We’ll rant and we’ll roar like true Newfoundlanders

Peter Jackson
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Xenophobia (n): an intense or irrational fear of or contempt for that which is foreign, especially of strangers or foreign peoples.

That is my own cobbling together of a couple of online definitions. I think it pretty well captures the term.

But I’ve always struggled with the term, because “fear” or “contempt” is not always an irrational thing when it comes to strangers. Ancient tribes had good reason to fear foreigners, since many of them had a reputation for killing, raping and pillaging. North American tribes had good reason to fear Europeans.

Even in modern times, there’s always that suspicion that strangers may be up to no good — that they may disrupt or diminish your cherished lifestyle, or build a big, smelly factory in the pristine countryside.

Most of us have conquered the primitive paranoia. In Canada, we strive to welcome people of other countries. We accept people of differing race, creed or colour without prejudice. In our minds, we make an effort to reconcile the concepts of national identity and national diversity, even though they connote divergent notions of singularity and plurality.

I am white, anglophone and Canadian-born. That is my “tribal” identity, but I have no more claim to the Canadian identity than a Haitian-born immigrant.

And that is why comments like those made by Lake Melville Progressive Conservative MHA Keith Russell on VOCM’s “Open Line” last week make me cringe. Because his comments reflect the darker side of Newfoundland and Labrador nationalism.

“Open Line” host Randy Simms was challenging Russell over the government’s restrictive new access-to-information bill, which became law late last week.

One of the flashpoints during debate of the bill was a media report quoting an international expert who ranked the bill behind similar laws in countries such as Moldova, Uganda, Ethiopia, Bulgaria and Mexico.

Justice Minister Felix Collins gruffly dismissed the comparison, and made blanket comments about human rights abuses in those countries. In response, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said Collins’ contemptuous tone smacked of racism, and reminded the minister that people from those countries live right here in this province.

Now, Collins’ rant in the House may have been a bit crude and un-ministerial, but racist may be too harsh a term. Russell’s remarks are another matter. Here’s what he said on “Open Line”:

“The people from those countries do have residents here in Newfoundland and Labrador, certainly we do, and they are most welcome, but the bottom line is this: the fire in your heart should be for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It should certainly be foremost for the people who are from here.”

The “fire in your heart,” one can only presume, is that primal instinct to stick with the tribe. And this is definitely not how our democracy is supposed to work.

In Newfoundland, as in Quebec, politicians like to stir up nationalist fervour. There’s nothing wrong with a good dose of provincial pride — or with standing up for the province in the national arena — but ranking citizenry according to ancestry has no place in it.

In Quebec, the preferred citizenship concept is captured in the term “pure laine” (pure wool). The equivalent here is the incessant adoration of the “true Newfoundlander.” Many of us use this term quite innocently, in a benign context. But it implies more than just cultural and historic pride. There is an inherent belligerent tribalism. Taken in the wrong context, it can — in Lorraine Michael’s words — lead to overtones of racism.

This unfortunate sidebar had nothing to do with the egregious information-blocking law that was passed last week. But it’s important to address this troubling undercurrent from time to time, and to strive to distinguish what is meant by such comments.

In this case, I don’t think Russell’s meaning was particularly charitable.


Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s commentary editor. Email pjackson@nl.rogers.com. Twitter: pjackson_NL

Organizations: North American

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, Lake Melville Progressive Conservative MHA Quebec Moldova Uganda Ethiopia Bulgaria Mexico

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Recent comments

  • Nan
    January 12, 2013 - 10:54

    I moved here from the mainland. I have lived and worked all over North America. I have never had problems with co-workers or problems making friends in the past. Since I have moved here for a job, I've been harassed, bullied and excluded for being a 'mainlander' and for taking a job from a Newfoundlander. I only applied for a job that was advertised and was sucessful in landing the position. Many Newfoundlanders have done the same and moved to the mainland, so I don't understand the double standard. My parents were both born in Newfoundland and moved to the mainland to find work. When I tell local people of my experience I always get the response, " well yeah, you shouldn't have taken someones job". The experience of moving/working here has been so negative that I'm considering leaving and moving back to the mainland where I know I will be accepted and treated with respect.

  • Colin Burke
    June 30, 2012 - 09:24

    It almost seems to me, after reading the actual story to which Mavis brought my attention that Mavis believes we insular Newfoundlanders found out that the doctor in question was from away only after some medical expert from out west sent a letter critical of the doctor's ways of treating ovarian cancer. Of course, that report did find "what seemed to be an insular 'climate of fear' in the Health Sciences, brought about by the tendency to hire people trained at the Memorial University Medical School." This prompts me to ask where the people are from who train the people trained at the Memorial University. I have had no difficulty with Mavis's statement of facts but only with her interpretrations and her insistence that these must be more accurate than mine. For instance, it has occurred to me that a Newfoundlander might indeed say he "had no use for a mainlander" just to see if the mainlander would react with offended or flabbergasted silence or respond by saying (pleasantly), "Especially not a female mainlander, I imagine?" or "Not much odds about you, buddy," so that the conversation might continue as between individual persons and not simply as between stereotypes. That Newfoundlanders tend to applaud the achievements of mainlanders less loudly than the latter applaud Newfoundlanders' successes may be due in part to Newfoundlanders' having come more recently to the kind of success which mainlanders tend to applaud, or to both groups' having come to see mainland success in those areas as very much a matter of course.

