USA should not confiscate our seal products: Mitchelmore

On March 21st, The Western Star newspaper broke a story of a “Treasured gift gone: Woman loses seal skin purse at border”. Nora Fitzgerald’s story of loss gained national national attention and was covered on all major news outlets. This woman had her seal skin purse confiscated at the border and was later fined $250 by the USA Department of Commerce.

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The Western Star listed myself as a major proponent for the hunt, and promoter of seal products. I have taken strong stands against celebrities, citing, “our seal harvest is sustainable, humane, and well-regulated”. I was aware of the legislation, and stated there should at least be leniency for personal items. My seal skin boots depicted in the image below are those of my fathers. He passed away more than 15 years ago. The boots are still in excellent condition close to two decades later. These natural materials are environmentally friendly, no harmful chemicals are being used and they are all made by hand supporting local cottage industries and preserving traditional skills. I certainly sympathize with Ms. Fitzgerald, because I don’t know what I would do if I lost such a sentimental and functional item as my father’s seal skin boots.

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The USA Marine Mammals Protection Act, 1972 lists seals as an endangered species. The regulation needs updated some 43 years later given the exceptional increase to seal population. The harp seal population has nearly quadrupled since the population lows of about two million seals in the early ’70’s. The seal harvest has been well-managed and annual quotas are allocated based on science.

In the House of Assembly, I pressed the matter with the following question:

Mr. Speaker, recent news show our seal products are confiscated at the US border for breaching the Marine Mammals Protection Act, 1972. The act inaccurately deems our seals as endangered. In fact, in 1994, the US amended the act to permit Alaskans to take seals.

I ask the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs: Will he make representation to the federal government to ask the US to review the facts on the seal population that would permit a regulation change, given that our seals are surely no different than the Alaskan seals? Read more…

Members of our caucus are steadfast with support. My colleague, the Member for St. Barbe called into an Open Line radio show to explain this situation further and our MHA responsible for Fisheries and Aquaculture drafted a letter that had copies sent to the Federal Government.

Federal Minister Rob Moore, MP, who is responsible for representing NL interests at the cabinet level as our Regional Minister has answered the call and taken appropriate action. CBC reports:

Rob Moore asks U.S. Customs to return Nora Fitzgerald’s sealskin purse

Minister Moore has asked for the return of this purse and that the US Border Agency stop confiscating our seal skin products.

I applaud the actions of Minister Moore and encourage others to continue to be part of the on-going dialogue. Sealing is an important industry in Newfoundland & Labrador, that is culturally and economically significant.

For those wishing to purchase their own seal skin, can visit GNP Craft Producers, Shoal Cove East, a non-profit from The Straits-White Bay North www.gnpcrafts.ca Tours are also available and you can watch local people, make local products.

I’ll continue to be an advocate for sealers, for Newfoundlanders & Labradorians and Canadians as we advance the industry. It truly is part of the fabric of the Great Northern Peninsula and rural Newfoundland & Labrador.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Megan Coles, Our Eliza playwright, Savage Cove native wins 2014 BMO Winterset Award for first novel

Megan Coles, “Our Eliza” playwright, Savage Cove native wins BMO Winterset Award for first novel, “Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome”. This is quite an accomplishment!

Savage Cove has fewer than 200 residents. A collective of communities make up the Straits, where all students from Eddies Cove to Anchor Point go to Canon Richards Memorial Academy at Flower’s Cove. I went to high school with Megan. She always possessed creative talents, whether in poems, scripts or short skits. I would think the road to the arts is not always an easy choice, even for those who have incredible skill. Megan is a person who has remained steadfast and committed to pursuing her passion for the pen and paper. It brings great pride that she is from the Great Northern Peninsula. She is such a role model for budding young artists in the region, across the province and country!

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Megan Coles (left) graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland and the National Theatre School of Canada. She later co-founded the Poverty Cove Theatre Company, producing her amazing play “Our Eliza” and bringing it home to the Great Northern Peninsula. My sister and I went to see it before the tour at the opening night in the Barbara Barrett basement theatre at the St. John’s Arts & Culture Centre. Megan has since launched other plays and continues to be involved with writers guilds and groups to advance the profession from her home in St. John’s, NL.

On December 9th, I recognized Megan Coles for her literary talents from her first book along with storyteller Earl B. Pilgrim and children’s writer,Gina Noordhof in the House of Assembly in a Private Member’s Statement.

