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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)

Canada appealing WTO ban on seal products

The Environment and Minister responsible for Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, Leona Aglukkaq is in Geneva appealing the World Trade Organization (WTO) ban of Canadian Seal Products in the European Union today, which was upheld on the basis of moral grounds.

I support the Minister in our appeal. The Canadian seal hunt is well-regulated, humane and sustainable. It has been a way of life and a significant part of our culture and heritage on the Great Northern Peninsula for centuries.

In fact, St. Barnabas in Flower’s Cove was built under the leadership of Rev. Canon J. T. Richards in the 1920’s. The men and women made seal skin boots, which when sold went into a building fund. The church has been known locally as “seal skin boot” church.

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Local harvesters each year prepare to take to the ice. These are brave and courageous sealers, who risk their lives to provide for their families. My father was a sealer. He knew the art of bark tanning and preparing the skin to make leather products. Depicted below are seals tanning in Savage Cove, by the very talented Mr. Stevens.

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There are more modern products beyond seal skin boots that have been used to keep us warm in some of the harshest weather conditions, as winter can be difficult for those of us in the North.

Below is a patchwork sealskin purse. They are handmade creations by local craftspeople. With pride I promote our very own GNP Craft Producers in Shoal Cove East on the Great Northern Peninsula. If you would like your very own, they can custom-make them. Visit www.gnpcrafts.ca or call 709-456-2123.

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I am a strong supporter of the Canadian seal hunt and will continue to press for more products and new business developments for all involved in the industry.

Supporting the Seal Hunt –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

(Seal skin purse photo credit – Donna Whalen-Grimes)

 

Local Culture Depicted at Pebble Beach Studio

Marjorie Dempster is the artist behind the Pebble Beach Studio at Plum Point, NL on Great Northern Peninsula. We are lucky to have such talent that is one of our own, that truly depicts rural living. She should inspire us all to follow our interests.

Majorie was one of many families in rural Newfoundland & Labrador to experience re-settlement. Her move was in 1972 when her family left the Fishot island, which is just a few kilometers from the scenic Town of Conche to settle in Port au Choix. Marjorie grew up around the fishery and outport Newfoundland. After raising her family, she opted to change her focus from painting walls to painting on canvas.

Who would have thought that an acrylic Christmas present from her husband, would create an opportunity to depict our culture on canvas?

I purchased one of her tree liver designs (depicted below) in Red Bay, Labrador during the summer of 2012 from the Women’s Institute Gift Shop. I loved the way the lighthouse was shaped on the craggy coastline from the natural product. This has value! In 2002, in starting Flower’s Island Museum, I felt a much closer connection to lighthouses and the important role they played for our fishers. Those who earned their living from the sea.

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This past Monday, I again saw more of Marjorie’s brilliant work. This piece was donated in aid of Breast Cancer Research. The color and shape of the flowers in bloom, along with a unique sky background reminds me of impressionism.

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Both pictures have seal products next to her art. This is also a very important part of our living culture on the Great Northern Peninsula.

 I really enjoy  my new hobby, I  do hope to continue as long as…..God Guides My Hand. – Marjorie Dempster

I am impressed by Marjorie for finding her talent and pursuing it with entrepreneurial action. We all have talents to share. If you like her work, visit www.pebblebeachstudio.com.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

 

A Rural Newfoundland Christmas Tree – Salt Cod Drying on the Line

I’ve always loved trimming the Christmas tree. I remember around the 20th or 21st of December going with my father to cut it. He would have already been prospecting for that perfectly thick Christmas tree. After it was home, there would be the cutting and drilling to ensure that were no empty spaces. I miss the real Christmas tree and that whole process – it is how I remember my childhood and the excitement as we approached the holidays.

My current Christmas tree, although artificial it has many authentic rural connections. My most recent ornament is a Crafts of Character “Salt Fish on the Line” hooked using Anne’s own 100% salt water wool yarn. Anne Kirby, Rug Hooker is the owner of Anne’s Original Hooked Rugs, which are handmade and hand designed. You can visit her Facebook page by searching  Anne’s  Original  Hooked Rugs, email anne.kirby@gmail.com or telephone 709-857-2331 if you would like to get some of her amazing masterpieces. It’s my first hooked rug ornament, but I hope not my last. I will likely seek to add a collection of mummers next year :).

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I remember my Grandfather Mitchelmore telling stories of how they would dry the salt fish on the flakes. I’ve seen photographs of this process, today you see fish in small quantities on a flake or even on the line. Only in Rural NL. Also in the picture is a pair of snowshoes made by past Ivy Durely resident Thomas Newcombe.

