I wish to comment on The Telegram feature of Nov. 17 (“‘Don’t tell the Newfoundlanders”) claiming Newfoundlanders were, “... duped into Confederation.” To deal with the errors would take more space than The Telegram allows, so my comments will be restricted.
The names of credible people are tossed into conspiracy theories for credibility purposes. In this case what would be more credible than Winston Churchill and Franklyn Roosevelt at their famous 1941 meeting in Placentia Bay plotting to rob Newfoundland of its independence?
Primary historical records prove the claim to be without basis; the application of a little common sense is also helpful.
Could anyone really believe that Roosevelt, with democracy around the world threatened, would have uttered the words attributed to him in The Telegram feature, “(Newfoundlanders) have to go with us or (Churchill) or Canada? Even though there was going to be a referendum and even though independence would be on the ballot, it would not be allowed to win.”
Any words of this sort were never exchanged between Roosevelt and Churchill. Also, in 1941, a referendum was not being considered.
Fortunately, Churchill kept diaries and preserved for history the facts of the Placentia Bay meeting. They have revealed that the Atlantic Charter was a cover story for the real purpose of the meeting. Newfoundland politics was not mentioned.
Confirmation of this is found in Churchill’s memoirs as well as in my book “Battlefront Newfoundland.”
As to Canadian participation in the plot, when England asked Canada for its opinion on whether or not to allow Confederation on the ballot, Lester Pearson replied in writing that this was a matter strictly between England and Newfoundland. Pearson, also in writing, instructed bureaucrats not to give one iota of information more to Smallwood than they would give to his opponents. Doesn’t sound like a plot to me!
If England and Canada really wanted to move Newfoundland into the Canadian Union there was a simpler way of doing it. They could have bypassed a referendum and established Newfoundland as a territory of Canada. The entire process was possible under the British North America Act (34-35), Chapter 28, section 2. The conspiracy issue, as well as Britain’s Canadian loan, is covered in my recent book, “1949 Twilight Before the Dawn.”
In reference to the letter used in your feature’s introduction, sent from Mr. Read to Lord Cranborn; omitted from the quote is “... It would be unwise to ascribe great significance to a casual dinner table conversation.” (page 151 Documents on Relations Between Canada and Newfoundland Vol. 2)