Recently I happened to overhear a remark made by one of our disenchanted Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. The discussion the person was having centered around the fact that Newfoundlanders need to start ‘helping themselves’ and start fighting more for their province.
I have thought about that quite a bit since I heard it. I have an opinion, totally based on what I know about my home province and its’ history. I know what I would say to that person if given the opportunity.
I have been watching the people of Newfoundland since returning to my province to retire five years ago. Living in Newfoundland and being active in the community and in speaking to people of different ages I can now give you my sense of what is taking place.
The Newfoundlander is disenchanted with their place in Canada. They feel they have been robbed, raped, pillaged, lied to, used, taken for granted, and on and on it goes. They, from their vantage point, over the last ten to fifteen years or so, have become a people with a defeatist attitude. Not much wonder. Most people in my age group (50 years plus) have their children and grandchildren living elsewhere, our fishery is not being cared for because of the ineptness of government, and the paper mills are now going to be closing at least one operation in either Grand Falls or Stephenville. They stripped bare our woodlands and now want to move on. Abitibi is a world wide company with its' stocks soaring, so Newfoundlands’ mills are a very small operation to them.
However, the people are fighting to keep one paper machine running. Maybe the fight is coming back.
Meanwhile, the elderly have become disgusted and suspicious of any statement or promise by government on the Provincial and Federal levels. They have fought in wars, led wonderfully full and vibrant lives in small communities, grew their own vegetables, stored berries and jam for winter, shot caribou and moose for meat, caught their fish, and loved their way of life. That way of life is under attack, and has been for some time. Now there is coming a whole new set of regulations with regard to our Four-wheelers, skidoos etc. The price of gas is skyrocketing, and people are throwing in the towel. They are defeated and sad; giving our province a feeling of ‘collective depression’.
The ‘Boomers’ who have returned home are becoming leaders in their various communities, and fighting for Newfoundland and Labrador. One example is our involvement with the Protest Fishery. We are fighting for the ‘Rock’ that we love.
The other side of the coin is the younger generation. It seems we have lost a generation with the out-migration, the 'Generation X' percent of the population. The younger people have witnessed it all, saw how this took its’ toll on families, but regardless of their misgivings, they know they will have to leave their home province also.
The sadness, the losses their grandparents and great-grandparents have suffered, and many, but not all, have adopted the same attitude. That attitude is "WHAT'S THE USE OF TRYING, WE WILL NOT WIN!"
Therefore, they will not be fighting for anything unless we can, one by one, educate them about our Newfoundland history. One gentleman told me that the Newfoundlander was ' never like this, like we are now!'. The younger people hear these things, and because they grew up without really experiencing a fishery, they have no idea as to what we have lost. They HAVE to be educated about these issues.
Many of the ‘Boomers’ returning are professionals who wanted to come home and when it came time to retire they did just that. Hopefully over the course of time they will become role models for the younger men and women.
Will it be enough--probably not, but we have to start somewhere.
We have a young man in our lives who lives close to us who is a genius with technology, mechanics, etc., a boy who graduated from high school with honors. He will seek out my husband and loves to be with him. My husband has a terrific talent for mimicry and is truly hilarious. He was a policeman, now retired, and he cuts his wood, fishes trout, picks berries, and pursues all the activities he did before he left for 37 years. This young man is being gently coached into furthering his education, and we encourage him constantly, because he is our future and he has great potential.
To put it in a nutshell, the elderly have given up, the ‘Boomers’ are returning as the retirement age overcomes them, and they find they want a simpler lifestyle, and also want to be closer to their aging parents and their families.
Last November my husband was approached to march in the Remembrance Day Parade, and also in the Memorial to Fallen Officers ceremonies. He did not want to do so, he does not care for the limelight. But he did turn out in full parade dress for the ceremony, and by now he has participated in the ‘Memorial to Fallen Officers’ and the ‘Remembrance Parade’ two years in a row. It is good for the young men and women in our area to see him as a ‘Mountie’. They were delighted to see him in uniform. This is the type of thing that just might spur them on to further their education. It only takes one little candle to start a burning desire, and drive you to achieve it.
I encouraged my husband to march in the parade. He understood my idea that nobody here in our community has ever seen him as a 'Canadian Mountie'. I thought that they should see the Shoal Harbour boy who followed his dream, and became a Sgt. in the RCMP. He was in full dress, the marvelous Red Serge of the RCMP, shiny spurs on equally shiny long brown boots, and immaculate as always, as they stood underneath the umbrella of our bright blue Newfoundland sky. He fulfilled many of his dreams and had countless memorable adventures. The young people spoke of how they ‘longed to do something like that’. They, as well as the older people who know him, showed that they were proud of him.
So there is hope. If we keep driving the point home consistently that ' You are worthy, you have to fight, you have to lobby, and you have to be educated,’ and we have to get them to listen and learn that it is a big world out there, and part of it belongs to them.
On the other hand the people in my age group of the ‘Boomers’ who did not leave Newfoundland, have tried and keep trying, to encourage and mentor the younger members of our communities. They did have successes. In my family there are now four grandchildren of my parents who are university graduates and two in university now. My youngest sister is a member of the faculty at the Center for Nursing Studies affiliated with Memorial University. I have been told by some of her students that "Mrs. Stevens is wonderful, I want to be like her someday"--so she is making an impact as she teaches the young nurses-to-be.
The ‘Fighting Newfoundlander’ is still there; he is just dormant right now. I am of the opinion that the fight will resurface, maybe too late for the elderly, but not for us or our offspring.
Hope springs eternal that we will live to see Newfoundland become the vibrant place it once was.
As for anyone who thinks the fight is gone--keep a keen eye on Newfoundland and Labrador.
The fight and drive of our province is waking from its' hibernation. The ‘Fighting Newfoundlander’ has only just begun!!