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The History of Newfoundland and Labrador starts with two separate regions, the Colony of Newfoundland and the region of Labrador, then converge after 1949, with the creation of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Human inhabitation in Newfoundland and Labrador can be traced back about 9000 years to the people of the Maritime Archaic Tradition.[1] They were gradually displaced by people of the Dorset Culture (paleoeskimos[2] and finally by the Innu and Inuit in Labrador and the Beothuks on the island. The oldest known European contact was made over a thousand years ago when the Vikings briefly settled in L'Anse aux Meadows. Five hundred years later, European explorers (John Cabot, João Fernandes Lavrador, Gaspar Corte-Real, Jacques Cartier and others), fishermen from England, Portugal, France and Spain and Basque whalers (the remains of several whaling stations have been found at Red Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador) began exploration and exploitation of the area.

The overseas expansion of British Empire began when Sir Humphrey Gilbert took possession of Newfoundland in the name of England in 1583. Apart from St.John's, which was already established, early settlements were started at Cupids, Ferryland and other places.[3]

During its history Newfoundland and Labrador have had many forms of government,[4] including a time as the Dominion of Newfoundland (1907-1949), equivalent in status to Canada and Australia. Newfoundland and Labrador became the tenth province of Canada on March 31, 1949.

Newfoundland has been viewed to be of strategic importance in numerous early wars involving the United Kingdom and France and the United States.[5] Royal Newfoundland Regiment fought with distinction in World War I. Numerous bases were built in Newfoundland and Labrador by Canada and the United States during World War II,[6] particularly to safeguard the Atlantic convoys to Europe.

The first transatlantic telegraph cable between Valentia Island, in western Ireland and Heart's Content, in eastern Newfoundland was completed in 1866. The first transatlantic radio message was received by Guglielmo Marconi at Cabot Tower (Newfoundland) in St. John's. The first non-stop transatlantic flight was made from St. John's in 1919 by Alcock and Brown.[7]

Contents

Colony of Newfoundland

Newfoundland has a number of historical firsts. The oldest known European settlement anywhere in The Americas outside Greenland is located at L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. It was founded circa AD 1000 by Leif Ericson's Vikings. Remnants and artifacts of the occupation can still be seen at L'Anse aux Meadows, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island was inhabited by the Beothuks and later the Mi'kmaq.

John Cabot became the first European since the Vikings to discover Newfoundland (but see João Vaz Corte-Real), landing at Bonavista on June 24, 1497. On August 5, 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert formally claimed Newfoundland as England's first overseas colony under Royal Prerogative of Queen Elizabeth I.

From 1610 to 1728, Proprietary Governors were appointed to establish colonial settlements on the island. John Guy was governor of the first settlement at Cuper's Cove. Other settlements were Bristol's Hope, Renews, New Cambriol, South Falkland and Avalon which became a province in 1623. The first governor given jurisdiction over all of Newfoundland was Sir David Kirke in 1638.

Basque fishermen, who had been fishing cod shoals off Newfoundland's coasts since the beginning of the XVth century, founded Plaisance (today Placentia), a haven which started to be also used by French fishermen. In 1655, France appointed a governor in Plaisance, thus starting a formal French colonization period of Newfoundland[8]. The rest of the island was nearly conquered by New France explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville in the 1690s. The French colonization period lasted until the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. According to the terms of the treaty, France ceded its claims to Newfoundland to the British (as well as its claims to the shores of Hudson's Bay). In addition, the French possessions in Acadia were yielded to England. Afterwards, under the supervision of the last French governor, the French population of Plaisance moved to Île Royale (now Cape Breton Island), part of Acadia which remained then under French control.

In the Seven Years War, control of Newfoundland became a major source of conflict between Britain, France and Spain who all pressed for a share in the valuable fishery there. Britain's victories around the globe led William Pitt to insist that nobody other than Britain should have access to Newfoundland. However, following Pitt's fall, the new Prime Minister Lord Bute agreed to give France, but not Spain, a share in Newfoundland at the Treaty of Paris which ended the war. The Battle of Signal Hill was fought in Newfoundland in 1762, when a French force landed and tried to occupy the island, only to be repulsed by the British.

Newfoundland received a colonial assembly in 1832, which was and still is referred to as the House of Assembly, after a fight led by reformers William Carson, Patrick Morris and John Kent. The new government was unstable as the electorate was divided along religious and ethnic lines between the Catholic Irish and Protestant West Country populations of the colony. Indeed so vigorous was the strife that The Times held up Newfoundland as an awful example of what Ireland might become. To obviate this problem in 1842, the elected House of Assembly was amalgamated with the appointed Legislative Council. This was changed back after some agitation in 1848 to two separate chambers. After this, a movement for responsible government began.

