Welcome Newfoundland!

Mr. Joseph Smallwood signing the agreement whi...
Mr. Joseph Smallwood signing the agreement which admitted Newfoundland into Confederation. Hon. A.J. Walsh, chairman of the Newfoundland delegation, is at the right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On July 1, 1873, Governor-General Lord Dufferin went to Charlottetown to preside over the ceremonies as Prince Edward Island joined Confederation. He passed under an archway with a sign that read: “Long Courted, Won at Last.”

It took six years to get Prince Edward Island into Confederation, but Newfoundland held out for eighty-two years!  The oldest Dominion in the British Commonwealth became part of Canada officially on March 31, 1949.

Newfoundland delegates attended the Quebec Conference in 1864 and reported favourably, but in 1869 the Confederation party was badly beaten in a general election and the plan was dropped.

In 1894, Newfoundland was in a period of depression, largely owing to a bank failure, and the proposal to join Canada was revived.  This time, Canada was the unwilling suitor and would not accept the marriage contract.

The world-wide depression in the 1930s hit Newfoundland hard and Dominion status was lost.  A commission government took over, appointed by Britain. After the war, the commission government called a national convention, to which the people of Newfoundland sent delegates to decide how the country should be governed.  There was little interest and only thirty per cent of the people voted.

Two referendums had to be held after that.  In the first, nearly ninety per cent of the people voted and the proposal to resume commission government was defeated.  The second referendum on July 22, 1948, resulted in a very close vote: Confederation with Canada 78,323; Newfoundland with its own responsible government 71,334.  The city of St. John’s wanted Newfoundland to govern itself, but the “outports” swung the balance in favour of joining Canada.

Agreement with the government of Canada was reached on December 11, 1948, and Newfoundland became Canada’s 10th province on March 31, 1949. Joseph R. Smallwood, who had led the drive for joining Canada, was the first Premier.

Thanks to Cotton Boll, I can direct you to a book on the subject (see comment below) The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston.


  1. Several years ago I made my only visit so far to Newfoundland by ferry from Nova Scotia through Placentia Bay. We stopped in a nearby small visitor’s center and found a wonderful, small exhibit about the 14 August 1941 conference of FDR and Winston Churchill that produced the Atlantic Charter and about Britain’s lease of the Bay to the U.S. as part of Lend-Lease. That was where as a U.S. citizen I learned that Newfoundland did not become part of Canada until after the end of WWII.

    Have you written about the FDR-Churchill conference?


  2. I’m glad to see a post on Newfoundland. I grew up there and although I haven’t been back in a while, it’ll always be home to me. You can still get coins there from when it was an independent country. I had a 20-cent piece made into a necklace for my wife.


    • (Sorry, I only just am now seeing comments that were made too long ago … )
      I’ll try to make sure I do more on Newfoundland. Thanks for visiting 🙂


  3. Thank you very much for sending me this information, I will have to take my time and read it all again slowly, I love learning about the place my Newfoundlands came from. We have been to Canada several times but not as far as that. I read all the information I can about the Province. Again thank you for stopping by and liking my blog 🙂


  4. My mother was born in Burin, NL in 1928. She said that many in her community did suffer a lot during the depression, but her family did not. They had their own sawmill and a herd of sheep. They helped out their neighbours by trading. My mother said they never were short of sugar because many of her neighbours traded away their ration (also during the war years) for wool and other items. Living on a farm certainly gave them security and lots of food to eat.


    • Wow, that’s amazing. Especially when we hear stories of the great depression. I love to hear when people help each other out — renews my faith in humanity! 🙂


      • My mother shared plenty of stories about life growing up in Newfoundland. Many of the people in her small community were either family or close friends. I recall a story about my grandmother who discovered a female neighbour didn’t have any underwear. This was back in the 1930s. My grandmother went home and made her two pair. Nan was always the giving type. She had lost her father at sea when she was only a young girl and knew the hardships of life, so when she could, she gave a helping hand to others.


  5. Newfoundland is one of the few examples in history that I can think of where an entity, given the choice of independence or becoming part of another nation, chose the latter.

    Have you read The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, by Wayne Johnston? It’s a novel, but deals with Joey Smallwood and the effort to bring Newfoundland into the Confederation. It’s very-well done and a great read.


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