Da Legal Stuff...

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Friday, May 09, 2008

They're Just Newfies...

In March of 2006 I penned a commentary for Web Talk, which was picked up and carried by other media outlets. The piece was entitled, “Newfies, Niggers and Other Terms of Endearment”. The opening paragraph read as follows:

As a proud Newfoundlander it makes my skin crawl and my blood pressure spike whenever I hear people use the word “Newfie” in a derogatory way. I’ve come to see this word in the same way I see words like “Nigger”, “Kyke” or “Polack”. Each of those words is extremely disturbing to hear, just as disturbing to commit to paper and I hope even more disturbing for you to read.

I felt that way then and I feel it even more so today. Newfie, Polish and Black jokes, to name a few, have been around for generations.

They are not funny in any way, shape or form.

These jokes serve no purpose other than to make the uninformed and bigoted jokester feel superior by demeaning and belittling a recognizable group of people.

Every time an individual belittles an entire segment of the population it does a great deal of harm in society in general and the tendrils of their words, though they don’t often realize it, have far reaching effects well beyond their little circle of acquaintances.

Most cultures, ethnic groups and races understood long ago how harmful the underlying message behind this dark humor actually is and how damaging it can be.

In standing up for their rights and their dignity certain segments of our society forced Canada’s political leaders to enact laws to address the issue. Although this legislation may not have been successful in fully removing such damaging speech from society at least it has been relegated it to the darkest corners and the public has become fully aware of the need to avoid using them.

Newfoundlanders are the exception.

For as long as Newfie jokes have been around most Newfoundlanders have either kept silent on the issue, brushed it off as harmless fun or worse yet, laughed along under the misguided belief that “no harm was meant”. I beg to differ.

If someone at a social gathering today were to suddenly say, “By the way, did you here the one about the three Niggers who walked into a bar”, that person would immediately be labeled a racist and shunned by everyone around them, and rightfully so.

If, on the other hand, the term “Newfie” were substituted for “Nigger” we would find a room full of people hanging on the speaker’s every word and waiting for a punch line that inevitably portrays how stupid they believe Newfies to be.

I know there are those who honestly believe there is nothing wrong with the term “Newfie” but the truth is just the opposite. By letting the term continue to be used in civilized society the stereotype of the “goofy newfie” or “stupid newfie” is perpetuated.

As the roots of any stereotype spread and grow ever deeper the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable language in our society expands outward to its extreme limits.

A case in point is an incident that happened just 2 years ago, when a police officer in Edmonton saw nothing wrong with officially stating one of the reasons he detained someone as because, “He is a newphie”.

What does that tell you about how harmful such stereotypes can be?

As recently as this week reports have surfaced that T-shirts are now appearing that depict the words, “Save a Seal, Kill a Newfie”. Is that supposed to be funny and why is it considered acceptable?

If the T-shirt read, “Save your Neighborhood, Kill a Nigger” or “Save your Money, Kill a Jew” would it be laughed off as easily? Would that be acceptable in today’s society?

Such a statement, using a term denoting any other group of people besides Newfoundlanders, would be considered hate speech and those promoting such hatred would be investigated and charged under the criminal code of Canada. Not so in this case.

Unfortunately the term Newfie is considered acceptable right across the Country. It, and the stereotype it promotes, has become so entrenched in the Canadian language that many people actually see Newfoundlanders as being inferior.

This is the real damage that the term brings with it. That’s why those who are the victims of T-shirts that say, “Save a Seal, Kill a Newfie” simply don’t matter.

They’re just Newfies.


Alberta Report said...

100% agree.

Not a newf, but married to one, lived and taught in St. John's for 3 years and been coming and going from the rock for many more. Nothing pisses me off more than the complete lack of knowledge or cultural sensitivity people have for others in our own country. It should be a requirement to drive from coast to coast at least once, before one can even begin to develop any sort of opinion of another region. Never is it more pronounced than out west, in BC where I grew up and Alberta where I have lived for many years as well.

A few years back, after returning to Alberta from St John's, i was introduced at my new place of work as being "from Newfoundland', and I found the patronizing attitude and "newfie" comments so annoying, I'd let the person completely hang themselves before I would quip that I was actually born and raised in B.C. - all of the sudden the tone of the conversation would change, and then I'd throw the other curveball - my wife's actually from St. John's.... y'kow, Newfoundland.... inevitably this would make the persons head spin round they'd attempt to correct their comments and I'd be on my way.