The Dominion of Newfoundland

Colonial Building, the national capital of the Dominion of Newfoundland

In 1854, Newfoundland was granted responsible government by the British government. In an 1855 election, Philip Francis Little, a native of Prince Edward Island, won a majority over Hugh Hoyles and the Conservatives. Little formed the first administration from 1855 to 1858. In 1861 in doubtful circumstances Governor Bannerman dismissed the Liberals and the ensuing election was marked by riot and disorder with both the Anglican (Feild) and Catholic bishops (Mullock) taking partisan stances. However when Hugh Hoyles was elected as the Conservative Prime Minister he worked to defuse tensions. Catholics were invited to share power, and all jobs and patronage were shared out between the various religious bodies on a per capita basis. This 'denominational compromise' was further extended to education when all religious schools were put on the basis which the Catholics had enjoyed since the 1840's. Alone in North America Newfoundland had a state funded system of denominational schools. The compromise worked and politics ceased to be about religion and became concerned with purely political and economic issues. By the 1890's St John's was no longer regarded in England as akin to Belfast, and Blackwood's Magazine was using developments there as an argument for Home Rule for Ireland. Newfoundland rejected confederation with Canada in the 1869 general election.

As part of the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of 1904, France abandoned the `French Shore', or the west coast of the island, to which it had had rights since the Peace of Utrecht of 1713. Possession of Labrador was disputed by Quebec and Newfoundland until 1927, when the British privy council demarcated the western boundary, enlarged Labrador's land area, and confirmed Newfoundland's title to it.

Newfoundland remained a colony until acquiring dominion status on September 26, 1907, along with New Zealand. It successfully negotiated a trade agreement with the United States but the British government blocked it after objections from Canada. The Dominion of Newfoundland reached its golden age under Prime Minister Sir Robert Bond of the Liberal Party.[9]

Crisis of 1930s

Newfoundland's economy collapsed in the Great Depression, as prices plunged for fish, its main export. The government had borrowed heavily to construct and maintain a trans island railway and to finance the country's regiment in the first world war. By 1933, the public debt of over $100 million compared to a nominal national income of about $30 million. In 1933, the budget deficit was $3.5 million or over 10 percent of the island's GDP. A royal commission under Lord Amulree (Viscount William Worrender McKenzie) reported:[10]

"The twelve years 1920-1932, during none of which was the budget balanced, were characterized by an outflow of public funds on a scale as ruinous as it was unprecedented, fostered by a continuous stream of willing lenders. A new era of industrial expansion, easy money, and profitable contact with the American continent was looked for and was deemed in part to have arrived. In the prevailing optimism, the resources of the Exchequer were believed to be limitless. The public debt of the island, accumulated over a century, was in twelve years more than doubled; its assets dissipated by improvident administration; the people misled into the acceptance of false standards; and the country sunk in waste and extravagance. The onset of the world depression found the island with no reserves, its primary industry neglected and its credit exhausted. At the first wind of adversity, its elaborate pretensions collapsed like a house of cards. The glowing visions of a new Utopia were dispelled with cruel suddenness by the cold realities of national insolvency, and today a disillusioned and bewildered people, deprived in many parts of the country of all hopes of earning a livelihood, are haunted by the grim specters of pauperism and starvation."

In 1934, the Dominion gave up its self-governing status as the Commission of Government took its place. The Commission consisted of six appointed commissioners, who administered the country without elections. Following World War II, the Commission was obliged to revise the constitution and in 1946 held elections for the Newfoundland National Convention which debated the dominion's future in 1946 and 1947. Two referendums resulted in Newfoundlanders deciding to end the commission[11], and join the Canadian Confederation in 1949.

Province of Newfoundland and Labrador

Official Flower Purple pitcher plant
Official Tree Black Spruce
Official Bird Atlantic Puffin
Official Animal Caribou
Official Mineral Labradorite
Official Dog Newfoundland dog & Labrador Retriever
Provincial Anthem Ode to Newfoundland
Provincial Holiday June 24, Discovery Day
Patron Saint St. John the Baptist
Official tartan
Newfoundland.jpg
Great Seal
Official logo
Logo-NFLD.jpg
Newfoundland and Canadian Government delegation signing the agreement admitting Newfoundland to Confederation in December 1948. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and Albert Walsh shake hands following signing of agreement.

