Local filmmaker tackles outmigration
ANTIGONISH – The need for work has inspired an East Coast exodus.
It has become commonplace for Atlantic Canadians to work on one side of the country and live on the other, in order to both support themselves and their families. A worker may spend three weeks on the job in Alberta, then two weeks with loved ones in Nova Scotia.
Three weeks is a long work day.
Corinne Dunphy, a documentary filmmaker from Antigonish, became captivated by this “East coast phenomenon” while studying in Toronto. “Many people in Ontario aren’t even aware of this; I would like to spread the knowledge of it and make the realities of this lifestyle more relatable to those who aren’t a part of it... Often people have to go, and they’re making sacrifices for their families because there is no work (for them here)”.
Dunphy presented this concept to the National Film Board and received funding for a short documentary, which is scheduled to film over the holidays and release this March. It is currently being developed under the title “Meanwhile Back East”, and is intended to participate in various Canadian film festivals this coming year.
The documentary will delve into the “domestic and sociological impacts of the lifestyle”, with a particular emphasis on women -- women who go and women who stay. Dunphy reached out for stories on Facebook and got “an overwhelming response” from wives and mothers of those who have gone out West for work. “Talking to all of these women in the summertime, what struck me was that there isn’t a lot of support for the people at home. People seem to judge women when their husbands go”.
Dunphy intends to shed light on the home lives of spouses and families who stay behind. “Some women have a really rough go, but others have gotten used to it -- they enjoy the time, and they make it work”.
The lifestyle can be especially hard on young families forced to live with only one parent for weeks at a time: Dunphy encountered a mother who does everything she can during her husband’s prolonged absences, but “she just doesn’t have enough hands to take care of the children”.
The children also face difficulties, such as missing their absent parent terribly and exhausting themselves trying to make up for lost time when he or she comes home. “Teachers know when a mother or father returns,” Dunphy explains, “because they’ll stay up late”.
Corinne Dunphy is still looking for people willing to talk about their experiences of going out West or staying behind. If this is your life and you want to take part in telling your story, you can contact her at