Saturday, February 28, 2009

An Islander Has Won First Place for the Radio-Canada 2008 Literary Prize

Jonathan Harnois from the Magdalen Islands has won the first prize for the Radio Canada - 2008 edition for literary creativity, for his short story called “Sonam”. The winners were announced by Christiane Charette on her radio show. 
The first prize is accompanied with a grant of $6,000 and the text will be published by the magazine “EnRoute”, sometime between March and August 2009.

Jonathan Harnois was born in Joliette in 1981. He published his first novel called, “Je voudrais me déposer la tête” (I want to Get Rid Of My Head), in 2005 with the publishers Éditions Sémaphore.  Claude Poissant has adapted the work for the theater in 2007, and a documentary has also been inspired from his universe.  An adaptation for the Cinema is in the works.  Sonam is Harnois's first short story.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Granting of the Exploitation Contract for the Entry Island/Grindstone Ferry

The Society of Quebec Ferries wants to inform you that the contract for the exploitation of the Entry Island/Grindstone ferry has been accorded to the CTMA enterprise of the Magdalen Islands, following a public call for tenders.

From the first of April, the internet
 site of the Society will contain a page, dedicated to the Entry/Grindstone ferry, which will furnish all the information and necessary links in order that the customers will be able to plan their trips.

The ferry service will start its 2009 season as usual, on the first of May.

By the improvements of the service that has been put in place to travel the Entry/Grindstone ferry, the Society has shown that it aims to contribute to the social, economical and touristic development of the islands, particularly in opening up a way for the isolated people.  The Society witnessed very concretely, that it will fill the daily engagements and to continue in its mission.

Well..., la, dee, da! Isn't that a fine how-dee-doo! To the best of my knowledge, the people of Entry Island are all of English background, but when I went to the given website, this particular story was given only in the French language, even though there was an English option to click on....

No Contaminants Found In The Drinking Water In Pointe-aux-Loups

The drinking water in fourteen Point-aux-Loups residences was tested recently. The study was done to find any indication of contaminants in the water table of the Magdalen Islands. The test was also done in the water system on Grindstone Island. All was declared at normal standards.

According to the superintendent of governmental intervention for the Canadian Coast Guard, Martin Blouin, some samples had also been sent to the laboratory for further testing for the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks.

Mr. Blouin stressed that the analyses done was very sophistic and would have shown fit there had been traces of PCB’s contaminating the water. But there was no link involving the water table and the Irving Whale.

However, there are two pilot projects aloft to find a way to dispose the bags of contaminants that were buried in the sand dunes since the wreckage. The bags must ultimately be brought out.

The Irving Whale was a shipping barge belonging to the Irving Oil LTD., that had sunk in the Gulf 60 km north-east of PEI and North Point and south west of the islands on September 10th, 1970. She was carrying a load of heavy bunker C oil, which contained the PCB's.

Some of the oil escaped and washed up along 80 km of beach on the western side of the Magdalen Islands. The majority of the oil remained on board the barge, which laid 67 meters on the seabed. However, during the cleanup on the islands, almost 200,000 large garbage-sized bags filled to capacity of the PCB contaminated congealed oil were buried into the dunes on the Magdalen Islands.

During the autumn of 2008, some of those bags surfaced near Pointe-aux-Loups and have caused the residents of of the village to hold several demonstrations to petition to have the bags removed for Magdalen Islands soil. The reason for the removal is that it is an environmental time-bomb on an already fragile environment.

Did You Know:

• The Irving Whale sinking was blamed on stormy seas and unsecured hatches on the barge, which was being towed by a tugboat called the Irving Maple.

• Built in 1966, the Irving Whale was an oil supply barge serving the coastal areas of Atlantic Canada. It was about as big as a hockey rink and was laden with about 4,200 tonnes (about five million litres) of heavy bunker C fuel oil.

• After the Irving Whale sank, an oil slick covered an area of about 650 square kilometres. Divers secured the hatches to prevent the leakage of more oil, which was already slowing because the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence had made it congeal.

• The Irving Whale was owned by Irving Oil, a gigantic oil company and shipbuilder based in Fredericton, N.B. Founder K.C. Irving said the company was monitoring the situation "like a cat on a mouse" and, when asked who was responsible for the cleanup, said he hoped there would be nothing to clean up.

