Thursday, March 16, 2006

Canada’s N-Word (with Readings from the Book of Paul)

Race: A group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality, or geographic distribution”

Is there a dark under-current of racism against Newfoundland and Labradorians in Canada? Are we Canada’s N-word?

Is it racist for Ric Dolphin of The Calgary Herald in reference to a Newfoundland and Labradorian to write “Walrus and Welfare investigators and whatever else it is that terrifies Newfies.”? Is the word “Newfie” in itself a racist title? We only need to scratch the surface of our history to discover that the word was born out of bigotry and elitism. The Dictionary of Newfoundland English gives this piece of writing from 1949 “Now he felt dispossessed, crowded on his own streets, mowed down by the ever-increasing numbers of dun-coloured, army vehicles. The strangers were strutting, becoming the 'big-shots,' They looked down their noses at the natives. They were disdainful of a hard old heritage. They began to call the towns-folk 'the Newfies' and like Queen Victoria, the Newfoundlanders were not amused.”

Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail described Newfoundland and Labrador as a “Scenic Welfare Ghetto”, and Bill Lankhof of the Toronto Sun describes the St. John’s Curling Rink qualifying for the Olympics as "the biggest thing to happen in The Land Cod Forgot since the invention of the pogey cheque" Are comments like this inciting hatred against a group of people? …In all honesty- probably not. There is the perpetual need in journalism to create a story, generate some buzz. When none exists sometimes a journalist has to delve into the darker recesses of fabrication, exploitation and Sensationalism.

Ryan Cleary, Editor of the Independent once wrote that a greater buzz was created because of the word “Newfie” than was ever created from his in depth expose on the corruption and deceit that led to the signing of the Churchill Falls agreement. The word is definitely offensive, but are these journalists guilty of racism or just ignorance and poor judgment?

If the mixed bag of stereotypes and prejudice is used by someone who uses it to justify an end to a means, a person with perhaps a hidden agenda; the true harm can be realized. Consider an article from the Canadian Press out of Edmonton this week. An Edmonton Officer received a light slap on the wrist for citing someone’s status as a “newphie” as a reason for apprehension under the Mental Health Act. Racism exists and it is a stain on the Canadian Landscape.

Consider the words of Captain Paul Watson who has said of Newfoundland and Labradorians that they are a “blight and a curse... they debased Canada when they joined Canada in 1949..." He went on to say Newfoundland and Labrador was “a place where priests rape orphans and residents kill seabirds for fun". In writing of Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, Watson mocked the dialect and made fun of Newfoundlanders: “…60 million people saw Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams humiliate himself with his rambling fabrications defending the seal hunt, [some] have actually compared his so called “oratory skills” to Winston Churchill…Can you see this speech going down in the annals of history? B’yes, we will fight these seal defenders on the ocean. We will fight them on land. We will fight them in the air... We will continue to bash in their little heads, skin them alive and give ‘em the boot. We were born to kill seals because we are Newfies, and by God our very identity depends on being cruel seal-killing bastards. Yes sir b’ye…, more like the anus of history.”

Perhaps it’s not fair to pick on Paul at this time, after all his little operation was trumped big time by the American Humane Society when they signed on a Beatle as their poster child. That’s the way it is with the Anti-Sealer movement, each year there is one big story. The cash flows to whichever group has the best song and dance. A couple of years ago it was the IFAW with a couple of full page ads. Not to be outdone Paul Watson countered the next year with a trip to the ice flows in his own vessel, only to be out-maneuvered for the present year by a Knight.

What can we expect next year? Perhaps Elton John and George Micheal. Pair of Queens beats a Knight.

But Paul is Newfoundland’s Lex Luther, one example of many that relies on racism against Newfoundlanders for his agenda. Well…maybe not Lex Luther, perhaps he is more of an Archie Bunker. In any case one has to wonder if Paul’s agenda is as much about a hatred of a group of people as it is about seals.

Contrast Paul Watson and Lady Heather McCartney. On Larry King Live Heather was quick to retract the word “barbaric” and replace it with “archaic”. Why?! Simply because the word Barbaric is a descriptor of the noun Barbarian and that places a derogatory comment on the class of people she is addressing. She was as careful as she could be to keep the argument based on the act of killing seals and not against the group of people that do it.

Compare Heather’s chosen words with that of Paul. In responding to Danny Williams saying that he was not going to stand by while the McCartney’s or anyone else disrespected Newfoundlanders, Paul wrote in his blog “Too bad Danny. They did dominate the debate and they made the Premier of Newfoundland look silly and unprepared. Danny Williams, Newfoundland, and Labrador are not deserving of respect. As a Canadian, I have absolutely no respect for Newfoundlanders.”

