Newfoundland and Labrador, easternmost province of Canada. It is also Canada’s newest province, having joined the federation in 1949. The province has two sections of unequal size: Newfoundland, which is an island, and the much larger region of Labrador, on the mainland of Canada. Together, these sections have a land area of roughly the size of California. From 1927 to 1965 the name Newfoundland was used both for the island and for the entire province. In 1965 the province’s name was changed to Newfoundland and Labrador. St. John’s, in southeastern Newfoundland, is the provincial capital and largest city; it is also one of the oldest settlements in North America.
Labrador is bordered by Québec province on the south, west, and north; the Atlantic Ocean on the east; and the Strait of Belle Isle on the southeast. Newfoundland, located southeast of Labrador, meets the Atlantic Ocean on the east and south, the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the west, and the Strait of Belle Isle on the north.
Newfoundland and Labrador is a land of rugged beauty. Picturesque fishing villages dot the rocky shores and outlying islands. Vast tracts of untamed wilderness cover the interior of Newfoundland and almost all of Labrador, a land of tundra, ice, thick forests, and barren rock. The province was among the first areas of North America to be encountered by Europeans. Vikings from Iceland and Greenland briefly settled in northern Newfoundland about the year ad 1000, at a site called L’Anse aux Meadows. The first use of the name Newfoundland dates to 1497, after Italian explorer John Cabot sighted a “new found isle” in the North Atlantic. By the early 1500s the island was referred to as the “New found launde” in English, and the Latin name Terra Nova (new land) was used in early documents and maps. It is still called Terra Nova by the Spanish and Portuguese, and the French use the name Terre Neuve.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the seventh largest province of Canada, with an area of 405,212 sq km (156,453 sq mi), including 31,340 sq km (12,100 sq mi) of inland water. The island of Newfoundland alone encompasses 108,860 sq km (42,031 sq mi), and Labrador adds 296,860 sq km (114,618 sq mi).
Roughly triangular in shape, the island of Newfoundland measures 560 km (350 mi) north-south and 510 km (320 mi) east-west. Labrador’s farthest extent north-south is 1,000 km (620 mi) and east-west, 830 km (520 mi). The province has many peat bogs and jagged rock outcroppings, and the soils are generally infertile. The coastlines of both Newfoundland and Labrador are irregular and deeply indented, with many bays, coves, peninsulas, and islands.
The province contains two natural regions: the Appalachian Region and the Canadian Shield. All of the island of Newfoundland and a small part of southeastern Labrador belong to the Appalachian Region, a formation that extends from Newfoundland to the southeastern United States. In Newfoundland the Appalachian Region consists mainly of a large plateau. This natural region can be subdivided into three smaller regions: the Newfoundland Highlands, the Atlantic Upland, and the Central Lowland.
The Newfoundland Highlands make up most of the western part of the island. This region is the edge of the plateau, which rises abruptly on the western shore and slopes gently to the east. Elevations in this area reach a height of 814 m (2,671 ft) in the Lewis Hills in the southwest. This region is also sometimes called the Long Range Mountains.
The Atlantic Upland forms most of the south and east of the island. This region is mostly a flat or rolling plateau with an average elevation of about 300 m (about 1,000 ft). There are some rugged hilly sections in the southeast on the Avalon Peninsula. Bogs, ponds, and small lakes are numerous in this region.
The Central Lowland occupies the north central part of the island. Most of this region is flat or gently rolling, with almost all elevations less than 150 m (500 ft).
The Canadian Shield, which occupies nearly half of Canada’s total area, covers all of Labrador apart from its southeastern corner. The region is mostly a vast plateau made up of ancient, hard rock. However, some areas of Labrador contain softer sedimentary rock, including a region in the west called the Labrador Trough, which holds some of North America’s richest iron ore deposits. Elevations range from 450 to 600 m (1,500 to 2,000 ft) in the interior, but the edge of the plateau along the coast is more rugged, with slightly higher elevations. The Torngat Mountains in extreme northern Labrador rise to a height of 1,652 m (5,420 ft) at the summit of Mount Caubvick, the highest point in the province.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
Both Labrador and Newfoundland have many rivers and lakes. The Churchill River in Labrador is the province’s longest river. It rises in the west and flows eastward for 335 km (208 mi) before emptying into Lake Melville, a saltwater lake linked to the Atlantic Ocean. On this river is Churchill Falls, with a vertical drop of 75 m (245 ft). It is one of the single greatest sources of hydroelectric power in North America. Other large rivers in Labrador are the Naskaupi, the Eagle, and the Romaine.
On Newfoundland the Exploits River is the island’s longest waterway. It begins in southwestern Newfoundland and flows for 240 km (150 mi) to empty into the Bay of Exploits in the north. The second-longest river on the island is the Gander River, which flows in a northeasterly direction.
The largest natural lake in the province is Lake Melville in eastern Labrador. It has an area of 3,069 sq km (1,185 sq mi). Lake Melville is really a 140-km (87-mi) extension of the Hamilton Inlets and is connected with the ocean by a narrow inlet. Smallwood Reservoir in western Labrador was created by the dams of the Churchill River and is the largest body of freshwater in the province, with an area of 6,527 sq km (2,520 sq mi). Grand Lake, Red Indian Lake, and Gander Lake are the largest lakes on the island of Newfoundland.
Most of the province has a subarctic climate with short, cool summers and long, cold winters. The cold Labrador Current sweeps the shores of Newfoundland, and the general circulation of the air brings cold winds from the continent during most of the year. The interior of the island has a bleak climate, and the light forest cover on the plateau allows frequent cold winds to gust across it. The coastal regions of Labrador are quite cold, especially in the north, and are too harsh for the cultivation of crops. In winter the bays and coves freeze over, bringing to a halt most coastal navigation. Summer breaks suddenly in Labrador in about the middle of June, when the interior regions become considerably warmer than the coast.
Average July temperatures are 13°C to 16°C (55°F to 60°F) in Newfoundland and 10°C to 13°C (50°F to 55°F) in Labrador. Average January temperatures range from -4°C (25°F) in southern Newfoundland to about -18°C (0°F) in most of Labrador. The maximum summer temperature throughout most of the province is about 32°C (90°F). Winter temperatures may fall to -51°C (-60°F) in western Labrador and -34°C (-30°F) on the island.
