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BOB WAKEHAM: Go head, take the test

Harry Hibbs.
Harry Hibbs’ music is well-loved in Newfoundland. — Contributed

Now that the country’s Civil Liberties Association — the motherhood group self-ordained to protect Canadians from themselves — has taken to the courts to protest Newfoundland’s decision to keep mainland marauders from invading this smiling, wind-swept land of ours, I feel forced to intervene. I’m launching a counter-attack, to the point of offering up a questionnaire for our “border police” to ensure only bonafide Newfs are allowed anywhere east of Port aux Basques.

But first off, I think it would be appropriate to dust off an old patriotic fighting song to remind those evil upalong types that this is not the first time a sizable crowd of Newfoundlanders has vowed to keep Canadians away from our shorelines (the sexist language cops might take umbrage):


“Men, hurrah for our own native isle, Newfoundland,

Not a stranger shall hold one inch of her strand;

Her face turns to Britain, her Back to the Gulf,

Come near at your peril, Canadian Wolf.”

For sure, those words were written a century and a half ago during Canada’s first attempt to have us join its ranks, and I’m sure, were resurrected by anti-Confederates in the late 1940s to try and keep the Canadian Wolf once again from dragging Newfoundland souls into its den — the latter campaign, of course, unsuccessful, sadly so, in the minds of many, who still moan the illegal and immoral ways in which the vote was manipulated.

But, come on, all you cynics out there! What’s wrong, I ask you, with giving our own Don Quixote, Dr. John Haggie, a few anti-Canadian lyrics to facilitate his Order of Newfoundland, Nobel Prize efforts to prevent those sickly wolves in Canada (and a few American stragglers) from spreading their germs amongst such a healthy pack of Newfoundlanders?

It will take more than just a jingoistic jingle, I’ll grant you, to keep a metaphoric wall between us and those North Americans who long to absorb in person those colour-embellished images they’ve only seen on television of a clothesline with one-piece long underwear blowing in slow motion near the ocean’s edge or the red-haired youngster chasing a big friendly Newfoundland dog down a gravel lane lined with freshly painted salt box houses.

What we need, as I alluded to earlier in this weekend intervention, is a series of probing questions designed to determine the legitimacy of those claiming to be permanent residents of our frozen land.

Do you go cracked if your boots are nailed to the ground and there’s a Harry Hibbs record blaring away in the kitchen?

(1) Do you swear to God, so to speak, that the Almighty, as manifested in “The Ode to Newfoundland,” protects our island and Labrador, or are you a heathen determined to foster agnostic thinking within our spiritual population? (Those wannabe Newfoundlanders with the latter response should be taken by Ball’s Brigade of Bonavista Believers and put on the next boat or the next plane back to Halifax or Toronto, the Sodom and Gomorrah of the mainland.)

(2) If you happen to sight a moose by the side of the Trans-Canada Highway, do you (a) reach for your camera and pray you can grab a picture of this magnificent animal or (b) do you start to drool uncontrollably with the thoughts of four quarters of meat hanging in your shed? (If the person answers with “b”, Ball’s Border Boys should give him a “Welcome home, b’y!”)

(3) Do you go cracked if your boots are nailed to the ground and there’s a Harry Hibbs record blaring away in the kitchen? Or do you not have a clue what this question is all about? If you are, in fact, mystified, you’ll be escorted back on the ferry to North Sydney.

(4) Did you eat between five and 10 pounds of potted meat a week while growing up and does your stomach do nauseous somersaults whenever you think of that regular dietary, staple or have you never heard of potted meat sandwiches or, for that matter, Carnation Milk and sugar sandwiches? If the person claiming Newfoundland residency status is unaware of such gourmet offerings, mainland citizenship will have been confirmed.

(5) Have you helped make Newfoundlanders among the heaviest drinkers in the country or are you a life-long member of the Temperance Society? Drinkers and even former drinkers can enter our beer-soaked land, but non-imbibers, those who’ve never gotten half-shot on a May 24th weekend, belong upalong.

(6) Do you have a selective memory that permits you to actually believe that six days of sunshine in August had constituted just a grand summer or do you require Bahamian days and nights from June till September? Non-Newfs, take those skimpy cut-offs and those tans back to the mainland with ya.

Thus ends the “Newfoundlander born and bred” questionnaire.

Premier Dwight Ball and Minister Haggie need not thank me, although, come to think of it, another seniors’ virus cheque wouldn’t go astray.

Speaking of money, there’s been some concern that the closing of the Newfoundland border might have a dramatic impact on tourism dollars, a repercussion that gives me another excuse, if nothing else, to quote the Canadian Wolf (again, language police be warned):

“Would you barter the right that your fathers have won?

No! Let them descend from father to son.

For a few thousand dollars Canadian gold

Don’t let it be said that our birthright was sold.”

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at


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