Happily hungry for caribou: Community freezer a hit in Labrador

·3 min read
Alex Saunders was the first in line for the community freezer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week. He received some meat for himself and some for a cousin. (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
Alex Saunders was the first in line for the community freezer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week. He received some meat for himself and some for a cousin. (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
Alex Saunders was the first in line for the community freezer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week. He received some meat for himself and some for a cousin.
Alex Saunders was the first in line for the community freezer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week. He received some meat for himself and some for a cousin.(Regan Burden/CBC)

Tote bins filled with bags of frozen caribou meat sat on the steps of the community freezer as idling cars filled the parking lot and spilled into the nearby streets.

Nunatsiavut elders living in Upper Lake Melville waited in line, hungry for caribou, last week.

For many of these elders, caribou, once a staple in their diet, is a delicacy that they have not had regular access to since the hunting ban was put in 2013.

Greg Flowers, Nunatsiavut minister of lands and natural resources, said they had initially requested 300 caribou, but were only able to secure 100.

Still, he said he's pleased to see the meat available to beneficiaries of Nunatsiavut.

"Caribou has been a staple of the Inuit people forever and we've certainly done everything in our power to try and get some of this caribou back to Labrador and put at least a few meals each on the plates of our beneficiaries," he told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"We're very grateful that we could acquire this meat.… Hopefully it's a plan going forward," he said.

The stream of vehicles was steady at the Max Winters Memorial Community Freezer on Thursday as beneficiaries of the Nunatsiavut government received their caribou meat.
The stream of vehicles was steady at the Max Winters Memorial Community Freezer on Thursday as beneficiaries of the Nunatsiavut government received their caribou meat.(Regan Burden/CBC)

The Nunatsiavut government has been organizing a community meat-sharing program for three years. In the past, the Inuit regional government brought in moose from the island portion of the province. This year, 100 caribou and 25 muskox were shipped in from the Rankin Inlet area, in Nunavut.

The meat was distributed in Hopedale, Nain and Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday. It's scheduled to be delivered to Postville, Makkovik and Rigolet.

Alex Saunders arrived at the Max Winters Memorial Community Freezer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay at noon, an hour before the distribution began, to ensure that he would be the first to receive a piece of caribou.

Saunders said he was feeling pretty special to be a part of the group receiving some and said that he would be saving his piece until he could invite family and friends and have a "big feed" together. Saunders was one of many people who expressed the importance of being able to share this meat with family and friends.

A total of 100 caribou and 25 muskox were cut, packaged and shipped to Labrador as part of the Nunatsiavut government’s freezer program.
A total of 100 caribou and 25 muskox were cut, packaged and shipped to Labrador as part of the Nunatsiavut government’s freezer program.(Regan Burden/CBC)

Roy Gillette said he was "drooling" for the caribou as he waited in line.

"When you're so used to it and then it's gone, it's like part of you is missing," he said.

As a cancer survivor, Gillette can no longer eat the meat fried, so he'll be having his caribou in meat cakes.

"If it comes down to the worst, [I'll] lick the pan," he said.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Wally Andersen was also on board, saying his first priority was getting caribou not for himself, but to ensure he would have some to cook for his 103-year-old mother using her secret recipe, which, he said, if shared "everybody would be doing it [that] way."

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