Precipitation averages about 1,120 mm (about 44 in) yearly in Newfoundland. In Labrador precipitation varies from about 1,020 mm (about 40 in) in the southeast to about 510 mm (about 20 in) in the extreme north. Heavy winter snowfalls are common, especially in Newfoundland.
About one-third of Newfoundland is forested, and most of the rest of the island is made up of barren areas of reindeer moss and lichens. The forests consist almost entirely of conifers. The most important species are white and black spruce, balsam fir, birch, red pine, and aspen. Smaller plants include the insect-eating pitcher plant, sheep laurel, and snakehead, a marsh orchid. Blueberries and partridgeberries thrive in the barren regions.
Labrador’s vegetation is similar to that of Newfoundland, with large areas of barren ground. Because of poor soil and the harsh climate, the trees are often small for their species. Black spruce and balsam fir is the dominant tree cover in most forested areas.
Newfoundland has fewer varieties of animals than the mainland. Among the animals native to the island are the black bear, woodland caribou, otter, muskrat, fox, and lynx. Moose, which were introduced to the island early in the 20th century, are fairly numerous. Most of the animals found in Newfoundland are also found in Labrador. In addition, Labrador has such animals as the polar bear, mink, wolverine, wolf, and Barren Ground caribou. Birds found all year round in the province are the spruce partridge, ptarmigan, and osprey. Numerous varieties of ducks and geese inhabit the province in summer, and many coastal areas support huge colonies of seabirds, especially gulls, gannets, murres, and puffins. An important breeding area for the harp seal is located off the province’s northern coast. There are no snakes or other reptiles in Newfoundland and Labrador.
With a small population and a slowly developing industrial base, Newfoundland and Labrador has relatively few environmental problems. The main ones are solid waste (trash) management and water pollution by community sewage. Most communities lack sewer systems and sanitary landfills for household trash. The federal government enforces federal regulations dealing with certain kinds of air and water pollution. The provincial department of environment administers provincial public lands, including 64 parks and various ecological reserves. To protect seabirds, six sanctuaries have been established in island and coastal areas. In addition, the department is responsible for provincial antipollution efforts, which include the assessment and approval of new development projects, the licensing of water-well drillers and commercial pesticide sellers and users, and the promotion of voluntary recycling of glass and metal containers.
The economy of Newfoundland and Labrador is heavily dependent on natural resources. For centuries the most important economic activity was cod fishing. Farming was a supplementary activity for many fishers, but the poor soil and harsh climate prevented any significant agricultural development. Exploitation of the province’s rich forestry and mineral resources expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and by the 1920s the rising demand for pulp and paper made forestry a leading economic activity. After the end of World War II (1939-1945), iron ore mining in Labrador emerged as a major economic activity.
Since the 1960s, the province has experienced chronic economic hardship because of declining fish stocks and fluctuating world demand for many of its resource-based products. Fishing, pulp and paper manufacturing, and iron ore mining remain major activities. However, they generally do not provide sufficient jobs or income to alleviate widespread poverty and a high rate of unemployment, even during periods of economic expansion. Efforts to exploit offshore deposits of oil and natural gas beginning in the early 1990s have provided a new source of revenue and employment for the province that has partially offset declines in other sectors. Newfoundland and Labrador frequently has the highest unemployment rate in Canada, and financial assistance from the federal government is essential to the well-being of the population. In 2006, 16.5 percent of the labor force was unemployed.
Farming is of minor importance in the provincial economy. Labrador is not well suited for agriculture, apart from some sheltered inland valleys in the south, and on Newfoundland the poor soil and a short growing season discourage the raising of most crops. The chief food crops include root vegetables, such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, and beets; broccoli; sui choy; and bok choy. Labrador has a vast resource of wild berries, and wild blueberries are an important agricultural export. More than 75 percent of agricultural income comes from sales of livestock and livestock products, mainly chickens, dairy products, and eggs.
From 1930 through 1960 the cutting and processing of forest resources was the leading industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. By the early 1960s, when mining surpassed forestry in economic importance, about 30 percent of Newfoundland’s land area was still forested and Labrador’s extensive forests had scarcely been touched. The forests consist predominantly of such softwoods as black spruce and balsam fir, which are ideal for making pulp and paper. Newsprint is the principal use of the province’s wood products.
The pulp and paper industry began in the province in 1909, when a large mill opened at Grand Falls (now Grand Falls-Windsor). A second mill began production in 1925 at Corner Brook, and a third mill opened in Stephenville in 1981. The global market for newsprint is highly competitive, however, and low newsprint prices periodically force the province’s mills to reduce production or shut down.
Newfoundland’s forests once contained tracts of hardwoods, especially birch and maple, and in the late 19th century numerous sawmills on the island cut the hardwoods for export lumber. Today, however, the province imports lumber because hardwoods suitable for making lumber are almost completely exhausted.
The coastal waters of Newfoundland and Labrador constitute one of the world’s best fisheries, and many excellent harbors shelter small fishing fleets. Historically, cod was the primary catch; however, in 1992 the federal government banned cod fishing because years of overfishing had depleted stocks. The ban led fishers to turn to other species, especially crab and shellfish, which became industry mainstays after 1992. Other species also grew in economic importance, including Atlantic salmon, flounder, turbot, halibut, herring, and lobster. In 1997 the government began to permit cod fishing on a limited basis. The cod stocks generally remain weak, however, and cod fishing is subject to strict quotas. Farther offshore are other rich fishing grounds, including the Grand Banks, a shallow part of the continental shelf off the southeastern coast of Newfoundland. In 2005 the catch was 357,472 metric tons of fish valued at (Canadian) $518 million.
Today, aquaculture (fish farming) is of growing economic importance in Newfoundland and Labrador, with most production devoted to salmon, steelhead trout, and mussels. Harp seals, which are commercially hunted on their breeding grounds off the province’s northern coast, support an economically significant seal fishery.
Before 1930 the province’s chief fish products were salted and sun-cured cod. The advent of quick-freezing after 1930 brought about a major shift in the industry, with declining world demand for cured cod and rising demand for fresh frozen fish products. Within a few years the province’s antiquated fishing fleet, along with increased competition from foreign fishers, led to a sharp decline in commercial fishing. After World War II the federal and provincial governments provided funds to modernize and expand the fishing fleet, and the province’s fishers prospered until the late 1960s. Then fish stocks began to decline as a result of overfishing by both the domestic fleet and foreign fleets. The creation in 1977 of an exclusive Canadian fishing zone, extending 200 nautical miles (370 km/230 mi) from the coast, helped curtail foreign competition but did not reverse the declining fish stocks or erase the heavy debts incurred by many local fishing companies.
