Newfoundland's Lost Outports
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Newfoundland's Lost Outports
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Newfoundland's Lost Outports
Thousands are moved from tiny fishing villages and a way of life ends
Less than a decade after Newfoundland joined Canada, the provincial government began wiping out a coastal culture that had existed for hundred of years.
Between the mid-1950s and the early 1970s, the Newfoundland government closed 250 outports. Thirty thousand people were uprooted and relocated to larger villages and towns. Pictured here, children watching a house being towed from Fox Island. August 1961.
Between the mid-1950s and the early 1970s, the Newfoundland government closed 250 outports. Thirty thousand people were uprooted and relocated to larger villages and towns. Pictured here, children watching a house being towed from Fox Island. August 1961. (National Archives of Canada, PA-154123)

Between the mid-1950s and the early 1970s, the Newfoundland government led by Premier Joey Smallwood closed 250 coastal villages. Thirty thousand people were uprooted and relocated to larger villages and towns.

"Most people in my village were fishermen," said Bruce Wareham. "Maybe 90 per cent of them. They just moved these people away from their fishing grounds. I do not know what will happen next. I think it is very sad."

Newfoundlands dependence on the fishery had made it Canadas poorest province. Over the course of five hundred years, fishermen had established hundreds of small, isolated communities along the rocky shoreline.

But the small outport fishing industry was in decline. By the 1950s, large, mechanized fishing vessels were becoming the norm and small-boat operators couldn't compete.

The provincial government also decided that it could not afford to bring modern services to these outports, many of which could be reached only by sea.

Premier Joey Smallwood seized on a radical solution of re-location. He argued that resettlement in larger communities would reduce government expenditures on education, health care and social service. Smallwood also wanted to wean Newfoundlanders from the cyclical and risky business of fishing, to retrain them for other work.
In the 1950s, Newfoundland Premier Joey Smallwood (front) seized on the radical solution of closing tiny outports to reduce government spending and retrain fisherman.
In the 1950s, Newfoundland Premier Joey Smallwood (front) seized on the radical solution of closing tiny outports to reduce government spending and retrain fisherman.

The massive program introduced many Newfoundlanders to the amenities of modern, urban life: electricity, telephone, schools, roads. Many Newfoundlanders welcomed the governments initiative.

"We have re-settled at last," said Charlie Parish, one of the uprooted villagers. "We have a new house, and I will soon be able to buy a car. I am grateful."

A re-located fisherman echoed the sentiments.

"This is our new land. This is our new home. Everything will be ok. Im quite content on what Im gonna do in many years. Quite content of it. Me old days is over. "

But for some, the relocation wasn't welcomed; it starkly signaled the end of an era and the death of a way of life.

"What can I do? I never worked on the land. I went on the water when I was 13 now Im 60."


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