  • Mavis
    June 29, 2012 - 11:31

    No feedback yet from Mr. Burke regarding the link I provided. Absence of said feedback is very telling.

  • Colin Burke
    June 28, 2012 - 16:24

    I've not presented it well so far, but I think my main point is that the relations of Newfoundlanders and people from outside the province may entail certain preconceptions when the CFAs are from Ontario, and these may affect the "ordinary presumption of innocence." A younger generation of CFA may not be aware of those preconceptions, and they may no longer obtain, and they may be unjustifiable, but there was a time within the memory of living Newfoundlanders not yet ancient by today's standards when such preconceptions seemed, to Newfoundlanders at least, not wholly unwarranted.

    • Mavis
      June 29, 2012 - 11:14

      You can try to rationalize it any way you like, but an insular mentality is just plain ridiculous.

    • Mavis
      June 29, 2012 - 12:54

      The distinct finger pointing at Ontarians is your issue, not mine. Go ahead and hammer away at it if you will, but I do personally know non-Ontario CFAs who feel like no matter what they do here, they are never fully accepted.

    • Mavis
      June 29, 2012 - 19:43

      SLIGHT REVISION/CLARIFICATION: In retrospect, after posting the above comment and giving a bit more thought, I realize that your specific bias towards Ontarians IS my "issue," in that ANY bias toward ANY CFA (from Ontario or otherwise) is also my issue. BUT, I reiterate that I do personally know non-Ontario CFAs who feel like they are not fully viewed as valid members of society here much of the time. There is no "presumption of innocence," as you put it, most of the time, regardless of what province or other English speaking country the CFA originally hails from.

  • Colin Burke
    June 28, 2012 - 10:36

    The conclusion of a valid syllogism may be a false statement. The conclusion of an invalid syllogism may be a true statement. My "notion," if it is even so much, that people from Ontario are more "from Canada" than they are "from Ontario," that they are the CFAs whom Newfoundlanders most disparage as "mainlanders," and that they are the CFAs who most disparage the insularity of Newfoundlanders, may be founded entirely on a very few isolated experiences of my own. It may be entirely ill-founded on something I read only once in a newspaper column. It may have its sole foundation in a wholly self-flattering delusion that I am specially sensitive to social atmospheres or that I am specially alert to "literary nuance." I grant all that. But pouring scorn on such motives or on my methods of "conjecture" would still not establish clearly that a particular CFA is in fact not from Ontario.

  • Colin Burke
    June 28, 2012 - 06:19

    With regard to #4, Mavis (the first #4, not the second): I did say that that was a purely personal impression, not that it was a scientific observation. "Purely personal" there does mean entirely subjective and not liable to objective proof. But the impression was formed very largely as a result of living for two years at an institution of higher education in Ontario which was attended by students from various parts of Canada and one or two from a foreign country. The fellow student with whom I got along best was from Venezuela, though I did not resent the Torontonian who once chanted "Goofy Noof! Goofy Noof!" while looking directly at me from across a dining-room table; he did it quite good-naturedly and entirely without malice. As for the accusation you reject, I did not so much call you "arrogant" directly as suggest that being arrogrant was a possibility you might consider; suggesting possible alternatives is part of trying to rebut another's position, which is normally what I attempt rather than scolding. Not that I mean to accuse you of scolding, either. But my usually rushing to answer anything with which I tend to disagree, in a periodical I often read, once prompted someone to call me in print a bully, and much later I acknowledged in print that he was entirely correct; no one is judge in his own case, especially not in his first response to an accusation. Even someone who is entirely and consistently humble can sometimes give a false impression of being a bit arrogant, simply as a result of words having a certain "sound on paper": a friend once remarked that a particular politician in Newfoundland always sounded forceful in print, although those present when he said what was read had heard him speak only in mild and measured tones throughout. I note that in any event you did not respond with "How dare you call me arrogrant! Me, a CFA!"

    • Mavis
      June 29, 2012 - 11:26

      No, indeed I did not respond with "How dare you call me arrogant! Me, a CFA!" CFAs are not all perfectly behaved 24/7. No one is. But my perception of mainlander CFAs such as myself is that we are generally not prone to knee-jerk, defensive responses such as the one you were seemingly expecting from me. You have, however, provided a good illustration of the sort of bias that a lot of us CFAs deal with on this island every day - the assumption that we are going to be rude and abrasive - even when there is no evidence to support that assumption. Oftentimes, a CFA can bend over backwards to be courteous, hard-working, helpful and complimentary to a Newfoundlander, but by George, those insular walls will NOT come down.

  • Colin Burke
    June 27, 2012 - 09:44

    Some CFAs really seem to think that those Newfoundlanders who are indeed hostile to CFAs don't care at all where "Away" is, that its being "Away" automatically prompts hostility. But where "Away" is may matter very much to many Newfoundlanders. It may matter much whether a CFA identifies with other CFAs just because they are from Away without caring where so long as it is not here; some Newfoundlanders have had unfortunate encounters with that sort of CFA and these encounters have not always been unfortunate only for the CFAs. One of my best friends, while studying at Memorial (many years ago), saw one of his professors, a CFA, reduce his mark on a paper by 15 per cent, right before his eyes, upon his correcting her impression that he was not a native Newfoundlander. (The sort of CFA who is gladly just from Away and not actually glad to belong to his own particular "Away" is very often, or such is my purely personal impression, from Ontario. He is much more "from Canada" than "from Ontario.") Newfoundlanders who are glad of "belonging here" can readily understand someone glad to belong to his own particular Away. Insularity isn't always hostile insularity; it can be sympathetic to others who are insular, and even get along well with them, as some who pride themselves on their universal tolerance are perhaps unable to do.

