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Labrador, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Labrador is a territory within the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. Labrador is roughly 300,000 square kilometres (115,000 square miles), with 30,000 human inhabitants and 600,000 caribou (a type of reindeer). It covers 75% of the surface area of its province, and is home to roughly 5% of its human population.

Areas of Labrador

Labrador may be divided into three parts:

  • Small coastal fishing towns, which each contain 1,000 people or less. People go between these towns by boat when the harbours aren't frozen1. Even then, they still have to dodge icebergs. The coast of Labrador is loosely inhabited, from the Strait of Belle Isle in the south to Nain in the north. Maps of Labrador often show a town named Hebron, further north, but this town has been uninhabited ever since the Canadians started resettling its Inuit/Indian population.

  • The inland towns of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador City and Wabush, and Churchill Falls were entirely built and constructed from 1941. People go between these towns via the trans-Labrador highway when it's not snowed under, which is to say, about six months a year. Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay each have about 9,000 people, and are modern towns with hotels, gas stations, grocery stores (though the produce is not always the freshest), and strip malls. Each of these two metropolitan areas contains roughly one-third of the human population of Labrador.

  • The inhabitants of the forests are entirely migratory, and entirely four-legged. Labrador is said to contain the world's largest caribou herd. There used to be migratory human inhabitants, but they got resettled.

Industry and Tourism in Labrador

Agriculture does not exist in most of Labrador as the permafrost gets in the way. The provincial government is encouraging people to take up gardening, however.

Each town in Labrador was founded with one single dominating purpose; be it fishing, military, mining, or hydroelectricity. The fishermen came around 1600, the military in 1941, the miners around 1960, and the hydroelectricians around 1970. Today, mining is the closest thing Labrador has to a growth industry; a major mining project is planned for Voisey Bay in the north, albeit with significant native opposition. Labrador also has a fledgling software industry.

However, each town is discovering the advantage of tourism as a supplemental industry, with many boasting their resources on the World Wide Web:

  • Southern Labrador has historical settlements, one of which reputedly dates back to the time of the Vikings.

  • Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the home of the 5th Wing of the Canadian Air Force, and plays host to NATO training flights. It has the Labrador Military Museum, which describes how useful the airbase at Goose Bay was during World War Two.

  • Towns where there is significant industry other than fishing, which is to say, Churchill Falls, Labrador City and Wabush, are all offering tours of their facilities.

  • Queen Elizabeth II once spent a night in North West River, just outside Goose Bay.

  • Even uninhabited Hebron is something of a tourist destination, due to the Moravian Mission that was established there in the 1800s.

The rest of Labrador tries to get by on being one of the last frontiers. For the tourists, this translates as lots of hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing2. The most interesting activity for a tourist in Labrador is likely to be talking to the natives, who are entirely friendly and talkative, and a great source of information about their homeland.

Life in Labrador

Like Newfoundland, the fishing villages of Labrador have benefited from centuries of isolation to produce a population used to living in isolation. The residents of Labrador's industrial cities are new to isolation, but are largely paid well enough to put up with it. They have to be, as the cost of living in Labrador is greater than the rest of Canada.

Labrador (like Newfoundland) is losing its population over time, as people leave to find good jobs in cheaper places where the sun shines more than four hours a day in the winter. Those who stay in Labrador may find that the best job available for a college graduate3 is as a clerk-typist at the mine.

There used to be migratory native peoples who hunted and fished to survive. However, this became quite difficult with new mines, hydroelectric dams, and NATO training flights getting in the way. Many natives just shrugged and moved into town4, where they can live on Canadian government subsidies. But some still fight for the right to hunt and fish as their ancestors used to.

Given the lack of highways, other forms of transportation are incredibly important to Labradorians.

In the interior, supplies arrive by plane or, in Labrador City, they can arrive by train from the Quebec coast. During the winter, travel tends to be by aeroplane only. The provincial government also subsidizes two ferries between Labrador and Newfoundland. One ferry takes cars and freight into Goose Bay; the other takes passengers up and down the coast. Each of these ferries offers food, drink, and beds for their travellers. Other ferries go the short distance across the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and Labrador.

Labrador is largely a political colony of Newfoundland, and an economic colony of Quebec which established the mining and hydroelectric industries. Labrador residents, like people everywhere, grumble about their bosses and politicians, but they are very independent-minded, and hate being called 'Newfoundlanders' or 'Newfies'.

Practically all Labradorians speak English, but the closer you get to Quebec, the more you can find French speakers too. In parts of Quebec which adjoin Labrador and parts of Labrador which adjoin Quebec, the next province over is more accessible than the rest of the province you're in, so people cross the border for fun all the time. These parts of Quebec and Labrador are probably the only place in the world where you can find both frogs' legs and codfish tongues served in restaurants.

1Which is to say, the ice-free six to eight months each year.2Labrador has no convenient mountains for downhill skiing.3Labrador does have its own college, in Labrador City. However, many students go to Newfoundland for their studies.4Particularly the small communities of Sheshatshiu and Davis Inlet for the Innu; Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik and Rigolet for the Inuit.

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