Days that changed Newfoundland and Labrador
What are the days that changed Newfoundland and Labrador?
Of course, the answer depends on who you ask. The contributors to a recent book, “100 Days that Changed Canada,” have made their own suggestions of dates that altered the Dominion, beginning with Canadians ringing in Confederation on July 1, 1867, and concluding with Canada extending its military mission in Afghanistan on Nov. 16, 2010.
Between these two years, 1867 and 2010, the writers include such iconic moments as Nov. 11, 1918, the day the Great War ended; March 22, 1922, the day Canadians learned of the discovery of insulin (with a Newfoundland connection, I might add); Oct. 29, 1929, the day Canada suffered through the Great Depression; May 8, 1945, the day Canadians celebrated Victory in Europe (VE Day); Nov. 7, 1956, the day Canada helped invent peacekeeping; Dec. 15, 1964, the day Canada embraced the maple leaf; Sept. 30, 1967, the day Alberta’s oil sands opened for business; July 14, 1976, the day Canada abolished the death penalty; Sept. 2, 1980, the day cancer halted the Marathon of Hope; April 1, 1999, the day Nunavut was born ...
In both words and photographs, the contributors pick and choose between the 50,000- plus days that shaped our nation.
In her Foreword to the book, Charlotte Gray admits that “the history of Canada has always been too complex, too multi-layered to shoehorn into one national narrative. Historians of previous generations tried their best to do so … But there is so much more to the story, and there are other groups demanding and deserving their place in our history.”
In her Preface, Deborah Morrison explains the book “provides us with a hundred tipping points, and a hundred stories about these moments.”
Editor Mark Reid acknowledges, “the story of Canada — our story — is rich with momentous events, some proud, some shameful, others joyous or sad. Only when they are viewed together do we get a complete image of who we are as a nation, and of where we are going.”
Three of these 100 so-called “tipping points” involve Newfoundland and Labrador. It is instructive to see which ones h ave be e n included in this intriguing compendium.
First, the day Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless message, Dec. 12, 1901.
In Cabot Tower in St. John’s, Guglielmo Marconi asked his assistant, “Can you hear anything, Mr. Kemp?” Christopher Moore writes: “in 1901 wireless telegraphy was new and hotly competitive, and Marconi knew the importance of spectacular results. He had decided to stun the world with the first transatlantic wireless telegraph transmission …
“The world’s airwaves have never been silent since, except once. When Guglielmo Marconi died in 1937, radio transmitters in Canada and around the world observed two minutes of silence in his honour.”
Second, the day disaster struck Newfoundland’s offshore oil industry, Feb. 15, 1982.
Nellie Oosterom writes: “perhaps what stung the most was that the Ocean Ranger’s sinking had been preventable. Two other nearby rigs survived the storm with barely a scratch. Sloppy safety procedures, design flaws, poor training, and pressure to maximize profits combined to sink the Ranger.”
If there be anything good about this disaster, “lessons learned … led to enhanced safety regulations and improved design …
“Prosperity and pride have not erased the lingering anger and mistrust that are still palpable at the Ocean Ranger memorial service, held each year.”
Third, the day the cod fishery collapsed, July 3, 1992.
Richard Foot writes: “Fishermen across Newfoundland knew the moment of truth was coming. Their catch rates had been declining for years. Still, when federal fisheries minister John Crosbie announced … a moratorium on the northern cod fishery in Newfoundland, the news struck his province like a kick in the teeth …
“The exploitation of the Grand Banks cod stocks lasted more than 400 years. The fishery grew, along with the size, appetite and efficiency of fac- tory-freezer trawlers, peaking in 1968, when more than 800,000 tonnes of cod were taken in one year. The decline then came quickly. By the late 1980s the destruction of one of the planet’s great food resources was almost complete.”
Dec. 12, 1901; Feb. 15, 1982; July 3, 1992: three defining moments in the history of our province.
Deborah Morrison hopes the book “will spark an interest to share your own story, or to discover others. Together we can create thousands more. The dialogue continues....”
I wonder, what story will tomorrow bring?