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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Political Double Speak

Out-migration is a term to which we’ve become accustomed in Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s a simple benign sounding little word that refers to people leaving the province to live and work in other parts of Canada. It’s a sanitized and passionless political term used by governments and the media alike to identify a situation without the need to ever speak of the sickening realities of what it really means.

In reality the term out-migration is comparable to accidentally dropping a 500 pound bomb on a crowded marketplace, killing a hundred people, and referring to the result as “collateral damage”. It’s like accidentally shooting 20 members of your own military force and reporting the event as a “friendly fire” incident. Either way you slice it, it's a way of sanitizing a terrible and ugly truth that nobody wants to think about. Sanitize all you want, in the end the bodies still exist and the mourning goes on.

You may be wondering how I can equate something like out-migration to such horrific events, but there isn’t a great deal of difference. Of course what’s happening in Newfoundland and Labrador isn’t the kind of bloody horrific death we see in a war torn country, but it is death without doubt. In fact, in some ways it may even be worse because instead of individual deaths, out-migration represents the slow and lingering death of an entire culture and its people.

Make no mistake, what’s happening right now in Newfoundland and Labrador is far from passionless and to sanitize it in any way is sickening. There was a time when men (and to a lesser degree women) left the Province to find seasonal work. They would often return to their homes for the remainder of the year, perhaps to fish or hunt. Such is the life of an island community. Over the decades this trend continued, but each year more and more of our people settled in the larger centers and never came back.

It started as a slight trickle, but has gained in momentum until we have reached a time in our history when the process has begun spiraling out of control. The unfortunate thing is that we have all become so accustomed to it that nobody is standing up and taking notice of what’s really happening. These days there seem to be more people leaving than staying and what was once a trickle has become a tidal wave before our very eyes.

The people leaving are our young, educated and family oriented people. The same people who are needed to sustain our Province. They leave behind them grandparents who will not see their grandchildren grown up. They leave behind countless parents, siblings and extended family and friends who may or may never see them again. That’s the human impact here.

On the more practical side of things, statistics already show that the average age of Newfoundland and Labrador’s population is increasing rapidly. How quickly will those numbers begin to climb if the bleeding away or the youth isn’t quelled?

We are caught on a treadmill to nowhere. A vicious cycle or domino effect is taking place right here and right now. Simply put governments and provinces need revenue to survive. They need it for everything from infrastructure to job creation to health care to schools and on and on and on. Like it or not, a large part of that revenue comes as a direct result of you and me working, living and paying taxes in the Province. If we reach a point where so many of our youth leave that the majority of our people are retired, where will that revenue base come from?

What about federal transfers which are largely based on population density. Every time an individual leaves the province thousands of dollars in federal funding leaves right along with them. Every time 2 or 3 or 4 people leave, 2 or 3 or 4 times that amount disappears. As less and less money is available for infrastructure and services, less and less jobs are created. This in turn leads to more and more people leaving which once again leads to less and less funding and the cycle continues to grow by feeding upon itself at an ever increasing rate. I believe this is what we are seeing right now in Newfoundland and Labrador and unless something is done we, as a people, will cease to exist.

It’s a simple equation really. If you have more people leaving the province than entering it and more people entering their final years than being born, then a culture cannot survive and will die as surely as if a bomb was dropped directly into the heart of its territory. It may not be a violent death but it’s a death none the less.

“Friendly Fire”, “Collateral damage” or “Out-migration” are all handy terms that help soften the blow of something terrible and horrific. They are terms intended to comfort those directly touched by tragedy, sanitize the event by making it more palatable and distance those responsible for its happening. In all three situations the use of these terms also serve to leave the public in a state of mind where nobody gets angry enough to stand up and do something to stop the carnage and that in itself is a tragedy.

15 comments:

MrChills said...

I could give you a list at least 75 times as long as that list containing people I know that have moved away in the last 10 years.

I received an email a little while ago from a girl who I graduated with trying to round up our class for a High School reunion, the email chain grew larger and larger and it was fun to hear from people that I have not seen or spoken to in many years. Then, one of the people on the email distribution list stated that it would make more sense for us to actually hold the reunion in Fort McMurray rather than in Newfoundland, as 70% of our graduating class is living there now. I would bet that most communities in Outport Newfoundland have the same thing going on.

As sad as it is, I do not see things getting better in my lifetime. I am thinking about moving away from the Mid-West and for the first time in a while I actually looked at the job boards in Newfoundland and it was DEPRESSING. I remember thinking that when I moved to the USA five years ago that I would be able to write my ticket right about now and move back to the Island and get a job fairly easily, not so true. I would move back tomorrow if I could, but I have ambition, determination and an unrelenting drive to succeed in my professional life; unfortunately none of these attributes are rewarded in Newfoundland…

Anonymous said...

I, too, could come up with a lenghtly list. And most recently that list has included some of my aunts and uncles, along with my younger cousins.

If they stay away, I will never really get to know these 1st cousins of mine once they grow older. That in itself helps break down families to the point that, as generations grow older, family becomes less important as it's not something you were accustomed to growing up.

