So What Does Free Nfld. Mean, Anyway?
Although the exact origins of the notion of a ‘Free Newfoundland’ are not clear, our current understanding of what it means can be traced to two sources.¬† The first and most general is the strong sense of independence felt by many Newfoundlanders.¬† The majority of the initial settlers of the island were poor Irish immigrants looking for a more hopeful future.¬† However, the absolute isolation and the harsh Atlantic winters involved lots of hard work without any outside help.¬† In fact, often passage to Newfoundland was made in exchange for a debt to be repaid over the first few years of an immigrant’s new life.¬† It is easy to understand why, after generations of people eking out their own difficult existence, they might begin to feel that they can probably make it on their own.
And this feeling has continued on long after confederation.¬† The second and more recent resurgence of an independent Newfoundland spirit found its voice in the streets of St. John’s.¬† A piece of graffiti on a wall between Duckworth and George Street, featured a black map of the province with the words ‘FREE NFLD’ in bright red, embodied the simple yet powerful sense of independence that remains in people here.¬† Wallace Ryan, a local comic artist, popularized the logo with a slightly different design in our t-shirts, postcards, stickers and switch-plates.
Yet the question remains - Free Newfoundland from what?¬† It is certainly open to interpretation.¬† Free Newfoundland from control by mainland Canada is one meaning.¬† Free Newfoundland from economic deals that benefit the federal government or other countries, not the people of Newfoundland.¬† Free Newfoundland from stereotypes - like the idea that it is a have-not province - ‚??scenic welfare ghetto‚?Ě - and that it is a district that soaks up federal funding and offers nothing in return.
Conversely it can be interpreted as a positive declaration.¬† We are a free Newfoundland.¬† Newfoundland is largely free of smog and pollution and free of big city traffic and crime.¬† We are free to live our lives enriched by our strong sense of community without the fears and tensions experienced on a daily basis by many people trying to live their lives in more turbulent corners of the world.
Ultimately however,¬† ‘Free Nfld’ is a symbol of the pride that Newfoundlanders feel about their home.