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Top 10 stories of the year in Labrador West

Dignitaries were on hand for the announcement that the Scully Mine in Wabush would reopen. From left, Innu Business Development Centre manager Clementine Kuyper, Labrador West MHA and Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Graham Letto, Premier Dwight Ball, Tacora Resources CEO Larry Lehtinen, Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady, Labrador MP Yvonne Jones and Wabush Mayor Ron Barron.
Dignitaries were on hand for the announcement that the Scully Mine in Wabush would reopen. - Photo by Mike Power

Mine in Wabush to reopen

Dignitaries were on hand for the announcement that the Scully Mine in Wabush would reopen. From left, Innu Business Development Centre manager Clementine Kuyper, Labrador West MHA and Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Graham Letto, Premier Dwight Ball, Tacora Resources CEO Larry Lehtinen, Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady, Labrador MP Yvonne Jones and Wabush Mayor Ron Barron.

Officials from the provincial government and Tacora Resources were in Wabush at the end of November to announce the formerly defunct Wabush Scully mine was back in business. The announcement was welcome news to the town, which has been struggling since the mine closed in 2014, leaving close to 400 people without work.

During the past four years efforts to get the mine reopened involved a lot of negotiations with governments, companies and many agencies.

In July 2017 Tacora Resources announced they had closed negotiations to acquire the assets of the former Wabush Mines.

Many wondered if the company would get the required funding to reopen. A new feasibility study update was released in May of this year and in November it was official.

IOC goes on strike

Steelworkers on the picket line

Following weeks of failed negotiations the Steelworkers union at the Iron Ore Company of Canada went on strike. The strike, which lasted nine weeks, hit Labrador West hard, with many people and businesses impacted. On May 28 they agreed to accept an offer from the company and returned to work.

There were a number of contentious issues the company and union had trouble reaching consensus on, such as medical caps, pensions, a potential temporary workforce and some of the clauses for new hires such as lay off and recall notices. The agreement reached on May 28 resolved most of those concerns.

Labrador City woman completes Tely 10 after losing 100 pounds

Labrador City resident Irene Carroll is on a weight loss journey, and finishing the Tely 10 was one of the goals on the way to her ultimate goal – to get below 200 pounds.

Irene Carroll of Labrador City finished the Tely 10 race in St. John’s in three and a half hours. Carroll, 41, had lost just under 100 pounds in recent years and had tackled the race after doing the annual 5k Berry Run in Labrador City in about 45 minutes. She had gotten down to 325 lbs. from 425 lbs. and said the inspiration was her son, Dylan.

“I spent my whole life battling being overweight and then I spent years trying to do something about my weight,” she said. “But when my son Dylan was born, you know, I want to be there to watch him finish growing. He just graduated high school.

“When he gets married, I want to be there. When he has kids, I want to be there. And if I’m not healthy, and if I’m not trying everything in my power to live the best life that I can live, then maybe I’ll miss some of that. I’m going to miss some of it eventually anyway, but I want to be around for a lot longer yet.”

Wabush mine pensioners get some relief

In attendance at the presentation to pensioners were representatives of the provincial government pensions, local Wabush Mines Pension Committee, USW lawyer, representatives of Koskie Minsky and representatives of Morneau Shepell.
In attendance at the presentation to pensioners were representatives of the provincial government pensions, local Wabush Mines Pension Committee, USW lawyer, representatives of Koskie Minsky and representatives of Morneau Shepell.

After years of fighting against cuts in pensions and medical benefits to Wabush Mine pensioners, they got some good news in May.

Wabush Mines closed in 2014 and the parent company, Cliffs Natural Resources, subsequently filed for bankruptcy. The pension fund for the former workers was underfunded by about $50 million, and workers were considered unsecured creditors. In 2016, workers had their monthly pensions reduced, and medical benefits were cut off.

Eventually the matter ended up in the Court of Appeal, when the provincial government asked for an interpretation of the Pension Benefits Act. A decision released in January 2018 ruled the company has the obligation to fully fund the obligations of the pension fund, and workers were then considered secured creditors.

