Okak commemoration event being moved to Nain
A planned three-day event at the former northern Labrador community of Okak to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the Spanish flu has been cancelled after organizers were notified by Transport Canada of new regulations regarding the use of small marine passenger vessels. The event will now take place in Nain on September 23-24.
The regulations, effective March 12, 2019, require all commercial and public purpose vessels engaged in the domestic carriage of passengers in Canada to maintain a minimum of $250,000 liability insurance, multiplied by the passenger capacity of the vessel.
“Given that the boats planned to ferry people from Nain to Okak would not be in compliance with the regulations, we had no choice but to cancel the trip,” notes Language, Culture and Tourism Minister Jim Lyall. “Although this is very unfortunate, we will still go ahead and hold an event in Nain instead, to provide the opportunity to celebrate the descendants and community of Okak, connect families and form bonds. We want to take this time to come together and celebrate the resilience of the Spanish flu survivors, while remembering all those that were lost to the tragedy.”
The event will include a memorial service at the Nain Moravian Church, a monument ceremony, an ‘art as healing’ workshop, story-telling gathering, and a family tree session.
In October 1918, the supply vessel SS Harmony set sail from St. John’s for northern Labrador bringing with it the Spanish flu, a deadly virus that changed the course of history for Labrador Inuit. The virus spread quickly, killing entire families and leaving many children orphaned. No community was impacted as much as Okak, where 204 of the 263 residents perished.
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