Labrador-ism at the crossroads

As Labradorians hold flag raising ceremonies this weekend contrary to the government’s wishes, the acts of defiance are about more than just the flag. They’re about history, culture, heritage, and expressing a shared identity.

When we stop and look at the state of the province today, what do we see?

Jobs? Revenues? Or do we see ourselves losing our way?

As Labrador is being turned into a power house for the needs of the Island and Nova Scotia, the people who live here are holding fast and trying to carve out an identity in this provincial partnership with Newfoundland. And one of the most widely regarded and respected shared symbols of that identity is the Labrador Flag. This issue seems to have sparked in the minds of most Labradorians, as people who are not normally outspoken on so-called ‘political issues’ are now expressing their discontent.

As they raise flags across our land, a more distinct ‘Labrador’ is emerging. With people speaking out about their heritage and culture, it’s becoming evident that the shared identity among those who inhabit this land is truly distinct. And having a government that recognises that distinctness seems to be the cry of Labrador — and the flag is the ultimate symbol of that.

The flag represents all groups of Labrador and is accepted by all in this land, and the provincial government’s recent rejection of a request by the Combined Councils of Labrador (CCL) to fly the Labrador flag at the entry points to Labrador is just the latest indication that the province is actively trying to suppress a growing sense of identity shared by those in and from Labrador.

The provincial government should be engaging in more dialogue with the people of Labrador. The loss of a full-time Minister of Labrador Affairs, and then giving the responsibilities of that former role to a cabinet minister with an already large portfolio, has taken its toll on Labrador. We need to have a minister on the ground in the Big Land dealing with the complex issues unique to the mainland part of our province.

After watching the Progressive Conservative leadership race, I was shocked to see only one candidate directly mention Labrador in his platform. On his website, MHA Steve Kent states:
“Labrador is among the most beautiful, resource and culturally rich places on the planet. Labrador deserves a vision that matches its size, a vision created by Labradorians.  This Summit will focus on building a long-term vision that will see Labrador develop sustainably for all its peoples.” It seems like Kent is moving against the grain in his party. He was even on Twitter and CBC Radio supporting the idea of raising the Labrador Flag.

The official opposition has come out on the topic as well. Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster took to talk radio and social media to express how important it is that our cultures and identity be seen, and that the flag is an important way to express them.

About 50 people turned out Friday, Sept. 5 to raise the Labrador flag at the Labrador West border crossing. Facebook photo by Karen Oldford, Mayor Of Labrador City.
About 50 people turned out Friday, Sept. 5 to raise the Labrador flag at the Labrador West border crossing. Facebook photo.

The voices are strong and loud, telling the government what the people want — so why are they not responding to Labradorians’ wishes? Does our flag truly scare them this much? Will the government’s refusal to let us fly our own flag in Labrador drive a wedge into our province?

I think not recognizing our flag and flying it at the Labrador border will give Labradorians the steam to start asking the appropriate questions about self-governance. Muskrat Falls and the provincial ferry system are already creating substantial grief. The flag issue is now only fueling the fire.

But there is still hope. Maybe the changing of the PC guard will lead us to a government more sympathetic to the people of Labrador. Or will it be the 2015 election and a red wave sweeping in? Maybe the Labrador Party will come back and Labrador pride will sweep the territory and put a curve ball in this mix. We can dream, can’t we?

But this I do know: Labrador is becoming a hot topic, and it only will get hotter come election time.

Jordan Brown lives in Labrador West and is the President of the Height of Land branch of the Labrador Heritage Society.

Editor’s note: If you would like to respond to this or any article on, or if you would like to address an issue we haven’t yet covered, we welcome letters to the editor and consider each of them for publication in our Letters section. You can email yours to: justin at theindependent dot ca. Not all letters will be printed, but all will be read.


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