Court decision favours Round Harbour fish harvesters

Gary Kean
Published on February 8, 2013
Lorne and Violet Fudge still have hope they will have their say about the relocation of Round Harbour, the Baie Verte Peninsula village where they base their fishing operation.
Submitted photo

CORNER BROOK — The provincial government will have to take another look at whether Lorne and Violet Fudge can have a say in the relocation of Round Harbour.

The fishing village on the eastern coast of the Baie Verte Peninsula had been the couple’s permanent home until they moved to the nearby community of Harbour Round in 2000.

The Fudges make their living from the fishery and still base their operations out of Round Harbour to this day.

In July 2010, the Department of Municipal Affairs received a request to have Round Harbour relocated, a decision which would require the agreement of 90 per cent of those considered eligible residents of the community. Only two people — Ena Fudge and Charlie Foss — were considered permanent residents and, in a vote conducted in January 2012, they both agreed with relocation.

Last March, Lorne and Violet had lawyer Dean Porter file an application requesting the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook to decide whether they should have been included in the vote.

Commercial property owners

A hearing before Justice William Goodridge was held last September. This week, Goodridge rendered his decision and has ruled that, while Lorne and Violet Fudge cannot be considered permanent residents of Round Harbour, the Department of Municipal Affairs must reconsider whether the couple has voting rights as commercial property owners in Round Harbour.

Since the court action was taken, there has been a stay of any measures associated with relocating Round Harbour. This means the provincial government has had to continue providing services such as snowclearing to the community until the court matters were resolved.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Lorne Fudge said from Harbour Round on Thursday, not long after returning from checking on his boat and fishing gear in Round Harbour.

“We’re just waiting now to see what government is going to decide to do.”

Fudge would not comment about how he or his wife plan to vote if they are given a chance to have their say on relocation.

A vote against relocation would mean the continuation of government services that allow them to continue pursuing the fishery out of Round Harbour. A vote in favour of relocation would make the Fudges eligible for any compensation government provides for those affected by such a decision.

“I guess we would have to move to another area,” Fudge said of the possibility of not being able to fish from Round Harbour. “That would be pretty expensive.”

Up until 2008, the Fudges lived in Round Harbour for eight months of the year. Although they now spend the majority of their time in Harbour Round, they still go to Round Harbour almost every day or stay there for extended periods of time.

Even this time of the year, when they are not harvesting crab, cod, lobster, lump fish or seal, they still go to Round Harbour to do preparation work for the start of the coming season.

Goodridge found there was no indication that Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O’Brien had made any determination regarding whether or not the Fudges were commercial property owners. In addition, an independent reviewer hired by the province to assess the situation was not asked to make such a determination.

Takes place on the sea

Chad Blundon, the department’s director of local governance, testified that the issue of whether or not the Fudges were commercial property owners was actually considered by the department in 2011. He said the Fudges were deemed not to be commercial property owners because fish harvesting is viewed by the department as a business that takes place at sea and is generally not a business activity within a community.

Goodridge said that determination did not agree with the facts before him, including that the Fudges’ fishing enterprise was licensed out of Round Harbour. The Fudges own three sheds in Round Harbour which they use for holding fish supplies and three wharves used as part of the business.

Goodridge added that the Fudges operate their fishing vessels out of Round Harbour.

Finally, noted Goodridge, the Fudges work in Round Harbour during the spring and fall, either preparing for the upcoming fishery or securing their property and investments for the winter.

“There is commercial activity ongoing on property in Round Harbour associated with a commercial enterprise,” said Goodridge. “That is not a determination that the applicants qualify as commercial property owners, but it is a determination that it is a live issue and, under the Relocation Policy, the minister had a duty to address the issue in his decision. Fairness dictates that the applicants have a meaningful opportunity to present their case fully and fairly on this issue.”

Not allowing the Fudges this opportunity “violates the principle of procedural fairness,” said the judge.

“I recognize that a decision maker is not expected to make an explicit finding on each constituent element; however, this was not a small issue,” said Goodridge. “If the applicants are commercial property owners, then the relocation cannot proceed without their voting in favour.”

Porter said he will now be putting together a submission for government to reconsider allowing the Fudges to vote on the relocation of  Round Harbour.

According to the Department of Municipal Affairs, O’Brien was travelling and unavailable for comment on the court decision Thursday.