So families are being torn apart and the void/gap will remain forever for some, and a long time for those forced away until the day comes that they're offspring call the new place home. Then families will grow again, but not in N.L.

Anonymous said...

It's called getting off this God-forsaken island while we still have the chance.

People move all the time. People change towns, cities, provinces, countries, continents! It's part of life. Feel free to stay in your little bubble until there is nothing left and you leave anyway.

Why stay when the outlook is bleak? I commend those people who want a better life for their families and have the courage and drive to get out and do something rather than sit home and wait for "government" to fix it.

WJM said...

Population density?

MrChills said...

People move all the time. People change towns, cities, provinces, countries, continents! It's part of life. Feel free to stay in your little bubble until there is nothing left and you leave anyway.

Yes, it’s true that people move all the time; however, I wouldn’t imagine there are too many places that have such a high percentage as what Newfoundland has experienced over the past twenty years.

Chris said...

"People move all the time. People change towns, cities, provinces, countries, continents! It's part of life. Feel free to stay in your little bubble until there is nothing left and you leave anyway."

I suspect that "Anononymous" is not an islander. We are losing far more than people, and if you were from the province you could realize that. Myself and others I know are away working quite hard with hopes of moving back to do our small part to improve the situation, I assure you I am not waiting for any government aid. There is no place like NL, and I'm only in the next province over (NS)!!! Don't you find it a little twisted that people would all leave such a huge island full of resources, culture, and potential? Where else in the world does this happen? Its ludicrous! One of the first things people need to change is their negative perception.

Anonymous said...

"There is no place like NL, and I'm only in the next province over (NS)"

You got that right and thank God for it. One Newfoundland is more than enough.

"Don't you find it a little twisted that people would all leave such a huge island full of resources, culture, and potential? Where else in the world does this happen? Its ludicrous"

It happens in places where no one knows how to manage their resources and refuses to let others help in case they "get screwed again" Get over yourselves.

no longer proud said...

Anon said: "It happens in places where no one knows how to manage their resources and refuses to let others help in case they "get screwed again" Get over yourselves."


No, get over yourself... We've had over 50 years of 'help' from Ottawa and look where it's gotten us. Life must be difficult for you mainlanders trying to view the world with your heads in your asses...

Anonymous said...

I think its high time you stopped thinking of yourselves as Newfoundlanders and started thinking of yourselves as Canadian.

We are all one country. Identify yourself as a patriot, Patriot, and not some Jefferson Davis wannabe, and you can begin to take pride in the opportunities developing all throughout the country and salute those taking advantage of them without bitching and moaning about the diffusion of one province.

no longer proud said...

It's hard to think of ourselves as 'Canadians' when we've yet to be treated as such.

The fact of the matter is that Canada is too large and sparsely populated to ever have feelings of unity amongst its citzens. Plus, there's been unfair treatment of all the provinces by Ottawa ever since Canada expanded to include more than just Ontario and Quebec. Since 1867, everything ever done by Ottawa has been to benefit Ontario and Quebec and nobody else. Tears in the national tapestry are showing in more than just NL's corner of this farcical confederation, and I predict Canada as a whole is headed for serious trouble in the not-too-distant-future. And you know its coming because I've never heard so much B.S. about 'national unity' and 'thinking of yourself as Canadians first' being preached by Ontarians as I have in the past 6 months. If the country fell apart tomorrow, Ontario and Quebec have the most to lose because there'll no longer be any outside 'colonies' to rape resources from. And it's a day that I long for with the deepest of desire.

So screw Canada! Long live NL! And a middle finger salute to all the Canadian bastards who never accepted us equal citizens. ;-)

Patriot said...

Well said NLP. As for the anon who said, "I think its high time you stopped thinking of yourselves as Newfoundlanders and started thinking of yourselves as Canadian." That's hard to do when we haven't been treated like Canadians (read Ont. and Que) since joining this farce of a Country.

Patriot said...

Don't forget folks, tomorrow is memorial day so we should all lower our flags (hopefully PWG) to half mast for the day. I know a lot of people who commemorate the even do so until noon and then raise the Maple Leaf to full staf at that time but in reality it is a day of mourning for the men who died so they should stay down.

Besides, by keeping them at half mast all day we can also mourn the fact that it is also Canada day. That's what I'll be doing.

No longer Proud said...

Patriot said: "Besides, by keeping them at half mast all day we can also mourn the fact that it is also Canada day. That's what I'll be doing."


Same here. Someone asked me earlier in the week what I'd be doing for Canda Day and I replied, "What I do every year... Wear a black arm band and burn a flag." ;-)

Anonymous said...

mrchills said: "I would move back tomorrow if I could, but I have ambition, determination and an unrelenting drive to succeed in my professional life; unfortunately none of these attributes are rewarded in Newfoundland…"

If you have so much ambition and determination, why not use those qualities to try and make a difference in Newfoundland? Wouldn't your "unrelenting drive to succeed" then be rewarded?

NL-ExPatriate said...

They call it Brain Drain up here in NB.