...thank you for your wonderful hospitality during our 2002 President's Club Event in St. John's, NL.
Tim Faithfull, President and CEO
Shell Canada Limited
The history of Newfoundland and Labrador is vast. To attempt to sum it up in one page is difficult but below is our best shot at giving you an overview of what has occurred in the province since the arrival of the Europeans.
It is likely that aboriginal peoples lived in Newfoundland and Labrador thousands of years before the arrival of the Europeans. Norse explorers first discovered the area about AD 1000. Remains of a settlement at L'Anse-aux-Meadows were uncovered in 1963. The area was visited in 1497 by the Italian-born explorer John Cabot, sailing under the English flag, and by the Portuguese navigator Gaspar Corte-Real in 1500. The French explorer Jacques Cartier visited the island in 1534.
Following Cabot's landfall, England made no attempt at colonization, but during the 16th century the coastal waters of the island attracted increasing numbers of French, English, and Spanish fishermen. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert took formal possession of Newfoundland in the name of England. A colony, which became St. John's, was established in 1610 on the Avalon Peninsula. During the 17th century France also acquired a foothold on the island, establishing a base of operations on the shores of Placentia Bay. French forces sacked and burned most of the English settlements on the island at one time or another and for a while seemed to have the upper hand.
In 1713, however, British sovereignty over Newfoundland was recognized by the Peace of Utrecht. France retained only the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, off the south coast, and cod fisheries on the west coast. Labrador became a British possession in 1763 under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, but was transferred to Québec in 1774. It became part of Newfoundland in 1809, but the boundary with Québec remained a matter of dispute until it was settled in 1927. Colonization of Labrador was not undertaken until the 19th century.
The population of Newfoundland increased considerably during the 19th century as laborers from various parts of the British Isles were brought to work in the fisheries. With this influx of settlers and the growth of towns, the people of Newfoundland began to resent the colonization restrictions of the British government, directed at keeping the island merely a fishing station, and this gave impetus to a demand for self-government. In 1832 Great Britain granted Newfoundland the right of representative government, and in 1855 complete self-government, or responsible government, was established, including a legislature of two houses, a cabinet, and a governor.
The financial condition of Newfoundland was continually precarious over the following decades, and the adverse effects of the world economic depression of the 1930s resulted in virtual bankruptcy. In 1934 the British Parliament suspended responsible government, and executive authority was vested in the governor, three Newfoundlanders, and three British commissioners, all subject to parliamentary control. The commission worked to develop agriculture, employment opportunities, and the educational and social welfare facilities of Newfoundland. As a result, economic conditions improved considerably. In 1941 the island became one of the eight British possessions in the western hemisphere on which sites for air bases were leased to the United States. The presence of American soldiers and the construction of U.S. air bases gave an additional boost to the economic recovery of the island. In 1946 a 45-member national convention was elected to investigate whether Newfoundland had accomplished its economic recovery and to ascertain the form of government desired by its people.
On July 22, 1948, Newfoundland chose to unite itself with Canada by a vote of 78,323 to 71,334. On March 31, 1949, Newfoundland became the tenth Canadian province. The Liberal party, under Premier Joseph R. Smallwood, held power in the province for 23 years.
The intervening years saw many investments in various undertakings, some successful, some not. Governments have changed but the resilience of the people in the face of adversity remains. The development of our offshore oil resources bodes well for a prosperous future.
Facts And Figures
There are some statistics about Newfoundland and Labrador that we're sure some Newfoundlanders and Labradorians weren't aware of and we have decided to list them here for your reading pleasure.
- The island of Newfoundland is 108,860 sq km/42,031 sq mi
- The portion of Labrador is 296,860 sq km/114,618 sq mi
- Newfoundland and Labrador is the fourth largest province in Canada.
- Newfoundland became part of Canada on March 31, 1949, as the tenth province.
- Less than 1% of the land is owned by the federal government
- Elevations range from sea level to 1622m (5322 ft) atop Mount Caubvick in the Torngat Mountains in northern Labrador.
- The annual average precipitation ranges from 432 mm (17 in) in northern Labrador to 1524 mm (60 in) in the southern part of the island.
- About 60 percent of Newfoundland is forested, although only about one-half the forest is of commercial value.
- The province's first school was established at Bonavista in 1726, and the present public education system dates from 1874.
- The province has about 725 farms (mostly on the island of Newfoundland),