    • Mavis
      June 27, 2012 - 17:14

      1) My experience here has been that "away" IS pretty much a universal term used to denote anyone not born and raised here - regardless of where anyone's particular "away" happens to be. In otherwords, if you're from "away," you're a foreigner. 2) Of course I identify with other CFAs who are from the same place I'm from. There's obvious common ground there. But that doesn't mean I treat them preferentially over a Newfoundlander. 3) There is no excuse for what that professor did. I've never said CFAs are all perfect. No one group of people is perfect. 4) How in the world do you think you could determine if a certain CFA was "not actually glad to belong to his own particular Away and is very often from Ontario?" That's some pretty heavy duty hypothesizing there - and based on what? 4) I make no apologies for what you call my "universal tolerance." I very much like that about myself:) Just waiting for others to catch up. If you think that sounds "arrogant," as you accused me of being before - I don't care. Tolerance is a GOOD thing. 5) Lastly, have you had a chance to check out the following link? It speaks volumes: http://www.thetelegram.com/Arts---Life/Health/2008-03-27/article-1443303/Doctor-harassed,-report-finds/1

    • Mavis
      June 27, 2012 - 18:36

      A further comment with regard to a CFA who is "glad to belong to his own particular Away and be sympathetic to others who are insular and get along well with them": I personally know several mainlanders here - people who tend to be here either for work or because they married a Newfoundlander (although there are other reasons as well). Most of them (including me) still feel a great affection for their own personal "Away," yet we are never truly accepted here. Your... um ... curious(?) hypothesis does not hold water.

    • Mavis
      June 27, 2012 - 19:42

      The more I think about your hypothesis, the more preposterous it gets! I learned a long time ago on this island, from up close and personal experience, the following: If I make a comment to a Newfoundlander that casts my "Away" in a positive light - even in the most casual context and matter-of-fact manner - more often than not, the Newfoundlander will CHOOSE to interpret my comment as gloating - a comparison of inferior (in his or her mind) Newfoundland culture to the superior (again in his or her mind) mainland culture. I make a conscious effort to refrain from saying positive things about where I'm from, because trust me, it doesn't get a positive reception. So your conjecture is without merit that "someone glad to belong to his own particular Away" is better understood by the Newfoundlanders. I AM glad to belong to my particular Away. I hope to return to my Away sometime in the future to live. At this point, you're really grasping at straws you know. Have you checked out the link I cited in two previous comments and thoroughly read the article?

  • Colin Burke
    June 26, 2012 - 11:44

    Mavis, I'm really sorry; I myself don't know anyone now who would say he had "no use for a mainlander," since one of my favourite aunts died some years ago. She always held the loss of Newfoundland's political independence against "those Canucks," which she invariably pronounced with a pronounced emphasis on the second syllable, most often grinding her teeth as she did so. But she loved Americans, so the "anti-Canuckism" was entirely a political thing with her and not "cultural insularity." She may have had something in common with a mainland friend of mine who said that if Canada were to become one country with the United States, he would "take to the hills and fight." My aunt would not feel that way about Canada joining the US, but she felt strongly thus about Newfoundland's being made part of Canada. As I said, that was politics, not cultural, and many Newfoundlanders, of a certain age especially, may resent "the mainland" similarly still, being, perhaps, sufficiently large-minded not to need an insanely large political territory. I myself am very largely like-minded with the mainland friend I mentioned with respect to the relative merits of being part of Canada or being part of the US. Canadians at least still have the same kingship (or queenship) to which most Newfoundlanders used to be sincerely loyal. I suspect I might indeed like you if I met you, but in any case I would not want to be rude to you -- except perhaps jocosely if I did like you: like my dear old departed aunt, I have my idiosyncrasies -- my mother used to dread my saying things I thought kindly humorous in a "backhanded" sort of way, which might be peculiarly Newfoundlandish -- but God knows I don't have to dislike people in order to try to argue with them. I'm sorry, strictly for your own sake, that some of my people have been so rude to you as you have said, but I won't presume to "apologize" on their behalf. They are themselves.

  • Mavis
    June 25, 2012 - 22:09

    If you click on: http://www.thetelegram.com/Arts---Life/Health/2008-03-27/article-1443303/Doctor-harassed,-report-finds/1 and thoroughly read the article, you will read about some interesting documentation regarding double standards towards CFAs here - even in the social stratosphere.

  • Colin Burke
    June 25, 2012 - 16:19

    PS. Mavis, if SJ means what I think it does, you have my sympathy, for then you are obliged to deal every day with the townies. I myself am what the townies, when I went to school with them, called a bayman. A townie would say that that tends to excuse my unenlightened attitude; the townies are above excusing themselves. Being "accepted" by Newfoundlanders sometimes mean being treated by Newfoundlanders as they treat other Newfoundlanders; not everyone can handle that, though you seem able to hold your own.