As if it were not enough to say he had no respect for us he concluded by writing “Asking us to respect Newfoundlanders is like asking us to have respect for the soldiers of the Third Reich.”

Note that he does not make these comments about Alaskans, Prince Edward Islanders, or the Quebecois, all of whom seal. In fact much of the seal fashion comes out of Quebec. Could Paul not think of a racist word for a French person?

Most blatantly though is Paul’s interpretation of scripture when he wrote. “’Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth’. One thing for sure, Jesus Christ was not referring to the sealers of Newfoundland when he made that statement.”

The umbrella of protest is a convenient one, people have used all sorts of things to justify their own evils. The truth is some people have a natural ability to incite hatred. ... and they find their followers - it is in all of us, it just takes someone like the Good Shepherd of the Sea to bring it out. He has been playing the game for quite some time - he is bloody good at it.

Article on the use of the word Newfie

The Telegram “Newfie Joke No Laughing Matter”

Search the Word Newfie in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English


NL-ExPatriate said...

You need to send this one to the papers as an editorial. Very well done.

Table Mountains said...

were about to get a bit more flak next week. ms.bardot is planning to come to Ottawa to see the PM on the seal hunt.i hope he ignores her!

BNB said...

Thanks expat this wasn't an easy one to write. There were many things that pointed to the need to write this. The blatant hate mongering I was reading from Paul Watson; An article about the word Newfie from Myles on freenewfoundlandlabrador; and then an article in the Telegram about an Edmonton officer who equates "Newphie" with a mental deficiency. Coincidently I then read a little piece about how March 21 is an international day for the elimination of racism. We need to look in our own backyard first it would seem.

Table Mountains - thanks for the heads up about Bardot... I thought she was long dead?! Also I noticed a little spike in activity on my blog after you refered it from other sites. Thanks for that.

superman said...

Well said me son well said b'ye! They says it takes ten clicks to make one clue and me son you gots at least three of four of em right? Yes b'ye well said indeed!

I have travelled all over this continent and have met many who value our "race" and speak vloumes of our hospitality. But, with everything, there is always someone who looks down upon us with disdain.

But that does not mean we must sink to their level...unless we are stooping to offer a hand to bring them up to ours. You succeeded in doing just that with your articulation and proud words.

Well said indeed.

JDW from Toronto said...

The term is derogatory and it should be banned. I had a situation occur here in Toronto that really devastated me.

My boss who physically aasulted me on the job when he made a mistake. In his rage he punched me and called me a stupid newfie. His mistake also almost took the top of my finger. He apologized to me for hitting me and for what he said. I quit the job ASAP. The punch I could forgive but what he said "stupid newfie" I could not. He obviously had no problem recalling that I was a newfoundlander when he was looking to blame someone. I could never feel comfortable working for someone who has the notion that I was stupid (when I was doing engineering work that he couldn't). I was depressed for months afterward.

People who think it is a cute term don't realize its impact when it is hurled at you as a way of putting you down. The excuse that as caucasians we can't be discriminated against in Canada is false. It is like saying you can't put down someone because they were serbian, or german. Negative stereotypes are discrimination especially when used as a way of having power over someone else. Being in Newfoundland seems to be sheltering people from this fact as well.

BNB said...

JDW, thanks so much for writing. The employer did not respect the intelligent person you obviously are. Better to work for someone who is worthy of your work. No need to ever feel depressed when an idiot like that takes a shot at you. The fact that you are from Newfoundland and Labrador is something to take pride in.

Brush off this idiot and mark it down as life experience. All the best in your new ventures.

gurll said...

I enjoyed reading your article very much. It admittedly hurts as well. Since living in Vancouver, I have personally been a victim of this type of racism and chosen ignorance both in the workplace and in my personal life. i.e. turned down apartment applications cause "all newfies are drunks", bullying at work cause " (I) come from a bunch of in-breds" etc.

BNB said...

gurll, thanks for your comments.

Take ignorance for what it is - ignorance. Never feel anything but pride about who you are and where you are from.

There is a strength building in Newfoundland and Labrador and we are no longer accepting of the kind of racism you have encountered.

Stand strong and proud always, and brush off the bigots like the s$#% flys they are.

Ussr said...

If its OK my friend I think that I have found a New blog to belong to .You sound like I think.Should that scare me or should I wake-up?

BNB said...

hahaha I don't think you need to be scared that you think like me Ussr, I'm pretty normal by most standards. It is a pretty common feeling that I express in articles like this one.

As a matter of fact a number of bloggers, activists and proud Newfoundland and Labradorians have gotten together in the Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL). It is basically a free and non-partisan group who share ideas and work for the betterment of Newfoundland and Labrador in general.

Having some trouble with the site at the moment, but keep an eye on and I'll post some NLDL info there while the main site is down.