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What is Newfoundland?

Updated May 23, 2024
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Newfoundland is a province of eastern Canada and comprises Newfoundland Island and Labrador. Located on the Atlantic coast, the province measures 156,184 sq miles (404,517 sq km) and is home to 568,000 people. The capital is St John’s, a city located on the eastern tip of Newfoundland Island. It was the last of Canada’s ten provinces to join the Canadian Confederation, which it was admitted to in 1949. In consideration of the province’s geography -- the Strait of Belle Isle divides the island of Newfoundland from the mainland of Labrador –- the province has, since 2001, commonly referred to itself as "Newfoundland and Labrador."

Newfoundland’s history goes back to over 4,000 years when first the Maritime Archaic people and then the palaeoeskimos arrived in northern Labrador. The two people were unrelated, possessed different physical features and spoke different languages. The arrival of the palaeoeskimos spelled the end for the Maritime Archaic people. Archaeologists believe they were either assimilated into the paleoeskimo population or, as is more likely, they became extinct due to paleoeskimo hegemony. The records suggest however that some of these Maritime people survived, especially along the Strait of Belle Isle; and it is likely that it was these people that the first Europeans, the Vikings, encountered upon their reaching the east coast of Newfoundland Island in 1000 AD.

Newfoundland was to become the first English colony when in 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the province for the British crown. However, like much of the continent, the colonization of the province led to disputes between the English and the French. In 1713, the French finally recognized British sovereignty with France retaining the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. In 1855, the Newfoundlandians achieved self autonomy and continued to govern themselves until 1949 when it acceded to the Canadian Confederation.

Newfoundland’s major industries include fishing, newsprint, mining (iron at Labrador City and Wabush; nickel at Voisey's Bay; zinc, copper and gold at Buchans) oil production (at Hibernia) and tourism. The province’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2005 was approximately 14 billion Canadian dollars, of which the tourist and service industries contributed the lion share.

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