    • Mavis
      June 25, 2012 - 19:38

      Reference "Being accepted by Newfoundlanders sometimes means being treated by Newfoundlanders as they treat other Newfoundlanders." Mr. Burke, the gist of this whole online debate, from my side, has been that an awful lot of Newfoundlanders will ONLY validate or give credit to other Newfoundlanders and seem to feel that CFAs must be kept in their place. CFAs deserve to be treated as valid members of society, just like the Newfoundlanders. (We're starting to get repetitive.)

  • Colin Burke
    June 25, 2012 - 15:52

    That people one likes tend to agree with one is not irrefutable evidence for the truth of one's opinion on any subject. When I see someone presuming that Newfoundlanders would decline good food on the grounds that it must represent culinary imperialism by a CFA, I begin to suspect that someone is overly inclined to be suspicious and a bit self-conscious with regard to her own traditions. Do you really think I regularly eat fish and brewis to preserve a Newfoundland tradition? Never did; I don't boiled hardbread, which I believe is part of "traditional fish and brewis." I have to fry it first. "People snubbed" a dish which was "a little bit non-traditional"? They couldn't possibly have found it simply unappetizing? Calling someone a CFA need not always mean "avoid the twit"; it can mean, "Make the effort to get to know him; you'll find it's worth it." Thinking in terms of "traditions" rather than persons, as tourism touts in a province mostly concerned with hidebound "heritage" would have almost all of us do now, instead of getting on with our own lives, tends to make me a bit miffed. I don't mind being "showcased" as narrow-minded and insular to people I never hope to meet; to do its work properly, a mind, like a knife, needs to be narrow in at least one respect, or it will never cut through confusion. Anyone can mouth phrases like "tribal chauvinism"; showing what's wrong with it takes a mental effort or at least mental attention.

    • Mavis
      June 25, 2012 - 20:08

      Obviously the fact that I know other CFAs who feel about this issue as I do is not going to carry weight with you. I expected you to say as much. But in the CFA community, I know for a fact, as do many others, that this this issue is very real. We don't expect to be treated any better than a Newfoundlander, but it would be nice to not be treated rudely sometimes merely on the basis of a mainland accent - and sometimes that's all it takes. The message comes through loud and clear. I personally know people here who will come right out and say they've got no use for a mainlander - not just me with my alleged "arrogance," as you accused earlier, but ANY mainlander . At least some of them are up front about it - you can say that much. Regarding this food business, I will say the following: Theoretically, yes, it's possible that people found the food I prepared "simply unappetizing," (and that's possibly even the excuse they made to themselves), but that's unikely (and not because I'm the next Julia Child). A more accurate interpretation would be that it was not a food well known here, so it was perceived as the mainlander trying to outdo the hick Newfs (which was not my intention at all; I took food to the function that I thought was just plain tasty). And anyone who says that kind of an attitude doesn't exist on this island is in some heavy duty denial, because it IS a common attitude here. "I don't mind anyone coming here from away so long as they don't think they're better than us." If a Newfoundlander had taken that same food to the function, I'd bet dollars to donuts the other Newfoundlanders would have eaten it and raved about it. It's gotta be about kudos to the fellow Newfoundlanders and ONLY to the fellow Newfoundlanders.

  • Colin Burke
    June 25, 2012 - 07:58

    "As Canadian citizens,we all have the right to live anywhere in this country we darn well choose. We CFAs work here! We pay taxes here! We vote here!" ["And everyone should like us while we do it!"]? Perhaps the real difficulty is sometimes with the particular personality of an individual CFA, in whom the initials can stand for ConFounded Arrogance, which Newfoundlanders (more or less considerately) ascribe to a group when the individual CFA asks why they do not embrace him or her as warmly as he or she might like. (It is true in a sense that "you cannot legislate morality," but it is absolutely true that we cannot legislate affection.) That sort of "CFA" of course will immediately respond that such a suggestion is "blaming the victims!" for the last possibility which could occur to him or her is that he or she might personally be a little unlikeable. (It is more likely to be a mainland business which insists that its employees "offer a pleasant shopping experience" instead of just requiring them to be ordinarily courteous, and it is more likely to be a Newfoundland store clerk who addresses as "my love" a fellow Newfoundlander who as a customer has been only ordinarily polite to her; this observation may not be relevant to this discussion, but occurred to me in the course of it. Newfoundlanders tend to regard one another with a sort of "affection," for want of a more accurate term, even if it is sometimes an outraged or indignant affection -- perhaps "intimacy" would be better, if not misunderstood these days -- which is not extended to everyone. We're all "family" in a way difficult to define. When a young lawyer in Corner Brook was a federal candidate years ago, a mainland news agency referred to him as "a Lebanese Canadian." The editor of The Western Star was cut to the quick. "Fonse is a Newfoundlander!" But elsewhere in Canada he might still have been a Lebanese Canadian. Not to say that that would be impossible in Newfoundland. But we do know the difference.

    • Mavis
      June 25, 2012 - 13:44

      Mr. Burke, you are absolutely correct that affection cannot be legislated. Showing affection is a choice. No argument there. And regardless of what you think of me, I know several other CFAs here in SJ who feel the exact same way I do regarding this issue, and they are lovely!! people. So you fans of Nfld insularity can keep on with the thinly veiled hostility if you so desire. No one can stop you. But if you don't change your ways, Nfld is going to end up with a worldwide reputation for being small-minded and insular - not exactly a positive way to have yourselves showcased! That's not a threat from little ole me. It's just plain fact.