By 1983 the province’s largest fishing companies, which rely on deep-sea trawlers, were on the verge of bankruptcy. To stave off collapse, the federal and provincial governments arranged a restructuring in which all the deep-sea fishing companies were combined in 1984 into a single company, Fishery Products International Ltd., owned mostly by the federal government. The company, which was returned to the private sector beginning in 1985, reported its first profit in 1986. The government bailout of the deep-sea fishery did not, however, ease the plight of the province’s inshore fishers, who generally operate individually in small boats. Most of these fishers also work at other jobs to supplement their income.
Mining is a major economic activity in Newfoundland and Labrador. The most important mineral is iron ore, which at the beginning of the 21st century accounted for more than 90 percent of the value of the province’s mineral production. The province is Canada’s leading producer of iron ore. High-grade iron ore was first shipped from the Ruth Lake area in far northwestern Labrador in 1954. Today, the main iron-mining district is Labrador’s Wabush Lake region about 160 km (about 100 mi) to the south. Shipments of concentrates from that area began in 1962. Iron mining in Newfoundland began on Bell Island in the 1890s, but ceased in that area in 1966.
Several other minerals are also mined in the province, including silver, gold, pyrophyllite, limestone, and gypsum. At times lead and zinc have been produced in Newfoundland. A major nickel deposit was discovered at Voisey’s Bay in northern Labrador in 1993, and in 2002 the provincial government announced that an agreement had been reached with Inco Ltd., a mining and metals company, to develop the deposit. Labrador also has deposits of high-quality uranium, which have yet to be mined in significant quantities because of the high costs of development.
In recent years, the exploitation of offshore deposits of oil and natural gas has expanded rapidly, spurring economic growth and helping the province to rebound from the collapse of the cod-fishing industry. In 1979 the Hibernia oil field was discovered in the Grand Banks region about 310 km (190 mi) off the coast of Newfoundland—the first major oil discovery in Canadian coastal waters. By the early 1990s a platform was under construction to tap the oil, and the facility at Hibernia began commercial production of oil in 1997. A second offshore facility, constructed at the nearby Terra Nova oil field, began operations in 2001. A third offshore facility, located at the White Rose oil field, is slated to begin production in 2005. Development of the offshore fields, which includes exploration, construction, and production, has stimulated the most significant period of capital investment in Newfoundland and Labrador since World War II.
Newfoundland and Labrador’s three most important manufactured goods are processed fish and seafood, newsprint, and refined petroleum, which together account for more than 95 percent of all manufactured exports. Manufacturing in the province expanded rapidly in the 1990s and early 2000s, with the shipment value of manufactured goods growing by 45 percent between 1996 and 2002.
Historically, the manufacturing sector was held back by the small size of the domestic market, the great distance to other markets, and the limited quantity of skilled labor available in the province. To compensate for the economic isolation of Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government in the 1950s and 1960s attempted to develop numerous new industries. Most of these quickly failed, including a rubber-goods plant, a leather-products plant, and an oil refinery. Among the few that succeeded were a particleboard mill at Donovans and a phosphorus plant at Long Harbour. Rapid growth in the manufacturing sector since the mid-1990s has been driven by a variety of factors, including fisheries diversification, reduced trade barriers, and new investments in transportation, infrastructure, and education and training programs.
Service industries make up the largest sector of Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, contributing approximately three-fifths of the GDP. Service industries are largely concentrated in St. John’s and include such activities as banking and finance; insurance and real estate; government services; and retail and wholesale trade.
Tourism is an important part of the service sector in Newfoundland and Labrador and is of growing value to the economy. Visitors are attracted to the province’s majestic coastal scenery, its parks and vast wilderness areas, and its numerous historic sites, including the early Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows. St. John’s is a popular port of call for cruise ships during the summer cruise season.
Newfoundland and Labrador has vast waterpower resources, which are still largely undeveloped. High humidity, low evaporation, and ample precipitation result in a high rate of runoff into ponds and lakes, which endow the province with large natural reservoirs. Virtually all of the province’s power comes from hydroelectric plants.
The province’s first hydroelectric plants were built in the early 20th century, initially to light St. John’s and to drive the street railway, and then to power the pulp and paper mills. The first overall plan to develop the province’s waterpower came with the creation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Power Commission in 1964. By far the largest is the complex at Churchill Falls on the upper Churchill River in Labrador. Its first three generators began producing power in 1972, and the entire complex, with 11 generators, was completed a few years later. The major power plants on the island of Newfoundland are at Deer Lake and at Baie d’Espoir.
Most of Newfoundland and Labrador’s electricity is produced at the Churchill Falls complex, with domestic demand consuming less than one-third of the total production. The rest is exported, mainly to Québec, which has a contract to buy excess power generated by the facility at below-market prices. The resale of this power for large profits by the province-owned utility Hydro-Québec has been a persistent source of friction between the two provinces.
Plans are currently in place to develop the lower Churchill River at two potential sites, Gull Island and Muskrat Falls. In 2002 the provincial governments in Newfoundland and Labrador and Québec announced they had reached a consensus on principles to guide negotiations to develop the Gull Island site.
The sea long served as the traditional highway for the people of the province, who live mainly in settlements on the coasts. Until the 20th century almost all travel was along the coasts, with inland travel limited mainly to small numbers of hunters and trappers. In northern areas during winter, travel by dog team was common.
A railroad across Newfoundland opened in the late 19th century, and it provided an essential means of transportation and development on the island until the mid-20th century. The main route of this railroad, built on narrow gauge track and measuring 880 km (547 mi), was permanently closed in 1988 due to high maintenance costs and the comparative slowness of the trains; it was replaced by a modern and efficient bus service. Most of Labrador’s railroads were built to serve its iron-mining complexes. The Labrador and Québec North Shore Railway, a privately owned railroad, runs south from Schefferville, Québec, in the Ruth Lake region, through western Labrador to Sept-Îles, Québec. A branch line runs west to the Wabush Lake mines.
