Nfld. & Labrador

'We were forced out,' says researcher whose family was resettled 50 years ago

A woman who was resettled half a century ago says her family's "horrible" experience serves as a warning to others considering resettlement.

Jeanette Brown's family moved from Great Paradise, Placentia Bay, to the town of Placentia in 1967

Jeanette Browne was born in a Placentia Bay community but now lives in St. John's. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

A woman who was resettled half a century ago says her family's "horrible" experience serves as a warning to others considering resettlement.

Jeanette Browne was four years old when her family was resettled from Great Paradise, Placentia Bay, to the town of Placentia.

She says it was difficult for her family, especially her mother, who — pregnant with her 10th child — left friends and family support behind.

"Suddenly she was in Placentia alone with nobody to turn to," said Browne, fighting back tears.

Browne says her family moved from a good life working in the fishery to a place where they struggled to make a living. She says that although she was too young to remember the move, resettlement left her adrift.

"For me the experience of resettlement is that of a refugee. I never really found home. I never really put roots down again," said Browne.
Great Paradise, Placentia Bay, was resettled in the late 1960s. (Courtesy Jeanette Browne)

At Memorial University, Browne has studied Joey Smallwood's resettlement programs of the 1950s and 1960s. Her master's thesis is based on the accounts of people who were resettled in Placentia Bay after government services were withdrawn.

"Bar none, everyone said, 'Well, no, he didn't really force us out but he left us no choice,' or 'We were forced out,'" she said.

Browne says resettlement deeply damaged individuals and families and now she argues that any future resettlements should be done differently. 
During the resettlement programs of the 1950s and 1960s in Newfoundland and Labrador, homes were often floated from resettled communities to designated growth centres. (CBC archives)

"If you are going to do this to these people, make sure that they are going where they want to go so that they are not left floundering, right? As we were," she said.

She says it would be inexcusable to simply cut services to rural Newfoundland and Labrador to try to make up for cost overruns at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

"There's a screwup going on down in Labrador that's costing us billions of dollars, so they're going to resettle people in the small communities to make up for it?" said Browne.

"The idea that this is where they're going to save their money on not providing services to their people again when money is being poured out though a funnel out the arse end of her … it just doesn't make any sense to me."

About the Author

Mark Quinn

CBC News

Mark Quinn is a videojournalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.