Guiding Lights

Five Canadian kids meet at Cape Spear, the most eastern point in North America, near its famous lighthouse.

Written by Allyson Gulliver, Illustrated by Scott Chantler

March 29, 2017

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Juliette tried (again) and failed (again) to push her long hair out of her eyes. Cape Spear must be the windiest place in Canada as well as the farthest east. “Prends ma photo, papa!” she called. Behind her, the sign declared “Le point le plus à l’est de l’Amérique du Nord” and the ocean stretched away forever.

Just as her dad was about to take the picture, two boys ran into him as they raced toward the sign. “Sorry sir,” stammered Hasan, out of breath from the race. “I wanted to be the first one here to take my picture at the most eastern — hey!” he shouted, as the other boy pushed past him.

Liam made a face. “You snooze, you lose!” he said, pushing his back against the fence. “I’m farther east than you are!”

Hasan rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe this! I just met you in the parking lot and already you have to beat me?” Liam looked worried until he saw Hasan’s grin.

“Mais, papa …” Juliette said, raising her eyebrows. “Uh, excusez‐moi madame. Uh, mademoiselle. Est‐ce que c’est possible pour nous …” he trailed off, uncertain what to say next.

“Don’t worry — I speak English,” said Juliette with a smile. “And my papa does, too. Where are you from?”

“Ontario. Near Windsor,” said Hasan.

“St. John’s,” said Liam.

A new girl approached the other kids. “You should shake hands to introduce yourselves properly,” she said. As Hasan and Liam stepped toward Juliette, hands outstretched, the new girl darted into their place against the fence.

“You snooze, you lose, just like you said yourself,” the girl said. “C’mon mum — take my picture!” she called as her mother made her way down the stairs toward the group.

The four kids stared at each other, and then burst out laughing. “I can’t believe you fell for that!” said the girl. “I’m Emily, and I’m from near Victoria, B.C. A place called Sooke.”

“That’s so far away!” said Juliette.

“Exactly!” said Emily. “We live almost as far west as you can get in Canada, so we wanted to come as far east as we could for July 1. I mean, Canada’s only going to turn 150 once, right?”

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“That’s what we thought, too!” said Hasan.

“We, too!” said Juliette. “Wait … us, too?”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Liam, looking proud to be a Newfoundlander. “You came to the right place. We’re out here all the time. I just think it’s really cool that when you look out there,” he waved toward the ocean, “the next piece of land is Ireland.”

“The phare … sorry, the lighthouse is kind of strange, though,” said Juliette. “It’s just a block with a thing on top. Not like Pointe‐au‐Père, the one near me. It’s one of the tallest in the country. And it’s very important. Without it, ships would be smashed on the rocks.”

Liam looked indignant, but before he could say anything, Emily spoke up. “Well, I think Fisgard Lighthouse near us is just as good. It was the first one on the West Coast. Plus it has a fort all around it!”

“Well, Cape Spear was pretty important in the Second World War. This is where people watched for German submarines. The guns are still there,” he said, pointing along the path.

The kids hadn’t noticed a young woman in a green shirt, beige pants and hiking boots who’d come up to the group.

“Hi guys! I'm Kelly. I heard you talking about lighthouses. Isn’t it great that Canadians have so many to explore?”

Emily turned to Hasan with a pretendsad face. “Not for you, Ontario boy.”

Hasan raised a finger. ”Don’t be so sure, B.C. girl! I have a lighthouse just down the road from me on Bois Blanc Island. It’s not as fancy as the ones you guys have, but it’s still cool.”

Kelly smiled. “You’re all pretty lucky, I’d say. Lighthouses guided ships to safety. They watched for attackers. Canada wouldn’t be the same without them.”

She pointed to the sign. “Come on — all four of you get over there and I’ll take your picture at the most easterly point in North America. Together! Maybe someday you can visit each other’s lighthouses.”

Juliette, Hasan, Liam and Emily jostled around under the sign and finally found their places. “What should we say?” Liam asked Kelly.

But before she could answer, the four new friends had the same idea. “Three, two, one!” they shouted. “Happy Birthday, Canada!”

Colour photograph
Built in 1836, the famous square lighthouse at Cape Spear, just south of St. John’s, is the oldest one still standing in Newfoundland. Inside, it is set up to look as it did when the lighthouse keeper and his family lived there in the mid‐1800s. The tall lighthouse at Pointe‐au‐Père near Rimouski, Que., has helped ships safely make their way down the St. Lawrence River since 1859. The site where it sits is named for the priest Père (Father) Henri Nouvel, who held the area’s first Roman Catholic mass on the point in 1663. Fisgard Lighthouse guards the entrance to Esquimalt Harbour near Victoria, as part of Fort Rodd Hill National Historic Site. It was built in 1860, and was the first lighthouse on Vancouver Island.

Even far from the ocean, Ontario has some important lighthouses. The limestone Bois Blanc lighthouse stands on an island at the mouth of the Detroit River. In 1838, American supporters of the rebels in Upper Canada tried to invade from the island.

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