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Giving up self-government in Newfoundland

The Story


Reeling from poverty Newfoundland relinquishes its responsible government on Feb. 16, 1934. The Crown colony has enjoyed self-government for the past 79 years but the Great Depression is pitiless on Newfoundlanders. Inhabitants in the outports are malnourished and plagued by sickness. Newfoundland once again becomes a dependant colony of Great Britain much like in the 1800s, an era depicted in this television clip about the island's history. The mother country appoints a Commission of Government. As a result, there will be no legislature and no elections. The Commission sees reform as a way to alleviate poverty: stimulate economic conditions and restructure government. Families will be relocated from destitute fishing villages to a makeshift farming community called Markland. An age-old tradition of church influencing state is challenged, but not without a fight from the local elite.

Medium: Television
Program: Tuesday Night
Broadcast Date: March 14, 1972
Guest(s):
Reporter: Rex Murphy
Duration: 1:50
Event date: Feb, 16, 1934

Did You know?


• Newfoundland reverted to colonial status under a Commission of Government comprised of a governor and six officials - three British and three Newfoundlanders. The Commission ruled until the colony joined Confederation in 1949.
• Newfoundland was the first dominion to voluntarily give up responsible government.
• The Commission blamed the island's poverty on "unprofitable" traditional fishery methods: family businesses salting and drying cod for overseas markets.

• The Commission replaced salt cod businesses with fresh fish processing plants for American export, a practice continued by Premier Joey Smallwood's Liberals after Confederation.
• The term outport is often used to refer to Newfoundland and Labrador's small isolated fishing villages.


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