Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Today a country died

“Today a country dies. Not as they die in Europe by enemy fire and sword, or by aggressive annexation, but by its own hand, the democratic choice of its people. By a majority vote of 6,401 of its citizens, Newfoundland today gives up its life as an individual nation in the British Commonwealth.”
— The opening paragraphs of a story that appeared in the March 31, 1949 edition of the now-defunct Toronto Telegram. The article was part of a series that won the first National Newspaper Award for feature writing.

Happy 61st!

But then is today the actual anniversary of Confederation?

Canada joined Newfoundland at one minute before midnight on March 31st, 1949.

But that was apparently Ottawa time.

Which would have made it 1:30 am Newfoundland time — April Fool’s Day.

Which sounds about right, considering the conspiracy and related foolishness that went on to get us into bed with Canada.

I was e-mailed more fuel for the fire recently — the copy of a Nov. 18, 1943 “secret” memo from Lord Beaverbrook, who served as Lord Privy Seal in the 1940s, to the War Cabinet of Winston Churchill.

Beaverbrook advised that Newfoundland — which had been operating under Commission Government since 1934 — should be returned to full Dominion status.

To quote the memo :

“Newfoundland should be offered the right to resume Dominion status at any time during the war or after it. The claim is put forward that the present Commission of Government is unconstitutional, and its acts will inevitably be challenged. This contention is based on Clause 1 of the Newfoundland Act, 1933, which makes it clear that the suspension of the Constitution was limited by the terms of the Address of His Majesty to the Legislative Council and House of Assembly of Newfoundland to a period as to such time as the island may be self-supporting again. But Newfoundland is now self-supporting, so it is argued. It has a surplus of 11 million dollars. Therefore the legal basis of Commission Government has been destroyed. Now, if we neglect to give self-government to Newfoundland, we must be prepared to meet and destroy this argument. It is my view that we will fail in convincing the people of Newfoundland.”

If you’re interested in a copy of the document e-mail me at and I’ll send you one.

Because I don’t have a clue how to post it.

Great Britain argued that there were no rules to govern a return to self-government (Responsible Government), an unprecedented and unpredictable event.

So the British took their sweet time.

The Newfoundland Convention was held between 1946-48 to figure out our fate after Commission Government, followed by two referendums, which led to Confederation with Canada and where we are today.

Newfoundlanders first, but proud Canadians too.

As a wise Newfoundland patriot said to me recently (not for the first time): “I am not a separatist; I just want in.”

Hear, hear.

He said something else, too.

A quote I’ll not soon forget:

“KD is good for the soul.”
I was contacted a few weeks ago by a Newfoundlander who’s writing yet another book (there have been a few) about the events leading up to our Confederation with Canada.

I look forward to the read.

Personally, I’d like to read a piece about the evolution of Joey Smallwood’s thoughts on Confederation.

Here’s a Smallwood quote from the Newfoundland Convention:

“Our danger, so it seems to me, is that of nursing delusions of grandeur. We remember the stories of small states that valiantly preserved their national independence and developed their own proud culture, but we tend to overlook the fact that comparison of Newfoundland with them is ludicrous. We are not a nation. We are merely a medium size municipality, a mere miniature borough of a large city.”

Contrast that to a Smallwood quote from a 1928 letter to the editor he wrote to Corner Brook’s Western Star:

“I would fight against Confederation in any shape or form, now or at any time in the future. Why should Newfoundland enter the Confederation with Canada? What possible good would it do us? Politically it would submerge us underneath a weight of strongly organized, well-knit provincial groupings that know what they want and how to get it … what earthly chance would Newfoundland have of being heard or of being given any attention? Under these conditions Newfoundland would be like the flea on Noah’s Ark. Said the flea to the elephant ‘Who are you shoving?’”

Any idea of how to make the sound of a flip flop in print?
One of the downsides of Confederation, it’s been said, has been the erosion of the legendary Newfoundland work ethic.

From the get-go.

Ted Russell was a cabinet minister in the very first provincial government after Canada glued itself to us.

According to the 2005 book, Uncle Mose, The Life of Ted Russell, by Elizabeth Miller, during its first year in office, the Joey administration did something Russell would later refer to as “very dishonest,” something for which Ottawa still hasn’t “forgiven us,” and from which “the people of Newfoundland are still suffering because they were corrupted by it.”

In his memoirs, Russell pointed out how, in 1949, a federal civil servant made it known Newfoundland was at a disadvantage when it came to unemployment insurance.

Turns out not one Newfoundlander would qualify for UI on the big wedding day because they didn’t have stamps and hadn’t made contributions.

Special provision was made for Newfoundlanders to the effect that anyone with three months’ stamps by March 31, 1950, would be eligible if then unemployed.

“Immediately, thousands were put to work — in January and February — at such jobs as repairing roads (under four feet of snow) and mending cemetery fences,” Russell wrote in his memoirs.

“On March 31, having supplied these men with stamps, the government fired them, thus qualifying them for benefits. Many men forgot about fishing that spring. For many, it was their first experience with legal cheating; thousands have never recovered from it.”
There’s an interesting editorial in today’s Telegram (A growing problem, Friday, March 31, 2010).

The article mentions how representatives of this province's 558 farms are meeting in Gander this week to talk about about security of supply, and how to make Newfoundland produce both affordable and varied.

As The Telegram points out, as an independent nation Newfoundland was at least self-sufficient in root vegetables.

I must check to see how many boxes of KD are in the cupboard.
In The Weekend Telegram (Saturday, March 27th) , Tom Careen of Placentia wrote an interesting letter to the editor (Lower Churchill and the 'revenge of survival') that starts off with the following sentence:

"The Churchill Falls hydroelectric contract is the great failure of Confederation."

I would argue Confederation's greatest failure is fisheries.

Here's to the 62nd anniversary.

A good marriage takes work.

We'll get there yet.


All Things Newfoundland said...

You know, when you look at Joey's first comment on confederation he was spot on. How corrupted he must have become to ignore his true feelings and ram confederation down the throats of Newfoundlanders. I can't help but wonder what may have been.

Anonymous said...

Beaverbrook's memo is telling - note that it's in 1943. I'm happy to be Canadian, but I do think that the process was flawed. But then again, we should count our lucky stars (& stripes?) that we didn't end up part of the US. There are some small blessings...

Lonenewfwolf said...

you can post it by scanning it as a pdf and loading it to google docs. place a link to the document inside the blog heading, or somewhere else obvious.