I have long wondered what on earth drove my mother’s family to leave Ireland in the 1780s and settle in Conche, Newfoundland. Conche, current population 225, can be found way up on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula—and if you don’t know where the Great Northern Peninsula is, that’s okay, you can find it on a map.
Most of the time, I assume it was sheer eccentricity (to use the polite word) that saw my ancestors leave relative civilization for a place that was pretty harsh, and I’m not just talking about the weather.But deep down I know that they moved to Newfoundland because however hard life there was, it was still an improvement on what they left behind.
I was thinking about what people leave behind and what they hope to find as I waited at the passport office today. The lines were long, and some of the staff were, if not actively hostile, certainly walking a thin line between bureaucratic indifference and willful withholding of information. And yet there we all were, waiting patiently for the document we needed in order to been seen as Canadians in the world. Many of the people in that office were not Canadians by birth, but they are now Canadians by choice. And I guess that means that no matter what they left behind, they hope to find something even better here. On the dawn of the Canada Day long weekend, I hope all their dreams come true.
Happy Canada Day from all of us here at Groundwood Books!