In 1946, an election was held for the Newfoundland National Convention to decide the future of Newfoundland. The mechanism of the Convention was established by the British Government to make recommendations as to the constitutional options to be presented to the people of Newfoundland to be voted upon in a national referendum. Many members only wished to decide between continuing the Commission of Government or restoring Responsible Government. Joseph R. Smallwood, the leader of the confederates, moved that a third option of confederation with Canada should be included. His motion was defeated by the convention. But he did not give up, instead gathering more than 50,000 petitions from the people within a fortnight which he sent to London through the Governor.

The UK, having already insisted that if Newfoundland chose Confederation or a return to Responsible Government, it would not give Newfoundland any further financial assistance, added the third option of having Newfoundland join Canada to the ballot. The option of joining the US was not offered. After much debate, the first referendum was held on June 3, 1948 to decide between continuing with the Commission of Government, returning to Responsible Government, or joining the Canadian Confederation. The result was inconclusive, with 44.6% supporting the restoration of Responsible Government, 41.1% for confederation with Canada, and 14.3% for continuing the Commission of Government. No option had won a clear majority; so under the rules of the referendum, the option which won the fewest votes was dropped and a new run-off referendum was scheduled for late July 1948. Between the first and second referendums, rumours were spread that Roman Catholics had been instructed to vote by their bishops for Responsible Government. (This was not accurate; on the west coast of Newfoundland, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. George's, Bishop Michael O'Reilly and his congregation were strong supporters of confederation.) Prompted by the Confederate Association, the Orange Order was incensed and called on all its members to vote for confederation. The Protestants of Newfoundland outnumbered the Catholics at a ratio of 2:1. This was believed to have greatly influenced the outcome of the second referendum. A second referendum on July 22, 1948, which asked Newfoundlanders to choose between confederation and dominion status, was decided by a vote of 51% to 49% for confederation with Canada. Newfoundland joined Canada (just before the expiry) on March 31, 1949.

Not everyone was satisfied with the results, however. Peter Cashin, an outspoken anti-Confederate, questioned the validity of the votes. He claimed that it was the 'unholy union between London and Ottawa' that brought about confederation.

In 1959, a local controversy arose when the provincial government pressured the Moravian Church to abandon its mission station at Hebron, Labrador, resulting in the relocation southward of the area's Inuit population, who had lived there since the mission was established in 1831.

1897 Newfoundland postage stamp, the first in the world to feature mining.

In the 1960s, Newfoundland developed the Churchill Falls hydro-electric facility in order to sell electricity to the United States. An agreement with Quebec was required to secure permission to transport the electricity across Quebec territory. Quebec drove a hard bargain with Newfoundland, resulting in a 75-year deal that Newfoundlanders now believe to be unfair to the province because of the low and unchangeable rate that Newfoundland and Labrador receives for the electricity.

Politics of the province were dominated by the Liberal Party, led by Joseph R. Smallwood, from confederation until 1972. In 1972, the Smallwood government was replaced by the Progressive Conservative administration of Frank Moores. In 1979, Brian Peckford, another Progressive Conservative, became Premier. During this time, Newfoundland was involved in a dispute with the federal government for control of offshore oil resources. In the end, the dispute was decided by compromise. In 1989, Clyde Wells and the Liberal Party returned to power ending 17 years of Conservative government.

In 1992, the federal government declared a moratorium on the Atlantic cod fishery, because of severely declining catches in the late 1980s. The consequences of this decision reverberated throughout the provincial economy of Newfoundland in the 1990s, particularly as once-vibrant rural communities faced a sudden exodus. The economic impact of the closure of the Atlantic cod fishery on Newfoundland has been compared to the effect of closing every manufacturing plant in Ontario. The cod fishery which had provided Newfoundlanders on the south and east coasts with a livelihood for over 200 years was gone, although the federal government helped fishermen and fish plant workers make the adjustment with a multi-billion dollar program named "The Atlantic Groundfish Strategy" (TAGS).

In the late 1980s, the federal government, along with its Crown corporation Petro-Canada and other private sector petroleum exploration companies, committed to developing the oil and gas resources of the Hibernia oil field on the northeast portion of the Grand Banks. Throughout the mid-1990s, thousands of Newfoundlanders were employed on offshore exploration platforms, as well as in the construction of the Hibernia Gravity Base Structure (GBS) and Hibernia topsides.

In 1996, the former federal minister of fisheries, Brian Tobin, was successful in winning the leadership of the provincial Liberal Party following the retirement of premier Clyde Wells. Tobin rode the waves of economic good fortune as the downtrodden provincial economy was undergoing a fundamental shift, largely as a result of the oil and gas industry's financial stimulus, although the effects of this were mainly felt only in communities on the Avalon Peninsula.