    • Mavis
      June 25, 2012 - 16:01

      PS Mr. Burke, if you met me, you MIGHT actually like me. I do not go around verbally ranting and raving and complaining about this issue on a day-in, day-out basis. Far from it. I'm by no means perfect, but I strive to be courteous and to treat others the same way I would like to be treated - regardless of where the other person is from. And to reiterate from my last previous post, it's really up to you and those of your ilk to decide how you want to be perceived by the rest of the world. Do you want to embrace CFAs as fully valid members of society OR do you want to keep us in what you perceive to be our place? You can either make life better for all of us here - Newfoundlanders and "come-from-aways" alike - by choosing the former option OR you can remain insular which will inevitably further affect your global reputation. The ball is in your court, so to speak. The world is a small place these days.

  • Mavis
    June 24, 2012 - 09:57

    The first time I ever had Jiggs dinner was years ago on the mainland. A Newfoundlander invited me and another mainlander to her home to experience and share this traditional Newfoundland meal. The meal was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by myself and the other mainlander. NOW, how so you suppose most Newfoundlanders would react if a CFA said "Would you like to come over for (fill in the blank)? It's a traditional food where I'm from. I'd love to make it for you and share it with you." An awful lot of Newfoundlanders would take offense. It would be perceived as the mainlander trying to force his or her ways on the poor little Newfoundlanders. I once took food that was a bit non-traditional to a social event here, and people snubbed it. It ended up getting thrown out. And no, it wasn't chocolate coated insects or anything as bizarre as that. It just wasn't something considered Newfoundland cuisine. It's ok for Newfoundlanders to want to share their culture on the mainland, and mainlanders welcome it. But mainlanders are not allowed to share their culture here, or Newfoundlanders take it as an insult.

  • Scottie
    June 23, 2012 - 18:25

    Basing a society on"tolerance" is absurd, Mavis. The goal should be social cohesion. When there's good social cohesion tolerance will take care of itself.

    • Mavis
      June 24, 2012 - 10:04

      Tolerance is one of the hallmarks of a society that is socially cohesive.

  • Colin Burke
    June 23, 2012 - 09:10

    There is "no place" (in Newfoundland) for basing citizenship on ancestry, but that is because we in Newfoundland are not citizens of Newfoundland but rather citizens of Canada. Canadian citizenship can depend on "ancestry" at least in the form of parentage: I believe people born in Canada to parents who are citizens of another country can in at least some cases claim dual citizenship. If indeed Newfoundlanders were citizens of Newfoundland, we would make our own rules about who qualified for Newfoundland citizenship and who might be granted status as landed immigrants in Newfoundland. That might clear up any confusion about who was a "true" Newfoundlander. As things are, our being objectionably "insular" may mean only that we are identifiable and don't like to have that identity disregarded or even diluted into "our identity as fellow Canadians." People who feel "our identity as fellow Canadians" should suffice for all citizens of this country might try going to la belle province and "identifying" themselves as "fellow Quebecois" and see how that goes over. But some who would deem that to be almost unthinkable have no qualms whatever about condemning the "insularity" they find here.

    • Mavis
      June 23, 2012 - 16:43

      I'm sure that places like Montreal and Quebec City have people living there who are originally from English speaking Canada, or elsewhere on the globe. I'd also bet money that most Quebecers don't feel threatened by that fact. They probably have more interesting things to think about. I don't pretend to be a born and bred Newfoundlander, and I'm not asking to be identified as one. What I AM asking is that people try to get over the notion that CFAs must be kept in their place - that ONLY Newfoundlanders can ever be given any positive recognition. As Canadian citizens, we all have the right to live anywhere in this country we darn well choose. We CFAs work here! We pay taxes here! We vote here! We ARE NOT trying to "disregard or dilute" your culture. And why you think we are is beyond me. Keep on cooking up Jigg's dinner and fish and brewis. Keep the Newfoundland music alive. Please don't ever lose your keen sense of humour. Keep on celebrating your culture and heritage! There's nobody stopping you! We'll even help you do it! But CFAs also deserve to be validated as human beings.

    • Kyneska
      June 23, 2012 - 19:53

      I think there's an important distinction to be made between protecting one's cultural heritage, particularly in the face of a more powerful culture--Newfoundlanders in relation to mainland, 'general' Canadians, or immigrants in relation our adopted societies--and outright xenophobia. My objection to Collins' comment and to many comments like his about 'true Newfoundlanders' is that it's phrased in terms of having to make a choice between being Mexican, Ugandan, or Ethiopian and being a 'true Newfoundlander.' And many of us feel that this is a no-win situation--that by virtue of being immigrants/immigrants' non-white children, we will never be full participants, or, in some circumstances, can only be by turning our back on heritages that we find equally rich and meaningful. I don't wish to discredit the experiences of Mavis or other mainland/Western CFAs who find Newfoundlanders unwelcoming, but this is not equally oppressive as being considered a perpetual outsider because of your race and ethnicity. THAT'S what Collins said, and that's what I object to.

