Newfoundland and Labrador
Origin of the Name
The Aboriginal inhabitants of Newfoundland and Labrador were the Beothuk. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Beothuk inhabited Newfoundland long before European colonization and that they may have been descended from earlier people who occupied the island for several thousand years.
At the time of European contact, the Beothuk occupied at least the south and northeast coasts of Newfoundland,numbering perhaps no more than 500 to 1,000 people. By the early 1800s, disease and conflicts with settlers and others frequenting the island led to their extinction.
There were, and still are, a relatively large number of Inuit concentrated in the coastal communities of Northern Labrador.
The first Europeans to visit Newfoundland were Norsemen who are thought to have arrived in the 10th century. Other early visitors—the Basques, Portuguese, Spanish, British and French— staged fishing expeditions in the 16th century and possibly earlier.
The Genoese navigator Giovanni Caboto, known as John Cabot, landed on the island on June 24, 1497, on the feast of St. John the Baptist. Cabot called the new land "St. John's Isle" in honour of the saint.
In 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert reasserted England's claim to the Island of Newfoundland and the surrounding seas for Queen Elizabeth I.
In 1610, a group of merchants under King James I tried to establish a permanent settlement at what is now Cupids on Conception Bay. This was the first recorded attempt to establish a formal English colony in present-day Canada.
The Seven Years War (1756–63) saw a resumption in hostilities between England and France. However, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, British sovereignty was again recognized.
In 1832, the people of Newfoundland were granted the right to vote for an elected assembly. However, conflict between the assembly and the appointed council led to the collapse of the colonial government by 1841. In 1847, the British government decided to revert to a separate assembly and council, although the council was not made responsible to the assembly for its actions. After much debate, Newfoundland was finally given responsible government in 1855.
Newfoundland sent observers to the Confederation Conference in Québec City in 1864, but postponed its decision on whether or not to join the union. Confederation became the major issue in the general election in Newfoundland in 1869, but the concept did not gain popular approval.
By 1933, the Great Depression, combined with other factors, brought the Newfoundland government close to bankruptcy. Newfoundland, a Dominion within the Commonwealth, asked the British government to suspend the legislature. A governor and a six-member Commission of Government ruled Newfoundland from 1934 until 1949.
After World War II, the question of Newfoundland's future status became an issue once again. In 1948, it was decided to hold a public referendum on two options: retention of the Commission of Government or a return to the 1934 status as a Dominion within the Commonwealth. However, a vigorous popular movement forced British authorities to include a third referendum option: union with Canada. Following two referenda, confederation with Canada won with 52 percent of the vote. On March 31, 1949, Newfoundland became the tenth province of Canada. In December 2001, the province of Newfoundland became officially the province of Newfoundland and Labrador following the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution of Canada.
Coat of Arms
In commemoration of Cabot's discovery of the island on the feast of St. John, the shield is divided into four parts by a silver cross similar to the cross on the Arms of the Knights of St. John. Two of the four quarters display lions and two display unicorns. These represent the supporters of the Royal Arms after the union of England and Scotland.
Two Aboriginal men in warlike clothing, representing the island's original inhabitants, support the shield.
The elk in the crest above the shield is included as an example of the fauna of Newfoundland and Labrador. However, the elk has never been native to the province; it is possible that the animal was meant to be a caribou.
QUAERITE PRIME REGNUM DEI (Seek ye first the Kingdom of God)
Other Provincial Symbols
- Tartan :
- The Provincial Tartan
- Tree :
- Black Spruce (Picea mariana)
- Bird :
- Atlantic Puffin
- Animals :
- Newfoundland Dog and Newfoundland Pony
- Game Bird :
- "Partridge" (Ptarmigan)
- Gemstone :
- Francophone community in Newfoundland and Labrador Flag