The Newfoundland Red Ensign was an unofficial commercial ensign from 1904 to 1931.

Good fortune also fell on Tobin following the discovery of a world class nickel deposit at Voisey's Bay, Labrador. Tobin committed to negotiating a better royalty deal for the province with private sector mining interests than previous governments had done with the Churchill Falls hydroelectric development deal in the 1970s. Following Tobin's return to federal politics in 2000, the provincial Liberal Party devolved into internal battling for the leadership, leaving its new leader, Roger Grimes, in a weakened position as premier.

The pressure of the oil and gas industry to explore offshore in Atlantic Canada saw Newfoundland and Nova Scotia submit to a federal arbitration to decide on a disputed offshore boundary between the two provinces in the Laurentian Basin. The 2003 settlement rewrote an existing boundary in Newfoundland's favour, opening this area up to energy exploration.

In 2003, the federal government declared a moratorium on the last remaining cod fishery in Atlantic Canada - in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. While Newfoundland was again the most directly affected province by this decision, communities on Quebec's North Shore and in other parts of Atlantic Canada also faced difficulties.

James Cook's 1775 Chart of Newfoundland

Premier Grimes, facing a pending election that fall, used the Gulf cod decision and perceived federal bias against the province as a catalyst to try to rally citizens around his administration. Grimes called for a review of the Act of Union by which the province had become a part of Canada and on July 2, 2003, the findings of the Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada (which Grimes had created in 2002) were released. It noted the following stressors in the relationship between the province and Canada:

  • the huge impact of the destruction of resources of cod
  • development of hydroelectricity resources of Labrador by Quebec, primarily to their benefit
  • chronically high unemployment
  • lowest per-capita income in Canada
  • the highest tax rates
  • the highest emigration

The report called for the following:

  • more collaborative federalism
  • an action team to deal with the fishery
  • collaboration between Canada, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador on the development of the Gull Island hydro site
  • revision of the Atlantic Accord so that offshore oil and gas reserves primarily benefit the province
  • immediate and realistic negotiations on joint management of the fishery

In October 2003, the Liberals lost the provincial election to the Progressive Conservative Party, led by Danny Williams.

From late October 2004 to the present, Premier Williams has argued that Prime Minister Paul Martin has not held up his promises for a new deal on the "Atlantic Accord". The issue is the royalties from oil: currently, 70 cents on each royalty dollar are sent back to the federal government through reductions in payments by the federal government with respect to its "equalization program". The province wants 100% of the royalties to allow the province to pull itself out of poverty on a long-term basis.

Toward the end of 2004, Williams ordered the Canadian flag to be removed from all provincial buildings as a protest against federal policies, and asked for municipal councils to consider doing the same. The issue, dubbed the "Flag Flap" in the media, sparked debate across the province and the rest of Canada. The flags went back up in January 2005 after much controversy nationwide and Paul Martin stating that he would not negotiate with the province if the flags were not flying. At the end of January, the federal government signed a deal to allow 100% of oil revenues to go to the province, resulting in an extra $2 billion over eight years for the province. However, this agreement has led other provinces such as Ontario and Quebec to try to negotiate their own special deals as they too claim that the federal government is taking advantage of them financially.

As of 2005, 4 of the 10 amendments to the Constitution of Canada since the 1982 patriation have been concerned with Canada's tenth province.

Notes

  1. ^ Tuck, James A.. "Museum Notes - The Maritime Archaic Tradition". "The Rooms" Provincial museum. http://www.therooms.ca/museum/mnotes12.asp. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  2. ^ Renouf, M.A.P.. "Museum Notes - Palaeoeskimo in Newfoundland & Labrador". "The Rooms" Provincial museum. http://www.therooms.ca/museum/mnotes5.asp. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  3. ^ Hiller, J.K.. "Sponsored Settlement: The Colonization of Newfoundland". Memorial University of Newfoundland. http://www.heritage.nf.ca/exploration/sponsored.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  4. ^ "Government and Politics". Memorial University of Newfoundland. http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/default.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  5. ^ Janzen, Olaf. "The Military Aspects of the Wars". Memorial University of Newfoundland. http://www.heritage.nf.ca/exploration/military_aspects.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  6. ^ Cadigan, Sean. "The Second World War 1939-1945". Memorial University of Newfoundland. http://www.heritage.nf.ca/law/wwii.html. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  7. ^ "St. John's History". http://www.tidespoint.com/stjohnsnewfoundland.shtml. Retrieved 2006-11-23. 
  8. ^ "History of Placentia". Memorial University of Newfoundland. http://collections.mun.ca/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/hist_trust&CISOPTR=242&CISOSHOW=123&REC=5. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  9. ^ It was "what many would later see as its golden age," says Cadigan, Newfoundland and Labrador: A History (2009) p. 154
  10. ^ Hale 2003
  11. ^ Letters Patent - Administration of Newfoundland and its Dependencies - George V - January 30th, 1934

