While the future of Entry Island does indeed look grim, it is not without hope. Indeed, food sovereignty, whilenot currently in existence, has existed in living memory. Many of the skills, tools, and talents that made thispossible only a few decades ago still exist and just need to be reutilized. The same is true for the local socialsafety nets that were strongly in place before federal and provincial government programs. In other words,going back to some of the old traditions remains a distinct and perhaps unique possibility for the islanders, andone we believe which might breath new life into the community. Moreover, the church is one of the lastcommon spaces within the community that has stayed neutral in the local clan wars over scarce resources,and so, it may be the only site where a truly inclusive community development plan can be accomplished. Inother words, we believe the church does indeed have good news to share with our community.
All Saints Memorial, Entry Island, is a parish located on a remote island within the Magdalen Islands, reachableonly by a ferry from Cap-Aux-Meules. It is comprised of a small almost unilingual Anglophone community of 62people (year round), the majority of who would self identify as Anglican, and about 35 would attend churchregularly. Entry Island is roughly 2 km wide, and 3 km long. Most community members are descendants ofshipwreck survivors.
The main economic engine on the Entry Island is lobster fishing, an industry that employs 90% of the islandsresidents for a few months of the year. The island is powered by a small series of Hydro Quebec diesel burninggenerators.Historically, the community was very self-sufficient, providing most of its own food, and even creating asurplus that it would sell to the neighbouring islands. Each family had its own cow, made its own milk, cheese,butter, and meat. At that point in time, the income from fishing provided enough resources to purchase onlythe bare necessities (e.g. flour, oil, tools) that could not be produced on the island itself.
This took place inliving memory, with most 50-70 year old individuals having grown up in that traditional environment.This ceased only a few decades ago when high lobster prices, in combination with unemployment insurancebeing extended to seasonal workers, created a surplus amount of wealth. Instead of continuing to producetheir own food, community members began to buy it from larger grocery stores situated on the other islands,that were supplied by the industrial agricultural complex.
However, as in many traditional societies, as the island began to enter a consumer economy, this devastatedthe local economy and disrupted the local social networks. Whereas before, community members would spenda significant time helping each other to produce lifes necessities that they would often share, each householdbegan to assume that this help was unneeded, or the work of the federal and provincial governments. Yearround work was replaced by unemployment insurance, and as community members ceased to need each othershelp (or expected monetary compensation for helpa new idea at that time), households became increasinglyprivatized and individualized, leading to a massive disintegration of community life.
This trend has worsened with a faltering global economy in which lobster prices have substantially fallen and inwhich the federal government has cutback unemployment insurance as well as other aspects of the socialsafety net. While in the past, this would have hardly troubled the island, because the local social networkshave been disrupted, and because they have not produced their own food for decades, the community nolonger has the necessary local resources to adapt to the changing social and economic situation.
Moreover, the youth, who have by-and-large grown up under the influences of mass media (unlike theirparents), and who have known nothing outside consumer culture, are unable to find meaningful lives within thecommunity, and have left without plans to return. There are only two children left on the island. Worse yet, Entry Island itself is seriously threatened by climate change. The rising temperature has preventedthe ice shelf from forming around the island, which would protect it from erosion during the worst winterstorms. Without ice, a single storm can easily eroded 10 feet of land or more.At the same time, oil exploration has been proposed off shore, which threatens the remaining fish and shellfishstocks (already threatened by ocean acidification).All these threats combined have placed Entry Islands future into serious question.