  • Colin Burke
    June 22, 2012 - 16:22

    Of course, Mavis, we Newfoundlanders are your fellow Canadians. But that doesn't necessarily make all Canadians our fellow Newfoundlanders. "The international idea, the largest and the clearest, is welding all the nations now, except the one that's nearest." Kyneska -- that, by the way, is a truly lovely-sounding name -- that we tend to "question" African and Asian customs is an understatement. Frankly, we find some of them quite odd. That need not mean we deem the people themselves to be odd. My finding that an African priest liked eating what Newfoundlanders call "conners" made no difference at all to my attitude toward him or toward the eating of conners, any more than my learning that some white Americans eat "ocean perch" altered either of these attitudes. It may be that "conners" are disdained here because they are plentiful and easy to catch almost all year round and because "worthwhile" fishing traditionally has been difficult and dangerous, while caplin are valued because, though they are plentiful and easy to catch, the latter happens only rarely, like the availability of flying ants eaten in Malawi. It is a simple fact of human nature that many cultural differences are indeed odd, just because they are cultural and they are different. Thus, the eating of horsemeat in France may seem odd to others simply because the French, unlike us others, regard food itself as highly as the work we do to obtain it, in which we use the horse to assist us and therefore refrain from eating that animal as we do others.

  • saelcove
    June 22, 2012 - 10:39

    Newfoundland out ports are like the southern USA racist to the core

  • Colin Burke
    June 22, 2012 - 10:37

    Kyneska, your comment has merit. However, I think you might find that people who really are from Africa (for instance) get a better welcome from some Newfoundlanders than people who "look African" but are from mainland Canada, as indicated, perhaps, by a difference in accent. Some years ago, when a parish priest in my community introduced his successor who was from Ghana and asked schoolchildren how the new priest looked different from him, the kids mentioned the differences in the clothing the two men were wearing before coming up with "He got a black face and you got a pink face." When our Ghanaian pastor was transferred because another priest asked to have this parish, almost every parishioner signed a petition to the bishop to keep him here. But that is just one anecdote, and you may have widespread experience of a contrary pattern. But I think we Newfoundlanders do distinguish a little between "real foreigners" and "mere" Canadians who only "look foreign." That is just an impression I have. And if it is a correct impression, it may be correct only because Newfoundlanders don't expect "real foreigners" to stay here long but to go back to their own countries, unlike the mainland "strangers [who] came and tried to teach us their ways." I remarked earlier that the insular Newfoundland "mentality" is solid food and not "milk for babies." I ought to have said the Newfoundland culture is solid food for the mind, built upon providing solid food for the body in a sense in which most modern cultures no longer provide food for either thus directly.

    • Mavis
      June 22, 2012 - 12:00

      Any time two or more cultures intermingle, each culture is bound to adopt some of the ways of the other culture. Why in the world is that such a bad thing? I've heard it said many times here, "I don't mind people from away coming here to live so long as they don't think they're better than us." Well duh! Translation = "I don't mind people from away coming here to live so long as they don't do anything better than a Newfoundlander, because our fragile self esteem can't handle it (sniffle, sniffle)." Get over yourselves! Newfoundlanders are acclaimed the on the mainland as well as the world over in the fields of media, business, the arts, etc. etc. Nobody on the mainland begrudges that. Why can't you do the same for us? BTW, reference your phrase : "Canadians who only look foreign," well guess what? Newfoundlanders are Canadians too. That's how all of mainland Canada sees you guys - as follow Canadians. We would love for you to see yourselves as Canadians as well!

    • Mavis
      June 22, 2012 - 19:32

      Oops. Should have read "fellow" Canadians. Really.

    • Mavis
      June 28, 2012 - 11:27

      I have indeed seen tremendous kindness shown to poor refugees who arrive here in Nfld - people who have fled their homeland due to war, famine - whatever - and who are in dire need of what we consider the basics of life. In such a scenario, Newfoundlanders will give - and give a lot - to help such people And that's a wonderful!!! thing. But it's different if you come here from ... oh say non-Atlantic Canada or the US or some other industrialized, modern country. In that case, you are apt to be perceived as a "stranger who comes to try to teach us their ways." Everyone put on their suit of armor!!!!!

  • Colin Burke
    June 22, 2012 - 09:21

    Scottie, your remark about being open-minded reminded me that G.K. Chesterton said an open mind is like an open mouth: meant to close on something solid. The insular Newfoundland mentality is solid food, not milk for babies. Having different cultures in one society under the same laws means that if I commit murder those who believe as firmly I do in capital punishment are not allowed to redress my act of injustice as they and I are fully convinced I would deserve, and meanwhile any taxes I might pay are used in part to keep me from fighting fairly over that life-and-death issue as opponents of capital punishemnt ought to be obliged to fight in defending the lives of murderers.

  • Colin Burke
    June 22, 2012 - 09:02

    "Neither you or I or anyone else has any control over it." "Progressives" always talk like that about whatever they're trying to promote, not because opposition to it is inevitably futile but because they don't want opposition to mobilize; if what they wanted were really so inevitable, if what we only seem at the moment to be "evolving" toward simply had to happen, they wouldn't need to promote it as zealously as they always seem to do.

    • Mavis
      June 22, 2012 - 11:47

      I'm just tired of some of the double standards here. And I will continue to "zealously" promote more tolerance. I work here, pay taxes here and vote here, and I don't deserve to be treated like I have leprosy just because I'm "from away." I don't bite - honest!