The province’s highway system expanded slowly. Until the 1950s, when a modern road-building and road-improvement program was implemented, most roads were narrow and unpaved. Today, Newfoundland has about 13,100 km (about 8,100 mi) of highways and rural roads. The main artery on the island is a 900-km (560-mile) portion of the Trans-Canada Highway, which runs from St. John’s in the southeast to Channel-Port aux Basques in the southwest. Most coastal communities are linked to one another and to the Trans-Canada Highway. Labrador has some roads along the coast of the Strait of Belle Isle and around mining towns. The Trans-Canada Highway does not pass through Labrador. However, efforts are underway to improve the Trans-Labrador Highway, a gravel road connecting the Happy Valley-Goose Bay region to Labrador City and further west to the highway system in Québec.
The Canadian National Railways operates a fleet of coastal passenger-freight steamers that call at various ports in Newfoundland and Labrador and steamships that ply to and from other Canadian ports. Some private shipping companies provide regular passenger and freight service between Newfoundland, the mainland, and the British Isles. There is ferry service between Cape Breton Regional Municipality on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, and Channel-Port aux Basques (year round) and Argentia (summer).
Transportation by small aircraft, including ski- and float-equipped airplanes, is essential in isolated areas of the province. Large airports are located at Gander, in central Newfoundland; at Goose Bay, in Labrador; and at St. John’s. These airports were of strategic importance during World War II (1939-1945). From 1945 through the 1950s, they were important as refueling points for transatlantic flights. Since then, the development of nonstop transatlantic jet service has greatly reduced the traffic at Gander and Goose Bay, although Gander remains an important stopover point for some international flights. Other airports are at Stephenville; on the west coast of Newfoundland; Deer Lake, also in the western part of the province; Torbay, near St. John’s; and Labrador City.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR|
A majority of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are of English and Irish ancestry, followed by smaller numbers of Scots and people of French descent. In 2006, 4.7 percent of inhabitants were indigenous peoples, including Inuit and Montagnais-Naskapi.
According to the 2001 national census, the population of Newfoundland and Labrador was 512,930, down by 10.8 percent from the 1991 figure of 568,474. In 2001, 58 percent of the people lived in urban areas, and the rest lived on farms or in small logging, mining, and fishing villages called outports. The population density of Newfoundland and Labrador is the lowest of any Canadian province, at 1.4 persons per sq km (3.6 per sq mi). More than 30 percent of the people live in or near St. John’s.
In 1991 Labrador had a population of 30,375; by 2001 the figure had declined to 27,864. The iron-mining district around Wabush Lake accounted for about two-fifths of the total population. Labrador City grew rapidly in the 1960s and continued to grow in the 1970s, but its population declined in succeeding decades. Other centers of population in Labrador are along the southern coast and in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay region.
The province’s population grew slowly from 12,000 in 1763 to 202,000 in 1891. By 1935 it totaled only 290,000. Mainly because of a high rate of emigration, the rate of population growth over this long period was barely 1.1 percent per year. Sustaining the province’s population was a high birth rate—historically the highest in Canada. At the 1951 census the population was 361,416. Between 1951 and 1961 the growth rate was 2.7 percent per year, but after 1961 it fell back to former levels. Since the mid-1990s, the population has steadily declined, as the birth rate has fallen and people continue to leave the province in search of better opportunities. Between 1996 and 2001, Newfoundland and Labrador lost 7 percent of its population. During the same period, Canada’s total population grew by 4 percent. The population decline is especially significant in rural areas.
St. John’s, the capital and largest city of Newfoundland and Labrador, had a population of 99,182 (2001) and was the center of a metropolitan area of 181,400 (2006). Corner Brook, an industrial city and distributing center for the western coastal area, had 20,103 people in 2001. The largest towns are Mount Pearl (24,964), Conception Bay South (19,772), Gander (9,651), Labrador City (7,744), Happy Valley-Goose Bay (7,969), Stephenville (7,109), Marystown (5,908), and Channel-Port aux Basques (4,637).
The largest religious groups in Newfoundland and Labrador are the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the United Church of Canada. Together, these denominations claim most of the population. Other religious groups include Pentecostal churches, the Salvation Army, and Seventh-day Adventists. Religious affiliation is closely tied to ethnic origin. Most people of Irish and French descent practice Roman Catholicism, while people of English descent are primarily members of the Anglican and United churches.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL LIFE|
The first public schools in Newfoundland and Labrador were organized by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. In 1949 several religious denominations gained the constitutional right to operate primary and secondary public schools in the province under the Terms of Union by which Newfoundland and Labrador joined the Canadian federation. Under this denominational system of education, schools were designated as Integrated (Anglican, Presbyterian, Salvation Army, or United Church), Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, or Seventh-day Adventist. The provincial government was legally required to provide each of these denominations with financial support for the construction and operation of schools. In 1997 a majority of provincial voters backed a referendum to amend the Terms of Union to end centuries of church domination of the educational system and to allow for the establishment of interdenominational schools. Following approval of the referendum, the provincial government passed the 1997 Schools Act, which created ten interdenominational school boards, based on geographic districts, and one Francophone board for the province’s six French first-language schools. These school boards are fully funded by the provincial government, staffed with trustees elected in popular elections, and responsible for administering the schools in their districts. Education is free and compulsory from the age of 6 to 15.
In addition to the public primary and secondary schools, there are seven private schools; a school for First Nations children, located on the coast of southern Newfoundland; and the Newfoundland School for the Deaf, in St. John’s.
Memorial University of Newfoundland, founded in 1925 as Memorial University College, is the only university in the province and the largest university in Canada’s Atlantic region. It consists of a main campus in St. John’s; the Marine Institute, also in St. John’s; Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook; an affiliated campus in Harlow, England; and the Institut Frecker in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, a dependency of France. Newfoundland and Labrador is also home to a provincial system of regional colleges of technology, applied arts, and continuing education. In 1996 these regional colleges, formerly five in number, were merged into the new 18-campus College of the North Atlantic, which is governed under a single board.
|B||Libraries and Museums|
The public libraries board, an independent board established by the provincial government in 1935, is responsible for public library services throughout the province. It administers more than 90 public libraries throughout the province, including three public libraries in St. John’s.
The Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, headquartered in St. John’s and with branches in Grand Falls-Windsor and Grand Bank, has a collection exceeding one million artifacts. The museum contains provincial historical materials, a natural history collection, and a rich archaeological collection, which includes relics of the indigenous Beothuk people—inhabitants of the island of Newfoundland who were encountered by European explorers in the 16th century. The Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador (AGNL) in St. John’s is the largest public art gallery in the province. The primary focus of the gallery, which is owned by Memorial University of Newfoundland, is on contemporary Canadian art. There are many local museums, such as the Conception Bay Museum in Harbour Grace, the South Newfoundland Seaman’s Museum in Grand Bank, and the Labrador Straits Museum in L’Anse au Loup.