The general attitude of my western peers is a complete embarassment, the sense of moral, intellectual, and financial superiority and outright entitlement to belittle any other group by "westerners" caused me no end of grief when trying to explain to coworkers in St. John's why said westerners were such assholes. Funny thing is, most of them forget that they came from eastern canada or elsewhere originally in the first place, and not long enough ago to forget it.

Fortunately, there are those that are smart enough to educate themselves and travel beyond the provincial border. Unfortunately there are too few of them.

Canajun said...

I'll call you whatever you want to be called, but Newfoundlander and Labradorean doesn't quite trip off the tongue so lightly, if you get my drift. It's also hard to remember that some folks (well one that I know of now)take exception to the term Newfie - especially when most Newfoundlander and Labradoreans of my aquaintance refer to themselves as Newfies, and are quite proud of it too.
One last point - there's a huge difference between using a term as an endearment and using it as part of a derogatory slur. If someone were to write "Save a seal, kill a Canadian" on a T-shirt, should we get all bent out of shape and insist that the word Canadian be excised from common usage? Of course not - that would be silly.
Personally, I'm just happy to be known as a "Canuck".

Anonymous said...

Newfoundlanders are the biggest abusers of the word N*w*f*e, especially those of us who live outside the province. I really think the ones who use it think it is a 'term of endearment'.

There are outsiders, of course, who also use the word, and when they do it is always meant in a derogatory sense, like you said in your article it is used to belittle our people. It devastates me to see the word in print or hear the word vocalized, but how do we get the message out there that it isn't an acceptable word. I believe the province of Alberta disallowed it to be used on license plates, but the use of the word hasn't abated.

It is rampant on the Globe and Mail commentary sites, especially when articles appear concerning the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I think this is a place where people can be educated, since the Globe and Mail has an ALERT BUTTON at the bottom of each commentary to inform the editor that something offensive has been written. We should monitor that site and when we see the word appear, we should all push the ALERT BUTTON and make our comments known, at least the Globe and Mail will get the message and it can delete the commentaries.

Maybe it is time that the province made a decision on attempting to dissuade the use of the word by informing the public that it is offensive.

I have seen T.V. ads in the past that attempted to stop discrimination on certain targeted groups and I must say the bigotry that those ads targeted have abated almost entirely.

Ultimately it is up to the people of this province whether they are going to stop the abuse, if they want it stopped; they have to put forward the desire to do so. We just can’t stand idly by and allow the abuse to happen the way we have allowed so much abuse in the past, especially the abuse which surrounds the distribution of our natural resources for others to prosper while this province's economy died on the vine. Most of the abuse from outsiders in the use of that offensive word came from those who, probably, utilized our resources to create economies for their provinces.

After second thought maybe the fact that we exported our resources for the benefit of others was the very reason why they saw fit to use the word.

After all it would conjure up in ones mind, that a people who would allow the exporting of ther raw resources before first utilizing them for their own province to create economies might need to be awaken with a word that conjures up INEPTITUDE.

Patriot said...


There is an anon who has contacted me several times though Web Talk's comment medium (I assume it's the same anon but there is no way to tell).

They make some very interesting comments but ask me not to post them. They apparently want to share info with me. I appreciate their comments and always respect their request not to publish them, but I would suggest that they should have me publish their comments. They contain a lot of information that I'm sure others would appreciate knowing about.

Anyway, I will continue to respect the wishes of this anon but just wanted to tell them that they should share this information.


Patriot said...

To a specific contributor:

Yes, the email address is still correct but your email did not reach me. I may have accidentally deleted it as I get quite a large volume of email. Please resend and include "ATT: Myles" in the subject line.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Myles for this long overdue article. The subject needed to be addressed.

Myles - Over the past couple of years, I have noticed commentaries to articles in The Globe and Mail related to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador which are really unacceptable. There you will find sometimes ugly comments made against the people of the province of NL and the word N*WF*E(I abhor that title) gets used when the person commenting wants to degrade or make a condescending remark on our province.

I think the people of the province can bring attention to such uncalled for abuse by clicking on the 'Abuse Alert' Button which is a safeguard that appears at the end of each commentary.

I think if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians became more aware of this and perused the Globe and Mail for such abusive articles, and when such abuse occurs clicked on the ‘Abuse Alert' Button to inform the Globe and Mail that the word is unacceptable, The Globe and Mail would get the message and maybe we could be on the way to seeing the end of the word in print.