  • scottie
    June 21, 2012 - 20:22

    That's great Mavis, but don't be so open-minded that your brain falls out either.

  • Colin Burke
    June 21, 2012 - 19:35

    Every culture and every society needs some variety. The modern difficulty might be that those who demand "diverse cultures" in the same society are not able properly to appreciate the diversity of persons within one culture, or it might be that industrial societies tend to homogenize all personalities so that each society needs different cultures within itself to provide the necessary minimum of appreciable variety.

    • Mavis
      June 22, 2012 - 07:07

      Mr. Burke, every culture on our planet is becoming more and more diverse and/or homogenized as we speak. Neither you or I or anybody else has any control over it. That's just the way the world is socially evolving right now. So diversity must be accepted and dealt with. There are a lot of great things about Nfld culture: music, accents/dialects, oustanding sense of humour, food, etc. I don't see those cultural attributes dying out anytime soon. Go ahead and keep them alive! We CFAs are all for it! I make no apologies, however, for wishing the culture here was less insular. You can sugar coat it any way you like, but insularity is not a positive thing - for Newfoundlanders or for anybody else. There is a better way. And even though I'm a CFA, I am entitled to my opinion whether some like it or not.

  • Colin Burke
    June 21, 2012 - 14:59

    Oh how I love humanity with love so pure and pringlish, though maybe not an insular Newf who still speaks his own English. (Adapted from G.K. Chesterton.) My idea of "diversity" isn't all countries and all societies being "diverse" in all the same ways but rather every society and every land being distinctive in its own way. If we really need a society which is "diverse" in the first sense, then at the most we need only one like that, so that all those who like that sort of thing can go live there and the rest of us can remain at home undisturbed by their desire for "diversity."

    June 21, 2012 - 12:06

    John Smith: Maybe not so much "red" Remember the "red Indians" , the last of which died in 1829. I came across a site on line from a school out west , the discussion "was genocide committed against the BEOTHICS in NFLD? Strange this is not questioned much here,formally. Although most anyone in Nfld, in private discussion will say "We killed them all." Undertones of rasicm? Where would that come from?

  • scottie
    June 20, 2012 - 15:57

    I knew I'd get blasted for that. I like other cultures just fine, Mavis. I have lived abroad in several different countries and let me tell you, they weren't perfect. Criticism was certainly warranted. It's nice to be open-minded and feel morally superior, but not to the point of losing your faculty of critical inquiry. Remember, never tolerate intolerance. To accept everything blindly just because it's "another culture" is not really that high-minded. Fact is, there are many cultural practices that are incompatible to Newfoundland. Multiculturalism is a notoriously flawed policy for reasons I can't get into here. As for diversity, it's not a utopia and doesn't always equate to an absence of bigotry. It comes with problems as well--the biggest being the loss of social cohesion it causes. Everybody needs to be on the same page in terms of their social values or it's a muddle.

    • Mavis
      June 21, 2012 - 11:30

      Hi again Scottie. It's true what you say that no culture is perfect. I never said there was such a thing as a perfect culture. It's also true that no culture on this planet has ever, or will ever, remain the same. Change happens. I'm a little puzzled as to your advice to "never tolerate intolerance." That's pretty much what I'm about! And I certainly do not "accept everything blindly just because it's another culture." What I do try to do is accept and enjoy as many aspects as possible of any foreign culture I do encounter. As for your concern about "loss of social cohesion," I really don't see how that has to be an issue here in Nfld. That's what laws of the land are for - to ensure everyone adheres to the same ethical standards. Everyone is still free to participate in whatever social practices they so choose (provided they are legal) - whether those practices are from their own native culture or something they've learned to enjoy and import into their life from another culture. What are you really so afraid of? That Newfoundland might lose its highly coveted propensity for cliquishness? You might actually enjoy a licence to not have to follow the herd.

    • Mavis
      June 21, 2012 - 12:03

      PS I make no apologies for trying to be "open minded."

  • Chantal
    June 20, 2012 - 12:33

    Multiculturalism forced on us???? How? Our music is American, our language is American, Our TV is Amercian, our food is American, and if you turn on the radio, you will hear announcers trying all their best to sound American. Many initiatives to preserve Newfoundland culture actually come from CFAs. Your call for cultural purism is the same twaddle spewed out from the white supremacists. We would do well to have more diversity and a little less bigotry.

    • kyneska
      June 22, 2012 - 09:28

      God yes, Chantal! When people defend the uniqueness and primacy of their culture here, they're not talking about flying the Union Jack in your backyard, or listening to American or Canadian mainland music, or eating poutines--it's invariably a dig at people of colour/people not from the West and our cultural practices. Thank you!

  • Scottie
    June 20, 2012 - 10:33

    We DO have a host culture here. This is not a blank slate for which anyone can come in and write their culture over ours. We have our own music, heritage, food, accent, even dictionary. Now that multiculturalism has been forced on us, do we now have to warehouse our own culture?

