Newfoundland Resettlement Program

From the time that Newfoundland was first settled, people have moved in search of good fishing grounds, land sites or new employment. When fishing grounds became crowded or, in more recent times, as the inshore fishery declined, people left their former homes in search of better opportunities in other Newfoundland settlements or in Canada and the US, greatly reducing the populations of some communities and leaving others completely abandoned.

Although between 1946 and 1954 an estimated 49 communities were abandoned without government assistance, in 1953 the Newfoundland Department of Welfare began a centralized program in response to a perceived need to assist and accelerate the process. The program offered small amounts of financial relocation assistance to each household in communities where health, educational and other facilities were lacking or inadequate and where every household had agreed to move. This scheme, which moved 110 communities, marked the beginning of government-assisted resettlement in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Newfoundland Resettlement Program, which succeeded the Centralization Program, was a joint federal-provincial operation. From 1967 to 1975, it provided money to people in about 150 communities and also increased the amount available for assistance from $400 to $1000 or more depending on household size, and decreased the proportion of assenting households required from 100% to 75%. A federal-provincial resettlement committee approved the move of each household to designated "growth centres," 77 of Newfoundland's larger communities ostensibly selected because they offered more social and economic opportunities.

The resettlement program, now abandoned, is generally viewed as a failure. Despite the superior social services of growth centres, especially in education, many new industries failed and resettled workers were displaced from their traditional livelihoods in the fishery. Social dislocation and alienation arose from poor social and economic integration within new communities. With the rebuilding of the inshore fishery, some fishermen and their families, particularly in Placentia Bay, have returned without government assistance to resume their livelihood seasonally or year-round in formerly resettled communities. Reunions are often held in these and other abandoned places to mark the passing of a way of life.