Nfld. & Labrador·UNDECIDED

Not CFAs but NBCs: 'Newfoundlanders by Choice' on why they picked this province

Politicians say N.L.'s population must grow — or at least, stop shrinking. What do we offer newcomers to this province, and how can we convince people to stay?

N.L. wants more people to move here, but what do we offer in return?

Prajwala Dixit, Jerry Joy and Carmichael Polonio all chose to make their home in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Even the best-case scenario is not that great.

According to data from Memorial University's Population Project, Newfoundland and Labrador stands to lose somewhere between 15,000 and 50,000 people by 2036.

The problem with this is, of course, a financial one. Fewer people living here means fewer people paying provincial taxes. That means less money for things like hospitals, schools and roads.

That's why enticing people to come to Newfoundland and Labrador is an election issue.

The Liberals are promising to welcome "approximately 1,700 immigrants annually to the province by 2022." The PCs are going even further, promising to meet a larger target every year for the next five years.

The NDP platform sets no specific goal, but pledges to "increase investment in language training and other programs," while the NL Alliance says it "will support programs for immigrants such as ESL programs to provide fair opportunity to be successful."

But at a time when more Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are moving out, why would anyone want to move in?

Not always welcoming

In the latest edition of our series Undecided — the political show without the politicians — we brought together three people with distinctive points of view. 

Prajwala Dixit, Carmichael Polonio and Jerry Joy all moved to Newfoundland and Labrador from other parts of the world. Dixit and Polonio came for school, while Joy came for work.

What's it like being a 'Newfoundlander By Choice'? Watch below:

All three have been here for at least several years. They've made friends and in some cases, even family. But it wasn't always easy to make those connections.

"There is a difference between welcoming and friendly," Dixit said.

Take for example, questions that seem innocuous to some, but can be cutting to people who've heard them thousands of times. 

Where are you from? No, where are you really from? Why are you here?

"There's something to be said about having to constantly give your reasoning out to strangers," Polonio said, "people who don't know you and don't particularly care about you, just to assuage their curiosity."

Jerry Joy, right, talks with one of his employees at a soon-to-open restaurant in Portugal Cove - St. Philip's. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

To Polonio, the underlying message — intended or not — is: you're not from here and you don't belong.

Not everyone feels that way. Joy said he doesn't mind answering questions.

I shouldn't have to explain myself in my home.- Carmichael Polonio

He doesn't even mind when people ask him what his real name is, thinking his parents in India couldn't have possibly named him Jerry. (They did, by the way.)

"I'm OK with it, people don't know sometimes," Joy said. He tells curious people that India is a multicultural society and that his name isn't all that uncommon.  

"It's very difficult to explain in a minute or two, but I try my best."

The next step

But even Joy, who doesn't mind all the questions, still sometimes senses a barrier between himself and other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

At his church, for instance. His family's been attending services for nine years. Everyone knows his name, knows his wife and two young daughters, "but not once [has anybody] ever invited us for dinner, or taken the next step."

Asked what would make it easier for people to move to this province, Polonio, Joy and Dixit didn't come up with political solutions; they want people in this province to take that next step.

Don't just say hello, make a deeper connection. 

Carmichael Polonio and Prajwala Dixit both came to N.L. to attend Memorial University. Years later, they've each decided to stay in the province. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

They are not Come From Aways, Polonio said. They are Newfoundlanders By Choice.

"I want to be respected for that choice," she said.

"I shouldn't have to explain myself in my home … you have to give us the feeling of home."

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