The untold truth of the Petit de Grat tragedy

Several readers from Isle Madame share my disdain for those who falsely depict lobster stealer Philip Boudreau’s death as a case of “murder for lobster.” Here’s a letter from one of them, a life-long Petit-de-Grat resident who withheld his name for obvious reasons. If all you know about Philip Boudreau’s death is what you’ve seen on TV or read in the papers, prepare for an eye opener:

I have written this letter to dispute the title of “A Murder for Lobsters.” As I reflect on the hundreds of media stories that I’ve read since this incident on June 1, 2013, I can now see the power of the media and how it can portray things that aren’t so.

I was born and raised in Petit de Grat. I knew all the people involved well enough to know that this was indeed not about lobsters.

As a person very close to Philip Boudreau’s age, we grew up wondering who he would terrorize next and to what extent of a crime he would commit. We were well aware of his release dates and made sure doors were locked upon his arrival.

Philip was an expert in a correctional system he would end up spending most of his life. He had an extensive record which built the criminal reputation he used to bully and harass innocent people who feared what he would do next if he was crossed. He had no fear and never thought twice of threatening people who stood in his way. He preyed on the weak/innocent and knew who he could victimize.

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The last several years Philip was out of a jail, he drew welfare and poached lobster to finance his habits. As you’re aware he was not a FISHERMAN, he was an illegal POACHER.

Everyone knew of his criminal catches and many residents of P-D-G [Petit-de-Grat] knew where to buy cheap lobster. Philip could offer a great deal and a fresh product. He would offer lobster he often got free in traps that were baited by hard working fisherman. These were the men and women who had commercial licenses and had to make their living on what two months had to offer.

I visited a friend one night to end up listening to two of Philips acquaintances talk about a small speed boat that Philip had baptized “The Midnight Slider.” It was a running joke that he would launch the boat at dark and take care of business. Philip mainly traveled the village by water and he would be cocky enough to have lobsters aboard. He knew the local fishery officer turned a blind eye to his illegal activity and he basically did as he wished.

If you disputed his way of life, there would be a price to pay. While you slept, he travelled and could make your life a living hell.

In the part of the village where Philip grew up, he was the King. He looked after his friends and family very well. What they needed he could supply. He was truly their friend, their ally. These people have been very vocal from the beginning of this terrible altercation and have spoken fondly of Philip. The media has heard from many who loved him and still call him a poor INNOCENT victim that he wasn’t.

Never did they mention the fact that his relative cashed in a crime stoppers reward to sell him out to the RCMP in one of his escapes. Never did they mention the disputes he had with his brother Gerard, another hard working fisherman that made his living on the water. Never did they mention the threats to local law enforcement officers.

The saddest part of this whole story is there has never been a word spoken FROM the people who fell victim to Philips antics. From the retired school teacher who brought him cigarettes from the US and he would repay him by stealing his boat, to other “weak” fisherman who he figured he could bully, not a word.

PDG Fisheries

He had a lengthy criminal past that almost went silent as soon as he passed. Even the incident with a young man from the village where he threatened to burn him down. The mans girlfriend panicked, called 911 and the RCMP were involved. Again nothing. No charges, no consequences to these bold threats.

Philip figured he was invincible. He would run this small harbour and he was in control. With this control came an understanding that if you crossed him, he would cut you out of the water.

In the Spring of 2013, Philip turned up the pressure on the crew of the Twin Maggies and they were to see that Petit de Grat Harbour was his territory. Not being a fisherman didn’t seem to matter, all he figured was James Landry and his daughter Carla were pushovers. Dwayne Samson the quiet son-in-law was known to be a very mild individual and a pretty easy target. James he expected would yell but eventually cool off. Philip knew these were innocent people that made a living working the grounds that he figured he owned.

For most Nova Scotians that read this story they figure it’s about greed. All about how many pounds of Lobsters a guy can catch in 2 months and a poor fisherman who crossed another man’s territory and got tortured.

