Tag Archives: Labrador

Terms of Union

“What fair and equitable basis may exist for federal union of Newfoundland and Canada?” Seventy years ago, Newfoundland decided to ask Ottawa that question.

Joseph_Smallwood_signing_Newfoundland_into_Confederation-11-Dec-1948 - Terms of UnionTwo years later, they’d sorted it out to their satisfaction. The Terms of Union stipulated what would change and what would remain the same for Newfoundland industry, resources and people.

Spelled out in the Terms of Union was the continuation of Newfoundland’s denominational school system and the right to sell margarine. The status of the Mi’kmaq of the island and the Innu and Inuit of Labrador? Not a mention.

The Constitution Act (1867) in Section 91(24) says that the federal government has jurisdiction over “Indians, and lands reserved for the Indians”. In this instance, “Indians” includes Inuit. So you’d think that the Canadian government would assume responsibility for the indigenous peoples of the new province whether or not there was explicit mention in the Terms of Union. But it didn’t happen, creating a Canadian anomaly. A province without officially recognized indigenous populations.

It isn’t that no one thought about it during negotiations. Here’s what happened, from my Putting It Back Together (1983:116).

“Subsequent to Union”

During the two weeks following September 29, 1947, the section which dealt with the Indian Act was removed, reintroduced, and then pencilled out in three different versions of the National Convention subcommittee report. No decision was made by the time of Confederation, and it was agreed to establish an Interdepartmental Committee on Newfoundland Indians and Eskimos which could “more appropriately” discuss the matter “subsequent to Union.” This committee sought an opinion “as to the precise legal extent of the federal government’s responsibility insofar as Indians and Eskimos residing in Newfoundland and Labrador are concerned” from the federal Department of Justice. In the reply of April 14, 1951, the Justice Department said, “It is the responsibility of the federal government to formulate and carry out all policies that are directed at dealing with Indian or Indian problems [sic].”

[Public Archives of Canada: Claxton Papers, Min. of Justice, Min. of Mines and Resources, 1949-1951]

So why didn’t Ottawa assume its responsibility? Joseph Smallwood Canada-welcomes-Newfoundland first day cover postcardsaid in a 1982 radio interview that he intended the Indian Act to apply. But he did not want people to lose the vote and other rights of citizenship that went with that. However, the federal government reformed the Indian Act soon after, giving status Indians most of the rights of other citizens.

The Canadian government was actively pursuing assimilation of indigenous peoples in policies and practices. So perhaps it served the purposes of both nations. Newfoundland did not lose control over people and lands to Canada. And Canada did not have to add to its responsibility toward indigenous peoples. It didn’t exactly work out as planned, as the next 70 years showed.

Annabel

Michael Crummey wrote of Kathleen Winter’s novel Annabel, “a beautiful book, brimming with heart and uncommon wisdom.” That’s on the book jacket. It’s true. This is a beautiful love story – of two young people, a family, friends, and a big land.

Amazon link for Annabel
Amazon link for Annabel

It was one of the books chosen for 2014’s Canada Reads on CBC Radio. Despite (or because of) the praise it received, I decided to avoid it at all costs.

Its Labrador setting interested me – but. It sounded too much like it was good for you. “Diversity” and “inclusiveness” were used to describe its story. These are words that I used to like but now make me gak like a cat with a hairball. Hearing them now used too earnestly, too combatively, too often, too everywhere.

Last time I was at the library, there was Annabel in a display rack. I stopped and looked at it, went on, then came back. I took it, reasoning that if I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to finish it. Too quickly I finished it, even reading and rereading as slowly as I could. I wanted it to go on forever.

People and Places of Annabel

It took a few pages to overcome my resistance and hook me. I still feared it would be a misery of a read, filled with horrible, heartbreaking things happening. And there are those. But, as the characters do, you get past them somehow. It’s how Kathleen Winter tells the story, I guess. You care about the people, and they all have something very good in them (well, all but a few of them). I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot. You’ll have to take my word that it is a rare and joyful experience to read.

Annabel - Sunset-NWRiver-WikipediaYou move into the story – into the houses and the towns and the landscape. And the story moves into you. I realized just how much when I said aloud to the book “You’re up by Bannerman Park!” when a character, lost, describes what’s around him to another character over the phone.

Books can make you laugh out loud and cry. Rarely do they make you simply smile as you read passages that are so lovely you want to imprint them on your mind and memory. Annabel is one of those books. You want to know what happens after the story ends, and you also just want to remember what was in the pages.

Arias for All Seasons

Pillorikput Inuit (Blessed are the People): Inuktitut Arias for All Seasons is a cd of beautiful music. Soprano Deantha Edmunds-Ramsey, tenor cd cover Inuktitut Arias for All SeasonsKarrie Obed and the Innismara Vocal Ensemble sing sacred songs by Haydn, Handel and Moravian composers.

The songs were written in 18th and 19th Europe and brought to Labrador by Moravian missionaries. The Moravians first came to Labrador from Germany in the mid-1700s. Newfoundland Governor Hugh Palliser gave them rights to 100,000 acres of land in northern Labrador. They built mission posts and began their evangelical efforts.

For 200 years, the Moravians functioned as the government of northern Labrador. They operated schools, medical clinics and stores. During the 1900s, the HBC replaced them in trade, the Grenfell mission in health care, the federal and provincial government, and most recently, by the Inuit themselves under a self-government agreement. Religious life remained primarily Moravian, but with Inuit leadership rather than imported missionaries.

Labrador Moravian Music

Music was, and is, central in the Moravian church. “Three years of provisions and two French horns” is a CBC Radio documentary by MUN musicologist Tom Gordon.  Its title summarizes the credo of the early Moravian arrivals.

They and their converts translated sacred songs into Inuktitut, and formed brass bands and choirs. Over the years the music was deantha edmunds and karrie obed from cd caseadapted and arranged to fit the instruments and voices available. This music of 18th century Europe, transformed but still true to its original form, became a part of Labrador Inuit culture. The Moravian Church remained strong in Labrador long after missionaries stopped coming from Europe. Brass bands still played in the churches, choirs still sang.

Dr. Tom Gordon found long-forgotten musical manuscripts in church archives. Some of them had fallen into disuse, particularly the solos, due to the quality of voice needed to do them justice. Deantha Edmunds-Ramsey has that voice. The arias on this cd are a joy to hear, indeed, in all seasons.

You can get the cd from Deantha Edmunds-Ramsey on Facebook (you may have to log in yourself). Or contact Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Music.