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The Resettlement Program and Abandonded Communities 

Newfoundland and Labrador

If you ever get a chance to visit one of the abandoned communities I highly recommend it. Most of these areas are now just empty grass fields in small coves and bays along Newfoundlands coast. Many old houses were towed away by ships when families were resettled. In some communities though some buildings and houses still remain. Partially fallen down churches, old wells, abandoned house are some of the things to find in these places. They offer a great chance to get a glimpse of how many people lived throughout Newfoundlands history.


Until recent years Newfoundlands economy was driven mainly by the fishery. When English and French ships first crossed the Atlantic, Newfoundland became an important location because of its vast fishing grounds. This lead to the creation of hundreds of fishing settlements along its 9600 kilometres of coast. These communities were often relatively small and isolated from each other. 

During the middle of the 20th century urbanization was becoming more and more popular as people left these small communities and moved to bigger communities in search for work. This eventually lead the Joey Smallwood government to begin a controversial resettlement program that by its end in the mid 70s, will have moved over 28,000 people causing the abandonment of 307 communities. 


The reason for the resettlement programs was to ensure that all people in Newfoundland and Labrador would have access to adequate amenities such as healthcare, travel, schools, and post offices. It was also to push people into urban centers where industrialization was creating higher demands for workers. 


Between 1946 and 1954 49 communities were abandoned without any help by the government. Seeing that people in these isolated communities will need financial help to move, in 1953 the Dept of Welfare began giving financial assistance to families wanted to be resettled. This eventually lead to the first resettlement program form in 1954 by the Dept. of Welfare in the provincial government. Initially the government only covered moving expenses but late began giving payments to individuals families starting at $150 and eventually raising to $600. However for a family to recieve a payment all families in the community had to accept the governments proposal to move. Between 1954 and 1965, 7500 people left a total of 110 communities. 


Then in 1965 a new resettlement program was formed and administered by the Dept. of Fisheries. This time it was a joint effort by the Federal and Provincial government. The new program stated that only 90% of the people in a community (this later changed to 80%) had to agree to move for precipitants to receive financial support to be relocated. The household would then received a grant for $1000 plus $200 for each dependent. In addition to this they would be given $3000 dollar to be spent on a serviced building for living. Between 1965 and 1974, around 20,000 people left 148 communities abandoned. 

In the mid 70's the idea of resettlement began to become unpopular and soon the government discontinued the problem. Many people were satisfied with the overall choice to move. However as expected all those who moved miss their home communities and many still make frequent trips to these now empty communities. 

Sources & Further Exploring

Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, Vol. IV *Resettlement

Memorial University Maritime History Archive

Heritage Newfoundland

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