The first newspaper to be published in the province was the Royal Gazette, which was founded in 1806. It still appears as a government gazette. The largest daily is the St. John’s Telegram, founded as the Evening Telegram in 1879 and renamed in 1998. The other major daily is the Western Star of Corner Brook. There are also several weekly newspapers and periodical journals. The province is served by 21 AM and 18 FM radio stations and 4 television stations.
One of the province’s earliest writers was William Charles Saint John, who gained fame as a journalist and a historian. His son, Charles Henry Saint John, is recognized as the province’s first native-born poet. Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, who was sent out in 1892 from London to organize schools and medical missions, gave the world its first reports of the little-known wilds of Labrador. The province’s most accomplished writers of the 20th century included E. J. Pratt, acclaimed by many as Canada’s greatest poet; Michael F. Harrington, short-story writer, radio commentator, and newspaper editor; and the novelists Harold Horwood and Margaret Duley. The journalist Ray Guy, known for his biting satire and political commentary, is one of the province’s best-known contemporary writers.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES TO VISIT|
The province has a well-deserved reputation for its excellent hunting and fishing grounds. Summer cruises along the rocky, picturesque coast are also popular. Since the early 19th century, the famous regatta held in August on Quidi Vidi Lake near St. John’s has drawn many spectators and participants. The regatta is considered the oldest regularly held sports event in North America, originating in 1826.
The province has two national parks, both on the island of Newfoundland: Gros Morne National Park, on Newfoundland’s west coast, and Terra Nova National Park, in Bonavista Bay in the northeast. There are also seven national historic parks, including Signal Hill, at the entrance to St. John’s harbor, where the first transatlantic wireless message was received in 1901; Castle Hill, at Placentia, commemorating the French economic and military presence in Newfoundland; Cape Spear, the most easterly point in North America and the site of Canada’s oldest standing lighthouse; and L’Anse aux Meadows, on the Great Northern Peninsula, where the earliest authentic site of a Viking colony was found in North America. In 1978 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared L’Anse aux Meadows a World Heritage Site.
There are more than 70 provincial parks and natural areas in Newfoundland and Labrador. They include Butter Pot, Sir Richard Squires Memorial, and Barachois Pond, which are among many provincial parks available for overnight camping. There are also a dozen ecological reserves that provide sanctuary for rare or endangered plants and animals or protect natural history artifacts, and several wilderness reserves encompassing extensive natural areas.
|C||Other Places to Visit|
At the top of Signal Hill is Cabot Tower, which was built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s first voyage to the region. The site where Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed Newfoundland for Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1583 is marked by a memorial in St. John’s. A monument at Cupids, a site along Conception Bay, marks the colony founded there in 1610 by John Guy. Other famous sites include Ferryland, where Lord Baltimore, the founder of Maryland, established a colony in the 1620s; Placentia, in Placentia Bay, the old French capital; and Carbonear Island, which defied all French attempts to capture it in the 17th and 18th centuries.
From 1855 to 1934 Newfoundland was a British colony governed by a locally elected legislature. In 1934, amid the great hardship wrought by the global economic depression, the British government suspended Newfoundland’s local self-government to take administrative and financial responsibility for the colony. Until 1949 the colony was governed by a commission headed by a British governor. Self-government was restored in 1949 when Newfoundland and Labrador joined the Canadian federation as a province.
Newfoundland and Labrador is represented in the Canadian Parliament by seven elected representatives in the House of Commons and five senators appointed by the federal government to the Senate. By tradition, at least one member of Parliament from the province is appointed to the national cabinet.
The lieutenant governor, appointed by the federal government, is the nominal head of the provincial government. However, real power rests with the premier and cabinet. The premier is the leader of the majority party or coalition in the provincial legislature. Members of the cabinet are appointed by the premier from among the members of the legislature to oversee the various government departments.
The unicameral provincial legislature of 48 members is called the House of Assembly. Elections must be held every five years but may be called sooner. The assembly holds one session a year, beginning in spring and ending in fall, with a break for summer.
The judiciary consists of a Supreme Court, which is split between a Trial Division and an Appeals Division, seven district courts, 18 provincial courts, a family court, a juvenile court, and a traffic court. The Supreme Court hears appeals from lower courts, and it may decide to hear any civil or criminal case. Minor offenses are handled by magistrates located in small communities. The Trial Division of the Supreme Court goes on circuit during the summer months.
Nomadic indigenous peoples of the Subarctic culture area had been living in Labrador and Newfoundland for thousands of years when Europeans first began their explorations. The inhabitants of Labrador included a small number of Inuit along the northeastern coast, and two closely related Algonquian groups, the Naskapi and the Montagnais, who were dispersed throughout the rest of the land.
European explorers in the 16th century found only the Beothuk people on Newfoundland. Little is known about the Beothuk culture. Their relations with the fishers who frequented the island were peaceful, and they later lived peaceably with the Mi’kmaq who migrated from Nova Scotia. However, in the late 18th century the Mi’kmaq, incited by the French, began a destructive war against the Beothuk. Some Beothuk survived on Newfoundland while others fled to Labrador. However, the Beothuk continued to suffer from European encroachment and European diseases, and in 1829 the last known surviving Beothuk died of tuberculosis in St. John’s.
In ad 986 a Viking sailor from Europe, Bjarni Herjólfsson, coasted along the shores of Labrador and Newfoundland. Perhaps because of his voyage, the Vikings founded a settlement near present-day L’Anse aux Meadows on Newfoundland’s northeastern coast. In 1963 a team of Norwegian archaeologists reported finding the remains of this colony. There were foundations of nine buildings, all typical of known Viking structures. The largest building was the great hall, measuring 18 m by 14 m (60 ft by 45 ft) and containing the traditional central hearth. Ruins of a metal workers’ shop and an anvil were littered with hundreds of bits of slag and iron. The ore had been extracted from nearby iron bog deposits by an unknown process.