The pensioners and former hourly workers will receive $18 million toward the pension fund, as will salaried workers.

The settlement for the union to compensate for loss of medical benefits was $10.9 million to be shared by pensioners. The staff workers will get $2.3 million.

Salvation Army building closes in Labrador City

The Salvation Army closed their building in Labrador City on Oct. 3.
The Salvation Army closed their building in Labrador City on Oct. 3.

On Oct. 3, because of concerns with the building, the Salvation Army closed their location on Bartlett Drive in Labrador City.
“We are currently in the process of securing a new location for its operations,” Lieutenant Norm Porter with the local Salvation Army told The Aurora at the time.
Porter said even though they don’t have an office right now, they are still available to provide assistance to people. Contact information for email and phone information is available on their Facebook page and on CRRS TV community channel.

Porter said they are hoping the interim search will be short, but in the meantime he emphasizes they will continue to serve the people of Labrador West and look forward to getting back to providing regular activities, including their lunches, thrift shop and others as soon as possible.

Ray Condon leaves lasting legacy

Poster from the provincial tour of Fear of the Young.
Poster from the provincial tour of Fear of the Young.

Pride Week 2018 in Labrador City was dedicated to Ray Condon, a former teacher in the area who passed away from HIV. It also inspired a former student, Joe McGrath, to write a play, Fear of the young, which toured the province and McGrath has performed as a one-man play and estimates over 300,000 people have seen it in Canada and Europe.

Labrador’s first legal weed shop

Customer’s line up just after the doors opened at High North.
Customer’s line up just after the doors opened at High North.

High North, Labrador’s first legal weed store, opened at 4:20 p.m. on Oct. 17. Customers were lined up outside the store to sample the wares, which quickly ran out. Supply issues were common across the country when marijuana was legalized and Labrador City was no exception. The supply issue is still a concern, but many were happy just to see the opportunity to buy it legally for the first time.

“This is a new era in Canada and here in Labrador West, I never thought I would see this happen,” said Brenda Tobin, one of the business owners.

Man attacked by dogs in Labrador City

Jonathan Lapointe-Villeneuve prepares the medication he was prescribed after being attacked by dogs while out for a walk.
Jonathan Lapointe-Villeneuve prepares the medication he was prescribed after being attacked by dogs while out for a walk.

Earlier in December a man was attacked by dogs in Labrador City. Jonathan Lapointe-Villeneuve, a young teacher, enjoys the peace and tranquility of a walk through town at the end of the day, but that tranquility was disrupted by an attack on him by two dogs that were on the loose. Lapointe-Villeneuve had to get seven injections and endure a regimen of medication because of the attack. The story garnered a lot of interest on social media, with many calling for the town to do more about roaming dogs.

A sad day for Labrador — Friends and acquaintances remembered Gordon Parsons

Gordon Parsons of Labrador City bird watching along the Trans Labrador Highway.
Gordon Parsons of Labrador City passed away in 2018.

Former Aurora publisher and owner Gord Parsons passed away in March and the community outpouring was remarkable. The death of Parsons, 73, left Labradorians from almost every community saddened.

Parsons, originally from Flat Rock, made his way to Labrador, first to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, married his wife Clemmie, and eventually arrived in Labrador West in the early ‘70s. Parsons worked for The Aurora, and eventually went on to buy the paper. He was remembered for his time at the paper, his commitment to the community and many other changes he left in his wake.

He leaves behind his wife Clemmie, son Karl, daughter Susan and a legacy that because of his foresight, Labrador is a better place for all who live here.

Cain’s Quest

Innu Hawks from Natuashish cross finish line for second place.
Innu Hawks from Natuashish cross finish line for second place.

The self-proclaimed largest snowmobile race in the world captured the hearts of Labradorians again in 2018. Cain’s Quest, held every two years, brings together the different communities of Labrador and showcases the raw natural beauty. Andrew Milley of Labrador West and teammate Robert Gardner of Maine USA captured first place for the second time in a row and the Innu Hawks of Natuashish came in second.

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