Canadian Geographic
Confederation Conflict Image Credit: Canadian Geographic
Confederation Conflict Image Credit: Canadian Geographic

Confederation Conflict

How a divisive political battle put Newfoundland on the map.

Harry Wilson

HERE’S A STUMPER. What’s missing from this geological map of Eastern Canada?

If you’re particularly sharp-eyed, you may have spotted that Nunavut doesn’t exist and that Iqaluit, the territory’s capital, is still labelled as Frobisher Bay. Or that in northwestern Ontario, Thunder Bay has yet to emerge from the amalgamation of Port Arthur and Fort William. So far, so very 1945 — the year the map was created.

But think bigger. Think Confederation. Then think colour — or the lack thereof. Now look east, where a finely delineated but decidedly pale Newfoundland and something that was then called “Coast of Labrador” sit, both apparently bereft of rocks. They aren’t, of course, but when this map was made, they were treated as such because Newfoundland still wasn’t officially part of Canada.

It would take another four years, nearly 17 months of internal deliberation and two referendums before Newfoundland joined Confederation, which it did on March 31, 1949, ending its 42-year run as a dominion of the United Kingdom wholly separate from that of Canada.

Joey Smallwood (above), who would go on to serve as the new province’s premier for nearly 23 years, led the campaign to join Canada, convinced that the union would help solve the economic woes that had plagued Newfoundland since just before the First World War and had been exacerbated by the Great Depression. But despite his oratorical sk


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