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01 July 2007

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Well said. *thumbs up*

Happy Canada Day and Best Wishes on Memorial Day, Lynda!

Is there any impetus in Newfoundland to start using the hyphenated form of Newfoundland-Canadian the way so many do here in the USA? Does anybody else in Canada describe themselves as part of a group with the group?

Sunday morning I went to church. Just the going was slightly more complicated than an ordinary day, because the streets around the Sergeants' Memorial were closed for wreath-laying ceremonies. I didn't mind that, though- I quite enjoyed planning out my route, knowing my town well enough to know which little one-way streets I could use to bypass the blockades and slide up Long's Hill into the parking lot. During the service, we laid wreaths on the three memorial plaques within the church itself, and sang all four verses of the Ode to Newfoundland.

Sunday afternoon I went to work. Just the going was slightly more complicated than an ordinary day, because the streets around the Confederation Building were closed for Canada Day Ceremonies. The detour irritated me- given the recent federal budget and the eleven billion dollars that Newfoundland will not be receiving because we are once again relegated to a lesser status than Alberta when it comes to non-renewable resources, I wondered what exactly there was to celebrate as I slid down Allandale Road and over to the parking lot. But then I walked into a multimillion dollar hospital, into a neonatal intensive care unit where a single one-pound baby can receive care that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. If Newfoundland had never joined (been sold to) Canada, one-pound babies would die here.

Sunday evening I went to supper. My nephews were covered in temporary tattoos- maple leaves and flags and "CANADA" emblazoned all over their faces and arms and hands. I resisted the urge to wash them.

Yes, July 1st is slightly more complicated than an ordinary day.

Alex, thank you very much. I hope July 1st was a good day for you, however you chose to observe the occasion.

Ellen, to the best of my knowledge, I have never before heard the term "Newfoundland-Canadian" used, which does not mean it is never used, only that I have not heard it. It's a very interesting question and an even more interesting point.

Yes, hyphens are used in Canada as a means of describing a dual identity, describing being both a member of a distinct group within a larger group and still having full membership in that larger group as well. One of the most common of such terms used in Canada is "French-Canadian," and I have also heard/seen Indo-Canadian, Afro-Canadian, Asian-Canadian (a bit vague, that one), Japanese-Canadian, and even Anglo-Canadian (almost always used in juxtaposition with French-Canadian, same as with Francophone and Anglophone usage).

Not unlike how it is in the States, race/ethnicity seems to be the most common hyphen-preceder, though "French-Canadian" is very much about culture/language. Also the same as the States, many of those who opt for the hyphenated self-descriptions are from groups that have historically suffered from bigotry and prejudice, though in most cases nowhere near so bad as similar instances south of the border.

I have a very strong suspicion that the use of the term "Newfoundland-Canadian" would be vehemently opposed by many, beginning with a large number of Mainland Canadians. There is a widespread and cherished notion in Canada that says diversity of all kinds is welcomed and embraced there (with the usually-unspoken but always-implied "unlike how it is in the United States" following after). Looked at from a comparative perspective, there's certainly a good deal of truth in that notion. Looked at a bit more objectively, there's also a considerable amount of self-congratulatory bullshit in that notion.

There is bigotry and prejudice toward Newfoundlanders in Canada, and there's also mistreatment that occurs in an assortment of ways on a regular basis among some people. This is not opinion and it is not second-hand information. I've witnessed enough of it myself to say without hesitation that this is fact, and to say with even less hesitation that it takes a great deal of disingenuousness or obliviousness (perhaps some of both) to attempt to turn this fact into a matter for debate.

Yes, there's also bigotry and predjudice toward those from other provinces, mistreatment at times too. But for those who try to argue that "Ontarians are disliked by other Canadians too!", my answer is that, as a general rule, when Ontarians are disliked by those from other provinces and territories, they are disliked based on a stereotype of what they DO. When Newfoundlanders and some other groups (Aboriginals being the most glaring example) are disliked by other Canadians, it is far more likely to be based on a stereotype of who they ARE. There really is a big difference between the two, to my way of thinking.

