Prime Minister Harper announces support for the 400th anniversary of the first English settlement in Newfoundland

14 August 2008


Good morning everyone. 

Thank you for coming out today, and I want to thank Loyola for his kind introduction.  As all of you know, Loyola is one of the most dedicated and effective representatives Newfoundland and Labrador has ever had in Ottawa.  He's had a very long career in both provincial and federal politics where he's made a tremendous contribution. As I was telling him last night, I hear it from colleagues, I hear it from people in the bureaucracy, I hear it from the wider community: he has been one of the most effective ministers of Fisheries and Oceans the country has ever had, so I want to thank him for his service to the Government, and I know you want to thank him for his service to your community.

Of course, I also want to pass on greetings to the man who is largely responsible for today's announcement, and that is your Member of Parliament. Fabian Manning has been doing a tremendous job of advancing your interests, and not just advancing your interests as the Member of Parliament for Avalon.  Fabian is also serving all Atlantic Canadians as Chair of our Government's Atlantic caucus, which is meeting in New Brunswick a little later today.  He's also serving all Canadians as Chair of the important House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. He has been a tremendous addition to our caucus, so thank you, and I know all your constituents want to thank you as well, Fabian.

Greetings to Mayor Curran, to all members of the organizing committee and the museum.  It's a pleasure to be back here today in the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador, the province where Canada begins.  Now, I don't mean that in just a geographic sense.  I mean it in a historical sense as well.  As you all know much better than I do, it was John Cabot – I think his actual name was Giovanni Caboto – who, as an agent of England, was the first modern explorer to sight Canada not far from here over 500 years ago, and right here in Cupids, the first formal English settlement was established on our half of the North American continent nearly four centuries ago.  And of course 59 years ago, the Canada we all know and love became whole when Newfoundlanders and Labradorians chose to join Confederation.  This finally fulfilled the vision of the fathers of Confederation, uniting our country from the lush shores of Vancouver Island to the rugged cliffs of the Avalon Peninsula.  For three and a half centuries, Canada and Newfoundland were like distant cousins, bound together by shared ancestry and history, but separated by geography and vocation. 

As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians built their colony and dominion alongside the Grand Banks fishery, Canadians developed the mainland.  But we endured many of the same privations and conflicts, and we stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the great tests that humanity faced in two world wars.  So when Newfoundland finally joined together with us in Confederation in 1949, it was like a family reunion.  One of the great things about family reunions is how it brings together people who, while sharing much in common, also bring different experiences and talents.  The contributions of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to the Canadian family have been disproportionately large and influential, from the Celtic music that enlivens pubs and festivals across the country to world-class entertainers and comedians who leave audiences in stitches wherever they go, to the larger-than-life political personalities such as Joey Smallwood and John Crosbie, this province's culture and icons have been warmly embraced by all Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Today Newfoundland and Labrador is renowned for something else, and that is one of the hottest economies in the country. Last year the provincial economy grew by a staggering nine percent.  And it's projected to lead the country yet again next year.  After much adversity and hardship, Newfoundland and Labrador is charging to the forefront of our federation and is helping to build a better, more prosperous future for all Canadians.  This was probably inevitable, at least according to one of the province's great humorists, a fellow named Ray Guy, who once said:  "Your average Newfoundlander is waterproof, dustproof, shock-resistant and anti-magnetic.  Just as racehorses have been bred for legs and wind, he has been bred for durability.  Your Newfoundlander will come out on top of it all.  Endurance is his secret."

And, ladies and gentlemen, it's here in Cupids where the roots of this province's legendary resiliency are to be found, for it was on the shores of the Avalon Peninsula in 1610 that a Bristol merchant named John Guy and 39 other hardy souls established the first formal English settlement on what would one day become Canadian soil.  These men set about building an outpost to reap the fruits of the New World and, in doing so, they changed the course of history.  They gave England a foothold in the northern half of the Americas, and laid the foundation for the future colony and province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Two years hence, we will be officially celebrating the 400th anniversary of that seminal moment in our history.  In effect, we will be celebrating the 400th birthday of English-speaking Canada.

I'm pleased to announce today that the government of Canada will support celebrations that reflect the importance of that anniversary. This support will include a host of historical re-enactments, including an ambitious staging of John Guy's landing at Cupper's Cove, educational materials to impart Cupids' historical significance to the province's schoolchildren, a series of festivals that will feature artists and performers, and an international conference devoted to Cupids' archaeological treasures.  This support is on top of the funding our Government earmarked in February for the Cupids Interpretation Complex. 
Ladies and gentlemen, our Government supports events like this because we believe it's important for Canadians to know and appreciate the rich history of our country.  Canada may still be a young country, but it is far from being a newborn.  As the milestones we're marking here in 2010 and in Quebec City this year demonstrate, Canada has been growing for four centuries. This year we're also marking the 250th anniversary of the establishment of representative government in the province of Nova Scotia, which makes Canada one of the world's oldest democracies, and it is also of course the anniversary of the founding of the Crown colony of British Columbia, meaning that, for 150 years, Canada has been what few others have achieved, a nation stretching truly from sea to sea.  In less than a decade, Confederation itself will be 150 years old.  There are nearly 200 countries in the world today.  Three quarters of them achieved national sovereignty after we did.  Only a handful, only a very few have a constitutional framework that can be traced without interruption as far back as 1867.  So Canada is not young in the sense of being adolescent or immature, but on the contrary, young, in the prime of life, having been tested and having endured, and this is what we will celebrate just two years from now here at Cupids.

Thank you very much.