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Local resident, Jeffrey Poole made these “Muffy” Christmas ornaments in which the parka hood is trimmed with rabbit fur and covered with seal skin. It is wonderful to see young people take on the task of making Christmas ornaments. It is a very good entrepreneurial activity. The snowshoes next to it were purchased at the Grenfell Heritage Shoppe.

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This summer at the Roddickton Come Home Year I purchased these two mummers from a young entrepreneur and mom as well. They also see at the Grenfell Heritage Shoppe. I purchased the killick from Mr. Ellsworth of Main Brook nearly a decade ago.

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A wonderful present from Mavis, also makes my Christmas tree more traditional given the snowman is made from sea urchins. How creative and what a wonderful use of natural product that washes ashore from the sea. It looks lovely and thank you.

My sister also made items from shells nearly 15 years ago. These are the angels made from scallop shells. My father was a scallop fisher.

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The Mummer’s are plankin’ ‘er down on my Christmas tree. They even have the old squeeze box, which I bought from a Montreal Christmas shop near Notre Dame Cathedral. I love Betty and Bob from the Bight. Hope to see them come to my house over the Chrismas season.

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There are many more snaps from the Christmas tree of traditional ornaments and some from my travels abroad.

The gift of something handmade or an ornament for the Christmas tree seems like the perfect present for those to enjoy the holiday season.

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Merry Christmas everyone, from my family to yours!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

 

Rural Roots, including Seal Hunt Proudly on Display at MHA Mitchelmore’s Office

 

 

 

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I’m a believer in all things rural, including the seal harvest. I wear my father’s seal skin boots that are more than 15 years old and last year purchased a seal skin coat. I could give it away a dozen times a day from all the people I meet that would also like to have one. More must be done to make these products more readily available to people of the province. The seal skin tie I have, which certainly has “heart” was purchased for $60 from GNP Craft Producers in my District. They have a website http://www.gnpcrafts.ca. They also make great belts for $40, bow ties, slippers, mittens and more. Let’s continue to show our support for the seal harvest, as it is humane, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

As the blog simply states, “Live Rural” and “Experience the Great Northern Peninsula” is all about learning, understanding and sharing my rural roots with the world.

For those who have dropped by our constituency office in St. Anthony, the public gallery has an array of local art from a French Shore Tapestry, photographed seal by Chris Patey, hooked rug, sweat lodge artwork, icebergs, Grenfell embroidery, painted purity products, dories, fish and many pieces that reflect our rural region. There is a collage of images from across the Great Northern Peninsula.

However, my office at the Confederation Building in St. John’s, NL is no different. It includes many handmade items and pieces of art that I have made myself or purchased from others. I am always searching for as much local stuff as possible.

There is a lovely Chris Patey piece of Iceberg Photography on the northern tip, with a magnifying glass and fish handle, La Mousses (The French Fisherman) that I’ve been told resembles me is from The Guardian Gift Shop at the French Shore Interpretation Centre in Conche, but was made by Loretta Decker of L’Anse aux Meadows. Outport NL by Candace Conchrane is next to a handmade glass plate made at the St. Anthony College of the North Atlantic. The fused glass polar bear comes from the Grenfell Heritage Shoppe in St. Anthony. There is a stuffed seal that was given to me as a Christmas present, as well as a fish and smaller seal.

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Here is an explanation of the Gallery below:

I purchased art from Bruce Pilgrim, originally from Main Brook, the former Englee Plant which was framed by his wife Maureen, owner of Island Images Gallery and Framing Shop. It is very pleasing after all the lobbying, letter writing, petitions, telephone calls and more that Government issued a clean-up order which resulted in $1.7M to remove and re-mediate this site.

The iceberg was painted by myself in three hours when I took a class with George Bussey, originally of St. Lunaire-Griquet. I enjoyed this immensely and encourage others to take it up as a hobby.

The hooked rug, I did as well under the instruction of Sabrina Gaulton of Anchor Point. It took about 50 hours to make this tiny rug. I would like to do another, when time permits. Thus far, time has not permitted.

The “Lonely Harbour” is a piece I purchased at the Bits’n Pieces Cafe in Conche from local Natalie Byrne.

The splitting table imagery reminds me of Noddy Bay or Raleigh. It was done by William Bartlett of St. Lunaire-Griquet.

The polar bears were bought at Shoreline Flower’s N’ Crafts in Sandy Cove and the ax on the chopping block a gift from Port Hope Simpson.

The “Return of the Sealers” is my most recent purchase from the Savage Cove Come Home Year. It is a Linda Coles piece, who is originally from Savage Cove.

Rural Newfoundland & Labrador surrounds my work space every day. I am proud of my rural roots and continue to…

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

 

 

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