    • Mavis
      June 20, 2012 - 11:24

      Yes Scottie, you do have "a host culture here." And people "from away" are appreciative of that unique culture. No one wants your culture to disappear. Far from it. As a "CFA," I am more than happy to acknowledge and praise your music, history, food, accents/dialects, etc. In addition, I can also appreciate and celebrate the many Newfoundlanders who are nationally and internationally acclaimed for their contributions to business, media, the arts, etc. etc. I try not to begrudge anybody anything. (The only time I really begrudge anybody anything is if they're lying and trying to take credit for something they didn't actually do in the first place.) But an awful lot of Newfoundlanders can't seem to give credit to a person "from away" for knowing the proverbial time of day. As human beings, we all deserve to be recognized and validated - or at least given a fair chance. With the economy now booming here, more and more people "from away" will be taking up residence on this island. There's room here for everyone to shine - if the Newfoundlanders will allow it to happen. Let's all be willing to give credit to each other for any and all attributes we may possess.

  • What the..
    June 20, 2012 - 10:10

    Hey John Smith, you just proved the writers point. For the love of God.

    • John Smith
      June 20, 2012 - 17:32

      we are all from NL... black white yellow red...all from NL... get it??

  • Mavis
    June 20, 2012 - 08:53

    I'm a CFA who has lived here now for several years. It's shocking to me how a people who pride themselves on being "friendly" can have such an insular mentality. Newfoundlanders love to help out others in a crisis, 9/11 being a prime example. There's a lot to be said for that. But a lot of Newfoundlanders do look down on people "from away" who come here to live. The other day, I was in a busy customer service line up patiently waiting for the hardworking, harried clerk to serve everyone. Came down to just me and an elderly woman (with a younger female companion - perhaps daughter). The clerk said, "Who's next?" I think I was, but out of respect for the elderly lady beside me, I said, "I'm not sure, but go ahead and take this lady first." At that point, the younger companion started sporting a visible pout. Having become well acquainted with the Nfld insular mentality, my guess would be that the companion was insulted to think that someone with a mainland accent could show courtesy to an elderly person. We are not supposed to be capable of that sort of consideration! It interferes with the Nfld sense of moral superiority. I could give many other (and for that matter, more concrete) examples of Nfld snobbery of this type, but I won't make this current post any longer than it already is. People here love to believe that they are the only people on the planet who have morals. What a joke! The truth is that skullduggery is rampant on this island. I'll leave elaboration on that topic for another post another time. But I will say this: Here's what being friendly really means. Yes, it means helping people when they are down and out. It ALSO means not begrudging anything to anybody regardless of where the person is from, regardless of how much money they have or whatever else they having going for them, i.e. great spouse, children, mansion of a house, looks, brains, class, charm or all of the above.

    • Displaced Nwwfie
      June 21, 2012 - 12:00

      Mavis, as a Newfoundlander who lived away I have to say that in Toronto, I was treated with great respect by my peers, and most recently the 15 years in Calgary, I was treated very respectfully as well. I have to say that my return home was much like yours... I am from away! Most of what I have heard is "I didn't have to go to Alberta" Well, lucky you! Good for you! I mean selling everything you owned and your children owned to go to a new province to find work is just so dammed great isn't it? I come back home and was very happy to be back home, bought a house here and had a new truck, guess what someone didn't like that i had my own truck brand new truck and decided to put a dent where no car door could ever reach. I know why! Jealousy is why. It seems that if you come back from away, they really resent you... I had one girl who tried to totally ruin my career because she was jealous. I ofund mostly in town people are not that friendly as they claim to be and I was very upset that my own people would be so cruel and nasty. Needless to say... too bad ! I am here and I have every right to be... problem is ...they can black list you in a minute. Just shows the emotional maturity.

  • David
    June 20, 2012 - 08:52

    Russell is not the Minister of Justice. Anywhere else, Collins would be getting raked so hard over the coals in the media that he would be fired by now. Here, you want a debate over what he meant, and whether it was really so bad -- See? This guy is even worse! --- incredible.

    • Bob
      June 20, 2012 - 19:34

      The Premier would have to fire Collins. Slim chance and fat chance mean the same thing in the English language.

  • John Smith
    June 20, 2012 - 07:08

    I heard the reference on the radio and I think Mr.Russell is being taken out of context on this one. I don't think he was referring to the color or race of the person, but that they be from NL...that's what I got from it.

    • Mavis
      June 20, 2012 - 08:57

      Well duh! That's plenty bad enough!

    • Frank M
      June 20, 2012 - 10:01

      Well, all of this needs to be taken with a large grain of salt. just look around you, particularly in St. John's where the Republic of Newfoundland flag flies in may prominent locations. We still fly the Union Jack at Confederation Building, as a signifier for those veterans who fought under that flag and no other. Perhaps it is a product of our short experience with the Confederation experiment, or the fact that far too many Canadians do not really understand our people or contribution to the nation. I've always taken the view we are a welcoming people, bring us your best and contribute to our way of living to make us even better. But never, ever, tell us our values are wrong.

    • Abdul Saieed
      June 20, 2012 - 10:03

      ["...but that they be from NL"]... which is tribal chauvinism. Which is what Peter is addressing. Which, in your knee-jerk defence of all things Conservative, is what you are perpetuating.

    • politically incorrect
      June 20, 2012 - 10:37

      Very well put. Collins "fire in your heart" nationalist remarks are reminiscent of fascist leaders who resort to patriotism, division, and scapegoating to appeal to a populace in the absence of substance. The subtext is distinctly racist.