A Marine Voyager’s Dilemma in Northern Labrador

We have sailed the coast of Labrador many times and appreciate its rugged scenery, beautiful light, and isolation. So when the government of Canada decided to make the northern part a federal park, we were thrilled. But now that we can’t visit the Torngat Mountains National Park, we aren’t so thrilled anymore.

Parks Canada has a policy of not allowing national park users to carry guns, which may make sense for parks that don’t have a polar bear presence. However, Labrador has polar bears in spades, and we believe that the Park’s policy of excluding firearms from the list of “approved deterrents” is dangerous.

Parks Canada will, I’m sure, say that  if we feel this way, we can always “engage the services of an Inuit guide since they may use a gun” within the Park. However, we feel this is impractical on a small boat (vs. a cruise ship), nor are we in the practice of taking people on board our boat and home whom we don’t know. Even more important to us is that voyaging to Labrador is an attainable self-sufficient wilderness experience; taking a guide on board totally changes that.

Compare Parks Canada’s policy to the Norwegian approach in Svalbard (Spitsbergen), where you are encouraged to carry a firearm—along with deterrents such as flare guns—to protect yourself from polar bears, which they consider “extremely dangerous for humans”. Hiring a guide is an option for visitors to Svalbard, not a requirement.

So, until Parks Canada changes its policy (probably after some unarmed visitor is killed by a polar bear), we won’t be visiting the Torngat Mountains National Park by sailboat, since we won’t go ashore without a gun and we don’t wish to hire a guide.

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

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Phyllis has sailed over 40,000 offshore miles with John on their McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, most of it in the high latitudes, and has crossed the Atlantic three times. As a woman who came to sailing as an adult, she brings a fresh perspective to cruising, which has helped her communicate what they do in an approachable way, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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