• When the federal government approached Irving Oil just days later to recoup over three million dollars in cleanup costs, Irving said that because the event had happened beyond Canada's 12-mile territorial zone, the company was not subject to Canadian jurisdiction. In fact, the law was on its side, rendering the government powerless and prompting new legislation aimed at bettering government control over oil pollution.

• Irving Oil was compensated for the loss by its insurance company, which in turn made no effort to recover the barge or its cargo.

• Environment Canada has predicted that "Based on current levels of tanker traffic, Canada can expect over 100 small oil spills, about 10 moderate spills and at least one major spill offshore each year. A catastrophic spill (over 10,000 tonnes) may occur once every 15 years."

• Between July 30th and August 8th, 1996, the Irving Whale was raised from its watery grave and brought to dry dock in Halifax, at the expense of Canadian taxpayers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Cap-Vert Corporation Receives Funding

The new Deputy to the National Assembly, Germain Chevarie, of the Magdalen Islands has not sat on his laurels since starting office early in January. On February 19th, he was pleased to announce that the Cap-Vert Corporation would receive financial aide in the amount of $37,000 to accomplish Phase 2 of their revitalization plan, put in effect several years ago. 

These funds will go to the Corporation to allow them to quickly finish the work started in the second phase of the renovations, in order to complete it for the summer season of 2009. “This project is a perfect example that take charge of projects in the area by the people of the community allowing them to save the infrastructures and to assure as well the interesting quality of life, for our citizens,” said Germain Chevarie.

The funds received are brought to the Corporation from a subvention agreed upon by the Vice-Premier Minister of Municipal Affaires, Regions and Occupation fo the Territory and the Minister responsible for the regions of Gaspesia and the islands, Mrs Nathalie Normandeau. “This last response is positive to our requests and I have very much appreciate her excellent collaboration,” concluded the Deputy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Economic Viability of Canada's East Coast Lobster Fishery

 On Friday the 13th, 2009,  the Honourable Gail Shea, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today issued the following statement:

"Today, I met with my provincial counterparts from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and a number of industry representatives from the Maritimes to discuss the serious challenges faced by the lobster fishery, as well as opportunities to ensure the continued viability of this valuable contributor to the Canadian economy.

There’s no question that current markets for lobster are challenging.  Every lobster fishing group and association has expressed this concern. Today’s meeting identified several options for improving the situation, including finding ways to manage supply. I fully support efforts by industry and my provincial counterparts to improve market access for lobster, and I am optimistic that, working together, we will deliver concrete results. All of the participants in today's meeting recognize the need for immediate action to secure Canadian lobster in the global marketplace. Officials at both levels of government are working with industry on a range of marketing activities targeted at increasing the profile of Canadian lobster in wholesale, retail and food service markets.

The Government of Canada is providing support to industry sectors that are feeling the impacts of the global economic crisis. Our Economic Action Plan will help resource-dependent communities through initiatives such as the two-year, $1-billion Community Adjustment Fund, which can help by supporting economic diversification in communities affected by the declining global demand for seafood. We have also acted to improve access to credit for fishing enterprises, and to provide tax relief for small businesses.

It’s also clear that we must also look beyond short-term fluctuations in landings and market conditions to long-term conservation of lobster resources. If we don’t manage our fisheries in a sustainable manner, we will put the economic benefits we derive from them at risk. During recent consultations with lobster harvesters and fishing organizations, including a meeting in Moncton on February 11, most groups highlighted the need for a rationalization program as well as additional conservation measures. We will continue to work with the industry to provide flexible tools to reduce their operating costs and pressures on lobster stocks."

A number of years back, the DFO implemented a number of conservation methods here for the islands, for conserving the long-term viability of the lobster stocks and thus creating a sustainable industry.  The lobster stock around the Magdalen Islands seem to be in good shape as far as numbers and weight are concerned.  

However, the economic slowdown is definitely a concern for the fishermen here.  Many of the licences have been bought by younger fishermen for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The older fishermen are retiring at a younger age because of the ability to get such a high price for their paid for outfits. That leaves many younger fishermen, not all but definately many, heavily in debt, usually because when they buy their new fishing business, they also tend to buy a new truck and perhaps a car to save on gas, a new home morgaged to the hilt, a new larger boat with an engine to make the boat move at incredible speeds and some even buy new fifth wheels to vacation in.

It must be scary for these fisheren, when the price of lobster go from $7.00/lb in 2007 to less the $5.00/lb, as it did last year.  They say that the price will not be rising much any too soon and those younger fisheren are really going to have to scour the bottom to pay for their debts. 

