanders will be foremost in deciding whether or not BLANK shall proceed on Labrador territory.

The BLANK would be filled, in order, by the dredging of the Churchill River and other Labrador sands for rare minerals, the Height of Land windfarm, the Postville uranium mines, the Gull Island generating station and the Muskrat Falls generating station.

No. 5: When public money is handed out to help artists, writers and craftspeople, some of it might actually end up in Labrador.

No. 4: Big telecommunications companies, like Aliant for example, might try to satisfy the needs of the Labrador market, rather than treat it like an inconvenient appendage to the island.

No. 3: The huge airport at Happy Valley-Goose Bay could become the international Eastern Canadian hub it should be, rather than just an adjunct to the lesser airfields at Deer Lake and St. John’s.

No. 2: When one of the region’s vital wilderness highways gets into such a poor state that it becomes too dangerous for school buses, the Transportation Department might repair it right away, rather than leave it for a year or two or more.

No.1: The top reason why Labrador would be better off alone? Labradorians would finally be able to remove the Newfoundland flag from the region’s welcome signs and put up the one they prefer — their own.


Michael Johansen is a writer living in Labrador.

Organizations: New Labrador Party, Trans-Labrador Highway, Union Jack Strait of Belle Isle.So Aliant Transportation Department

Geographic location: Labrador, Maple Leaf, Canada Churchill River Gull Island Labrador.No. Happy Valley Goose Bay Deer Lake

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Recent comments

  • Anthony
    April 29, 2013 - 22:12

    Another great article. The Labrador Flag represents Labrador as it should whereas the N.F.L.D flag supposedly represents N.F.L.D . Over the years I have asked many of my Island neighbours what the symbols meant on their flag and not many could tell me. thats a pity really because if you fly a flag you should know what it means. on the other hand the majority of Labradorians can explain the meaning of their flag . I would just like to add that I am also a firm believer that Labrador can and should stand on its own. I mean no disrespect to our Island friends but I think both areas would be better off in the long run.

  • Edward Power
    March 07, 2011 - 09:03

    Thank you ,Michael, for another thought provoking article. The customs associated with the display of flags, their order of precedence and other details are the responsibility of the Governor Generals office. I will assume that the Labrador flag is not a "recognized" flag and therefore is not to be officially displayed. It would be a protocol faux pas to have one province represented by two flags. I might be wrong on this. I think the Labrador flag should replace the Union Jack on Provincial monuments and markers, and the Union Jack as the flag of a foriegn nation, be reserved for Royal visits and other official State occassions. On a related note, what is the official status of the Acadian flag that flies throughout the Maritimes, and doesit fly on Provincial monuments and buildings? Perhaps there is a precedent there for our Labrador flag. In any event, seeing the Union Jack flying on the Labrador/Quebec border must have more than a few people scratching their heads.

  • Brian
    March 05, 2011 - 13:35

    Okay folks, use a little smarts here will ya? The point of this article isnt to encourage any kind of separation between Labrador and Newfoundland! It's purpose is to make points about the obvious imbalance between government services, infrastructure, etc. These dumb comments about the newfoundland flag somehow representing labrador just goes to show what misinformed side of the argument you people are on! BTW, I am proud to say that One of my grandparents is from the island! It's too bad you ppl give Newfies a bad name by reinforcing the old stereotype! Try reading things in context next time...there are night courses on how to do that ya know! :) Also, not everyone in the world is about materialism! plenty of Labradorians are not ready to trade the environment for money!!!!!

    • Ursula Dowler
      March 05, 2011 - 14:38

      @Brian , the first "lesson" you have to learn is not to question a person's intelligence . Anything said here can only be subjective , it is not up to you to "school" these folks . Your passive aggressive behaviour does nothing to encourage further debate .

  • Nessie
    March 05, 2011 - 11:50

    Michael Johansen: Thanks for writing this article, and I agree with all your points, but I truly wish it didn't have to be written. Actually my heart is breaking today that it had to come to this juncture. I am wondering why were our provincial and federal politicians so complacent in the lacking of understanding which allowed to happen what you have pointed out in your column today to our beautiful and bountiful Labrador and its people. Why did our politicians overlook our colleagues from Labrador viewpoints on matters concerning them? I don't know but I guess it is for the same reason they overlooked the electorate of the Newfoundland part of the province, as well. When politicians gain power they think that they own the whole kit and kaboddle over which they rule and think they can do anything they want. If that weren't so, why, then, did the province of Newfoundland and Labrador's bountiful natural resource base grow vibrant economies in the other provinces of Canada and the World to a tune of tens of Billions of dollars annually, while we in this province languished with upwards, at times of a 20% Unemployment rate. For the past 62 years we have had to carry the awful distinction of having the highest Unemployment rate in Canada, despite the fact we are only 500,000 people and we were endowed by Nature with so many great natural resources and a great location. It didn't have to happen! Our ex and present politicians need to come clean on this. We really need to know why they made a mess of an economy that could have been the best economy in the World if they had done things rights. Come on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians speak up against this inequity!

  • Ursula Dowler
    March 05, 2011 - 10:57

    Some people actually like to tear down flags . Flags are like apple pie and motherhood , we bring them out when we need to bury something under an emotional blanket . I have nothing against flags and I love Labrador . The people of Labrador have been taken advantage of for a very long time . I resided in the Big Land forty years ago and it breaks my heart to see her people still struggling to be heard . The people of Labrador ( this beautiful and bountiful land) should be its stewards , not a handful of politicians and greedy capitalists . Excellent article Michael .

  • David
    March 05, 2011 - 09:33

    The province with 500,000 people cannot take care of itself, how in the world would Labrador with the population of Corner Brook take care of itself. By the way the current flag is the provincial flag, not the Newfoundland flag. Also, if the province is divisible then so is Labrador. Goose Bay 's dream is to be the St. John's of Labrador, so why would Lab west or the coast want to support them.

  • Penney
    March 05, 2011 - 09:07

    The provincial flag of Newfoundland and Labrador reflects the heritage of both Newfoundland and Labrador. If Labrador were independent someone else would rewrite the above column griping about whether or not the Innu, Inuit, Metis flags, or any variation on a settler flag, was properly or improperly flown or not. No doubt the province could do better by Labrador but Balkanization will just lead to different problems and not necessarily greater prosperity, etc.