January 12, 2005

Proto-Inkslinger #7: Separation may be an option

Telegram Community Editorial Board
Written from Carbonear, NL
Appeared in the St. John's Telegram on January 12, 2005

Separation may be an option

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour in 1941, according to the excellent docu-drama Tora!Tora!Tora! Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is said to have mused to himself, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” The Americans then thundered into World War II.

In recent weeks, the Atlantic Accord controversy is awakening a proud sleeping giant within us Newfoundland and Labradorians. We’re finally lashing out against Ottawa’s unfair treatment of us that has existed since Confederation. The words of Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente: “it's a good idea to keep picking the pockets of Chinese dry cleaners and Korean variety-store owners who work 90 hours a week in order to keep subsidizing the people who live in Carbonear, no matter how quaint and picturesque they are” is untrue, unfair, and definitely ignorant with respect to Chinese and Korean people, and the citizens of my hometown. The recent column by Wente has very much stoked the fires of Newfoundland and Labrador patriotism.

I’m a resident of Carbonear, a town in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is a member of the Confederation of Canada. In protest over the failure to resolve the Atlantic Accord, Premier Danny Williams has ordered all Canadian flags removed. I’ve joined the campaign by taking down a little paper Canadian flag that’s adorned my desk for months, and storing it respectfully in a drawer. Since April 1, 1949, we’ve had our valuable natural resources taken by Canada, and getting little in return. When the country grabs our candy bar and gives us back the wrapper with a shove, it’s time to make a stand against the bully.

When you read and hear some mainlanders’ uneducated opinions about Newfoundland and Labrador (you just have to go as far as the Internet), it’s saddening. I don’t like the term “Newfie.” While it sounds like a cute abbreviation of “Newfoundlander and Labradorian,” it’s not. In my opinion, it has the same connotations as another derogatory “n” word referring to a race of people. “Newfie jokes” seems to be a chief form of entertainment among the mainlanders. To us, it is a supreme insult.
Was the blatant removal of the Canadian flags a good idea? We’ve definitely got some national attention. But, it’s become an issue all on its own. Without a flag, it’s just an unoccupied flag pole. I would have preferred keeping the flag up (something visible to protest against), but at half-mast, or perhaps replacing the Christopher Pratt-designed provincial flag with the unofficial Republic of Newfoundland (green, white and pink) flag. That would be a sight to see.

The issue here should be the fact that we need that deal signed, and soon. Prime Minister Paul Martin made a promise to our people. It wasn’t put in writing, unfortunately, but it was recorded on the media. I remember watching him being interviewed on NTV back in June, and he was spouting these promises. In the back of my mind, I knew he wasn’t going to keep his word. This is why I didn’t vote for his party in the election.

Perhaps we need to do something really drastic with our relationship with Canada. We should quit Confederation, take control of our resources and our destinies and see if Canada begs the Republic of Newfoundland and Labrador to return.