But since the overwhelming majority of Canadians have a strong interest in maintaining what has become a self-identity issue (We Are The Diverse Society), it seems likely that there would not be a great deal of pleasure over the adoption of the term "Newfoundland-Canadian". I'd guess the predominant response would be "Why can't you just call yourselves Canadians? We don't feel any need to call ourselves Ontarian-Canadian or Albertan-Canadian or British-Columbian-Candian."

Which is pretty much what White America said to Black America when the change was made from "Negro" (perhaps the best equivalent of the complications of the use of the word "Newfie") to "African-American" (actually, first it was Afro-American). Again, the historical level of mistreatment was far more severe on this side of the border, but one "benefit" of that severity is that it made it next to impossible for the Good And Decent Folks to deny that bigotry and prejudice were indeed a problem in their own backyards, a denial that can sometimes happen when mistreatment is more subtly pervasive.

All of which begs the question, since so many Newfoundlanders already don't call themselves Canadians. They call themselves Newfoundlanders - not as a description of where they live, or even of where they were born...they use the term as a description of who they are, and often also use it to explain where they belong.

Pragmatically speaking though Newfoundlanders are still, of course, also Canadians - have been since Confederation. As appealing as Separation is for some as an ideal and as a dream, it's not exactly a likely outcome, given present circumstances. So although I think there would also likely be many Newfoundlanders who'd immediately dismiss that hyphenated dual identity - seeing it as a dilution of their own self-identity - it could be that the middle ground represented by that hyphen might be at least a halfway decent chance to keep alive something precious that could wind up lost forever beneath all those Maple Leaf tattoos Christina described.

What people - what a people - choose to call themselves should be a choice left only to themselves. Right now I have a very moving and pertinent song lyric running through my head: "So I'll call myself Canadian." On the one hand, I believe that if you know in your heart who you are and where you belong, that is all that really matters. On the other hand, it's hard not to feel as if something unique and irreplaceable is at grave risk of disappearing.

When I stay in St. John's, we are right across from an elementary school. Sometimes I sit by an upstairs window facing the school, watching and listening to the children at lunch and recess, and I wonder about what kind of future there will be for them as Newfoundlanders, and what kind of future there will be for them as Canadians. I wonder if there is some way to prevent the former from being subsumed by the latter, leaving it as more history lesson than living legacy. I wonder if there might be a better chance of keeping at least part of that precious thing alive by finding some kind of middle ground between it and the larger identity.

Maybe something like a hyphen could be a small part of making that happen. It's certainly been an effective tool for some others to insist on staying who they have been while also insisting on being accepted as a full partner in the larger group, though I suspect its use is more an outward manifestation of an inner resolve than it is something that causes that resolve to come into being. Or perhaps these things are more synergistic in nature.

But I don't know, can't know. It's not my choice to make. All I can do is hope some way is found to be both, because I don't know how long either/or is going to be a viable option.

Christina, thank you for the inside view of the complexity of July 1st in Newfoundland. You described it beautifully. One point to make though: If Newfoundland had never joined (been sold to) Canada, chances are excellent she would have instead eventually fallen into the clutches of my own country. If that had been the case, there would still be one-pound babies who survived: they would be the one-pound babies of the people who could afford the best medical care, the people with the best medical insurance policies. The one-pound babies of the poor and the uninsured who could not afford that best medical care would be the ones who died.

And chances are your fishery would have still been destroyed, not by callously selling you off to rape by foreign-factory-trawler, but instead from carelessly spilling oil in your waters. I won't even get into the problems that could have come from NewfoundDisneyland.

Of course, if Harper is re-elected, all these things might come to pass anyway. Where is that King? We need him.

Thanks for the input, folks. It's very much appreciated, as always.

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