Mark Small RIP
Mark in his favourite sealskin jacket.

The Canadian Sealers Association has lost one of its major figures and a courageous champion with the death of past president Mark Small, on January 18. He was 83 years old.

To show respect for Mark’s contributions to the CSA, to our home province, and to sealing communities across Canada, Jim Winter, founding CSA president, Eldred Woodford, current president, and Albert Newhook, an earlier president, were present for the celebration of Mark’s life at Trinity Pentecostal Church, in Baie Verte, on the remote northeast peninsula of Newfoundland.

For decades Mark was a major figure in the association’s efforts to counter the propaganda of animal rights corporations and remove the politically motivated bans on Canadian seal products in many countries.

Mark cared. More importantly, he acted on his caring. What more can you ask of a person?

Mark Small from Newfoundland
Left: Excited at the thought of fish and brewis for supper. Right: Father and son with their catch of turrs (to use the local lingo). You may know them as common murres or guillemots.

Caring is one thing, but taking action is a much harder thing to do. For decades Mark took action. He took action on behalf of all sealers throughout Canada. His presence made a difference. His presence at events was the presence of the people, in the midst of various Canadian government politicians and bureaucrats. In fact, often his presence was to spur those entities into taking concrete positive steps to resolve the issues that plague the Canadian sealing industry – issues that also plague rural coastal communities like his beloved Baie Verte.

Mark saw the sealing industry not only as a 400-year-old tradition throughout coastal communities in Atlantic Canada, but also as an important contributor today to the continued existence of those rural communities dependent on the mosaic of incomes that provide a living for their citizens. Sealing, fishing, hunting, farming, being a “jack of all trades” – all pieces in the financial mosaic that rural coastal communities depend on for survival. Mark spoke our facts, our realities, in Canada and to foreign politicians and media. He did so clearly, passionately, and concisely.

harp seals in Newfoundland
Harp seals as far as the eye can see – a view that Mark Small loved. Photo: Jim Winter

Mark was a man of great caring, and that caring was rooted in his faith as a pastor in the Pentecostal church. His faith infused everything he did. It made him the man he was.

He was not only an activist for the sealing industry, he was equally active in the fishery and in his community.

Despite the challenges of all those activities, his prime focus was always on his wife, Patricia, and their three sons. As time passed he became a loving grandfather, uncle, and great uncle.

Mark, as you set sail on this new voyage may you have fair winds, full holds and bloody decks. R.I.P.

Mark Small is featured in this old episode of CBC TV’s series Land & Sea.
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