On this date 60 years ago, in 1949, Newfoundland became Canada’s 10th province.
When Jacques Cartier explored the coast of the great peninsula dividing the waters of Hudson’s Bay from those of the Atlantic in 1535, he found a land so barren and devoid of prospects as to make a fitting place of banishment for history’s first murderer. He dubbed Labrador, "the land God gave Cain." But for generations of Newfoundlanders who boasted that Cabot’s 1497 rediscovery made their island "Britain’s Oldest Colony", who victoriously attained Responsible Government in 1854 and full dominion status in 1907, it was a sad blow to the gathering independence and dreams of a proud nationalist people.
Men, hurrah for our own native isle, Newfoundland!Two referendums were held after the Second World War. The first was inconclusive and the second approved Confederation by only 52 per cent to 48. Joey Smallwood, who led the drive to join Canada, became Newfoundland’s first premier and Canada's last father of confederation. The decision to join Canada was the culmination of over 80 years of political debate and controversy. The British North America Act had provided for the inclusion of Newfoundland in the newly established Canadian confederation of 1867.
Not a stranger shall hold an inch of her strand.
Her face turns to Britain, her back to the Gulf.
Come near at peril Canadian wolf.
- Anti Confederate Toast 1869
But Newfoundland’s economy was entirely dependent on the export of cod in exchange for manufactured goods from Britain or the United States. Trade with Canada and the Maritimes was negligible, so there was little to be gained even economically. From an indigenous standpoint, half the colony’s population was Irish and they remembered union with Britain as the source of the old country’s troubles. They considered the introduction of Responsible Government a great victory under which they had received a fair share of the spoils. Now they were asked to place Newfoundland in the hands of a central government certain to be dominated by an Ontario they perceived to be virulently anti-Catholic. The debate raged on until the election of 1869 when anti-Confederates won 21 of 30 seats in the legislature. Talk of confederation ceased for three generations. The Antis celebrated in true Celtic fashion with a poem:
Cheer up, my gallant countrymen,Speaking as an Englishman, I have never understood why taking Newfoundland was ever in Canada's interest. Canada pored welfare money into Newfoundland by the bucketloads after 1949, it was probably the reason why it took the province so long to achieve real sustained wealth as it is now under Premier Danny Williams. The Dominion of Newfoundland experienced its golden age under Prime Minister Sir Robert Bond (in power from 1900 to 1909) of the Liberal Party. It is experiencing a new golden age even as the rest of the world slides further into the gutter. It is really too bad that Newfoundland and Labrador didn't weather the storm.
The fight is fought and won.
Confederates are routed
And beaten two to one.
The people have declared their will,
The people’s voice has spoke,
They ne’er will bend to alien laws
Or to a foreign yoke.
So now Confederation
A shameful death has died.
‘Tis buried up at Riverhead
Beneath the flowing tide.
And may it never rise again
To bother us, I pray!
Hurrah, my boys, for Liberty,
The Antis gained the day.