The L’Anse aux Meadows site corresponds to the descriptions of Vinland by Viking explorer Leif Eriksson. Eriksson sailed to North America at the end of the 10th century and is believed to have called Newfoundland Vinland because of the grapes growing there. Although it is still uncertain whether this village actually was the famous Vinland, it was definitely Viking, and scientific tests have fixed the time of its existence as around ad 1000.
For nearly 500 years after the Vikings deserted their settlement, there were no recorded European voyages to Newfoundland. Then, toward the end of the 15th century, European nations began their quest for the Northwest Passage, a water route to Asia through or around North America, and expeditions repeatedly touched on Newfoundland. As early as 1474 João Vaz Corte Real, a Portuguese nobleman, was given the title of “discoverer of the land of the codfish” for his explorations in the Atlantic. This may mean that he visited the Grand Banks and possibly even saw Newfoundland. However, Portugal was slow to follow up this voyage, and the island was neglected until 1497. In that year, John Cabot, an Italian explorer, sailed from England on the first of two voyages to Newfoundland. On his return, he reported that the codfish on the Grand Banks were so thick that he could scoop them up in baskets from the sides of the ship.
The report was all the encouragement that fishers in England’s western ports needed, for there was a valuable European market for fish. Within a short time, Spain, Portugal, and France also had ships on the Grand Banks. While the fishers began their operations, explorers continued to reach the rocky Newfoundland and Labrador coasts. Among them were: Gaspar Corte-Real in 1500 and 1501; João Fernandes, who held a patent as a llabrador, or small squire, in 1501; Sebastian Cabot in 1509; João Alvares Fagundes in 1520; John Rut in 1527; Jacques Cartier in 1534; and John Davis in 1586.
Although Spain claimed most of the Americas, including Newfoundland, it concentrated on its possessions farther south and did not interfere with non-Spanish ships coming to the Grand Banks. In spite of the Spanish claim, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, an English sailor and soldier, sailed into St. John’s harbor in 1583 and formally claimed the island for England. However, he could not make the claim stick because a majority of the fishing vessels around the island belonged to Spain. Two years later, Sir Bernard Drake firmly established English control by destroying the Spanish fishing fleet at Newfoundland. Thereafter, only English and French ships were at Newfoundland, with the French fishing vessels concentrated on the south coast of the island and on the mainland.
When the London and Bristol Company began to establish resident fisheries to control the fishing industry, it also began promoting settlement. In 1610 John Guy, a Bristol merchant, brought 39 settlers to Conception Bay. By 1621 there were colonies at Cambriol, Renews, and Ferryland, the last founded by George Calvert (an English nobleman who explored North America and was instrumental in acquiring the colonial charter of Maryland). However, none of these villages prospered. The lack of success was due to the harsh climate, the poor soil, ill-chosen settlers, ineffective leadership, and the seasonal nature of the fisheries. Moreover, the fishers were hostile to the settlers, who were not only competing with them, but had also settled in the areas that were ideal for fishing stations. This animosity between fishers and colonists dominated much of Newfoundland’s history thereafter.
The Newfoundland colonists were unable to control the more numerous transient fishers. These fishers were sponsored by the English western-port merchants, an influential group in England. In 1634 King Charles I of England issued the Western Charter, which gave the captain of the first ship that came to a harbor for a fishing season the title of Admiral of the Harbour and authority over all ships and residents at that harbor for that season. The reasoning behind this royal order was that the fishing ships, with the twice-annual crossings they required, had become a valuable training ground for sailors. This training would be lost if resident fisheries were allowed to develop. Also, England relied heavily on the income from fish sold throughout Europe. Thus, Newfoundland’s position as a base for the English fishing industry was established.
In 1637, the rule of the fishing admirals notwithstanding, Charles I granted all of the island to Sir David Kirke and his associates. However, Kirke’s colony, based at Ferryland, also failed to prosper. The hardy settlers remained, but thereafter without any aid from England.
|G||Struggle for Control|
While the settlers fought the western-country fishers and the elements for a foothold on Newfoundland, the surrounding sea became filled with hostile ships. The hazards of fishing became so great that Oliver Cromwell, who ruled England as lord protector from 1653 to 1658, ordered a naval escort to protect the fisheries. The commodore of the convoy was given jurisdiction over the entire island for the fishing season.
Meanwhile, France had come to realize Newfoundland’s strategic importance as a gateway to Canada. However, the French had similarly restricted settlement in favor of fishing. Then, in 1662, they settled and stationed troops in Placentia, a settlement on the island of Newfoundland. It was designated as the seat of the French royal governor and the base for France’s Newfoundland activities.
From that time on, the English settlers were subjected not only to the threat of French aggression, but also to Dutch raids when England went to war against The Netherlands over colonies, and the war was carried to North America. In 1665 and 1673 the Dutch plundered St. John’s. After the second attack the English fortified the harbor, but they did little else to aid Newfoundland. The influence of the western-port merchants was so strong that the Western Charter was revised to more strongly favor the fishers over the settlers. By the end of the 17th century, property ownership had been restricted and settlement within 10 km (6 mi) of the sea prohibited. The English fishers, emboldened by the revisions, attacked towns and robbed the settlers at will.
|H||French and British Conflicts|
Before Newfoundland had time to recover from the devastation wrought by the French and the English fishers, it became the scene of a prolonged struggle for control of North America. The French land and sea forces based at Placentia repeatedly raided outlying settlements and fishing vessels. In 1696, during King William’s War, in which the English and French fought over North American colonies, French troops overran the Avalon Peninsula and burned St. John’s. The English later refortified the port, but in 1708 during Queen Anne’s War between France and Great Britain (a union of three countries headed by England), it again fell to the French. From this date until the Peace of Utrecht, which ended Queen Anne’s War in 1713, the French virtually controlled Newfoundland. However, the British were victorious elsewhere, and in the treaty, France surrendered Nova Scotia, Hudson Bay, and Newfoundland, although it retained fishing rights on the coast between Cape Bonavista and Riche Point on the island of Newfoundland, the so-called French Shore.
When the war ended, there were about 2,000 demoralized and exploited people clinging to Newfoundland’s rocky shores. There were no schools, no churches, and no law and order other than the arbitrary rule of the fishing admirals. The island had become a market for New England goods and a midway point for British sailors anxious to enter the lucrative New England trade. Both of these activities were contrary to official British policy. Thus, when Lord Vere Beauclerk, commodore of the fleet, suggested controls for Newfoundland in 1728, his recommendation found broad support as a means of suppressing the illegal trade and the exodus of able seamen. In 1729 Captain Henry Osborne became the first naval governor. He was in residence only for the fishing season, but he instituted the first semblances of government in Newfoundland. He left behind justices of the peace and constables to maintain peace during the winter months, although these men had only limited authority over the fishing admirals.
