Top News

Nunatsiavut mourns loss of former LIA president William Barbour

William Barbour. Twitter
William Barbour. Twitter

Former Labrador Inuit Association (LIA) leader William Barbour died Thursday.

Expressions of condolence have been coming in from all over.

Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe, in a news release, extended his “heartfelt condolences” to the family and friends of Barbour.

“William was very passionate about protecting Inuit rights, including those to lands and resources, and in promoting and preserving our language, customs and traditions,” Lampe said. “He always put the rights of Labrador Inuit ahead of all things.

“During the course of his career, as an elected official and as a public servant, William’s intelligence, integrity, sense of humour and humility earned him much respect in the Inuit circumpolar world as well as with his own people.”

Born in Nain in 1959, Barbour grew up as a hunter and fisherman with his father and other elders. He was sent away from Nain to go to residential school in North West River when he was 14 years old, before attending Grenfell College in Corner Brook.

Barbour spent many years working with the LIA, including serving as special assistant to the president. He also worked as a wildlife technician, where he was instrumental in developing a project that used Western science to collar polar bears in northern Labrador to prove the existence of denning bears in the region — something that Inuit already knew. Using science to confirm Inuit knowledge resulted in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador lifting the prohibition on the hunting of polar bears by Inuit. He had a measured and insightful way of solving problems.

Barbour was elected president of the LIA in 1994. During his nine-year tenure, he was integral in the completion and signing of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement-in-Principle, which led to a final agreement. He was instrumental during the negotiation of the Impacts and Benefits Agreement (IBA) between the LIA and the Voisey’s Bay mine.

Premier Andrew Furey also noted the key role Barbour played in negotiating a land claims and self-government agreement.

He was also an integral part of the first Nunatsiavut Assembly.

“He held an unwavering commitment in ensuring the rights and culture of Labrador Inuit were protected, and his legacy lives on,” Furey said in a statement.

“This is a time of great sorrow for his friends and family. He will be missed.”

Flags were lowered to half-mast at Confederation Building in St. John’s to honour Barbour.

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie and Lela Evans, PC MHA for Torngat Mountains, also offered condolences.

“Mr. Barbour was a force of nature in defending the rights of Labrador Inuit,” Crosbie said. “Respected by all that had the privilege to meet him, he will be sorely missed by those that he dedicated his life to represent.”

Evans added that, “Mr. Barbour provided strong leadership during a very turbulent period for Labrador Inuit. His dedication to his people will be forever remembered.”

NunatuKavut Community Council President Todd Russell said he worked with Barbour on many occasions and issues.

“He was a staunch advocate for Indigenous rights and Inuit rights, specifically,” Russell said.

“I attended numerous meetings, been part of many panels and other forums with him. William was astute, skilled and steeped in his own culture. He could also navigate and move forward in the ways of the Western world. He represented his people with integrity and treated all of Labrador’s Indigenous groups with respect and understanding. He will be dearly missed.”

In honour of Barbour's legacy and contribution to Labrador, flags in front of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay Town Hall will fly at half-mast until sunset on the day of his funeral service.

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories