Archived entries for Newfoundland


After making my first trip to Labrador this spring, I picked up the excellent book Theatre of Fish: Travels Through Newfoundland and Labrador. I just finished it today but kept rereading a few lines that seemed so telling and so accurate from my short time there:

• “Melancholic insanity is not uncommon.”

• “The whole land is strewn with boulders. Language fails to depict the awful desolation of the interior of the peninsula.”

• “Labrador was discovered by the English; there is nothing in it of any value.”

• “Labrador, as Newfoundlanders so often told me, is just a waste of space.”

Goose Bay

Earlier today I made my first trip to Labrador! Just about the only reason to go to Goose Bay [see it on a map] this time of year is to refuel. And that’s what happened today when my transatlantic flight had to make a pit stop. I was thrilled since I’ve always wanted to see the tundra of Labrador. It was about as unspectacular as you can imagine.


We were able to deplane briefly, and I was able to get photo evidence in the tiny terminal building. The woman working in the terminal was a doll and offered to take this shot when I mentioned that I’ve been dying to get to Goose Bay. The temperature outside? About minus 20.


A few random pics

In lieu of a real post — it’s been crazy getting settled in Manhattan — I’m going to share a few photos that I like but haven’t had a chance to post up to this point.

The first, shot about three months ago, is of Caroline Kennedy exiting Central Park (yes, I’ve been called a celebrity stalker before!).


The next shot shows just how colourful the architecture is in St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland. The rest of the downtown is just like this, but more dense.


I took this shot last May in Rochester at the grave of Susan B. Anthony. I had been hunting around Mount Hope Cemetery looking for it, but it took a while because there is nothing to distinguish it from the thousands of other gravestones in the old Victorian burying ground.


This shot from Big Sur in California doesn’t begin to do justice to the immensity of the place or the perilous drop in the foreground into a sea of fog and clouds and down to the sea. Highway 1 plunges into the Pacific very, very far below the cloud cover seen here.


The end to another perfect day in Maine. The water is so still.


Rain at Vancouver International. No explanation necessary.


A farewell sunset on one of my last days in New England.


Rosie O’Donnell offers cash to Canadian candidate

America’s lesbian comic-turned-activist Rosie O’Donnell has offered cash support to the campaign of lesbian candidate Peg Norman, who is running for Parliament to represent the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Too bad Rosie’s not Canadian; she can’t contribute to the campaign as an American citizen.

Too sick for work, but not Florida

EFFORDAn embattled member of the Canadian Prime Minister’s Cabinet is under fire for, well, not showing up for work. John Efford, a member of parliament from Newfoundland, has not appeared in Ottawa since spring, although he continues to draw a salary of $213,000. The press is quick to point out that while he claims to be too ill to travel to Ottawa, he is somehow fit enough to vacation in Florida this week. “He needed to get away from it all,” his communications director said. “He needs to get his sugars under control.”

The Globe reports, “The minister, who has a reputation for a quick temper, is also a booster of Newfoundland and Labrador. During Ottawa winters, he wore a fur parka made from harp seals caught off Newfoundland and Labrador despite criticism from anti-fur activists.”

A geography rant

Forgive me for a moment while I rant. Why do so many Americans know so little about geography? And I do say Americans because this seems to be such an Americanphenomenon. Take the following collage, for instance. I was in a cafe earlier today when these four shots flashed briefly on my laptop as a screen saver. A passerby stopped to ask about the photos. “They’re from Canada,” I explained simplistically, since I knew the woman probably would not know any further geographic detail I would normally offer.


These shots were taken on the western shore of Newfoundland. Now I’d never deign to think that people would be able to identify the stunning Gros Morne National Park. But the woman who stopped to inquire about my photos was taken aback, asking “That’s Canada?” (“Yes, the whole country,” I wanted to say).

I told her they were taken a few summers ago, and she said with a straight face, “That’s probably ice the rest of the year.” Yes, the whole country is ice the rest of the year. Is there intelligent life left on earth?

RELATED: Real questions posted online about Canada in anticipation of the Vancouver Olympics from visitors from the U.K., U.S.A., Sweden, and Germany:

• I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow?
• Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year round?
• Are there any ATM’s in Canada?
• I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto – can I follow the railroad tracks?
• Will I be able to speak English most places I go?
• Will I be able to see Polar Bears in the street

The next frontier of same-sex marriage

pride_marriageThe legal victory of marriage for same-sex couples may have been celebrated this weekend at Boston’s pride parade, but the fight is just heating up this week in Ottawa — already wilting after its 100-degree scorcher of a weekend — as Canada’s governing Liberal party vows to fast-track through parliament legislation to legalize gay marriage before it adjourns for summer recess. They have made it clear there will be no vacation until their bill is passed.

In anticipation of the historic vote — and in reflection of polls showing Canadians split 40 percent for and 40 percent against marriage for same-sex couples — the Toronto Star sent a reporter on a road trip from one corner of Canada to the other, from Whitehorse to St. John’s, to gauge the real public opinion on the matter. In summing up the journey, the reporter said, “What resonates is the sheer complexity of life experiences that help Canadians determine where they stand on same-sex marriage. This is not an isolated debate. It touches some deeply and some not at all. It is connected to who they are.”

A few excerpts:

“In Red Deer, Alta., sixty-four-year-old Ken Cameron, who owns KC Saddlery…is fighting trim in snug jeans, cowboy boots and a sharply tapered denim shirt. Cameron accepts that same-sex marriages will probably be legalized in Canada. But he also believes such liberal laws are ushering modern civilization one step closer to the end. “Look at all the other great cultures of the world that fell,” he says. “They don’t exist anymore because they became dysfunctional … If I had livestock that didn’t breed, I would have to destroy it,” he says.

“In Corner Brook, Nfld., a husband strongly advises his wife not to talk to me. She ignores his plea, however, explaining to him that while she is extremely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the subject of homosexuality, she feels she can contribute to my story. ‘I believe it is a matter of human rights, whether I feel comfortable or not,’ she says. Her husband pushes my business card across the table in disgust and storms away, without a word.”

In Marie Joseph, N.S., I greet Jim Langille, a beleaguered-looking, 55-year-old lobster fisherman. He’s a weathered, postcard-perfect old salt, who I’m sure will fulfill my stereotype of a homophobic good ol’ boy. I’m wrong. (I shouldn’t have been surprised. Support for gay marriage is actually higher in Atlantic Canada than it is in Ontario.)

“Whatever floats your boat. It’s a free country. People should live and die as they choose. I think men around here feel they have to do the whole he-man, workin’ in the woods, workin’ on the water thing,” he says. “Even if they agreed, they wouldn’t say it.”

In St. John’s: “On the final day of my journey, in the middle of a cold, wet afternoon, I find myself being unceremoniously evicted from a dark waterfront pub in St. John’s, Nfld., with my arm cocked behind my back. I am apparently being put to the sidewalk for engaging two patrons in a conversation about same-sex marriage — the same exchange I have been pursuing with hundreds of Canadians over the past three weeks. (Though, to be fair, it also could have been simply because I am a reporter or, most objectionable of all, someone from Toronto.)

I have been in Erin’s Pub on Water St. for only a few minutes, barely enough time to select two people I thought might talk to me, barely enough time to explain that I was travelling across Canada from Vancouver to St. John’s to find out exactly how Canadians feel about same sex marriage, before I am sent packing.

But as I stand in the rain feeling indignant and a little embarrassed, in the last moments of my 8,000-kilometre road trip, I wonder if I had simply poked my finger once too often and, perhaps, too deeply into the cage of public opinion.”

No Referendum on the Rock

There will be no federal referendum on gay marriage in Canada, says Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. Meanwhile, one in 10 marriage commissioners in Newfoundland have quit, saying they won’t perform same-sex ceremonies.

Newfoundland Wakes up $2.6 Billion Richer

Expect big changes on the Rock, which yesterday negotiated a $2.6 billion (CDN) infusion of cold, hard cash from Ottawa, ending a decades-long stalemate over the distribution of revenue from the province’s plentiful offshore oil reserves. The province gets to keep all the money it makes off its North Atlantic oil, instead of having to divert all the money into federal coffers. Nova Scotia will receive nearly $1 billion as well.


Weeks ago, a Newfoundland college student predicted in an editorial that St. John’s would soon see the kind of wealth that has transformed places like Calgary and Edmonton from backwaters to thriving, cosmopolitan and very rich cities. Already observers are imagining the Range Rovers and BMWs choking St. John’s narrow old city streets, and many are fearful of how the province that has been called Canada’s “most vast and scenic welfare ghetto,” but also the vibrant heart of Atlantic Canada, can stand up culturally and socially in the face of such an influx of new money

Flag Flap Inflames Canadians

After Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams ordered all Canadian flags removed from provincial buildings in protest of the St. John’s-Ottawa deadlock on the splitting of offshore oil royalties, Margaret Wente responded in this morning’s Globe and Mail with a searing indictment of Williams’ actions. Now people are calling for Wente’s head.


“I like Newfoundlanders,” Wente writes. “I really do. But their sense of victimhood is unmatched… Mr. Williams reminds me of a deadbeat brother-in-law who’s hit you up for money a few times too often. He’s been sleeping on your couch for years, and now he’s got the nerve to complain that it’s too lumpy.”

Nfld. legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Yesterday, Newfoundland and Labrador legalized gay marriage, becoming the eighth province or territory in Canada to do so, and licenses were issued beginning today. But not everyone’s happy. As one St. John’s pastor said, “In Canada, we’re approaching the apex of moral depravity.”

That marriage will be legal nationally is now a forgone conclusion, with nearly 90% of the nation living in places where it’s legal. Even if marriage were to be banned by Parliament, which is unlikely, the government of Canada is so decentralized that povincial laws tend to be stronger than, and often supersede, federal law.

Next stops on the gay marriage bandwagon: Alberta, New Brunswick, PEI, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories.

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