In 1759, during the French and Indian War, the British seized French trading posts in Labrador while the two countries fought over control of North America. Three years later, France, desperate after repeated losses, captured St. John’s and held it for three months in an effort to retain Newfoundland as a North American base. When it gave up its territorial gains on the island, France also transferred control of Labrador to Newfoundland’s British governor. The peace treaty, however, reaffirmed French fishing rights on the northwestern shore of Newfoundland, and gave France possession of the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
In 1764, a year after peace was made, Sir Hugh Palliser became naval governor. He was firmly committed to the re-creation of the training ground for sailors while destroying all settlement. To this end he aided Captain James Cook, the famed British explorer, in the first marine survey of Newfoundland and Labrador. Palliser angered the French by allowing British encroachments on the island’s northwestern shore, and he irritated New England fishers by banning them from the Grand Banks. The resentments he provoked were avenged by the French and Americans in the settlement of the American Revolution. By the Treaty of Paris, ending that war in 1783, Britain gave New England fishers unrestricted rights along Newfoundland’s coasts, and France benefited in that the French Shore was redefined to include the entire western coast of the island.
|K||Recovery and Expansion|
In 1791 a civil court system was instituted in Newfoundland, and in the following year the island’s first chief justice, John Reeves, was appointed. The power of the fishing admirals waned, as settlement slowly increased and European wars disrupted ocean shipping. In 1809 Labrador was reunited with Newfoundland, after having been separated from it since 1774 when Québec claimed it. This mainland acquisition provided Newfoundland with additional fishing territory and land teeming with wildlife. The Hudson’s Bay Company led in the exploitation of the fur trade, and fishers soon found seal hunting profitable. The expansion of the fisheries and the development of the seal-fur trade led to mass migrations from Europe, particularly from Ireland.
Britain still regarded Newfoundland as a fishing base, not a colony. The governor, although he became a permanent resident in 1817, was still a naval officer. During the early 19th century, Dr. William Carson and Patrick Morris led a movement for representative government, which would give the people of Newfoundland governmental control instead of Britain. Britain’s Parliament responded in 1824 by setting aside the Western Charter and authorizing a civilian governor and an appointed legislative council. Then in 1832, Parliament permitted a popularly elected assembly to sit with the council. Almost from the start there was friction between the two legislative bodies over financial control.
The legislative tensions, the lack of popular involvement, and the fact that self-controlled government had been granted to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island all contributed to the demand for responsible government in Newfoundland. The demand was not universal, however, and an election was held to determine Newfoundland’s future. In 1854 the opposition to responsible government, composed of Protestant-Conservatives and led by Hugh Hoyles, was defeated by John Kent and Philip Francis Little’s Catholic-Liberal coalition.
In 1855 Governor Charles H. Darling proclaimed the establishment of responsible government, and Little became Newfoundland’s first premier. Kent later succeeded him, but was dismissed in 1861, and Hoyles was called to form a new government. In the elections of that year, Hoyles received a majority of the vote, but bitter religious riots erupted. Later the political leaders agreed to draw election districts so that each religious group could gain representation in the assembly. They also agreed to make their political appointments reflect the different religious groups. The pact, although never written, soon became a tradition in Newfoundland politics.
During the early 1860s, Newfoundland’s government considered union with the rest of Canada. Sir Ambrose Shea, a Liberal, and Sir F. B. T. Carter, a Conservative, were observers at the Québec Conference of 1864, where the provinces discussed the details of the union. However, at the same time, Charles Fox Bennett was forming a strong anticonfederation movement. In the 1869 election, union was overwhelmingly defeated, and Bennett formed a government. He had convinced the Newfoundlanders that ties with the mainland were not realistic because of the French Shore. Bennett was defeated by a Carter-Shea coalition in 1874, but negotiations for union with Canada were not resumed until 1895.
The only settlements in Labrador when it was reunited with Newfoundland in 1809 were missions. The first was established at Nain in 1771 by the Moravians, and others were founded by the Anglicans after 1848. Labrador was, in fact, neglected for many years. Then, in 1888, interest developed in its natural resources, and its possession was disputed by Québec and Newfoundland. England’s efforts to settle the dispute failed, and Newfoundland kept control of Labrador.
Two notable events marked the 1890s in Labrador. In 1892, Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, a missionary, arrived. His subsequent reports and books about the extreme hardships of Labrador life were responsible for the establishment of hospitals, schools, and churches. In 1895, Dr. A. P. Low, of the Geological Survey of Canada, announced the discovery of iron ore deposits in the Grand Falls (now Churchill Falls) region of the Hamilton River (now the Churchill River).
|P||Crisis and Recovery|
In the last quarter of the 19th century, Newfoundland’s future appeared promising. An insular railroad was under construction, copper was being mined at Tilt Cove, iron mining began on Bell Island, and fish brought high prices on the world market. Then, in the early 1890s, a series of disasters almost bankrupted Newfoundland. In 1892 a fire destroyed most of St. John’s. Two years later, bank failures and a poor fishing season led to widespread destitution. The government then reconsidered union with Canada. Robert Bond headed a delegation to Ottawa in 1895, but the Canadian government, while offering generous terms, did not fulfill the delegation’s demands, and the negotiations ended. However, in 1896 a good fishing catch and favorable world trade abruptly reversed the downward trend. Economic recovery was highlighted by the completion of the railway from Port aux Basques to St. John’s in 1898.
|Q||Early 20th Century|
After 1890, Newfoundland tried to recover the French Shore and to limit American fishing. In 1904 France gave up all its Newfoundland rights. However, the United States strongly resisted any fishing restrictions. The dispute was finally settled in 1910 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which worked to settle international disputes. It upheld Newfoundland’s right to regulate American fishing. As a result of the agreements, fishing expanded. Agriculture was subsequently introduced to what was formerly the French Shore, and the economy began to become more diversified. Iron mining expanded, a newsprint plant opened in 1909 at Grand Falls (now Grand Falls-Windsor), and lumber exports assumed real economic importance.
