How long do you have to live and work in this province to be considered a Newfoundlander or Labradorian? I asked a group of friends this question a few years ago and the responses I received back from friends who were born away (Mainlanders), but spent a good part of their lives here, were quite strongly worded. Some were adamant that they were NLers! One friend moved to Newfoundland and Labrador 35 years ago when he was 22 years old. His wife is from Harbour Grace and he has two children. One child born in Newfoundland and one born in Labrador, but he was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So, is he a Newfoundlander or a Mainlander? When I asked him, he said, “I’ve lived and worked all over this province for 35 years and I have the friendliness that all Newfoundlanders are known for. So, yes I am a Newfoundlander.” What about the person who moved to Fort McMurry when he was 22 and spent 35 years living there, contributing to Alberta's economy? Is he a Newfoundlander? Are his children? I was born in St. John’s, but I don’t hang my clothes on a line, drink my tea in the woods and I get seasick on boats. Am I a Newfoundlander? I heard a radio talk show host refer to transplanted Canadians as “Mainlanders” like they don’t really belong. No matter how many years they have lived here. Where is the tipping point to becoming a NLer? Should we be treating that provincial birth certificate like it is Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. Or should we call a person a true NLer when they have contributed to the economy for 35 years, raised their children here, served their entire career here and plan on retiring here?
Do you have to be a Stamp from St. Vincent's to be a Newfoundlander? Or a Letto from Goose Bay to be a Labradorian? Did you know that there are no "Clearys in Cape St. Mary's?" The Clearys are from Riverhead Harbour Grace or Bishop's Falls.
What's wrong with being a Raheja from The Goulds? Couldn't a Newfoundlander be a Xidos from Green's Pond?
I get frustrated when I hear things like "Why do Tim Horton's hire so many immigrants? We can't understand them." Really? How do you think they feel about us? Or when I hear people on radio call-in shows saying, "Jobs should go to Newfoundlanders first." I am for that if they are qualified. First, I want you to explain to me what qualifies a person as a "Newfoundlander." What about my friend who has lived here for 35 years? If we both apply for a job should I get it just because I was born here?
When I enrolled my daughter in French immersion six years ago I was criticized by friends and family who claimed "You won't' be able to help her with her homework!", "She'll never be able to speak English properly?" or "Why do you want to waste her time on French sure she'll never use it here in Newfoundland?" Who says my daughter will want to live in this province? Today's generation are not tied to this province like our generation. They want to be able to travel without paying hundreds of dollars for ferries and plane connections to Halifax.
Luckily, times have changed, and parents line up at three AM to make sure their kids get into the French immersion program. The selling point for me was when I was shopping at a mall in Ottawa. I walked into a ladies clothing store the teenaged salesperson who offered to help me first asked "English or French?" I asked if she was fluent in both languages, she answered "Yes, I speak five languages." That's who my daughter will have to compete with for a job some day.
The world becomes smaller and smaller everyday due to the internet and faster ways to travel. Only speaking English severely limits your life. According to the amount of kids in the French emergence program, Newfoundland and Labrador will eventually become a bilingual province! On a recent trip to Orlando, Florida I noticed we were the only ones speaking English.
When the province is facing the problem of out-migration, I think we should embrace the benefits of in-migration. Diversity is a good thing. After all, aren't we all immigrants? My husband's grandfather hid on a Portuguese fishing vessel when he was around ten and snuck off in Placentia. He couldn't speak a word of English. He was raised by the local parish priest. He was an immigrant and without him I wouldn't have a husband or a brown eyed, olived skinned daughter. My own family came from Ireland. We were immigrants at one point. We all came from somewhere along the way. Our ancestors came to Newfoundland and Labrador for the same reason today's immigrants move here: our unique culture, our friendliness, and our reputation for always putting out the welcome mat.
Being a Newfoundland or Labradorian may not be some people's “birth right” but they have earned it through hard work, raising a family, contributing to the local economy and introducing us to their culture through food, festivals and neighborly conversations.
Welcoming immigrants to our shores is part of the cultural fabric that makes this province great. If you pay taxes here, then you're a Newfoundlander or Labradorian in my opinion.
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