The New Province
[For the source of this document, see the end of the text.]
In the last lingering seconds of tonight, Newfoundland will enter the Canadian Confederation. W ith the strokes of midnight, Canada's population will grow by 280,000 English-speaking peoples; its sovereignty will extend over an other 154,000 square miles of lake, forest and settlement. As the sun rises out of the Atlantic to redden the great cliffs of the Avalon Peninsula, this nation will at last be as its Founding Fathers dreamed it should be. Whatever doubts there may have existed on the island and elsewhere as to the procedure which has been followed to effect this deci sion have no place now. Union, once consummated, is irre vocable.
But, we venture to say, as the weeks pass and the tan gible benefits of Confederation begin to flow across the Cabot Straits down the length of Newfoundland's single railway line and by coastal steamer to her lonely outports, the bitterness and recrimination, which accompanied the transfer of power, will be washed away. For the desire to confederate is not to be found in great events but in single lives, in the health of children and the protection of the aged.
There will, perhaps, be hard times again on the island but, however hard they will be, they will be as nothing to conditions which have plagued Newfoundland's history from its earliest beginnings. For centuries the island has been the victim of forces far beyond its control. For centuries it was a summer fishing station on which true settlement was for bidden. And when finally its rocky shores were open to the migrant and homes with chimneys were permitted it was subject to blasts of economic storms such as have overtaken few territories.
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The truth is that Newfoundland was not made to be alone. Its destiny was linked always with a stronger part ner. Now that destiny is to be fulfilled and when times grow har d the 280,000 people of the island will not find themselves dependent on their own resources but backed by 13,000,000 others, a unit in a country reaching across this continent to the Pacific. It is to the ordinary people of New foundland that Confederation is really dedicated. It is they who stand to gain by it. It is they who will find comfort and security in it.
There will be better times in the outports now. Those who talked of Newfoundland's self sufficiency based their calculations on the vagaries of war. They took no account of the position of small nations in a world of big powers. They did not consider for a moment how a limited economy could keep itself afloat in times of hard national bargaining.
No one was sold out by the terms of Confederation. They have been generous as the British Government made clear. No one is buying a bargain. In terms of money o nly perhaps Canada may be the loser. But these are not the only terms. There are other yardsticks apart from economics and there is a perfectly healthy one in terms of sentiment alone.
Nor does Confederation mean the end of Newfoundland ; any more than it has meant the end of Quebec or Ontario or Manitoba. Each has stood to gain from union and each has retained its own peculiar characteristics. To the "Canadian Mosaic" is now added the special character and strength of an island people who have borne up bravely under times of stress, who have shown their qualities in war and in peace. Elsewhere on this page is a poem written for this occasion by E. J. Pratt, Canada's premier poet. It is dedicated to the Seamen of Newfoundland:This is their culture, this - their master passion of giving shelter and of sharing bread.
They are a generous people as any will tell you who visited their homes. They are good people. They are Cana dians.
Source: "The New Province", Winnipeg Free Press, March 31, 1949 , p. A21. Article transcribed by Jonathan Kusek. Revision by Claude Bélanger.
© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College