After all many such words have become redundant in print over the past few years, simply because the people who were afflicted put and end to them. The Canadian Human Rights Organization ran advertisements on billboards and Television for many years about the use of such words, that they only served to prejudice people.

I must say these Ads did a great job of educating people and you no longer see in print the slang words that were used for people of Polish, Chinese or French descent.

Why, I wonder, would they use such a derogatory word on Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? I would say it is simply because they can get away with it.

The anti-prejudice advertisements worked for the nationalities I mentioned above and we have to demand the same for us as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

The word N*WF*E has to go.

Anonymous said...

Well,anon,May 09, 2008 8:53 PM

" especially when most Newfoundlander and Labradoreans of my aquaintance refer to themselves as Newfies "

I really know how you feel cajajun.Living and working part time the in the U.S.A, I have many a freind and acquaintance that are of African American origin.

With all thease people calling themselves " nigger " ,I really don't know why they get so up-set with me when I use the term.But, if they say it hey it's all right.Go figure ,you just can't make some people happy.

Just like thease " Newfie's " right.

Anonymous said...

Anon of May 11, 2008 11:18 PM

You as a former Newfoundlander and Labradorian see the word as a "term of endearment" and twenty years ago; I saw it more in that light as well, even though I have never used the word. But then again, twenty years ago, it didn't bother me to the extent that it does today to see that term in use. The meaning then conjured up in people's minds when they heard the term is not the same as what the name conjures up today. Sorry, but that is the way many things in life, geography and history have evolved!

Today you see Canadians using that word more in a prejudicial way than as a term of endearment.

The prejudice in the word was really ratcheted up a few notches when Premier Williams set out to get the Atlantic Accord settled once and for all, a right that we had been denied for 20 years at the point when it was settled. When Newfoundlanders and Labradorians allowed themselves to be kept in bondage, there wasn't really a problem, but once they decided that they had to do something about it and did, then we had the likes of the prejudicial questioners at the National News Agencies, CTV and CBC, making sure that we were going to be put in our rightful place and that was back into bondage. As far as our Canadian overlords were concerned we had no right to emerge out of bondage, we were like the blacks of the United States, we, and everything in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and surrounding it were chattels of the Canadian people and it’s Federal Government.

Then, of course, once we got the $2Billion dollars which belonged to us because of the Oil that had been pumped out of here for 8 years at that point and our rights under the Atlantic Accord, well no word was bad enough to describe us.

We saw a lot of abuse around that time and we also saw Ontarians heaping a lot of abuse on us and they got a $5 Billion plus dollar payment from the Federal government as a result, for What, I am still trying to understand?

To canajun: I understand what you say about our title Newfoundlander and Labradorian taking a bit of effort to pronounce, but after you do it a few times, it really is fairly easy to do.

And canajun what we do not want to be referred to as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is that we are lazy in our speech. Let us make an effort to speak the English language with clarity and be proud of doing so canjun.

We should be endeavouring everyday as Canadians, no matter where we were born or where we live to keep on learning and pronouncing new words from our English language, it is a great language and we should do it proud. The English language has never been snobbish language, it has allowed itself to be infiltrated with more words that have come from other languages of the world than probably any other language on the globe and I commend the language for being so accepting.

Anonymous said...

When the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was kept ignorant of what was transpiring in Canada with the economies which were percolating around it in the other nine provinces, and while the other nine quarrelling provinces were getting to utilize the province of Newfoundland and Labrador's resources without a word of discontent emanating out of our province, Newfoundland and Labrador, then the "N" word, of which we speak, carried a different connotation. It ws a kinder and gentler word.

But when we, in Newfoundland and Labrador, became aware of the other nine provinces which were building robust economies with far less natural resources, we started to ask some pertinent questions. The answers, we found, were very hard to come by since Canada operates in a very opaque manner; we know things are not very transparent and that spin doctoring is practised to the nth degree and that is the best tool in the toolbox to skew matters.

So "Yes" the truth was not presenting it self, but we perservered and prevailed and we learned some of the truth through doing basic accounting of what was going on around us and what we could see was going on elsewhere.

It takes a number of years to figure things out when you are the new kid on the block, like we were merging into the Federation of Canada 80 years after its inceptionand when, like I said things are opaque.

