January 2003
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The Other "N Word"
By Jennifer Wu, SNN Editor, Roncalli Central High, Port Saunders, NL

"I'm not a fisherman, and I don't live off welfare.
I do not live in an igloo, nor do I live in a tiny shack,
I do not lack electricity, and I have indoor plumbing, not an outhouse.
I don't know Bob, Fred, or Sally Tibbo even if they are from Newfoundland.
Moose meat is NOT the only thing I eat for supper, and I don't even like fish.
Sometimes I might sound funny when I speak, but then to us, you do too.
My intelligence level is certainly not "well below" average,
I know how to read, and I even go to a good school.
I work hard, but not because I'm poor and way under the poverty line.
Newfoundland is not just Newfoundland, it's Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundland has Newfoundlanders, and Labrador has Labradorians.
I live on an Island just off the east coast of Canada, but it does not mean
I'm isolated from civilization; and "the rock" is NOT going to sink!
We have more than just run-down shops; we even have malls and cool restaurants.
Not only do we have roads, but they're all paved – PAVED!!
Newfoundland and Labrador has the second lowest provincial population, it is the largest island in our country, and it has some of the nicest people in Canada!
Last of all, I am not a Newfie, but a Newfoundlander!"

There is an obvious over-generalized bias of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We are depicted as being poor, uneducated, and "stupid" or "dumb". We are often known as the "dumb newfies". When and where this generalization began is unknown. Perhaps it began because Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the more rural provinces in Canada, with a supposedly lower standard of living—a "have not" province.

Despite this reasoning, many of the ways in which Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are often generalized are incorrect. When people speak of "the Newfies", they conjure up an image of a silly little person, with a low IQ, dressed like a "hick"—the epitome of stupidity, the butt of everyone's jokes. As "the newfies", we have adjusted to this nickname, even if we do not like it. Despite all the condescending stereotypes we have to put up with, it is still surprising to hear other peoples' preconceived notions of us. It seems as if the constant put-downs targeting "newfies" will never stop.

True, we are definitely a small province, and of course we will probably never have as much money pumped into Newfoundland and Labrador as the larger provinces do, but being from such a province, however, certainly does not make us any less structured than any other province. And we are certainly not so much different from the rest of Canada to deserve such a patronizing nickname as "the newfies". Although many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians laugh it off (attributable to our wonderful sense of humour), many other Newfoundlanders will agree that such a nickname and stereotype is not flattering, especially taking in consideration the way we are being looked at.

It is obviously not flattering to meet someone from another province and have them ask us if we have dirt roads, and if we still use outhouses. We most certainly do not. We are as modern and up to date as the rest of Canada. We are also not so far behind the rest of civilization to lack electricity. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians also have internet access, phone connections, wireless devices, digital cable, and all other forms of technology. And, yes, we know how to use these devices, contrary to popular belief that "newfies don't have a clue". We use these devices on a daily basis, and we use them so well that guess which province has the highest number of NIS (Network of Innovative Schools) schools in Canada?

Another portrayal depicts all Newfoundlanders as mostly unemployed, and for the "few" that are "lucky enough" to land a job, it is one related to the fishing industry. Simply because Newfoundland and Labrador is largely employed in the fishing industry does not mean everyone in the province is a fisherman. We don't assume that everyone in British Columbia are loggers because there are a lot of trees; we don't say that all Saskatchewanians are farmers because of the large mass of flat land; nor do we claim that all Albertans work in the oil industry! Although Newfoundland and Labrador has a high unemployment rate, it does not mean we are poor, and that we're "too stupid" to hold a job. Many educated Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don't have jobs, true, but can you tell us the real reason why?

Because Newfoundland and Labrador is such a small and remote province, we are often thought of as lacking not only jobs and resources, but education as well, hence leading to the stereotype that we "newfies" are "dumb". We are not dumb. We are not even lacking in our education system. It is true that the majority of schools in Newfoundland and Labrador are fairly small, but this does not equal to an inadequate learning environment. Rather, learning in such a small school allows for perhaps a more controlled environment, and it allows more one-on-one between teachers and students. We are not entirely limited to the courses we are offered simply because we are such a sparsely attended school. Courses we are taught in a classroom setting and through distance education put us on the same intelligence level as the rest of Canada. You can keep your 3000+ student schools, we like our close-knit school just fine.

We as residents of Newfoundland and Labrador must put up with the daily insults imposed on us by a number of other fellow Canadians. It is not simply kidding around, sometimes it is just pure ignorance of the Newfoundland and Labrador lifestyle which initiates this discriminatory judgment. If a person who was ‘talking down' about "newfies" were to really think about it, how much would they really know about the Newfoundland way of life? Do "newfie jokes" realistically portray what a real Newfoundlander or Labradorian is like? The real joke is that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know the answers to these questions. Can you rightfully claim the same?


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