During this period the dissension so characteristic of Newfoundland politics became more intense when the People’s Party of Sir Edward Morris and the Fishermen’s Union Party of Sir William Ford Coaker contended with the Liberals and the Conservatives for control. However, World War I (1914-1918) brought temporary peace with the formation of a coalition government.
The war had more profound effects on Newfoundland than the political lull. Newfoundland made substantial contributions in soldiers and decided to assume financial responsibility for its troops.
Newfoundland exports found good markets during and after the war, and the government undertook a public works program based on this new wealth. Between 1920 and 1923, the price of fish plummeted, and the government, burdened by military obligations and public works programs, went heavily into debt. However, by 1929, Newfoundland was recovering. A large pulp mill had been opened at Corner Brook, and mineral production increased when a zinc-lead-copper mine opened at Buchans.
The long-standing dispute with Québec over Labrador officially ended in 1927, when the British Privy Council reaffirmed Newfoundland’s control. The council also defined the borders, setting Labrador’s land area to include about 285,000 sq km (about 110,000 sq mi) claimed by Québec. Québec refused to accept the decision.
|S||Depression and Commission|
By the 1930s the market for Newfoundland products had disappeared as a result of the Great Depression, which deeply hurt Canada economically. The government tried to overcome the financial deficits and stimulate production, but it finally requested British aid. A royal commission recommended that responsible government be replaced by a commission form of government.
The commission, made up of three Newfoundlanders and three Britons, acting in cooperation with a governor, was in office from 1934 to 1949. It aided the fishing industry while instituting economic reforms; reorganized the civil service while reducing political patronage; and improved health, education, and other social services. The economy responded, but despite the commission’s accomplishments, Newfoundland’s real recovery resulted from economic growth spurred by World War II.
The economy revived as markets for its products were reestablished and fortifications were constructed. The strategic position of Newfoundland and Labrador in the North Atlantic made them prime locations for Canadian and United States air and naval bases. Early in the war Canadian troops were stationed in Newfoundland, and in 1941 the United States built bases near St. John’s and at Stephenville and Argentia. Canadian bases were located at Gander and Goose Bay.
By the end of the war there were surplus funds in the province’s public treasury. With the crisis that had led to British intervention resolved, the British government decided to present the people of Newfoundland with choices for their form of government. In 1946 and 1947 the possible choices were debated by an elected convention. The convention primarily considered either a continuation of the commission or a return to responsible government. However, one of the convention delegates, Joseph Smallwood, argued for union with Canada. He influenced the British government to include the choice of union on the ballot that went before the Newfoundland people.
The voters subsequently eliminated the commission but failed to give either union or responsible government a majority. In a second referendum, union with Canada was chosen by 52 percent of the voters. On March 31, 1949, Newfoundland became Canada’s tenth province. Smallwood, the leader of the Liberal Party in Newfoundland and Labrador, became the first premier.
One of the conditions for union was that Canada would review Newfoundland’s financial status after eight years. On the basis of that study the federal government has, since 1958, provided annual grants to the province.
Newfoundland’s government was completely dominated by Smallwood’s Liberal Party for more than two decades after 1949. Smallwood, who served as premier until 1972, focused on economic development. Provincial grants helped modernize the fishing industry, and government loans aided the development of new industries. One successful project was the hydroelectric plant at Churchill Falls. However, support for Smallwood’s government began to erode in the late 1960s. Concerns about a decline in fish stocks became widespread, and most of the government-supported industries established in the 1950s were in financial trouble.
In 1972 the Progressive Conservative Party succeeded in winning a majority in the provincial legislature. Progressive Conservatives governed Newfoundland and Labrador for the next 17 years, giving way to the Liberals in 1989. The Progressive Conservatives returned to power in 2003.
In 1983 Newfoundland and Labrador’s deep-sea fishing companies were on the brink of bankruptcy. In response, the federal and provincial governments reorganized them into a single company, Fishery Products International Ltd. The federal government became the majority stockholder in the new company and the province acquired 25 percent of the company’s stock. In 1986 the provincial government began selling shares in Fishery Products International to private investors. Continued overfishing by Canadian and foreign fishers led to the imposition of fishing quotas by the federal government and to a deep slump in the province’s fishing industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In 1992 the federal government placed a complete moratorium on cod fishing in an effort to save the cod stocks after decades of overfishing. The ban initially put many people out of work, but new fisheries were soon developed, especially for crab and shellfish, leading to a partial recovery of the fishing sector. In 1997 the Canadian government partially lifted the cod fishing ban, while carefully monitoring fish stocks to determine whether more extensive fishing would be allowed. Today, limited commercial fishing for cod continues, subject to quotas enforced by the federal government.
Beginning in the 1980s, hopes for a sustained economic revival in the province were pinned to a newly discovered natural resource—oil and natural gas fields located off the coast of Newfoundland. However, in 1983 and 1984 the supreme courts of Canada and of Newfoundland and Labrador declared that the federal government owned the offshore resources. In 1985 the federal government agreed to give the province some control over offshore oil and gas management and to allow it to tax production. Then, in 1990, representatives of the federal and provincial governments and a consortium of four oil companies signed an agreement to develop the large Hibernia offshore oil field. Construction of production facilities finally began later that year. The facilities started producing oil in 1997, and a new facility opened at the Terra Nova oil field in 2001. A third oil field, called White Rose, was scheduled to begin production by 2006.
In 1993 the discovery of a rich nickel deposit at Voisey’s Bay in northeastern Labrador aroused further hopes for the province’s long-term economic resurgence. Discovery of the deposit, one of the largest base metal deposits found in North America since World War II, sparked a staking rush; by 1996 more than 170 Canadian companies had staked their claims near the Voisey’s Bay deposit. After many delays, the provincial government announced in 2002 that an agreement had been reached with a privately owned mining company, Inco Ltd., to mine the deposit and to build facilities to refine the nickel locally. Other new mining facilities under development include the Pine Cove gold mine near Baie Verte and the Duck Pond copper-zinc mine near Buchans.
Despite the modest resurgence of economic vitality in the late 1990s, Newfoundland and Labrador still records the highest unemployment rate and lowest per-capita income in Canada. At the same time, the province has experienced an ongoing population decline. The province’s birth rate, historically the highest in Canada, is now the lowest, and many people—especially the young—continue to leave in search of better jobs. Population losses were especially pronounced in rural areas. Achieving and sustaining prosperity in the context of this population shift is expected to remain a major challenge for the province in the years ahead.