After 50 years had passed, we became mature enough to figure out that we had to start figuring out things on our own of, why, with so many resources, were we so poor off economically, why were so many of our resources being exported out of our province to create economies in the other provinces of Canada, while we could have used those same resources to create industries here and why was our Federal government not treating us the same with the placement of Federal Regional Offices and Military bases and other Federal structures as the it was treating the other nine provinces?

We put everything into perspective and we came to the consensus that finally we better start doing something about it.

Premier Danny Williams emerged on the scene and said enough is enough fellow colleague provinces, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has to take its respectful place in Canada, and the way things are going now and have been for so many years, it will not happen. It will have to be forced on Canada in some noticeable way or another. The Premier said we will have to take the bull by the horn and force matters. That is what he did with the lowering of the Canadian Flag. As a result of that move the swords came out from all around Canada pointed at the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As far as I am concerned one of the biggest swords which has been wielded was the "N" word with the prejudiced connotations. And nobody wagged those swords any swifter and harder at the province than the National News Media in collaboration with the Federal Government of Canada. The two combined did a great job of creating hatred towards the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and its people. Yes, as far as I am concerned the main reason the "N" word morphed and evolved with a different connotation was when the province of Newfoundland and Labrador came of age and decided to be an adult and fend for itself, so that one day it would become one of ten equal components in a Federation, where it was not even registering on any of the scales despite its great location and its many resources.

I think we possibly have turned the corner on making that happen and yes we did it all on our own steam, the other nine provinces and Federal Government were happy with the status quo and they were in no hurry to make a change, since it was benefitting everyone concerned, except the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Anonymous said...

anon of May 12, 2008 10:42 AM,I am still waiting for our messiah, our René Leveque, our deliverer.

When Newfoundlander's and Labradorian's get full and EQUAL treatment by the Federal Governement of Canada then I will put my hands down in cusp and say as Mr King has spoken.

"And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last! "

All I ask is that my Province and her people be given what anyother Province has.WHAT THEY HAVE BROUGHT WITH THEM INTO CONFEDERATION.

The federal Governement does not see the damage that they have done to our culture or our people.Until then,what this country stands for is no more then a lie.And,how can we live in that.

Anonymous said...

Anon of May 12, 2008 5:02 PM:

Here, Here! I am behind you my fellow colleague all the way.

It is about time that the Ottawa Federal Government realized that we, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, are quite aware that we were'nt treated fairly and squarely and now we are demanding equality.

We paid our keep every step of the way and we paid for the keep of many other Canadians, although I doubt very much that it will ever be recognized.

Anonymous said...

If the rest of the country is so biggoted toward NL, and I have no doubt that it is, then why are we not forming tighter political and economic ties with say Ireland, Iceland and Norway. It seems to me from all accounts that the politicians and people of these lands have no erroneous preconceived notions of who we are. They seem to hold a very positive opinion of NL. We have all kinds of MOUs signed with these places, yet we are still being slighted by our 'own' people in Canada. Why?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Anon of May 11, 2008 11:18 PM

You as a former Newfoundlander and Labradorian see the word as a "term of endearment" and twenty years ago

Hey Myles, Now that I believe this line is toast !!!

Can You Believe the sheer F#@%'in Nerve of this one.Now " I'm A Former " Since when has anybody been able to take the Newfoundlander outta the Boy "

If this was said to someone in Cambridge Ontario you would be litterly hauled into the street ,with no SH@# !!!

Very Proud to stand for Newfoundland ,and Labrador .

Anonymous said...



thought you may like to see this. I don't know if you have come across this in the past but here it is. No need to post on this thread since it is well past its due date, but I couldn't find your email address to send it to you.



Anonymous said...

If i see anyone wearing that t shirt i would tear it of them and spit on it. I moved from NFLD in 1987 work there and I was treated like a piece of *&&^%^ for years because I was from NFLD. I started hanging around ethnic people to avoid the discrimating.

Anonymous said...

Not born in Newfoundland but partly raised there living most of my adult life in the West, I just hate the term "the rock" just as much as "Newfie" Degrading...disgusting.

Anyong said...

Once upon a time about thirty - forty years ago being called a Newfie was just fine...it meant one was from Newfoundland. However, it is the Main Land Canadians who have taken that word and turned it to mean a stupid Newfie. When ever someone wants to tell me a Newfoundland joke..I always ask, "did you hear it from a Newfoundlander or while you were in Newfoundland"? If they say no, I always say I don't want to hear it. Although not born in Newfoundland these people don't have a clue that I was partly raised in Newfoundland and wonder why I don't want to hear their put down Newfoundland jokes.