PDG_ James Landry

The problem with this whole story is that most don’t know the man James Landry really was. Here is a man who had been on the water for over 50 years. He would give the shirt off his back, and had a nickname that matched his personality, “Tis Buddy.” In English this translates to “Little Buddy.” That’s what James called everyone and how he treated people. He even went as far as naming his old wooden boat, “Tis Buddy.”

This was a man who had no drivers license, lived in a small trailer, and lived like he probably had in 1970. Money didn’t mean anything. He could have bought just about anything given he had landed record catches for years. He lived like the man he was, pretty basic. He built a garage and updated his old trailer with vinyl siding.

When he left the trailer by foot, within minutes the next passing vehicle would pick him up because everyone knew who he was, what he stood for. He had no drivers license, but he could get to the next community as quick as a fella who drove. James was an honest fisherman who was involved in an altercation that resulted from years of abuse. This was the altercation that would prove to change his whole life. A man who lived as a down-to-earth French Acadian fisherman for 67 years to one day being labeled a monster. A man broken down by a bully who sent his whole world crashing.

As I read the local news stories and Facebook posts from Philip’s friends and family speaking of how James deserved second-degree murder, it’s so evident that the only camp I hear from is the Boudreau camp. I know many are hurting, and this will take time for some and will never heal others.

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As I read these stories I am not surprised that local innocent people from P-D-G will not come out and say James was a great man who made a terrible mistake. This is mainly out of fear for the consequences of taking such action. Owning a local business making such a comment could have drastic results. This is a place where many people are thinking it, but fear what it could lead too. Basically Philip Boudreau and his remaining supporters still have a grip on these people.

I will agree that no man should be killed due to an altercation. I will also agree that no man should be bullied and have his property or assets damaged for years without consequence.

Local fishery officers if had done their jobs properly would have saved all these families of this terrible tragedy. This was grease on the stove and no one to watch it. It proved to be destruction to families, a village in chaos and men and women who will be scarred to life’s end.

How a village filled with love and support could lead to a National story with many to blame. From the folks who ate poached lobsters to those who turned a blind eye to criminal wrong-doing, the guilty are many. An altercation that was an accumulation of choices that led to a tragedy. Without a demand, Philip Boudreau would not have needed a supply.

To sit here today and toss all the blame on the crew of the Twin Maggies is being ignorant or misinformed. James Landry does not hold all the responsibility for this incident and tragic ending.

Philip Boudreau was a grown man who knew what he was involved in. He is by far not INNOCENT in this altercation. He pushed men to limits that they probably didn’t know they could reach. Years of bullying and abuse proved to be his destruction. Let me make myself clear. There are no winners in this story. Philip paid the ultimate price and the others accused have also paid dearly. Men and women who lived for their children and were loved by their village.

As I write these words I recall the TV interview last night with the family of Canada’s oldest person who has recently passed. They asked her two sons, what did your mother live by. One son stated, “work hard and mind your own business.”

If Philip Boudreau had followed this advice, I can assure you that all of this would of been prevented. He made choices that would result in a terrible tragedy on the water that day. He was the main character of this story and folks who don’t know the history can only assume what they read.

You must ask yourself how James Landry survived 50 years without altercation and how at age 67 the grandfather of two got pushed to this limit. A family who went from loving to separated on what proved to be his final season.

PDG Twin Maggies

I hope to one day read an article that is a more accurate summation of this life changing altercation. The CBC started this story by making Philip Boudreau sound like a poor innocent fisherman. Other outlets used the same line to sell the easy story of victim and monster.

Now 17 months later, the innocent are still silenced. Locals express their opinions in their homes and dare not speak outside. They filter their Facebook and choose their words carefully.

To all those who know nothing about this peaceful village of Petit-de-Grat, please don’t be quick to judge people based on stories that are written by strangers. If you’re a good reporter and want to write an accurate story, please do your homework and find multiple sources.

Do us the honour and present facts on men that helped build our great village. Speak for the innocent who are still scared to speak publicly and face repercussions. Be wise enough to know that this man did not die due to Lobsters.

More letters to come. Silver Donald Cameron, who spent much of his adult life on Isle Madame, and is writing a book about the Petit-de-Grat tragedy, had a nuanced piece about the case in Friday’s Globe and Mail.