This week, Megan’s win of the 2014 BMO Winterset Award for her book, Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome showcases the talent of this young writer, especially given this was her first book. The award is the province’s richest literary prize, at $10,000 and has a special ceremony at Government House. The two other 2014 award finalists were Michael Crummey for Sweetland​, and Alan Doyle for Where I Belong.

Megan is currently working on a trilogy of plays examining resource exploitation in Newfoundland and Labrador, The Driftwood Trilogy: Falling Trees, Building Houses, and Wasting Paper. I encourage you to get a copy of her book and support her current and future work.

We have incredible stories that must be shared, especially from the Great Northern Peninsula. Our greatest resource is no doubt our people. Megan Coles is one of our own, deserving of these accolades and will continue to shine throughout her artistic career.

Keep being true to your rural roots and I look forward to your future literary works. Your story is motivating and inspiring! #SupportTheArts

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

An incredible view at Farewell…

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A beautiful view at Farewell waiting for the ferry to the cultural communities at Change Islands and Fogo Island.

The fishing industry dominates the coastline of our many rural communities, highlighting the importance, the reason we have existed on this Rock for more than 500 years.

The crab pots, their design and the people who work them are all part of our rural experience in Newfoundland & Labrador, whether Fogo Island, Carbonear or the Great Northern Peninsula – your authentic rural experiences await!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Croque – “Administrative Headquarters” of the French migratory cod fishery on GNP

Today, Croque is a tiny settlement on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula that still maintains strong connections and has a storied past as the former administrative headquarters of the French Shore.

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In the 1600’s all French fishing ships were to register at Croque upon arrival at le Petit Nord. This created a hub of activity during the presence of the French migratory cod fishing fleet in this area. This community continued to play an important role for the French navy, as they used Croque as their headquarters on the French Shore.

Croque has the only official French cemetery on the French Shore and is the final resting place for both French and English seamen, which is depicted below. The French Navy kept up the cemetery long after the French Shore Treaty ended in 1904. During their visits, they would provide medical services to the local residents with the ships doctor.

It is hard to imagine that our communities were so disconnected and isolated just a few decades ago, but the road connecting this community to the outside was not complete until 1975. Dog teams and ships were the avenues in which those would travel to gain access to a doctor, which may be as far away as St. Anthony or a nurse at Conche. During the era of re-settlement, of the late 1960s and early 1970s several families from the Grey Islands and Northeast Crouse resettled to Croque. Residents today, still talk about their home or ancestors of the Grey Islands.

Although the last official visit of the French Navy was in 1971, there is still lots of evidence of both the French and settler history by viewing the historic waterfront buildings, the French cemetery and just outside of town the names of ships are carved on the rocks by French fishermen.

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We have to reflect upon our past, there is a cultural connection to be made between Newfoundland and Labrador and France to pursue other opportunities to share artifacts, stories and our heritage past and present. Our early settler to the community was Patrick Kearney, which the Kearney namesake is still present today, who was responsible for being a caretaker of the French fishing rooms in the early 1800’s.

Let’s do more to tell our stories of the past, because Croque, Petit Nord and the Great Northern Peninsula have played a very important role and it is a place you must experience!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Canada Bay Quilters launched on Great Northern Peninsula

Quilting has been something my grandmother has done for decades. She has passed on this tradition to her eldest daughter but certainly more people could learn this skill. Every night, I enjoy turning in under the handmade quilt that my aunt or grandma made for me. There is something special about things that are handmade, the care and the extra bit of love put into seeing them complete.

On the Great Northern Peninsula there are a number of quilting guilds. Canada Bay Quilters is a new opportuny for those of all ages and all levels of experience to learn the art of foundation paper piecing from beginner to advance.

Joan Penney-Flynn has 40 years of experience and is available to teach others for a fee of $50. After a class, you should have a completed project. Information is listed below, if interest in such workshops.

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The Great Northern Peninsula has a long history of making things by hand. Our ancestors who came from England and other parts of Europe brought these handmade traditions and skills with them. Some of these skills were commercialized under the leadership of Sir Dr. Wilfred Grenfell as he created an industrial division that focused on handicrafts and textile products. One of the products made was the hooked rug, which are still practiced and available for sale at Grenfell Heritage Shoppe in St. Anthony as women in the region still make new and traditional rugs.

In Englee, there is a rug hooking exhibition that is open 9-5 on Monday to Friday at the Town Hall. They are also home to Glacier Glass, glass art studio and gift shop as well a space where quilting can take place.

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The Great Northern Peninsula is embracing all things handmade and your destination to experience these types of learning vacations, workshops or purchase handmade products.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

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