Newfoundland is one of the smallest provinces in Canada and a country that is located on an island. It used to be a British Colony but later became a part of Canada as a new province.
Even though most people say it joined Canada after the country became a confederation in 1867, it remained separate from the rest of Canada for around a century. Read till the end to find out how and when did Newfoundland join Canada and became a Canadian province.
Newfoundland is well-known for its unique culture and friendly people, as well as its stunning landscapes and delicious seafood.
The capital city of Newfoundland is St. John’s, where the primary language spoken is English, although there is some French and Irish influence.
1. When Did Newfoundland Join Canada?
They began to establish seasonal fisheries settlements in Newfoundland in the 16th century.
In 1855, the British government granted Newfoundland the ability to establish its own government, including a responsible government. This move allowed the colony to exercise more autonomy over its internal affairs and gave elected officials the authority to hold ministerial positions and supported the responsible government.
Newfoundland delegates did not attend the Charlottetown Conference held to the discussion of maritime colonies, in 1864. From 1869 to the second World War, people talked about creating a group of united states, but they only really tried to do it once in 1895.
Then by the 1930s Newfoundland was facing a great depression, including a large debt and declining revenues from its main industries.
After the Second World War, Newfoundland’s economic condition worsened. By 1945, the Canadians and the British government both thought it would be a good idea for Newfoundland to become part of Canada since they were having a hard time managing things on their own.
In 1946, a national convention was held to discuss the future of Newfoundland. The Newfoundland delegates were given several options to join the confederation, including remaining a colony, becoming a province or becoming a responsible government dominion.
1.2 Difficulties Faced By Newfoundland Prior to Confederation
There were several issues that emerged during the negotiations regarding Newfoundland’s entry into Confederation:
1.2.1 Economic Concerns
Newfoundland was facing significant economic challenges after independence, including a large debt and loss from its main industries.
It was challenging to convince Newfound joining would provide economic stability, prosperity, and greater opportunities for growth since were sad to lose Newfoundland’s independence and control over its own resources.
1.2.2 Cultural Concerns
There was also significant opposition to Confederation from those who wanted to maintain Newfoundland’s distinct culture and way of life.
1.2.3 Political Concerns
There were lots of disagreements between the Newfoundlanders and Canadians regarding the terms of the union and whether they could be a part of the legislature of the Canadian government. Also, the details of the powers that would be retained by the Canadian government.
1.2.4 Historical Concerns
The idea of joining Canada didn’t go down well with the Newfoundland people They were an independent dominion and thought of it as a loss of independence and their culture.
1.3 The Failure of the Newfoundland Referendums
Since Newfoundland was in economic crisis, the Canadians and the British thought it would be best if Newfoundland could be part of one country Canada. That’s when the idea of Confederation was proposed.
Before the confederation, there were referendums held to discuss the future of Newfoundland. The first one, held on June 3, 1948, failed to achieve a clear majority in favor of any option.
Newfoundlanders delegates were offered three choices at the referendums offered: To continuance of the Commission of Government, a return to dominion status, or Confederation.
The results showed that none of the choices had received the most votes. Votes were divided as “the Confederation” option received the highest number of votes which is only 44.6% of the total vote. The second option “return to dominion status” received 41.1%, and the third option “Continuation of the Commission of Government” received 14.3%.
The reason the first referendum failed was that there was less amount of voters, they only had 58.2% of eligible voters that year.
This resulted in a Confederation debate between the delegates and Newfoundland and Canada decide to further negotiate so they could come to a final conclusion. These negotiations ultimately led to a second referendum vote in 1949.
The second referendum on Newfoundland’s future status was held on July 22, 1948, just a few weeks after the first referendum that had failed to produce a clear majority in favor of any option. In the second voting, Newfoundland was offered only two options: Confederation with Canada, or continuation of the Commission of Government.
However, the results of the second referendum were unresolved, as neither option received a clear majority.
The “Confederation with Canada” option received 52.3% of the vote, while the “Continuation of the Commission of Government” option received 47.7%.
Despite the lack of a clear mandate for independence from the second referendum, negotiations continued between Newfoundland and Canada, again leading to a third referendum in 1949 that resulted in a close majority in john’s favor in choosing to join Canada.
1.4 Newfoundland Officially Joined Canada
After the three referendums held in Newfoundland between 1948-1949, and in the last one there were 52.3% of voters chose to join Canada.
It was declared that Newfoundland is part of Canada on March 31, 1949, becoming the country’s tenth province.
The decision was subsequently approved by the British Parliament, and Newfoundland became a Canadian province on the same day that the Terms of Union came into effect.
And in the year 2001, the province’s name was officially changed to Newfoundland and Labrador.
2. Final Word
Despite its small size, Newfoundland and Labrador hold animportant place in Canadian history as one of the country’s founding provinces and today are known as Canadians.
You should definitely watch the play The Colony of Unrequited Dreams which tells the story of Joey Smallwood’s life and his important role in Canadian history. The play is based on a book by Wayne Johnston, which was chosen by Justin Trudeau for a book club in 2003.
Today, Newfoundland and Labrador are important and unique parts of Canada, with their own distinct culture and natural beauty.
If you have the urge to visit and explore, Newfoundland and Labrador offer great tourist destinations and activities.