Islands School Board To Receive Funding

Earlier today, it came down from the National Assembly in Quebec, that the Liberal government will invest a large sum of money into the Islands French Catholic School Board.  Our new Islands Deputy to the National Assembly in Quebec, Germain Chevarie was pleased to announce, in the name of the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports, Mrs Michelle Courchesne, the governmental investment of $1,129,853 to the Islands School Board, Commission Scolaire des Iles, in updating its heritage real estate.

More precisely, this sum will serve to effect work on several of the French Catholic islands schools, on the Magdalen Islands.  This government aide was attributed to the Commission, in the framework measures of maintaining buildings and of the reabsorption of the maintenance deficit of the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports.  The maintenance money will be available to the school board in two parts, with respective budgets of $230,500 and $126,700, during the year. These sums will be awarded to the school board for the all of the building under their jurisdiction on the islands, for the maintenance of the schools for 2008 and 2009. These measures have been registered with the Quebec Plan of Infrastructures.

“It gives me reason to rejoice, for the students and for the teachers, who will continue to benefit from these quality infrastructures for many years to come. Our government has put in motion, in a clear manner, by means of this investment in the education heritage and in offering to the population of the Islands, favorable places for meetings,” declared Germain Chevarie.

Although the English school will recieve none of this funding because all the Protestant schools are under the Eastern Shores School Board, in New Carlisle, on the Gaspesia Peninsula, this is nevertheless good news for the islands.  Our schools are getting older and more delapitated.  The schools amongst the Iles-de-la-Madeleine communities have had relatively little money re-invested into them for many years and all the schools are aged. Some of the elementary schools on the islands as well as the Polyvalente des Iles have had little or no renovations, in recent years.  None of Catholic schools have the fresh-air quality of the English schools of Grosse Isle and Entry Island.  Though very clean, they all seem to have that closed-in, over-populated, worn-out, concrete cinder-block atmosphere about the buildings.  The only institution which is condusive to learning is the College Campus, CEGEP de la Gaspesie et des Iles.

On that note, I will say that I truly believe that te governments of the past have over-looked the benefits of small schools, while consolidating the institutions.  It is my belief that there would be far less reason to have armed guards, patroling the hallways of our youths institutions if the hundreds and even thousands of students were not piled in on top of each other.  I would think it would be far cheaper to invest in more instructors for smaller schools then in maintaining extremely large multiple building institution and busing children away from their home.  Here on the islands, the youth of Grand Entry spend almost 2 hours a day on the school bus. For me - I find that ..., every negative word, I can think of.

Education : A View To The Future

The Regional Elected Conference, CRE (Conférence régionale des élus) from Gaspesia/Magdalen Islands has adopted a plan to reform the professional and technical teaching of the area, last Friday. Three large changes have been identified in the document:

To assure a larger accessibility to training;
To favour a real approach to enter the professional and technical training;
To respond to the aspirations for qualifying individuals and those who are in socioeconomic development.

According to the president of the CRE, Bertrand Berger, these initiatives will reform the training adaptations, better to fit the needs of the region.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Piece of Good News To Brighten 2009

The word has come down from the top, that Navigation Canada will not be closing it’s manually run station here on the islands or at Mont-Joli, Quebec.  This is better then great news for islanders, not only because it keeps the airport traffic watch manual, and therefore with better security for air traffic, but it keeps our air traffic technicians employed and here at home.  Nav Can indicated that this decision is reflected by the consultations that were taken this past autumn with its employees and the concerned population.

The speaker of the society, Nadège Adam explained that Nav Canada regularly evaluates its services. The last evaluation took place in 2003.  It is now time that the company be brought up-to-date.  The enterprise had reviewed the installations of 46 places across the country.

They had decided to keep 18 information stations, those of which were the Mont-Joli and the Magdalen Islands.  It is apparently evident that these information stations of regional flight are essential for the security, indicated Nav Canada, “We had judged that the level of service was perfectly appropriate at this time”, added Mrs Adam.

Just before Christmas 2008, the employees of Navigation Canada had received word that a top Nav Can official would be coming to the islands to discuss terms of their contracts.  The thought then was that Nav Can would be automating all airports with under 20,000 incoming flights per year. Since the Magdalen Islands had less than 5,000 incoming flights, it was taken for certain that this would be one of the first to be automated. 

I'll bet a lot of people are breathing well tonight.

Pictures of satellite photos of the airport in House Harbour, Magdalen Islands.