Jim Furlong: Welcome to Newfoundland

There was a time in Newfoundland when I was growing up that if you saw a black person on the street you figured immediately they worked at Memorial University. There just weren’t very many people ‘of colour’ in Newfoundland except at MUN.

An exception in my small word was a black gentleman named Earle from over on Cabot Street. He was an outside worker for the city I think. The nickname of Mr. Earle in those days of rampant political incorrectness was ‘Nugget.’ That was the name of a popular black shoe polish of the day. I had a nodding acquaintance with him because I used to hang around Carter’s Hill. 

We need them

In Newfoundland today there is a growing population, not just of people of colour, but of immigrants in general from all over the world. Nearly 1,500 last year alone. You know where I notice it? It is in church. At Sunday mass you see a growing number of people from Africa in particular and from places like the Philippines or various places in Europe and Asia. The congregation is changing. 

Well we need every one of those people. They are most welcome. The problem that Newfoundland has, and will have, is that we simply don’t have enough people living here. For complicated reasons people are leaving and we are being left with an aging population. There aren’t enough of us anymore. We don’t have enough people to be part of our society and to make things and to buy things and generally just live here. We don’t have enough people to give us a tax base that will carry us all into the future. 

Now this Newfoundland and Labrador is such a marvellous place how come we are having a problem? Why won’t people come here? Well the answer is odd. People DO come here and they feel welcome. The difficulty for us is that they tend not to stay. 

Is it the weather?

Now I would take a guess and say for sure the weather has got to be part of the issue. The weather sucks in Newfoundland. It is cold and damp for a large part of the year. The summer is short and the weather is wickedly unpredictable. Winter isn’t always winter and summer isn’t always summer. Given a choice why would anyone choose here … just on weather alone. I’m born and bred a Newfoundlander but if I had just moved here from Africa or Germany; that would be a difficult transition. 

There is also the attraction of larger centres like Toronto or Calgary where moving might be an easier fit for new Canadians. There would be a large African or German or Mexican or Caribbean community in Canada’s larger centres. That is an attractive thing and is something we have to deal with. 

Immigration is seen as a problem around much of the world. In our Newfoundland and Labrador immigrants are most welcome. Holding on to them is our issue. We want very much for them to stay and be part of our province.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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