Maintaining its unique heritage while looking to new opportunities
Located on the west coast of Newfoundland is the Port-au-Port Peninsula, a picturesque region boasting a spectacular rocky shore lined by a magnificent jutting cliff-side. Made up of approximately 20 communities – including three Francophone and Acadian communities, [Cape St. George (Cap St-Georges), Black Duck Brook (L’Anse-à-Canards) and Mainland (Grand’Terre)] the region is commonly known as part of the French Shore. With the highest concentration of Francophones on the West coast, the peninsula is considered as the only bilingual district on the island of Newfoundland since 1971.
Land Area, km2
Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting, Mining Quarrying, and Oil and Gas Extraction
The peninsula’s fisheries, which have long been the main source of employment, are now in serious decline. Currently, Atlantic Minerals – which extracts limestone and dolomite – in addition to the area’s schools, are among the only viable sources of employment. Due to a lack of education opportunities, a large majority of Port-au-Port’s young adults are leaving the area for post-secondary studies, and many aren’t returning. For those who do return, they often times become part of the ‘fly in fly out’ community, traveling back and forth between the peninsula and other areas such as St. John’s and Alberta for work. This phenomenon is not new to the area since a similar lifestyle emanated from the fisheries. However, those that fly in and fly out return to the community with large earnings and benefit from low taxes, low cost of housing and the quality of life provided by the natural beauty of the surrounding area. The municipality of Cap-St-Georges has therefore decided that it would be wise for its sustainability and development to adopt a strategy that caters to a large extent to this clientele in the hopes that they will return, live, spend their dollars and retire in the community. Essential to this strategy is the development of the community’s infrastructure. Council members have been keen on finding ways of developing their community’s infrastructure through provincial grants and other sources of funding and they are succeeding. For example, they are building a new multi-purpose centre and have renewed their water system.
There have been talks of bringing in oil extraction to the area, which would bring in more people and more income. Some exploration was done but it’s been very slow to start. Other than this potential prospect, there aren’t many other economic opportunities within the region at the moment. And with many migrant workers in the area, it has also been difficult to build a strong sense of community.
Another challenge Port-au-Port is facing is the ability to maintain its French culture and language. There is a need to develop pride in the French identity and ways to encourage French culture, but it’s proving difficult with such high youth migration and many mixed marriages between the English and French-speaking populace which contributes to lowering numbers of French speaking people in the community. Organizations such as L’Association régionale de la Côte-Ouest (ARCO) and its partners such as the Francophone Schools and the Provincial Francophone School Board exist to protect, promote and ensure the vitality of language and French culture in the region.
One area that Port-au-Port is working hard to develop is their tourism industry. Given the natural beauty of the peninsula, as well as the rich French history, there lies great potential to capitalize on what already exists in the community. Investment in infrastructure, as well as the addition of new restaurants and accommodation to the area is needed in order to attract new visitors. To encourage entrepreneurship in the area, Port-au-Port has been offering one year free of taxes for entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses. There are opportunities within the area – and given the right people, Port-au-Port could really grow in the coming years.
*Please note that for the purposes of this project, we only visited the Francophone communities of L’Anse-à-Canards (Black Duck Brook), Grand’Terre (Mainland) and Cap St-Georges (Cape St George). Please note that we were unable to retrieve the exact land area and median age for Port-au-Port given that we are only looking at the Francophone communities.
Read about the Francophone history of Newfoundland and Labrador here.