Bibliography

  • Joseph Smallwood ed. The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John's: Newfoundland Book Publishers, [1961] rev ed. 1984), 2 vol.
  • Bannister, Jerry. The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832. U. of Toronto Press for Osgoode Society, 2003.
  • Blake, Raymond B. Canadians at Last: Canada Integrates Newfoundland as a Province. U. of Toronto Press, 1994. 252 pp.
  • Cadigan, Sean T. Newfoundland and Labrador: A History U. of Toronto Press, 2009. Standard scholarly history
  • Cadigan, Sean T. Hope and Deception in Conception Bay: Merchant-Settler Relations in Newfoundland, 1785-1855. U. of Toronto Press, (1995). 242 pp.
  • Casey, G.J., and Elizabeth Miller, eds., Tempered Days: A Century of Newfoundland Fiction St. John's: Killick Press, 1996.
  • Dickinson, Anthony B. and Sanger, Chesley W. Twentieth-Century Shore-Station Whaling in Newfoundland and Labrador. McGill-Queen's U. Press, (2005).
  • Earle; Karl Mcneil. "Cousins of a Kind: The Newfoundland and Labrador Relationship with the United States" American Review of Canadian Studies Vol: 28. Issue: 4. 1998. pp : 387-411.
  • English, Christopher, ed. Essays in the History of Canadian Law. Vol. 9. Two Islands: Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. U. of Toronto Press, (2005).
  • Fay, C. R.; Life and Labour in Newfoundland University of Toronto Press, 1956
  • Greene, John P. Between Damnation and Starvation: Priests and Merchants in Newfoundland Politics, 1745-1855.McGill-Queen's U. Press, 2000. 340 pp.
  • Guy, Raymond W. Memory is a Fickle Jade: A Collection of Historical Essays about Newfoundland and Her People. St. John's, : Creative Book Publ., 1996. 202 pp.
  • Hale, David. "The Newfoundland Lesson," The International Economy. v17#3 (Summer 2003). pp 52+. online edition
  • Halpert, Herbert; Widdowson, J. D. A.; Lovelace, Martin J.; and Collins, Eileen, ed. Folktales of Newfoundland: The Resilience of the Oral Tradition. New York: Garland, 1996. 1175 pp.
  • Hiller, J. K. and Harrington, M. F., ed. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948. 2 vols. McGill-Queen's U. Press, 1995. 2021 pp.
  • Hollett, Calvin. Shouting, Embracing, and Dancing with Ecstasy: The Growth of Methodism in Newfoundland, 1774-1874 (2010)
  • Jackson, Lawrence. Newfoundland & Labrador Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd; (1999) ISBN 1-55041-261-2;
  • Kealey, Linda, ed. Pursuing Equality: Historical Perspectives on Women in Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John's: Institute of Social and Economic Research, 1993. 310 pp.
  • Gene Long, Suspended State: Newfoundland Before Canada Breakwater Books Ltd; ISBN 1-55081-144-4; (1999)
  • R. A. MacKay; Newfoundland; Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies Oxford University Press, (1946)
  • McCann, Phillip. Schooling in a Fishing Society: Education and Economic Conditions in Newfoundland and Labrador, 1836-1986. St. John's: Inst. of Social and Econ. Res., 1994. 277 pp.
  • Neary, Peter. . Newfoundland in the North Atlantic world, 1929-1949. McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996
  • O'Flaherty, Patrick. Old Newfoundland: A History to 1843. St John's: Long Beach, 1999. 284 pp.
  • Pope, Peter E. Fish into Wine: The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century. U. of North Carolina Press, 2004. 464 pp.
  • Prowse, David W. (1896). A History Of Newfoundland From The English, Colonial, And Foreign Records. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. http://books.google.com/books?id=jdEOAAAAYAAJ. Retrieved 2009-08-15. 
  • Sider, Gerald M. Between History and Tomorrow: Making and Breaking Everyday Life in Rural Newfoundland. Revised ed. (original published as Culture and Class in Anthropology and History: A Newfoundland Illustration, 1986). Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2003.
  • Wright, Miriam. A Fishery for Modern Times: The State and the Industrialization of the Newfoundland Fishery, 1934-1968. Oxford U. Press, 2001. 176 pp.

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