Recently I happened to over hear 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.
"Why don't we fight harder, what happened to the "Fighting Newfoundlander?" was his remark.
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 it's 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 Memorial was erected in memory of the Newfoundlander's who fought in the World Wars. The inscription on the Monument reads:
THE FIGHTING NEWFOUNDLANDER
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, Ski-Doos 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 outmigration, the 'Generation X' percent of the population. The younger people have witnessed the it all, how it took it's toll on families, but regardless of their desires, 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 find role models in our generation.
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, and now 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, but only because parts of his uniform were missing. The RCMP detachment, who has members that he knows well, all pulled together and got the breeches, and the special parts of parade dress he was missing. He now has done the Memorial to Fallen Officers and the "Remembrance Parade" two years in a row. It is good for the young men in our area to see him as a "Mountie", and they so very happy to see him on parade. This is the type of thing that just might spur them on to further their education.
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 him as the little Shoal Harbour boy who followed his dream, and became a Sgt. in the RCMP. He was in the marvelous Red Serge of the RCMP, shiny spurs on equally shiny long brown boots, and the young people saw him that day, under the bright Newfoundland sky.. They, as well as the older people who know him, showed that they were proud of him. He does not like the limelight but he did it for his community, and for our people.
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 they listen.
On the other hand the people who did not leave Newfoundland, in my age group, have tried and keep trying, but they are small in number because most of us did leave. My nephew is an Engineer, my niece a teacher, and 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 am 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 for our province is waking from it's hibernation. The true fight has only just begun!