A map showing the Adrienne Clarkson bypass (Chris Williams/Haida Gwaii Observer illustration).

A map showing the Adrienne Clarkson bypass (Chris Williams/Haida Gwaii Observer illustration).

The Drive Home: Port Clements, the “Canada” of Haida Gwaii

“From 1977 to 2004, there was not one recorded case of anyone being rude to anyone else in Port…”

By Chris Williams

Now before people (who are not from Port Clements) start arguing over whether or not this headline is truly representative of Port Clement’s place in the psyche of Haida Gwaii or just an insult to Canada, let me first say that I have it on extremely high authority that at least nine per cent of Port Clementsians feel this way about their small paradisiacal hamlet. It is in no way an affront to the great people of this proud and slightly dusty society. Perhaps to understand the concept better, we should take a quick look at what is Port Clements? And what does it really mean to be a “Clement Head”?

Located just off the Adrienne Clarkson Bypass1, Port Clements (which we shall henceforth refer to as simply “Port”) is a pillar of strength and all that is good with the world. It is well documented that from 1977 to 2004, there was not a single recorded case of anyone being rude to anyone else in Port, while during that same time period the people of Tlell and Nadu Road were very rude to each other (and quite loud also).

Originally destined to be the headquarters for CERN and the study of particle physics before losing the bid to Meyrin, Switzerland in what some locals said was an absolutely corrupted bidding process, Port instead built the Port bar, which they felt would be a better facility for studying physics anyway. In an obvious attempt to irritate the people at CERN, Port also constructed the internationally famous Converging Intersections of Physical Impossibility. These intersections, located all along Bayview Drive, give drivers the illusion that they are travelling away from the municipal core, but in reality, they all converge on a singularity directly in front of the Bayview Market causing visitors to the area to question their reality and head to the bar to discuss physics.

Port Clements also has a signature architecture recognized around the world. Nominated for such awards as the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Construction, Port’s signature “West Coast Pallet Modern” incorporates pallets and ratchet straps to create spaces synonymous with West Coast principles and wooden pallet ratcheting systems. Examples of this area-specific design can be found dotting the landscape in the form of swimming pools and fences.

But perhaps the most respected and valued characteristic of this gnarled place and even gnarlier people is their incredible sense of humour. Like the rest of Canada, (with the exception of Quebec) their ability to take a joke and laugh at themselves is unparalleled. This is easily demonstrated by the fact I have not received any hate mail from anyone in Port for the contents of this column.

1. The Adrienne Clarkson Bypass is so named because when she visited these islands back in 2002, she stopped in all the communities of Haida Gwaii except Port Clements, which she just passed on by (perhaps not realizing there was more to it than just the gas station and hotel.)

The Drive Home