June 23, 2003
I spent last week travelling through Labrador, hosted by the region’s outstanding MP – Lawrence O’Brien.
We started in Happy Valley – Goose Bay, which is the site of a major NATO air force training centre. There we met a large group at the Legion Hall, and talked about a whole range of issues – from the future of the air base, to the state of treaty negotiations with Labrador’s first nations.
We visited L’anse au clair, which straddles the Labrador side of the Quebec border. It’s a gorgeous spot right on the Strait of Belle-Isle, “iceberg alley” as the folks there call it, within view of the island of Newfoundland.
And we spent some time in Labrador West, visiting the twin cities of Wabush–Labrador City, the source of most of Canada’s iron ore.
Labrador is truly a place where people punch above their weight, and it holds lessons for all of Canada. The smallest community we visited, Charlottetown, Labrador, has only 350 people, a small port and a gravel airstrip on the hill above town.
But the folks there have just opened their own, huge, state-of-the-art shrimp plant. The mayor, Ida Powell, saw that a shrimp plant would give her town and the neighbouring communities on the Labrador coast a real future on their own terms. They secured the business and built it.
I was most moved by a group of children who came to see us in the community centre there. They were all sitting in a group right up at the front. They wanted me to sign some flags, so I sat down with them and we chatted for a while. It only took a minute to see that they’re big dreamers too, just like their parents. There are kids like those, and towns like Charlottetown everywhere across the country. I’ve seen the same spirit in the far North, and on the Prairie too… I’ve seen it in little places in the B.C. interior and in the Maritimes. The fact is that Canadians want to build their own future. Sometimes we ask each other for help – which is as it should be — but no one in this country wants a handout.
Visits like this reinforce my enormous pride in Canada, and fuel my hope for the future.