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At Canada's Front Door


[The author of this article, written in 1947, was Watson Griffin. For the full citation, see the end of the article]


Newfoundland is at the front door of Canada . No ship from the St. Lawrence River can get to the Atlantic Ocean without passing through either Belle Isle Strait at the North of Newfoundland or Cabot Strait at the south of it.


Most of the Canadian ships sailing to the outside world go through Belle Isle strait, as it is much shorter than the southern route through Cabot Strait. One side of Belle Isle strait is in Newfoundland, and the other side is in Labrador, which belongs to Newfoundland. Cabot Strait on the south side is not so completely under the control of Newfoundland, but big guns in Newfoundland could make it very dangerous for ships taking the southern route from the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean. Moreover, Newfoundland's Labrador Territory, extending along the Atlantic Coast from Belle Isle Strait to Hudson Strait, shuts off from the sea a large area of Canada west from Labrado.


Evidently if any external power completely controls Newfoundland in the future it will command the entrance to the St. Lawrence River and to the Great Lakes.


Owing to the fact that Newfoundland has always been in the British Empire, Canadians have never realized how they might be shut out of the Atlantic Ocean if a hostile foreign nation controlled Newfoundland. Even if a friendly nation had control of Newfoundland, Canada would be a geographical dependency of that nation.


The editor of an important Canadian periodical, while expressing the opinion that if Newfoundland joined Canada both could gain advises the Canadian Government not to be in a hurry to reach an agreement while Newfoundland is prosperous. He thinks Canada could make a better bargain when Newfoundland is hard up after a severe depression. If Newfoundland is not welcomed into Canada now it will not come begging to Canada when it is hard up. It will turn next time to the United States, where it will not have to beg for admission. It is almost certain that if Newfoundland does not join Canada, it will, with its Labrador territory, become an American State.


It may be said: "What difference will it make? Canada and the United States will always be friends".


Canadians and Americans should always be friends, but a friendship based on equality is more likely to be lasting than a friendship based on dependence and subordination. Do Canadians desire Canada to be a geographical dependency of the United States, as it will be if Newfoundland becomes an American State ?


Winston Churchill has already given the United States for ninety nine years bases in Newfoundland, but those bases do not give the United States the exclusive control of Newfoundland that it would have if Americans owned the whole island.


For good or for evil Canada is committed to participation in wide world affairs in association with the United Nations. Anything that lessens Canada 's prestige will lessen Canada's influence in the counsels of the United Nations. If all the world learns that Canada was too mean or too poor to come to terms of agreement with Newfoundland and that the islanders were gladly welcomed into the United States the people of other nations will despise Canadians and glorify the United States . How would a map of Canada look with the name of the United States extending all along the east side of North America between Canada and the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Hudson Strait ?


Canada and the United States are planning to so enlarge the waterways connecting the Great Lakes with the deep waters of the St. Lawrence that large ocean vessels may navigate the Great Lakes. Every sea-going ship using that great waterway will depend for access to the ocean upon the good will of the power controlling Newfoundland .


But Newfoundland 's unique relationship to the great internal waterways of North America is not its only remarkable advantage from a strategic point of view. The port of St. John's, Newfoundland, is nearer to the British Isles and all Europe, nearer to every part of Africa, and nearer to all the Atlantic coast of South America that any port of any Canadian Province or any American State.


Even the far southern port of New Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico, which is about 2,6000 miles further from Liverpool than St. John's, is over 600 miles further from the great seaports of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires in Brazil and Argentina than the Newfoundland port is. The first thought of any one looking at a map of North and South America is that South America, although linked to North America , stands out into the Atlantic considerably further east than the northern continent. The second thought is that the part of North America most nearly in line with South America is the island of Newfoundland .


The Canadian Government should tell the Newfoundland delegates that Canada will establish a high-class steamship service connecting Newfoundland and all the present Maritime Provinces with the great importing centres of South America.


Source : Watson GRIFFIN , "At Canada's Front Door", in The Globe and Mail, July 9, 1947, p. 6.


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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College